The Golden State Warriors used a unifying terms for how they felt after being beaten 129-100 by the San Antonio Spurs in the season opener, at home: A slap in the face. It’s just the season opener, a meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but it felt like more.
It felt like more because we had 140 combined wins from last season. It felt like more because the Warriors have now lost four consecutive games dating back to last year’s NBA finals. It felt like more because the Warriors took some of their preseason games extremely seriously, and yet it when it mattered a little bit more, they seemed careless, arrogant and unprepared, which Steve Kerr took upon himself. In short, the Warriors didn’t look like the hungry team everyone expected, with Kevin Durant making his debut and the spectre of choking in last year’s final still hanging in the air.
The numbers for the Warriors stars weren’t bad: Kevin Durant finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds; Stephen Curry scored 26; Draymond Green finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals. Should be enough for the Warriors to win, right? Enough for them to at least make it close? Well, turns out it wasn’t. Not when most of those points came in garbage time, with the Spurs leading by 18 points at half time, stunning the 19,596 in attendance, used to the Warriors beginning to take out starters in the middle of the third quarter.
— NBA (@NBA) October 26, 2016
Some offered a conspiracy theory: Kerr and the Warriors losing on purpose to poke the hot air balloon and satisfy the haters before going on a rampage. But basically, one thing is clear: The Warriors this season aren’t just about integrating Durant into their system, or adjusting it to make him fit. Zaza Pachulia needs to fit in. Losing Barnes and Bogut, and some minor changes on the bench, will mean more time to get it all to work right. Some thought the Warriors tried to be too nice with each other and not step on each other’s toes. Too many theories for just one regular season game.
And the Spurs? Their first game without Tim Duncan as part of the team in 19 years, and everything went fine. Kyle Anderson at shooting guard is weird, and Tony Parker still looks overwhelmed in physical games, but Pau Gasol wasn’t a defensive problem, Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills were fantastic, and Jonathon Simmons showed all the preseason talk about getting more minutes and responsibility wasn’t for naught. The Spurs changed, but they stayed great.
Above all of this were Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Leonard signaled he’s in the MVP running right from the start with 35 points, 10-of-21 from the field, 15-for-15 from the line and an impressive 5 steals. Meanwhile, Aldridge did what he usually does. Midrange points, low post points, and simply being a problem for the Warriors, giving up 21 offensive rebounds, including 8 to Aldridge, scoring 26 points and grabbing 14 overall. Talks of trade? At least for the next 24 hours, they seem like the furthest things from the truth.