OAKLAND — Before Thursday’s nationally televised home game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked about getting half of his four-man All-Star squad back on the floor.
Both Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were available to play for a team that had lost three of its previous four. They clearly needed a lift and playing Milwaukee, barely above .500, seemed ideal.
“This should be more fun,” Kerr predicted.
Not so much.
Instead, the Dubs staged a stinker. They threw the ball away 18 times, watched Milwaukee run a layup drill and saw Durant, inexplicably, get himself ejected with two seconds left in the first half.
A flurry of garbage-time hoops made the final 116-107 score less embarrassing, but only slightly. The Bucks led 92-72 at the end of the third and never looked back.
The Warriors’ reaction? Oh well.
Their narrative is that they are locked into second place in the Western Conference and it would take a miracle for them to fall to third. So these past six games, four on the road, are essentially irrelevant.
It sounds suspiciously like last year’s Cleveland Cavaliers, who claimed they could “flip the switch” for the playoffs. They did, reaching the Finals, but when their regular-season flaws cropped up, they were smoked by the Warriors 4-1.
Right now, you wonder if the Warriors can find the switch, let alone flip it. Kerr sounds ready to flip something.
“I have to figure out what to do now,” he said. “We were playing fine and then we lost our poise and the game got away from us.”
Nothing summed it up like Durant, who has now been ejected five times this year — most in the NBA — after only getting tossed twice in the previous 10 years.
I’ve now been at two games this year when Durant was given the heave-ho, and his demeanor is the same. He comes to the formal interview podium where he sounds calm, resigned and even borderline cheerful.
“I got fouled,” he said. “I told (referee Tre Maddox) how I felt about it and got kicked out. That was pretty much it.”
But there’s more. Maddox T’d Durant up twice in seconds. He’d barely given one technical before he was throwing the “You’re outta here” gesture.
On replay, Durant can be heard F-bombing Maddox, but that wasn’t all. Afterward, team co-owner Joe Lacob asked arena personnel what Durant said. When he heard Lacob replied, “I would never use that word.”
Someone who was nearby for the exchange said Durant’s comments to Maddox, who is African-American, were racial, making it likely it was the “n-word.”
Which raises the philosophical question: Why?
After previous ejections, Durant said he hasn’t gotten kicked out until the game was decided. I guess that was true here. When he left, the game was over.
OK, so let’s say the team only needs to prepare for the playoffs. What do they need to do?
Limiting the turnovers is obvious. Eighteen giveaways doesn’t sound horrible, but they had 17 at the end of the third quarter and nine in the second.
“That was the whole game,” Kerr said. “That is where a lack of poise comes in.”
And after throwing it away, the Dubs could only watch the Bucks’ layup line. As the fourth quarter began, Milwaukee had 50 points in the paint. Kerr blamed turnover-fueled fast breaks, but there were times in the half court when a Buck turned the corner and rolled right down Broadway.