Barber: Warriors' 141-122 loss to Clippers full of contrasts
A couple hours before the Warriors popped the cork on their 2019-20 season, someone asked Steve Kerr what felt different for him in Chase Center, the 18,000-seat testament to Joe Lacob’s determination and venture capitalism.
“I’ve been locked out of my office a couple times after (preseason) games,” Kerr said. “True story.”
Forty-eight minutes of basketball action, resulting in a 141-122 runaway by the Los Angeles Clippers, revealed many more contrasts. And most of them were more significant than Kerr having to borrow a card key. The Warriors played in the past five NBA Finals, winning three of them. Few people expect them to make it six in a row this year.
Here are some comparisons of the 2019-20 season opener to the five that came before it, all suggesting this might indeed be a long year for the dynasty by the bay.
2014-2018: Warriors fans took BART or drove to the most easily accessible major sports venue in the Bay Area, then watched the game in an arena that, while perfectly adequate, did not give anyone a feeling of luxury.
2019: Warriors fans poured into a building with dark-hardwood bars, sweeping views of San Francisco Bay and the world’s most overbearing videoboard, after getting to the game via a BART ride, a MUNI connection, a 30-minute walk, scaling a retaining wall and crawling the last quarter-mile in a drainpipe.
2017: The Warriors lost to the Spurs by 29 points on opening night, and everyone said, “Ha, that’s cute. The boys really stunk it up. Oh well, it’s October and the game didn’t mean anything and please tell me again how many of these we have to watch before the Dubs face LeBron in the NBA Finals again.”
2019: The Warriors lost by 19 to the Clippers and it was taken as irrefutable proof that the reigning Western Conference champions are crumbling before our eyes, that the next six months will be an exercise in excruciating basketball and that life has lost almost all meaning.
2014: The Warriors held the Sacramento Kings to 77 points, 31% shooting overall and 17% shooting on 3-point attempts while forcing 26 turnovers in a defensive tour de force.
2019: The Warriors surrendered 141 points to the Clippers, who hit 62.5% of their shots and 54.5% of their 3-pointers. It was a defensive farce, the first time in a decade Golden State had allowed that many points.
2018: Rookie Jacob Evans was a “healthy scratch” for the Warriors. He suited up, but Kerr didn’t particularly need him, so Evans never made it into the game.
2019: Evans was the third player off the bench for the Warriors, and wound up playing 21 minutes. (He was a bright spot, too, with four made 3-pointers.) Because Kerr needs any wing player he can find right now.
2017-18: None of the guys who started against the Rockets or Thunder, respectively, were making their Warriors debuts. It was a battle-hardened crew, each player intuitively knowing what the other four would do on the court.
2019: Two of the guys who started against the Clippers, D’Angelo Russell and Glenn Robinson III, were making their Warriors debuts. The team made measurable progress, though. By the third quarter, they all knew one another’s names.
2015: Stephen Curry erupted for 40 points against the Pelicans, with an efficient 14-for-26 shooting line, to get the season off to a sizzling start.
2019: Curry scored 23 points against the Clippers, but needed 20 shots to get there as he had to work a lot harder for shots, and work harder on the defensive end, too.
2014-18: Klay Thompson wore his usual No. 11 jersey for the Warriors and scored a total of 69 points in five games.
2019: Thompson wore a very dapper dark suit (no tie) and watched the game from the end of the Golden State bench, a reminder to all the world that he is out of commission for months with a torn knee ligament.
At halftime, Thompson joined the TNT crew and could only smile when Charles Barkley informed him, right to his face, that the Warriors will miss the playoffs this year.
2018: Steve Kerr called just one timeout in the second half of a close game against Oklahoma City, figuring his veteran team was savvy enough to know what to do without having to be told by the coach.
2019: The Warriors were assessed a technical foul with 4:06 left in the game when Kerr called a timeout following a Mo Harkless dunk, though he had already used his allotted amount.
“I instinctively just take a timeout whenever we give up an over-the-top transition basket,” Kerr said afterward. “If we let someone behind us, it’s an automatic timeout. I actually thought we had one left. … It didn’t matter. I wanted to get D-Lo (Russell) out of the game. The game was over.”
2014-18: In all five seasons, the Warriors followed up opening night with a victory.
In 2015, they followed up opening night with 23 consecutive wins, an NBA record to start a season.
2019: Look, we’d rather not speculate.
2015-18: After that unlikely breakthrough in 2014-15, the final four season tip-offs in Oakland featured the team that everyone figured would win that year’s NBA title.
2019: Thursday’s game in San Francisco also featured the team that everyone thinks will win the NBA title.
So there you have it. Not everything changed over the summer.