Warriors lament late collapse against Thunder
SAN FRANCISCO — These Warriors have not been in this situation before.
After coming back from 21 points down on Friday against the Utah Jazz only to lose by three, the Warriors (3-15) on Monday let a 15-point lead slip away in their 100-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder (6-10) at Chase Center.
For a team that has taken pride in its ability to play until the final buzzer despite double-digit deficits this season, the loss is especially bitter. The Warriors didn’t score in the final 3:18 of the game as the Thunder closed on a 13-0 run, emphasized by Chris Paul’s leaning jumper with 37 seconds left to put a bow on a comeback win.
A Warriors team that had shown so much connectedness throughout the game came undone in the final minutes. After Paul’s go-ahead shot, guard Alec Burks missed a layup and forward Marquese Chriss committed a loose ball foul when diving for the ball following a frenzied sequence with 22 seconds left, resulting in Thunder free throws. The Warriors missed their final five shots of the game.
“A few of those shots were halfway in the rim and out,” forward Eric Paschall said. “(Alec Burks’) layup at the end was halfway in the rim.”
Down three with 2.2 seconds remaining and possession, Paschall inbounded the ball to fellow rookie Jordan Poole, whose heave was blocked by Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, rejecting the shot’s chance of becoming a game winner.
“Chaotic,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the final two minutes of the game. “We couldn’t handle their defensive pressure. They turned it up and forced some turnovers and we didn’t get good looks. It was frustrating because we had the game right in our grasp and just couldn’t finish it off.”
Entering the night losers in nine of their last 10 games, Golden State was on track to earn its second win in four games.
Forward Glenn Robinson III scored 13 points in the first quarter to keep the Warriors in the game after falling into an early nine-point deficit. Leading 59-53 at halftime, the Warriors then used a 12-2 run capped off by a Paschall layup through traffic to take a 15-point lead with 6:38 left in the third quarter.
After the Thunder cut the lead to eight, Poole’s 30-foot jumper punctuated an 11-4 run to extend the Warriors’ lead to 14 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. That’s when Oklahoma City’s run started, as they outscored the Warriors 26-14 in the final frame.
Bowman scored a career-high 24 points in 39 minutes, although 21 of those points came within the first three quarters. His struggles in the fourth quarter (three points on 1-of-5 shooting) were symbolic of his team’s night, as the Warriors missed 17 of their final 22 shots as the Thunder stormed back.
“That is something we are going to look back on, just the last three minutes, we had it in our hands,” Bowman said. “Just knowing as a guard to try to get good plays, good shots. Some of the shots came on too fast.”
Robinson III finished with a team-high 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting to go with five assists. Paschall had 13 points and 10 rebounds. As a team, Golden State assisted on 27 of 37 made field goals.
However, still missing Draymond Green (right heel soreness), the Warriors had just eight healthy players for the third straight game. They have allowed opponents to shoot better than 47% in each of those games.
On Tuesday, Kerr praised his shorthanded roster of largely unknown players for hanging tough.
“It’s a testament to the group, the ‘Elite Eight,’ that I like to call them. The Elite Eight’s doing a hell of a job hanging in there,” he said.
The new Warriors have found solace in moral victories and steady development this season. Monday’s loss offers a new lesson: no lead is safe, not even their own. As pressure mounts in the final minutes and seconds, it is more important to execute. The Warriors will take that lesson into Wednesday night, when they host the Chicago Bulls.
“We got to keep working and see how we can get better, especially at the close of games, and find ways to take care of the ball and get good shots,” Kerr said. “We’ll do it. We have a young group. They are learning and they are trying and we’ll get there. But, in the meantime, it’s frustrating.”