Warriors, Hornets square off after streak-snapping losses (Jan 25, 2017)
Even in a loss, the Golden State Warriors can find a silver lining.
On Monday, the team with the best record in the league at 38-7 suffered their first loss since blowing a big lead and losing in overtime to Memphis on Jan. 6. Miami's Dion Waiters connected on a jumper with less than a second left to give the Heat a 105-102 home win and Golden State's seven-game win streak was history.
The Warriors, the highest scoring team in the NBA and the league leaders in almost every offensive statistical category, relished being tested in a game that featured 15 ties and 12 lead changes.
"We get everybody's best shot, and Miami played great (Monday night)," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told SFgate.com. "It's good for us to have to face that night in and night out. For sure, it doesn't help you get better if somebody lays down."
The Warriors can be sure that when they head to Charlotte for Wednesday night's game, the Hornets are not going to be laying down and probably will have a little extra fire in their bellies.
The Hornets, in one of their most disappointing performances of the season, laid an egg and had their three-game win streak snapped on Monday against red-hot Washington in a 109-99 loss at home.
The starting backcourt of Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum made just 3 of 16 first-half shots and the Hornets never were able to threaten.
Despite scoring 21 points, Walker (7 of 24 from the field, 2 of 10 from 3-point range) was dreadful and frustrated, missed crucial free throws late and even picked up a technical foul.
"We waited too long to really pick things up tonight," Walker told The Charlotte Observer after the game. "The game was over when we really tried our hardest, and you know, it can't be that way.
"We kind of reverted back to the way that we've been playing, playing in spurts, making a lot of mistakes that we haven't made in the last three games before tonight. It hurt us tonight."
If they play in spurts and make the same defensive mistakes against the Warriors, it will be a long night at the Spectrum Center. What's troubling for Hornets coach Steve Clifford is that Charlotte didn't defend well, got bullied and allowed the Wizards to shoot 57 percent from the floor in the decisive first half.
"We are capable of playing more physical. They got into us at both ends," Hornets center Cody Zeller said. "It kind of took us out of our offense. Like coach (Clifford) said, it was a big key to the game ... the physicality has to get back up. It all starts on the defensive end just like it has all year."
Zeller (13 points, nine rebounds) was one of the bright spots on Monday along with Marco Belinelli, who scored 18 points off the bench.
But if Walker and Batum falter and the Hornets aren't intense on defense, the Warriors will notch another road win.
One of Kerr's concerns is complacency and playing down to their competition. Don't take winning for granted is the message. But the Warriors often are sluggish at the start, toy with their opponent like a cat playing with catnip and then turn the switch on when needed.
That scene played out against Miami, but the Heat didn't the follow the script.
Stephen Curry and Company were pressed, and although they lost, the Warriors learned a lesson.
"We had to see a play drawn up, execute it and the timing was there," Curry said. "So there is some good that came of that, knowing we executed well."