NewsCO.com.au – The Warriors laid an egg against the Celtics, and the West is up for grabs

March 9, 2017

It was clear that Kevin Durant’s knee injury would create problems for the Golden State Warriors as soon as the severity was announced last week. While the team with the NBA’s best record boasts more star depth than any other squad in the length, the rotation is not especially deep and isn’t necessarily equipped to withstand the loss of one of the NBA’s best players for a month or more. Add in that the injury came on just the second day of a very tough stretch of eight straight games in different cities (in just 13 days), and it was always possible that the Warriors would lose a few games without their two-way superstar.

However, those ongoing struggles without Durant have been more serious than anyone expected. Those difficulties continued apace on Wednesday night in Oakland against the Boston Celtics. A short trip home before heading back out on the road offered the Warriors no comfort. In fact, they looked downright horrible during a fourth-quarter collapse that led to a 99-86 loss, their third in five games without KD.

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For a time, it looked like the Warriors were in position to pull out a win on a night when they clearly couldn’t find their best form. Golden State led 74-72 heading into the fourth quarter and 79-78 after a Draymond Green dunk with 7:18 remaining. The offense was sputtering, but a change in fortune was not out of the realm of possibility.

Then everything went horribly wrong for the Warriors and extremely right for the Celtics. Kelly Olynyk answered Green’s jam with one of his own to start a 15-0 run that both decided and finished off the game. The Warriors didn’t score again until a Green three-pointer at the 3:47 mark, and any hope that it would start a comeback had to have felt like wishful thinking. The Warriors simply didn’t have the energy or ability to make a sustained charge.

That was never clearer than on one interminable possession in the final three minutes. Head coach Brad Stevens called a timeout at the 2:53 mark to help stop a Warriors charge, but it was what came in the minute after that doomed the Warriors. The Celtics grabbed offensive rebounds off two missed Jae Crowder threes, got a non-shooting foul from Stephen Curry on Isaiah Thomas after the second, and then finally saw Avery Bradley complete a jumper with 1:45 remaining to end a 68-second possession that felt more like a form of torture than basketball. Take a look:

ESPN’s J.A. Adande came up with the perfect comparison — it had the character of a hockey power play for Boston:

The Warriors have rarely looked worse. Facing a side well known for its rebounding struggles, Golden State could not get to a number of 50-50 balls and lacked the activity that has been one of the team’s trademarks in recent seasons.

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Frankly, the fourth quarter had more in common with the Antawn Jamison era than the Stephen Curry era. The Warriors scored only 12 points in the period and committed five turnovers against four assists, a shocking figure for a group that has made a habit of topping 30 assists all season. They looked exhausted, incapable, and just downright bad.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @FreemanEric

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