OAKLAND, Calif. – The Golden State Warriors, the dynastic super team that is so talented that it adds a touch of inevitability to the NBA season, began their title defense with a tune-up. What should have been a straightforward victory against a short-handed opponent, instead, was competitive to the last minute, which ended with a 108-100 win. Warrior leads built and kinked. Passes sailed into the hands of Thunder defenders. Golden State was guilty in the past of artificially making its games hubris at the expense of domination. The game on Tuesday was not such a case.
Instead of jogging, the Warriors won in a stumble. Their characteristic beautiful ball movement became a slapstick. After shaking some defenders in the second half, Stephen Curry put a cross pass to Klay Thompson, who shot out of the box and Kevin Durant rescued the ball that was about to bring down his defender. Balloon Curry would score many in an otherwise excellent performance miss the Hayymaker of the third quarter, the Golden State awards ̵
"I think in terms of overall timing and execution, we were a bit out," said Curry. "The guys were moving at different speeds." The ball handlers were out of sync with their screeners. The shooters peeled in the same direction at the same time. Help defenders were only a bit too eager to negate until a good competition with a foul. There was a recognizable flow and chemistry to what the warriors were trying to achieve. It just did not show up in the way you would expect the last four years.
"I think we had big intentions," said Durant. "Guys are trying to make the right game, the right thing to read, it will come after a while."
There can be no doubt about that. There is no earthly cause for concern in the first of 82 games, especially when the cause of Golden State's problems is rooted in the premise. "It's the product of being the first game," Curry said. The Warriors have an enviable continuity in the grand scheme of things, yet every year they face a split between June and October. Even the best team in the league needs time to reconnect the wiring, to warm up old habits. Even in the best of cases, the preseason is a hollow imitation of the actual, meaningful NBA basketball. The exhibition area of Golden State was even emptier than usual, as Draymond Green missed most of the injury. "I just have to get that conditioning and timing back," said Green. "Overall, I think that will come in the next week or two-not just myself, but everyone else as well. We'll find that rhythm."
Rhythm can be a funny thing. The Warriors were no less talented on Tuesday – collecting their championship rings – than the day they swept the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. All four stars of the team were still in uniform and still quite effective individually. Even lazier was the connection between them: the difference between the raging, mortal Warriors starting this season and the mighty Warriors who are likely to end it.
A stalled property can always find its way to Durant, which passes over the earth as a living, breathing disproportion. And there are many, much worse options than just running Curry and Thompson around staggered screens and cooking them. The true luxury comes in the balance between them, which even in its rawest form can throw away most opponents. At best, only a few have a chance. "We have to get the ball moving," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. "More happens and we will look more like ourselves."