Photo: Ron Jenkins, Associated Press
DALLAS – The Warriors arrived Saturday at American Airlines Center battered emotionally and physically.
Two nights after a listless 21-point loss to Houston, Golden State was intent on finally moving past Draymond Green's heated exchange with Kevin Durant that was so personal it led to Green being suspended a game without pay. The problem was that, with Green (sprained right toe), Stephen Curry (strained left groin) and Alfonzo McKinnie (left foot soreness) sidelined, the Warriors were undermanned.
In its 112-109 loss to the Mavericks, Golden State showed resilience, only to miss crucial shots down the stretch in its fourth defeat in six games. Though he poured in a game-high 32 points, Durant struggled when it mattered most.
Down 109-108 with 28.6 seconds left, head coach Steve Kerr called a timeout and drew up a play for Durant. His argument with Green five nights earlier had started because Durant was frustrated that Green did not find him for a potential game-winning shot on the final play of regulation. However, Durant would get no redemption.
After dribbling into the key, he turned around for an 11-foot fade-away jumper. As the ball clanked off front iron, Durant, grimacing, clapped his hands in disgust. Moments later, Durant purposefully fouled Dorian Finney-Smith, who missed his second of two free throws.
With Golden State down 110-108, Klay Thompson missed a pullup jumper from the corner. Shaking his head, Thompson stomped to the top of the arc, crouched down and stared blankly at the court.
The Warriors' fate was sealed when, down three points with 6.0 seconds left, Durant missed his second of two foul shots.
With less than 24 hours until Sunday night's game in San Antonio, Golden State is searching for answers. It does not help that Curry will miss at least three more games with a groin injury or that Green is also expected to sit against the Spurs.
Though the stakes can only be so high in mid-November, Golden State entered its first night of a back-to-back set Saturday stressing how well it has handled the aftermath of Green's much-publicized confrontation with Durant. But to fully overcome such public turmoil, the Warriors knew they needed their locker-room strides to spill onto the court.
With three All-Stars out (center DeMarcus Cousins is rehabbing from a torn left Achilles tendon he sustained in January while with New Orleans), Kerr told his players during shoot-around to play with more energy. His message was simple: The best way to weather off-the-court adversity is to power through it.
To cool things up, Kerr started Kevon Looney at the center over Damian Jones. Two-way-contract player Damion Lee, who was recalled Saturday from the team's G League affiliate in Santa Cruz, scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half. When Lee drilled a three-pointer from the top of the arc midway through the second quarter, Curry, his brother-in-law, erupted from the bench, stepped onto the court and hollered.
Little more than five minutes later, Durant drove by two defenders, contorting his body for a lay-in. After turning around under the basket, he head-butted the ball and high-fived several of his teammates.
It was a far cry from the somber Durant many have seen behind the scenes in recent days. After hearing all of the theories that Golden State's demise is imminent, he is trying to lead his team out of this tumultuous stretch.
The issue Saturday was that he just could not make shots with the game on the line.
Who: Warriors at San Antonio
When: 4 p.m.
TV / Radio: NBCSBA / 95.7