SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors officially moved into their dream home Thursday night and then proceeded to live out a nightmare in an embarrassing 141-122 loss to the LA Clippers in the first regular-season game at Chase Center.
After watching his team get run up and down the floor all night, Warriors coach Steve Kerr didn’t mince words about where his young group stood as the new season began.
“This is not a one-off, this is the reality,” Kerr said. “There’s going to be nights like this this year. You’ve got to play through it, you’ve got to keep fighting and keep getting better. That’s the plan.”
The Warriors came into the season with nine players 23 years old or younger on their roster. They knew there were going to be bad nights, and they knew there were going to be teaching moments throughout another 82-game campaign.
But reality hit fast Thursday night as the Clippers raced around against a Warriors organization that has been to five consecutive NBA Finals.
“It doesn’t feel very good,” Kerr said. “Losing stinks. It’s no fun. This is more the reality of the NBA. … The last five years we’ve been living in a world that isn’t supposed to exist. Five years of, if I remember, the best record anybody’s ever had over five years. So this is reality, nine guys 23 or younger, and we’re starting over in many respects.”
On a night full of issues, the one that stood out most to Warriors players and coaches was the group’s inability to get defensive stops. The Clippers shot 62.5% from the field and were 18-for-32 from beyond the arc.
“We f—ing sucked,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “And we gotta get better. I’m not a coach, so I’m not about to go watch a film and say, ‘Oh, well we can build on this.’ I really don’t give a damn about what we can build on. We sucked tonight, and we gotta get better overall. And that’s just what it is.”
Both Kerr and Green noted throughout the preseason that they were concerned about how the Warriors were performing on the defensive end, and those fears manifested on the floor Thursday night.
The drop-off in talent was on full display as the Warriors entered the season without injured All-Star swingman Klay Thompson, who still is recovering from a torn ACL. They also played without Kevin Durant, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets last summer, and veteran stalwarts Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. At times, some of the Warriors’ young players looked lost on the floor.
“The easy answer is it’s one of 82, but there is some glaring things that we need to correct if we’re going to win basketball games consistently,” Warriors superstar Stephen Curry said when asked for his assessment of the game. “Credit the Clippers. They came off a pretty intense, hard-fought battle in L.A. in game one, so they were battle-tested in terms of being in that situation. They started the first six minutes with that same intensity.”
The Warriors crowd also started the night with intensity as fans filled the seats inside the team’s billion-dollar palace. Before the game began, Thompson delivered a speech, singling out Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber for their “vision” in getting the new arena built.
Once the contest began, things went downhill quickly. Green injured his right forearm less than three minutes in, after colliding with Clippers guard Patrick Beverley. Green was in a considerable amount of pain and went to the locker room to get checked out, returning at the beginning of the second quarter with what the Warriors said was an elbow contusion.
Green wore a compression sleeve on his arm after the game, acknowledging that the injury was “really sore,” but he did not sound concerned about missing time.
Warriors center Kevon Looney returned to the starting lineup after missing almost all of training camp because of a right hamstring injury. After playing just 10 minutes, Looney did not return to the game in the second half after tweaking the same hamstring. His status for Sunday’s game at the Oklahoma City Thunder is unclear.
The Clippers enjoyed playing the role of spoiler on the Warriors’ opening night.
“We wanted to kind of beat them down,” Beverley said. “Beat them down, beat them down, beat them down to the point that, it was me, Mo [Maurice Harkless], of course Kawhi [Leonard], [Landry Shamet] did a helluva job. We just kept putting bodies on them trying to make it as tough as possible.”
The Warriors’ misery continued off the floor as well, after TNT analyst Charles Barkley noted during a halftime discussion that he wanted to change his prediction that the Warriors would make the playoffs.
“I was wrong before the game,” Barkley said. “I said they were going to be the 7-, 8-seed. They’re not going to make the playoffs, because they just can’t score enough.”
Thompson, who was a guest on set at the time, defended his team.
“Chuck has the right to be a little pessimistic,” Thompson said. “But I think these young guys are going to step up, man.”
Green didn’t pay Barkley’s comment much attention either.
“I don’t really listen to anything that he says,” Green said.
After being knocked out by the Warriors in last season’s playoffs, the Clippers added Leonard and Paul George to a core that already had established a winning culture.
When asked about how the Clippers ruined the Warriors’ opening night, Leonard replied matter-of-factly, “I mean, that’s our job.”