The Warriors are not best team in the NBA. The Cavs are not the best team in the NBA. The only true NBA powerhouse is the #TNTBulls, as Chicago won its 18th consecutive home TNT Thursday night game. The Bulls beat the Warriors 94–87 to extend a streak that dates back to 2013. Sure, there’s some cherry-picking needed to make that stat happen. But there’s no good explanation for how a team that hasn’t advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs since 2011 can be 18–0 in any set of games. The Bulls have won 54 percent of their games since their last TNT Thursday night home loss, meaning they had a 0.00152 percent chance of winning all 18 games. Vegas would set the odds even lower, since most TNT games are supposed to be marquee matchups. They’ve beaten LeBron three times (once against the Heat, twice against the Cavs), the Spurs twice, KD and Russ on the Thunder, and now the Warriors.
Golden State was dismal. Eighty-seven points is the Warriors’ lowest total of the year; they’d scored under 100 only twice before. Combined with their Tuesday night loss to the Wizards, this is the first time they’ve lost back-to-back regular-season games since April 2015, ending the longest such streak in NBA history. (They lost back-to-back-to-back games in the NBA Finals, in case you forgot.)
Of course, they weren’t at full strength. Kevin Durant is hurt, and will be out at least a month. But Durant’s injury didn’t cause Steph Curry to play one of the worst games of his season, scoring just 23 points on 27 shots. He’s hit just four of his past 31 3-point attempts, a span that includes an 0-for-11 night against the Sixers that tied an NBA record for most 3-point misses in an NBA game without a make. This is Steph Curry, the best shooter in NBA history, who rewrote the 3-point record books like Babe Ruth once did for home runs. Slumps happen, but Steph redefined what consistency looks like. He’s not supposed to slump. Klay Thompson was even worse, shooting just 5-for-22 with 13 points. (He was 5-for-20 in the loss to Washington.)
The Warriors looked sloppy, playing like a team that just lost Durant, one of the most deft, skilled 7-foot humans in the history of basketball, and gave some of his minutes to Matt Barnes, who plays basketball with the grace of the Tasmanian Devil and just got cut by the nosediving Sacramento Kings so that team could hold onto Langston Galloway. Warriors fans probably remember Barnes fondly for his presence on the 2007 Warriors that upset the top-seeded Mavs. A decent role on a successful underdog does not make him a fit on a team that should be the best in the NBA.
I didn’t think the KD injury would faze the Warriors. After all, reports suggest he’ll likely be back by the playoffs. If Golden State manages to hold on to the top seed without him, the team will be fine. That seemed like a reasonable expectation for the Warriors. They lost some players from the 73-game-winning team to sign Durant, but he was the garnish on top of one of the greatest dishes in NBA history. Remove him, and they should stay incredible. Maybe Curry can have some fun as the definitive no. 1 scorer on the team for a few weeks.
Maybe it’s a good sign that it takes a string of mini-cataclysms — an injury to Durant, two awful games from Curry, two awful games from Thompson, and perhaps most dreadful of all, the presence of Barnes — to get the Warriors to lose twice in a row. Maybe it’s worrisome that all those cataclysms are happening at the same time.