LOS ANGELES — The Golden State Warriors were starting to recover from a couple of early glitches, and the Los Angeles Clippers were the last undefeated team in the NBA.
And then the Detroit Pistons rolled through California.
The Warriors and Clippers can commiserate when they meet Monday after both were defeated by the Pistons over the weekend. The Clippers fell 95-87 to Detroit on Saturday for their first loss of the season, and the Warriors played a far-too-gracious host a day later in a 115-107 setback to the Pistons.
The meeting at Staples Center on Monday will be the first of the season between two of the better teams in the Western Conference.
The Clippers, who represent a potential threat to the Warriors’ three-time defending Western Conference throne, opened the season 4-0 before stepping out of character while falling to the Pistons.
Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers referenced finger-pointing among players after the loss. Defending the 3-point arc also became an issue late in the game, a bad sign with the sharp-shooting Warriors heading to town.
Not everybody with the Clippers was ready to panic.
“Nobody is going to be happy when you lose a game,” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “But us being 4-1, I think that’s OK. We were the only undefeated team in the league to start the night (Saturday), and unfortunately, we’re not anymore. I don’t think that we were going to go 82-0.”
The Warriors (4-3) knew after one game that an undefeated season was an impossibility. On the night they received their championship rings, they fell 122-121 to the Houston Rockets, a loss understandable considering the emotional night.
But they lost four days later to the Memphis Grizzlies, and they are giving up 114.3 points per game this season, which ranks 28th in the 30-team league. However, they lead the league in scoring at 118.1 points per game.
Because the Warriors are so talented, they have wondered aloud about their focus. Warriors coach Steve Kerr remarked after a recent game that his team was failing to run diagramed plays after at least five timeouts.
“There’s so many emotions in the game; it’s just like last thing you worry about when you step out on the floor is what Coach drew up on the court, and we tend to forget a little bit,” the Warriors’ Kevin Durant said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “The game is so intense when you’re out there on the floor. It was easy to lose focus a bit.”
Just how intense? Warriors forward Draymond Green found himself in an altercation with the Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal late in the first half of a victory on Friday. Both players were ejected, although Green avoided a suspension and was fined $25,000.
The Warriors will be at full strength Monday, but the Clippers will not. Los Angeles guard Milos Teodosic remains out indefinitely with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, although he was riding a stationary bike as recently as Saturday.
Confidence for the Clippers on Monday could stem from the fact that they don’t figure to run into the same defensive roadblocks they had against the Pistons on Saturday. And while the Warriors do have loads of offense, the Clippers enter the matchup allowing just 92.4 points per game, best in the league.
With the game on their home floor, the Clippers intend to play this one on their terms.
“We don’t want to get sped up and play out of our element or our pace,” Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin said after practice Sunday. “We want to play at our pace, but at the same time, we don’t want to walk the ball up the floor. We want to play to our advantages. After getting stops, we want to get out on the break and attack.”