Facing elimination, Warriors not planning on 'going out like this'

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Draymond Green sat at his locker, still in uniform, long after everyone else on the team had dressed and left on Tuesday night. Green will on occasion dispute media criticisms, acting as his own, vociferous lobby. Not tonight. “You have a free pass to blast me,” he told ESPN.com. "You have a free pass. I was f---ing awful.”

He’s not lying. Green, whose Game 3 kick to Steven Adams’ groin brought him an avalanche of accusations and infamy, was indeed quite bad. His passes were off-kilter (six turnovers) and his shooting wasn’t exactly making up the difference (1-of-11). The Thunder blasted the Warriors with a decisive 42 points in the second quarter, an outcome that might not entirely be on Green. Still, he considers himself the kind of defensive leader who can’t let it happen on his watch.

It’s difficult for a team to take solace in “I was f---ing awful,” but that frank admission carries the thinnest of silver linings in Golden State. The season is slipping away, but at least the Warriors have staved off the finger-pointing and recriminations that often accompany playoff collapses. At least they’re maintaining a unified front as Oklahoma City snatches history from their grasp.

Perhaps accountability gives Golden State a chance and perhaps it doesn’t. Though Green wants the burden of blame, there’s another acute issue: The Warriors are drawing dead if his two-time MVP teammate continues to play like this.

Stephen Curry too was awful on Tuesday night, missing five open 3s (he was 2-of-10 from deep total), botching layups and passing into the long arms of the opponent (six turnovers). Curry and Steve Kerr both insist the current struggles have nothing to do with the MCL he sprained a month ago, insisting that "he's fine." He looks less than spry when Thunder bigs switch out to contest his 3-pointers, but it's hard to flatly ascribe missed layups to injury.

Curry bears little resemblance to Oklahoma City’s MVP candidates right now. Russell Westbrook is pushing the ball down Golden State’s gullet. Kevin Durant is scoring with ease, while also delivering defensive highlights.

Save for Klay Thompson, who was brilliant in the third quarter, the Warriors' strengths are suddenly weaknesses. Oklahoma City’s small-ball units are dominating Golden State’s vaunted “Death Lineup.” That “death” moniker has turned ironic after the Thunder slaughtered it to the tune of 39 points over 19 minutes in these past two games.

The Warriors love to go small, but the Thunder “go small” with bigger guys. The Warriors thrive in transition, but running fast only fuels a more athletic Thunder attack. Golden State found success letting Andre Roberson shoot, and he responded by cutting his way to a 7-of-12 performance in Game 4. Many believed the Warriors would benefit from Dion Waiters making questionable decisions. Waiters has been solid as Curry throws the kind of sloppy hook passes that got him benched as a younger player.

So, the Warriors are in quite a bind, beyond the obvious 3-1 hole. There’s no assurance we see Curry return to regular-season MVP form. They’re getting little from their bigs as their small-ball lineups get trounced worst of all. From the outside, the Warriors appear boxed in, trapped in Oklahoma City’s thicket of never-ending arms.

And yet, Green remains confident, at least outwardly. He insists, “We’ll be fine,” like a man who believes he can turn this thing around by force of will. In the locker room, he told attending media, “We’ve put too much work in to go out like this. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing something and going out like this.”

Curry’s closing podium statement conveyed a similar sentiment: “It's a terrible feeling once again not stepping up and being ourselves and playing our game. But I think we're a special team that this isn't how we're going to go out. So we're going to figure out how we can take care of these next 48 minutes on Thursday, and then we'll talk.”

The 2015-16 Warriors may be a special team, but their past laurels won’t save them here. Those 73 wins don’t qualify as a deus ex machina escape from Oklahoma City’s vise grip. Kerr can make a helpful adjustment, but it won’t save the series. All that will, all that can, is a return to form from Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.