OAKLAND, Calif. — The Boston Celtics were supposed to be the team that was reeling, fighting inner turmoil and carrying a toxic disposition.
But after dismantling the Golden State Warriors 128-95 Tuesday at Oracle Arena, the roles seemingly were reversed.
In the home locker room, inhabited by the team on top of the Western Conference standings, chaos ensued during postgame interview sessions.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr kicked things off, saying, “It starts with a passion, and an anger and an intensity, and it wasn’t there tonight.” The Warriors (44-20) lacked focus out of the gate, falling behind 11-0, and committed a season-high 22 turnovers.
When Kevin Durant was told about Kerr’s use of the word “anger” to describe what was missing from the team, the back-to-back Finals MVP dismissed his coach’s assertion.
“I thought we move off of joy?” Durant asked, knowing that’s a phrase Kerr frequently employs to characterize their style of play. “Now it’s anger? OK. I disagree with that one. I think all around, top to bottom, coaches, players, we just gotta be better.”
During that display, it was impossible not to conclude that Durant intentionally took a swipe at his coach. The individuals in the room were stunned with his comments. From the moment Durant took his seat, his demeanor was of someone prepared to go on the attack.
While asking a softball question, a reporter made the mistake of starting it off by reminding Durant that one of the reasons he signed with the Warriors was because of defensive-guru assistant Ron Adams. But before the question could be fully relayed, Durant promptly interrupted.
“We’re still talking about me coming here?” he asked with annoyance.
The reporter respectfully explained that the question wasn’t about his free-agency decision from three years ago, but rather about how Adams might be dealing with the way his defense is struggling right now.
“It’s about how we’re all dealing with it,” Durant replied. “The whole team, the whole organization. We’re family, right? That’s how we operate. I don’t think anybody in that locker room is anything but upset with the game we played. Not just Ron Adams.”
Durant’s postgame session lasted for only two minutes, but it stole the evening. It was the talk of the night and it will surely dominate sports-talk shows on Wednesday.
The Warriors scored 99 or fewer points for the seventh time this season and are now 0-7 in such games.
“[Just] come back tomorrow, watch film, practice, and see where we go from there,” Durant said about how the Warriors will respond to the loss. “We usually bounce back pretty well, so we’ll see what happens.”
Celtics star Kyrie Irving, who has been in a foul mood the last few weeks and short with the media in recent games, was in a surprisingly buoyant state after the blowout victory.
He listened, smiled and thoughtfully and eloquently answered each question without any hint of disdain. Those who follow the Celtics (39-26) daily said they haven’t seen this side of Irving since the All-Star break.
“It gets a little overwhelming, like I said, but this is just the business I’m in,” Irving said after recording 19 points and a game-high 11 assists to go with five boards. “The business part is just what makes it terrible for me. Dealing with all this [expletive]. The basketball part, I have to keep that fun. That’s where I’m great, that's where I love to play, be around my teammates, that’s what makes me happy, and the business part is going to be the business. The personal side of being out here with my teammates is the only thing that matters. It wasn’t really a change of perspective, it was just letting the guard down completely and just not thinking I’m at odds with everybody. It’s not a competition in this locker room; it’s a competition out there when we’re going to war.”
Irving and Durant are close friends who both happen to be hitting free agency this summer. They have been linked to the New York Knicks, and both have been combative at times this season with teammates and members of the media.
There are members of the organization concerned that Durant’s behavior is a sign that he’s already got one foot out the door. But there are others who aren’t reading too much into what they consider to be the standard rigors and annoyances of an 82-game season.
Nevertheless, of these two squads, only one’s fanbase was able to let out a collective sigh of relief. And it wasn’t the one that was expected to.
“Because we have a team that’s so talented, the media is always going to [overreact],” Celtics forward Marcus Morris told Yahoo Sports. “You lose one game and it’s like the [end of the world]. But now, I bet now since we won the game [Tuesday night], they’re going to be like, ‘Ah, [expletive], now they can go to the championship and all this other [expletive]. You know how it goes. It’s just what it is. But I think this was a good game for us, a great turnaround. It was a big win on Golden State’s home court. It’s definitely a statement win for us.”
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