OAKLAND • Less than a week ago, the Golden State Warriors were cruising at 10-1, Stephen Curry seemed to have regained his mantle as the National Basketball Association's presumed Most Valuable Player, and a fourth championship in five years seemed a formality.
Those sentiments suddenly felt like ancient history on Tuesday despite the Warriors beating the Atlanta Hawks 110-103 at the Oracle Arena, with Kevin Durant scoring a team-high 29 points. The Hawks were paced by 22 points from Taurean Prince.
The Warriors have lost two of their last four games, and Curry, who missed the Hawks game, has been sidelined indefinitely with a groin injury.
And the one-game suspension slapped on Draymond Green by the Warriors for his spat with teammate Durant during Monday's 121-116 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers could have far-reaching ramifications.
The ban, which the three-time All-Star served against the Hawks, was for "conduct detrimental to the team". Green is expected to be back to face the Houston Rockets today.
The decision seemed to indicate that the happiness of Durant, who is widely expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent in the off-season, is the Warriors' top priority.
The latest argument, which occurred after Green wasted an opportunity for a game-winning shot by not passing to Durant in the closing seconds of regulation time, seemed relatively innocuous.
Warriors backup guard Shaun Livingston dismissed the squabble as "team spirit", insisting Green had no obligation to pass to Durant.
Flare-ups between the pair are nothing new, with Green on occasion rebuffing Durant's attempts to revert to his own style of play - more isolation and reducing ball movement - over that of the team.
After the victory over the Hawks, Durant admitted there were still unresolved issues between him and Green, but he was hopeful things could be worked out over the term.
Four-time All-Star Klay Thompson also felt that Durant and Green would be able to settle their differences. "They're adults, they'll be fine," he said. "At the end of the day, we're on the same team with the same goal, the three-peat."
However, with a player like Green, who is known as much for his long memory as for his rim protection, the team's decision to punish him could come up when negotiations begin to keep him in Oakland beyond next season.
There is a chance that it will help the Warriors keep Durant in July, but it could be a factor in their talks with Green 12 months later.