OAKLAND -- It was just like old times before the game. They huddled in the hallway outside the locker room, dancing and chanting. Like frat boys headed for a night on the town. Like they had done each game while amassing a 30-17 record.
"It's basketball. It's supposed to be fun," said rookie center Festus Ezeli, who loved the return of the ritual. "When we play fun and loose, we're this team you see."
The revival of the pregame clowning around session is emblematic of the Warriors' return to an old mindset. After losing back-to-back games at home over the weekend, Golden State had lost 12 of its past 17 games. Throughout most of that stretch, coach Mark Jackson and his players talked constantly about getting back to the team that was surprisingly successful the first two months.
It seemed Jackson's motivational speeches weren't working. Neither were his rotation tweaks. Neither was the much-anticipated presence of center Andrew Bogut.
And after losing on consecutive nights to Houston and Milwaukee, it looked as if Golden State wouldn't be getting its mojo back.
It hit point guard Stephen Curry that something was missing. Curry talked with co-captain David Lee, who agreed the Warriors had lost their way. The suits weren't working, and they needed to put back on the jeans and let their hair down. In efforts to get their swag back, they reinstituted the pregame ritual.
"We were just having fun," Curry said. "Obviously, when you lose a couple in a row, people start talking. We have to shut that out, be (the) us that got us in that position and exceeded everybody's expectations before we hit the month of February."
The intensity of the season had prompted some intentional changes, including the end to the playful pregame ritual and a toning down of bench celebrations. It also led to obvious unintentional changes, such as a hesitation to push the tempo and a tension in their play.
The Warriors have been criticized multiple times this season for celebrating too much. They have committed no shortage of turnovers for being too free. They have taken countless bad shots because they felt comfortable.
But perhaps the truth is they need to play that way. A team of young players and short on talent, the Warriors might be better off playing as if they don't understand the gravity of the games this time of year.
"I think we started putting pressure on ourselves," Ezeli said. "We started changing all that stuff and hoping it would affect the game or something. I don't know what we were thinking. ... Maybe we were a little tight just because we were worried about what people were saying. That's just me speaking honestly. We can't do that. We have to worry about ourselves and play like we know we can."
It's way too early to say if it's working. The win over New York had as much to do with the Knicks' play as it did the Warriors. And a win over Detroit on Wednesday won't exactly cue "The Boys Are Back in Town" in the heads of fans.
Maybe the Warriors just aren't talented enough, or experienced enough. But if they do flame out, it will no longer be because they weren't themselves.
"We play better when we are loose and having fun," Curry said. "That's how we approached games early in the year. Why not try it again?"