OAKLAND – After losing five games in four months, the Warriors have lost four in four weeks, including two in a five-day span, prompting widespread self-reflection among the coaches and players responsible for the best record in the NBA.
That’s what Tuesday was about. In the wake of a 124-117 loss to the lowly Timberwolves, the Warriors studied video and were repulsed by what they saw.
“We’re not panicking,” center Andrew Bogut said. “But we’ve got some things that we need to clean up.”
Those “things” are mostly related to offensive execution and defensive application. Both have eroded amid the grind of the season and, moreover, the breathless quest to set a record for most wins in a season, along with the constant chatter on that subject.
The Warriors have drifted away from the dazzling ball movement that demoralized opposing defenses. Oh, it still happens on occasion. But it’s not a staple, and hasn’t been for months, even as they continued to win games.
“We are trying to hit the home run, instead of a bunch of singles,” is the way coach Steve Kerr, using a baseball analogy, described what he’s seeing.
Veteran forward Andre Iguodala, who returned the lineup Tuesday after missing 13 games, is in agreement.
“The key to that is to make the play to that makes the play,” he said. “We kind of got away from that. When we have that discussion, we kind of settle down and we get back to where we need to be. Which is, ‘You may not be able to make the play, but you’re making the pass for someone else to make the play to someone else.’
“It’s the ‘hockey assist,’ which doesn’t get any glory in our game. So we tend to not look for it because we want the stat.”
The hunt for the spectacular has become more evident, and while home crowds love seeing it, it also gums up the offense, which leads to mistakes that embolden teams that otherwise wonder if they can beat the Warriors.
The Lakers, Spurs, Celtics and Timberwolves have over the past month succeeded in doing exactly that.
Three of those teams, the Spurs excluded, did surprising damage to the Warriors’ defense – as did a few teams the Warriors managed to defeat anyway.
Championship-level defense has been effective but far too infrequent.
“We sometimes, because the team is good and has shown they can win, cut corners a little bit on defensive transition and mental focus type stuff,” general manager Bob Myers told 95.7 The Game. “It happens. It’s part of the NBA.”
It can’t be part of the equation, though, for any team trying to post the most successful regular season in NBA history.
Many of the breakdowns are a product of substandard effort, according to Bogut.
“It’s team defense, but first and foremost, your matchup is personal,” he said. “So try to stop your guy. And if you need help from there, someone will be there to help you. A lot of times, we rely on help too much. We ‘overswitch’ things sometimes just lazily because we’ve got a lot of guys who can guard 1 through 5.
“That’s something we addressed today in film. If we bring our effort and energy to defense, we’re still a Top 5 defensive team in the league.”
They have that capacity, certainly now that every veteran is available. They’ll need it Thursday night, when the San Antonio Spurs visit Oracle.
And there is plenty of incentive. A Warriors victory would clinch the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.