Mercifully, the Warriors reached the All-Star break. The defending NBA champions, three-time Western Conference bosses and expected 2018 super-team got to the intermission — which, strangely, comes 71 percent of the way through the season — not at a gallop or a rhythmic marathon clip, but with the embarrassed shamble of a drunk who just woke up on his front stairs.
Over the past month or so, the Warriors have looked worn down, frustrated and occasionally uninterested in the game of basketball. And they have lost some games. The question is: Should we be worried? Is this a little temporary coasting by a great team that is about to kick it into high gear after a few days of rest? Or do the Warriors have systemic problems we’d be foolish to ignore?
This is a weekend for Steve Kerr’s players to relax their minds and pressure down. Not us, though. Let them be the Warriors. We’ll be the Worriers as we examine their flaws and figure out what it all might mean over the next four months.
FACTOR: Recent losses
WORRY LEVEL: Gentle perspiration
Even when the Warriors set an NBA record by going 73-9 in 2015-16, there were puzzling upsets. Remember that 112-95 loss to the last-place Lakers on March 6, 2016? These guys aren’t robots. It happens.
The problem for the Warriors is that it’s been happening too frequently of late. Golden State is 3-3 in its previous six games, 7-5 in its past 12. That constitutes a major skid for these golden children. And some of those losses have been truly galling — like the 30-point loss at Utah on Jan. 30, or the 20-point home loss to Oklahoma City on Feb. 6.
They haven’t shown any true consistency for weeks.
If the water rises to your ankles, then your knees, then your waist, at some point you’re a fool if you keep insisting the boat doesn’t have a leak. But we’re not there yet. The Warriors are too good for us to believe they can’t fix their recent breakdowns.
FACTOR: First quarters
WORRY LEVEL: Buoyant and whistling a Taylor Swift song
It has been the most consistently puzzling aspect of the Warriors’ season. In quarters 2 through 4, they have outscored the opposition by an average of 8.4 points (a margin watered down by plenty of fourth-quarter garbage time). In the first quarter, they have been outscored by .4 points per game.
Kerr has pleaded with his players, yelled at them, taken his case to the media, but nothing has worked. Just look at their most recent game. The Warriors had one more chance to put together a complete game before the break. But they somnambulated through the first 12 minutes at Portland on Monday, and trailed by 20 points before the period was over.
Kerr has criticized his players’ focus, and there’s no other valid explanation. It’s not like the Warriors are a physical team that gradually wears down the opposition, or that Kerr and his staff devise brilliant in-game counter-strategies night after night. It’s a boredom thing.
Criticize the Warriors for their lack of intensity if you want, but the focus will be there when the games really matter.
FACTOR: Andre Iguodala’s decline
WORRY LEVEL: Distracted fingering of rosary beads