Warriors still believe miracle will materialize as same issues persist

NBC Sports Bay Area

For the third time in four games, the Warriors on Friday night built a sizable lead and then gave it all away. And this time, Steve Kerr’s face conveyed simmering animosity, which might be why his words flirted with delusion.

“We’re good enough,” the coach told reporters in Oklahoma City after the Warriors welcomed a 138-136 overtime loss to the Thunder.

“We’re good enough to win a championship,” Kerr continued. “I believe that. This team. But if we’re just going to turn it over and throw the ball to the other team and foul over and over, then we’re going to lose.”

These Warriors, as constructed, are not good enough to win a championship – at least not in today’s NBA. There are several reasons, and two of them, turnovers and fouls, were explicitly mentioned by Kerr.

The Warriors have not learned to value every possession, as elite teams typically do. They have not mastered the art of defending as if schooled in sound fundamentals, as elite teams typically do. Those liabilities were behind them blowing a 14-point lead Friday night in OKC and a 24-point lead last week in Sacramento.

Golden State on this night committed 29 turnovers, its highest total since Feb. 27, 2002, when three rookies – Gilbert Arenas, Troy Murphy and Jason Richardson – combined for 16 of the team’s 30 turnovers in a 17-point victory over the Nuggets. Those Warriors finished 21-61.

These Warriors will do appreciably better. We believe.

But this is a wholly exasperating trend. These Warriors are not anchored by rookies. They’re not relying heavily on youngsters making their first spin through the league. Yet this starting lineup, which averages 10.8 seasons of NBA experience, was responsible for 19 of the 29 turnovers, which the Thunder turned into 35 points.

“Can’t turn the ball over that many times,” Draymond Green said. “Can’t foul that many times. Yet we are doing a good job of building a lead. What do we have to do to sustain it?

“What have we tricked off? Four games? All of a sudden, if you don’t trick those games off, we’re 12-8 and everybody is great. It’s a game of margins.”

It’s the margins that separate the worst teams from the mediocre and the mediocre from the respectable and the respectable from the contender. It’s the margins that have Golden State sitting on a five-game road losing streak, with only four wins over the last 14 games and a 10-12 record, bearing no resemblance to a team capable of winning a championship in any league.

This team either doesn’t realize it’s margin of error has gone from wide a few years ago to nonexistent. The Warriors have blown six double-digit leads this season, including three in the last 10 days.

Yet their internal belief remains unshaken.

“I think we’ve got all the pieces that we need in order to win,” Green said. “If you look at some of these games we’re losing, we’ve just got to tighten up. Tighten up in the margins. We know what it takes to win a championship, and I feel like we’ve got all of those things.”

The Warriors are led by four players, three of them with championship pedigree, bound for the Hall of Fame. They have Andrew Wiggins, a champion whose greatness appears with the frequency of a rainbow. They have a deep cast of reserves that might someday contribute to something fantastic.

What they have now is a team searching for its placement. After 22 games, all signs point to it being in the middle of the Western Conference.

Opponents are younger and quicker and bouncier, able to attack the rim at will and succeed at a high rate. The Warriors are 0-2 against a young and lengthy Cleveland team, 0-2 against a young, lengthy Minnesota team and now 1-3 against the young and lengthy Thunder.

These Warriors are nowhere near a championship. Not at this rate. They have not consistently exhibited a sense of urgency. They have teased with occasional glimpses of potential, like the first quarter Friday night, but they have developed a habit of inviting defeat.

Yet they believe they will put everything together and play themselves to the top of the NBA. A miracle is required.

“We’ve got to figure out how to stop talking about it and do it,” Stephen Curry said. “Or else we’ll be into the new year with the same problem. Whatever it is, if it’s within our control, we’ve got to do it if we’re going to be any type of a serious team.”

Just facts. Not a hint of delusion. Only a desire to be better next week or next month or in 2024.

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