For the same reason the Warriors had to fight off the Timberwolves even while they shot a season-best 58.3% from 3, Steve Kerr thinks his team might be playing too loosely.
Sometimes, the Warriors try to swing for the fences on offense. Sometimes that “sometimes” is too much. It shows up in their shot selection and turnover rate. That’s clear even after their fourth-straight win, a 124-115 victory over the feisty Timberwolves.
“I feel like right now we’re wildly entertaining,” Kerr said after GSW’s win. “And I just want to be entertaining. I don’t want to be wildly entertaining right now. We’re too wild. We made, I don’t know, 7-10 insane plays that are going to get us beat in a big game and against a good team, so we’ve got to get better.”
Against Minnesota, the Warriors (36-13) coughed up 18 turnovers. Their 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter quickly dissipated after a string of empty possessions capped by poor shots or damaging possessions inflicted by turnovers. Against a more talented team, perhaps those mistakes turn a win into a loss.
How do you clean up those miscues?
“It’s just decision-making,” Kerr said. “We had some really big turnovers down the stretch that were completely unnecessary. We’ve got to figure out that we can still be entertaining and put on a good show without some of the bad decisions, the poor decisions, with the ball.”
The value of possessions, Kerr said, is “everything.” Especially in the playoffs. Golden State’s veterans know that, and Kerr is confident in their ability to apply that lesson when it matters.
Not all turnovers are created equal. A drive to the basket that gets turned over because a defender slides in for a charge out of nowhere hurts less than an ill-advised behind-the-back pass that goes the other way for two.
But Golden State has committed all varieties. Leading Gary Payton II too far on the break with a pass that sails through the baseline. Forcing passes into windows completely shut tight. Losing the handle on a dribble. Setting moving screens.
The Warriors are averaging 15.7 turnovers per game, second-most to the NBA behind only the 14-34 Rockets. But the “wild” in “wildly entertaining” is more than just turnovers.
Golden State also took their share of some circus shots, particularly from Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole, against Minnesota. Curry, Poole and Klay Thompson are excellent shot-makers, so sometimes even the toughest shots go in — as they did Thursday night.
That doesn’t mean the show must go on.
Curry sunk a 3 after losing the handle and stumbling. And another after corralling a long rebound, turning and firing. He’s so good that they can go in, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best shots available.
Sometimes the Warriors have over-passed. Sometimes they’ve force-fed Thompson to re-acclimate him into the offense. They’re still learning — or re-learning — how to play with the five-time All-Star, after all.
“With Klay, it’s easy to play with him because he’s obviously an amazing scorer, an amazing shooter, and demands a lot of attention out there,” Curry said. “The hardest part is just trying to keep things simple because you can always try to do something special in every possession and that’s where you get in trouble. And we still have a tendency to do that from time to time…but if we keep things simple across the board, somebody’s going to be open and we love any of us, up and down the roster, to take the shots that are open.”
But Golden State would be significantly worse if they played like robots. Having fun on the court is still encouraged. The Warriors, when they’re humming, are the best show in basketball.
After hitting one of his six 3-pointers, Curry boogied in place as Minnesota retreated to a timeout. As he should; he hasn’t hit six 3s while shooting at least 50% since Jan. 1.
“Just having fun with myself,” Curry said. Obviously I’ve been shooting, trying to stay confident, keep taking shots I feel like I can make. When a couple go down early, it’s a good feeling. You want to try to ride that energy, ride that wave. To me, it’s the balance of maintaining who I am on the court and how I enjoy the game, even when things aren’t going your way. That joy has to maintain. Because I think everybody feeds off of it…If I’m in my feelings and thinking about my shot, that takes away from everything else that we do and that I can do to impact winning. So when you do make some, you’ve got to have some fun with it.”
The Warriors still have to improve. They can’t be only home-run hitters — singles and doubles are valuable, too. Finding the right balance could elevate Golden State back to championship contention, not just great TV.
“So it’s all decision-making,” Kerr said. “We’re just going to have to keep pounding that home. And our guys will respond, I have no doubt. They’ve won championships, they understand the value of every possession in a playoff game. But there’s a show out there too that they really enjoy. I’m all for that as long as they make good decisions along with it.”