The Warriors blew a 16-point lead in Orlando for their fourth straight loss. They still haven’t won a game away from the Chase Center this season.
The latest defeat, 130-129 to the Magic, was the fifth in which Golden State has allowed at least 120 points.
The Warriors (3-6) are leading the NBA in points per game (118.8) while also allowing more than anyone (122.2).
“It feels like a little bit of a championship hangover,” head coach Steve Kerr said after the Orlando defeat.
Golden State’s lackluster defense is particularly alarming. Kerr has been mixing and matching veterans and unproven young players, but searching for combinations isn’t an excuse for such poor defensive performances.
Kerr admitted that changes are likely coming.
“We’re going to have to make some adjustments, make some changes,” Kerr said. “We’ve had a look — what, nine games now? So we’ve had a decent look at combinations and so it’s time to try something different.”
Substitution patterns and combinations can be tweaked, but the personnel overall won’t. So how is the defense — second in defensive rating last season — going to improve?
The biggest issue so far for Golden State has been fouling. GSW’s 24 fouls per game are the most in the league. The problem was on display Thursday night, when the Magic shot 46 free throws to the Warriors’ 15.
Fouls have often come when players are late on rotations or put in a disadvantageous position due to dribble drives. Draymond Green, the former Defensive Player of the Year, tried to diagnose what’s going wrong.
“I think I’m pretty good defensively off the ball,” Green said. “I think (Kevon) Looney’s pretty good defensively off the ball. And I think (Andrew) Wiggins is very good on the ball. And so we have to be better at the point of attack, and that falls on Wiggins. And we have to be better with our rotations and that falls on me a little bit.”
The defense was so poor Thursday, Golden State wasted magnificent performances from Stephen Curry (39 points) and Klay Thompson (season-high 24), who combined to shoot 15 of 30 from deep. The Warriors allowed 30 points in the first quarter and 43 in the third.
Green repeatedly said there’s no use in pointing fingers. Yes, the young guys off the bench are partly at fault. So are the starters and Green himself.
“We’ve all got to figure it out,” Green said.
But if there is indeed somewhat of a championship hangover, as Kerr suggested, that would indicate the defensive woes stem to a lack of effort. Green doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s definitely not that. As someone who has at times struggled with motivation against certain teams, in certain parts of the season, I don’t think it’s motivation. I’d be totally honest with you if I thought it was. I don’t think motivation is the problem at all. Quite frankly, there’s about half of our team that’s won a championship. There’s four guys on our team who have won four and one who’s won three. There’s some younger guys with one. You think Steph Curry’s struggling with motivation? You watch him play? I don’t think so. Is Klay Thompson struggling for motivation? I don’t think so. Quite frankly I don’t think Looney is struggling with motivation, and I don’t think I’m struggling with motivation.”
“That’s where you’d see a motivational thing at,” Green continued. “Guys who have just done it over and over and over again. I don’t think it’s that. So no. We have some things from a competitive spirit (standpoint) to get back. We have to get our defensive intensity back. Our will to defend, we have to get back. But I don’t think that’s due to motivation.”