SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr knows his team has suffered some uncharacteristic losses this season, including six already at Oracle Arena, but he remains confident Golden State will be able to bounce back and reach its peak in the near future.
“We’ve got to do better,” Kerr said before Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. “We know that. We’ve got to play better as a team. We’re at the halfway point now of the season coming up, so we are going to continue to work and we’re going to get to the point where we’re going to reach our potential, but we haven’t gotten there yet for sure.”
The Warriors (25-14 entering Saturday) have lost three consecutive games at home, including an overtime thriller to the Houston Rockets on Thursday, but Kerr continues to pump the positivity outwardly because he believes in the talent he has on the roster. As for why his proud group isn’t living up to its potential yet this season, Kerr noted that it’s a variety of factors.
“There’s various issues,” he said. “It never comes down to one thing. But when we’re at our bes, our defense is really sharp. And our offensive execution complements our defense — the game’s always connected. Every game that we struggle, it’s not one thing, it’s always something a little different. The other night I think our offensive execution really suffered and that led to poor transition defense. But a different night you could point to something else.
“We just haven’t gotten to the point where we know what to expect from our group night in and night out. It’s been a little bit of a roller-coaster ride the whole first half of the season. Some of that has to do with injuries, some of that has to do with the fact that we just haven’t built the momentum that can come through consistent play and attention to detail. That’s what we have to get to, and I’m confident we’ll get there.”
The Warriors have dealt with injuries to Stephen Curry (groin) and Draymond Green (toe) as well as making it through a rough patch in November after a heated exchange between Green and star forward Kevin Durant during and after an overtime loss to the LA Clippers. Kerr does not believe his team his lacking focus, he just thinks the road to a potential third straight championship is more difficult. The Warriors are seeking to become the first team to win back-to-back-to-back titles since the 2000-2002 Los Angeles Lakers.
“There’s a difference between lack of focus and where you are as a team,” Kerr said. “Where we were four years ago compared to where we are now, we’re in an entirely different place as an organization. So you have to adapt to your circumstances and that means injuries, fatigue, whatever it is, you have to get off the mat and keep going. There’s a reason — we’re trying to accomplish something that has only happened a few times in the history of the league. We’re trying to get to the Finals for the fifth year in a row, we’re trying to win our third title in a row. It’s not as simple as, ‘Oh, we got a great roster. We’re going to do it.'”
Kerr believes part of the reason for the general malaise that appears to have affected the Warriors early in the season is due to the fact that his group is getting opponents’ best shot every time it hits the floor.
“You don’t think these other teams have been planning for us for the last three years?” Kerr said. “And you don’t think we get everybody’s best shot night after night? So this is difficult and we’re feeling that. The only way for us to get through all that is through our own work and execution and chemistry and just the ability to fight through everything and build some momentum, and that’s the goal.”
As the Warriors see more teams pushing the pace and shooting from all over the floor, Kerr takes that as a compliment for the example he and his squad have set over the past few seasons. He knows a lot of teams are trying to do what the Warriors have already done, and he remains buoyed by the fact that his players still have another gear or two within themselves when the games mean the most later in the season.
“There’s no question that the league is dramatically different now compared to 2015,” Kerr said. “Teams have emulated us in a lot of ways in terms of pace. Four years ago we were No. 1 in the league in pace. Now we’re in the middle of the pack and we’re actually playing faster than we did four years ago. So the whole league’s playing faster. The whole league’s playing smaller, shooting more 3s. So the league has changed. They say imitation’s the sincerest form of flattery. That’s true. We’re seeing a lot of teams coming at us just like we’ve been going at other teams for many years. So the league’s gotten better, the quality of play out there, the number of teams in the Western Conference who are really good, including this one here tonight [in Sacramento].
“Totally different from four years ago. So these are all factors; they’re not excuses, they’re just facts. So our job is to rise above all that and continue to play and continue to get better. And get to the point where we enter the playoffs, we feel like, ‘Bring it on, somebody’s got to beat us four out of seven.’ And we want to be ready for that.”