I hate to break it to you, but the Warriors will not be winning 80 games this season.
In fact, 70 is out of the question, too. Sixty is a stretch.
But don’t fret — this incredible stretch of play the Warriors were on before Sunday was not meant to last.
There will always be games like Sunday’s for the Warriors. Contests where the turnovers are too many, the defense is too lax, the 3-point shots won’t fall (9-for-39), and the rotations are just a bit off.
There’s a reason why the NBA regular season is so long and why there are seven-game playoff series at the end of it. Even good teams play bad games.
And make no mistake, the Warriors are still a really good team. Arguably the best in the West, perhaps the NBA.
Yes, it’s a shame to waste a game where Andrew Wiggins scores 28 points, but Golden State’s 106-102 loss to the Charlotte Hornets is not reason for major concern. The Dubs simply didn’t play well, by their high standards.
Such a regression was inevitable.
“They just outplayed us,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Indeed, Sunday’s was a contest filled with peculiarities — the biggest being Steve Kerr’s lineups in the final minutes of the game.
One shooter — Steph Curry — surrounded by four defenders in the critical moments?
That’s never going to get it done. Not in this economy.
And yes, the defense of that five-man unit is great, but you can’t win if you can’t score. (Groundbreaking basketball analysis, I know.) And the Dubs weren’t going to score enough with Curry being the only threat off the bounce.
Sure enough, the Warriors only scored 14 points in the fourth.
“We were searching for combinations all night,” Kerr said. “They were all over Steph, they forced some tough shots.”
There aren’t a ton of alternatives, and the Warriors’ identity is still as a defensive team, but the need to put at least one other shooter (sorry, Wiggins doesn’t count) next to Curry in crunch time is a lesson the Warriors apparently had to learn through experience. Ideal? Hardly. But again, what’s the problem? If the Warriors needed to figure this out the hard way, it’s better they do it now than in April or May.
There have simply been too many good things that have happened this season to agonize over this — a game that had no business being competitive, given the way the Dubs played.
Here’s one of those good things:
‘Chasing wins’ means the kid plays
Jonathan Kuminga’s playing time isn’t a short-lived experiment – a byproduct of resting players or injury.
No, this kid has earned his minutes. And his development is a spectacular watch.
The No. 7 overall pick in the most recent NBA Draft, Kuminga had nine points in just over nine minutes, posting a plus-11 rating Sunday.
It helps that Charlotte has to be the lowest-IQ team in the league. (Is it any coincidence that they started playing better when Kelly Oubre was tossed for gesturing at a referee and then continuing to yap?) A 19-year-old fit right in with the way the game was being played.
But Kuminga is so talented and athletic that he can’t help but positively affect the game. Offensively, he’s a tremendous drive threat already. He has a chance to be special on defense.
“We’re going to keep putting him on the best players out there,” Kerr said.
Plus, Draymond Green and Steph Curry also clearly enjoy playing with him. That’s a great sign.
“I think he’s been incredible,” Green said. “Wants to learn, extremely gifted and talented player… I think he has a lot to offer to this team. He was incredible in his minutes tonight.”
Kuminga’s emergence does create a few champagne problems for the Dubs, though:
They have too many bigs.
Juan Toscano-Anderson, who is a solid depth player, is now out of the rotation. You can’t blame Kerr for dropping him — he’s the logical choice.
It speaks to how much better this team is from a year ago.
Last year, they didn’t have enough players. Now they have too many.
The Warriors also have six, perhaps even seven centers.
While all but two are just wings playing up, that’s a lot for even Kerr — who loves having center options — to manage.
James Wiseman will re-enter the fold soon and will have minutes after Kevon Looney exits the game. Draymond Green should be the team’s closing center.
But Otto Porter, Nemanja Bjelica, Kuminga, and Toscano-Anderson all deserve run, too.
How Kerr and his staff mix and match lineups — understanding that Green is effectively a point guard and Gary Payton II a center on offense — will be fascinating to watch unfold.
But these, again, are good problems. Kerr loudly proclaimed that the team was “chasing wins” in the preseason in response to questions about how much playing time Kuminga and fellow rookie Moses Moody (who has not cracked the rotation quite yet) would receive this season.
In short: They wouldn’t be playing much.
So for Kuminga to look the part of an impact role player this early is a tremendous development in more ways than one.
Leave the takes to me
Take fouls — also known as Euro fouls — were a marginal issue in the NBA my entire basketball-watching life.
They are anything but a small issue this season, though.
Taking a foul to stop an opponent’s transition opportunity is a smart play, especially if you have a deep rotation or don’t foul often. But the act has proven insidious.
There aren’t official stats on things of this nature and I’m not going to crunch the numbers, but by my estimation, there are two, three, sometimes four take fouls per game now.
Sunday’s game with two great transition teams, the Warriors and Hornets, put the take foul on display.
But it’s not just an issue during Warriors games — it’s everywhere around the league.
There are so many possible solutions to the problem, but we all need to agree that these take fouls are a problem. Not only are they cynical in nature, but they also take away key moments of possible excitement.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver needs to fix it. And I’m not suggesting that he do so this upcoming offseason. Change the rules at Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or the All-Star Game. If baseball can ban sticky-stuff mid-campaign, basketball can remove this scourge, too.
So what is the best solution?
I’m an advocate of the advantage play, where referees wait to stop play after the foul, waiting to see the outcome of the opportunity — a la soccer and hockey.
But there are a number of smart people around the league whose opinions I trust that believe the NBA needs to come down even stronger — a free throw and the ball.
Either way, it’s better than the current situation, which should not — no, cannot — persist.