- Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has always harped on his team’s carelessness with the ball and tendency to turn it over.
- That problem is rearing its head in the Western Conference Finals, where the Warriors trail the Houston Rockets 3-2 and face elimination on Saturday.
- Over the past two games, the Warriors have done almost everything better than the Rockets, except for taking care of the ball – Golden State has turned it over nine more times than Houston in those games.
- Those lost possessions could make a huge difference in two games decided by seven total points.
Turnovers have always been the thorn in Steve Kerr’s side when it comes to coaching the Golden State Warriors.
An almost perfect team in so many other ways has always been loose and careless with the ball, at times beating itself by giving away possessions.
It’s happened numerous times throughout the Warriors’ four-year run. In 2015, when their offense got off the ground under Kerr, becoming a revelation in the NBA, Kerr harped on the need to take better care of the ball.
In the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, Stephen Curry threw a needless behind-the-back pass to Klay Thompson that sailed out of bounds, costing the Warriors a critical possession in a game decided by four points.
Before this season, Kerr said the Warriors needed to become a better passing team not in passes thrown, but in accuracy.
The Warriors, however, never really fixed that problem. During the regular season, they were 26th in turnovers per game and 27th in turnover percentage. That their offense was still the best in the NBA – 0.1 points better per 100 possessions than the Houston Rockets – is a credit to their talent, because they again struggled to take care of the ball.
And now it’s coming back to haunt them against these Rockets. On Thursday, the Warriors fell to the Rockets in Game 5 and are now on the brink of elimination heading back to Oakland for Game 6.
Several things are going wrong for the Warriors, but perhaps nothing is as big as their carelessness with the ball.
According to Justin Kubatko of StatMuse, the Warriors shot better than the Rockets in each of the past two games but have still lost.
The Warriors have lost their last two games despite recording a higher field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and free-throw percentage than the Rockets in each game. No other team in NBA history has suffered back-to-back losses like that in a single postseason.
— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) May 25, 2018
The difference: the turnovers.
Over the past two games, the Warriors have 34 turnovers to the Rockets’ 25. Those nine possessions could be a huge difference in two games decided by a total of seven points.
Most notably, trailing by two points with six seconds to play, the Warriors inbounded the ball, and Curry pushed it ahead to Draymond Green. Green most likely could have gotten a quick basket or set up a teammate, but he moved just a little too quickly and lost the ball. Game over.
Other times, the Warriors simply got sloppy in transition, wasting precious opportunities for easy baskets when they were unable to get their offense untracked.
After the game, Kerr lamented the Warriors’ turnovers.
“We got rushed in transition,” Kerr said. “We had several turnovers where we just kind of got a little too excited and threw the ball away. Ideally, we take care of the ball.
“I always tell our guys hit singles. We were trying to hit triples. You’ve got to hit singles. If we do that in transition, we’re going to get some more good looks … I like our defense. I like our effort. I like our competitive desire. Just got to be a little wiser with the reaching and taking care of the ball.”
Kerr’s optimism isn’t unfounded – the Warriors have had chances to win the past two games but come up short. Had they managed to get just one of them, they might be returning to Oakland with a chance to advance to a fourth straight Finals.
Instead, the Warriors, in some ways, have been their own worst enemy. Kerr always saw turnovers as a troublesome tendency of his team, and it’s bearing out on a huge stage.
More NBA playoffs coverage:
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