Warriors’ starters taking turns making mistakes at inopportune times
I took a look at my game notes and cross-checked the play-by-play (aka “pbp”) score. What I found out makes it doable to write this, either before the 49ers game kicks off at 10am (highly unlikely I’ll meet that goal) or I can finish writing this by halftime to have it ready by the time the Niners game ends (very doable).
If you were on the live chat last night, you know that my thesis is the starting five: they are taking turns making costly mistakes. But the reason I had to delve into the pbp is I had to make sure those plays led to points by the Cavs or otherwise contributed to malaise. So I highlighted those plays in the notes, you can see the raw data way at the bottom.
Per my research and the fact that I take notes about stuff that really annoys me or, conversely, really impresses me, the conclusion is that the game last night against Cleveland was lost twice: in the early second quarter and the early fourth quarter, largely due to specifically Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson making egregious mistakes at the worst times, which then specifically led to a deficit becoming worse.
Somehow that sentence will still go through one ear and out the other for casuals, I realize this. But it’s a labor of love and it’s fun to write this as the Niners destroy the Jaguars and redeem themselves. Hope to see the Bay Area NBA version of this in a few hours.
Sure, there are a thousand mistakes per game and you can point the blame at everyone. After all, you’ll see in the notes that Gary Payton II contributed to certain related nadirs, as did a late Jonathan Kuminga close-out on my game-ball-earner Caris LeVert, which was actually caused by my ongoing cringe at Moses Moody’s point-of-attack defense (mind you, literally my only gripe of his game but that which should dispel any notions to “Andre Iguodala 2.0”, something that I’ve seen in our comments on occasion — I mean, I love the support, but Andre’s on-ball defense was all-time, so that label just cannot be true and as I write this, I’m already making a mountain out of a molehill as it pertains to Mo).
So these are the mistakes that I found that actually impacted the game. After all, Steph ended up with four turnovers. Two of them were kind of “inconsequential” to the game because the Cavs didn’t capitalize or turned over it right back. It’s basketball.
But these mistakes affected the flow of the game AND the score. I’m sure if the mistakes that weren’t these were fixed, then these might not happen. You know, butterfly effect. So it’s really hard to pick and choose, but you’ll see where this is going after I talk about these — again, full core dump is at the bottom, and that core dump contains essentially the timestamped notes from the livestream which is this video:
Here’s the first batch. Let me nudge you in the direction I’m heading. The theory that the Warriors didn’t come in with energy? False. But it’s not that simple. Energy can be drained slowly. After all, it wasn’t until under the 8-minute Q2 mark when Draymond Green got the first technical, which clearly was an effort — instinctive or not, who cares — to pump up his team and, as evidenced by his yelling at the crowd, to pump up Chase Center.
Side note: the “meh” performance up until that point didn’t necessarily merit that but alas, Oracle Arena would not have needed such goading. However, that talk is outside the scope of this analysis.
And so having more energy at tipoff or, gulp, trading for some guy who has Draymond-level energy is not the answer. Nor is the cloning of Mike Brown for the bench, as we have young guys for that, which Dray also confirmed the other night on the podium after the win at OKC.
But, yeah, I do sense that these (bone-headed) mistakes at crucial times could be solved with Sacramento first-round playoff intensity — oops, we actually lost the first two games of that series, huh? But yeah, quit doing these face-palm mistakes. Especially you, Steph, and you, Klay!
5m10 Q2 Steph dribble poked away by LeVert [47-40 becomes 49-40]: I know some casuals are going to point to all the wonderful things Curry does to balance this affliction to mindless turnovers. I mean, the guy is “weaponized joy”, I get it. It’s actually me who usually has to temper the anguish of our audience to just say, hey, it’s all part of the equation. You don’t get Night-Night, then 😱 on Dillon Brooks, or the subsequent 😛 tongue-wag past Trayce Jackson-Davis on the bench the next night without the careless turnovers. Even Sonya knows.
But my point is if you want to blame XYZ after any loss, which includes the “need a big man” myth, for the Warriors losing, then you’ve got to include the passes by Steph to the other team for run-out layups. You just have to. They literally contribute to losses (see the Q4 one vs the Cavs, below). 🤷🏻♂️
So… stop blaming! These losses are just part of the process in becoming NOT the most perfect team in 2023-24, just the best out of 29 other teams. We’ll get there. Even after last night, there can’t be more than a dozen other teams in the NBA that are ahead of us, and trust me, the Cavs are gonna have their own ups and downs in their journey too.
Again, there were plenty of mistakes by the starters, but it really didn’t show on the scoreboard. Chris Paul, using Dario Saric’s screens and second unit magic, once again saved the day. Incredibly, CP’s late three gave us a 31-30 lead after one.
Amazingly, Chris would do this again to end Q3 with an improbable 83-82 Warriors lead. It’s pretty obvious the problem isn’t really outside of the starting five, despite a couple nitpicks in this article. Let’s therefore fast forward to the latter third of the second quarter…
4m30 Q2 GP2 late close out LeVert 3 [49-40 becomes 52-40]: I’m starting to think GP’s offense has a mental effect on his defense. This late close on LeVert in the corner just doesn’t make sense, although I only watched the replay once (I don’t have all the time in the world). Of course, LeVert was HIM last night. We do have trouble against speedy guards of this “skinny” mold, such as De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, off the top of my head. So anyways, GP had missed another bunny at the rim before this. Maybe the real issue is GP’s offense? Idk. But yeah, a key guy let a torch-bearer for the night add fuel and it turned a 9-point deficit into 12. That was a brain fart but an otherwise reliable guy.
4m10 Q2 Klay comes in and promptly loses mind on shotclock, tov with 3 on clock, 94 feet score [52-40 becomes 54-40, 9-0 run, 9th turnover]: 😬. That’s the analysis, the “yikes” emoji. That’s it.
3m30 Q2 Dray 3rd foul on cutting Wade, argues with ref Barnaky: I think Dray was just frustrated by what he knows deep down inside (obviously this is total speculation), that the problem lies within the starting five. This foul on Wade was not necessary and Green was in the restricted circle. But it was his third foul and effectively took him and his energy out of the game.
(JUST ADDED TO NOTES) 1m57 Q2 Wiggs misses 2 FTs [61-47 on Donovan pull-up 3, Cavs 6/11 in Q2]: This was not in my original notes and I had really hoped not to blame Wiggs for anything at all because he’s getting thrown under the bus already by social media, but when you come up empty-handed on a possession with two missed free throws, that hurts. And elite guy Donovan Mitchell added to the hurt with a pull-up three to stretch the Cavs’ lead at the time to 14. The Cavs went 6-for-11 on threes that quarter. I know teams get hot, but you hope that the coaching staff has real-time access to this stuff. I mean, when I was on the sidelines with my Asian-American tournament squads, our whole team would get upset if a guy or guys on the opponents got hot and we let them shoot. Let’s have some pride and stop the hot guy? In this era’s defense, I do see this a lot this generation.
Looking at the score, the following mistake by JK and Mo wasn’t all that bad, but I’ll put it here even though the more glaring collection of bad plays occurred with eight minutes to go…
11m05 Q4 JK late on close out Wade? [87-83 becomes 90-83, but game stays close til at least 96-90], see below: Moody POA not so great, I already said what I had to say about that, above.
8m00 Q4 Wiggs bites on gravity play ATO Strus [probably forgivable, but 94-90 becomes 96-90]: good play design by Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, kinda using the Warriors’ own medicine on them. I don’t even know if I can blame Wiggs for this one. It’s not really a brain fart.
7m55 Q4 Klay bad travel then fouls Allen [96-90 becomes 98-90]: I don’t know. C’mon, Klay? 🙄
7m10 Q4 Steph bad tov [98-90 becomes 100-90]: I already said my peace about Steph’s carelessness. But if I’m gonna tag Klay with a 🙄 then I’ve got to be fair and do the same here, so 🙄.
As you can see, it’s one thing after another for the brain farts by the starters. Unfortunately they came in bunches on this night. I suspect that’s been happening for awhile. I hope it hasn’t been a hidden issue since early last year on the 0-5 road trip. No one will probably ever do all the man-hours to figure that one out.
The Cavs are just too talented a team and too deliberate, plodding, and old-school to turn the ball over to them and have a single-digit deficit turn into double-digits so late in the game. And it’s hard to win the game three times. Our starters just didn’t have it. In fact, the 2.5-unit (second unit plus third-string guys) even made it interesting at the end.
Sure, maybe there were other mistakes by other players or maybe I missed a few. If I did, present your case thoroughly, make sure the mistakes affected the score, but my evidence shows that Steph and Klay made the most damaging goof-ups against the Cavs.
If we’re talking about all the fan theories burning down — although something tells me the zombies will keep going on that Elon app — then this was a “good loss”. Mathematically, the blame rests on the starters. Look at all the evidence above. In fact, the bench actually came back from double-digit deficits, twice.
We don’t need a big man. Erase Steph and Klay’s awful turnovers that really put us in a bind each of those times, and we have a very winnable game. Also their offense certainly helps patch up a lot of mistakes. Basketball is, after all, about putting the orange ball in the hoop, preferably worth three points instead of the usual two.
By the same token, it’s not Steve Kerr’s fault. He’s not the one having brain farts and handing the ball to the other team.
You can’t bench any of these guys. They’re all either former All-Stars, in line for a statue built of them outside Chase, destined for the Hall of Fame, or all of the above. And by the transitive property it’s not Kerr’s fault for not switching up the starting five.
On that note, let’s go through some of the postgame comments and banter from/with our livechat with regulars…
Tobi: "Kerr needs to play TJD more when there’s obviously a size issue" — Kevon Looney did not play well after tipoff, you can see that in the notes, but he did in the second half and especially Q4. We shouldn't be even talking about TJD. He’s not enough to move the needle. Loon playing four complete quarters is certainly doable.
PacinoRules: "Styles make fights. This team is a tough matchup" — I agree, but then again, the only thing is, part of our style especially in the playoffs is playing with more joy, energy, and most importantly attention to detail (i.e., minimize brain farts) as if it were a playoff game. Okay, well, as if it were Games 3 through 7 vs Sacramento lol. See? We don’t always bring it. Games 1 and 2 in SAC were an issue, too, iirc.
Ian Villareal: "Dray playing well til he got ejected" — Yep. Although I am the only Warriors guy on the Internet saying, yeah, Dray should have been given his second tech for what he did (look, I used to be a men’s rec league Commish; I had to be fair across the 125 teams in my league at its peak and a flagrant shove on a fast break to an otherwise vulnerable Donovan should not be allowed), but it’s also not Dray's fault. He’s frustrated by the same mistakes I’m pointing out and it’s not him making those mistakes. After all, Green had 8-5-4 in only 18 minutes played. Conveniently with the easy math, Per-36, that’s 16 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists. They don't make them like from Saginaw anymore and that’ll be the most difficult piece to replace whenever Dray eventually retires. The new guys coming in are generally so calm and non-energetic. Draymond is a unicorn. Let’s play better so he doesn’t have to resort to the technical card, which always starts with the gradually building incessant vocal pressure on the poor refs (see notes below and replays on TV from before the first tech). And yeah, the four other starters last night deserve a tongue-lashing from Draymond, although that would probably never happen.
KM Johnson: "Should they watch film on this one or ‘throw it away’ as Kerr would say?" — Both? Or, really, whatever it takes for them to approach the next opponent (and more) as if it were a playoff game. I’m sure the coaching staff already goes through individual film. I’m not sure they go through film sessions as a team on the second day of a back-to-back, but it shouldn’t be hard to gather the guys at the arena a little extra early before pregame routines today.
On trading Wiggs — No, no, no, no, no. Not a good look for future players under contract when we extend a guy on a (huge) discount, he plays bad, and then we trade him. That's not Warriors culture, period. That’s acting as if this is a video game. But aside from that, if you’re trying to trade Wiggs ($24M) for, idk, let’s say Jarrett Allen ($20M) and JaVale McGee ($4M) were on the same team in your imaginary NBA2K world (see how near-impossible it is in real life?), then you’re reshaping the team entirely and can those guys even be mobile enough to help get Steph and Klay open? That would take a whole season to adjust to, alone. Fyi, the experiment going big was already tried. James Wiseman played a lot of minutes but doing so got us out to a 3-7 record last season before it was abandoned. Our system is like a Kang device out of the Loki TV series: it's fragile, everything has to work and the talent (SpalshBrothers plus Dray) isn’t built like LeBron James, so that’s why it’s evolved into such an ecosystem. Okay, okay, so don’t trade Wiggs. You’re only worried about him. Well, talk of being worried about Wiggs really just leads me to counter with this: Why not be worried the same about Steph throwing the ball four times to the other team every game? Maybe the real issue is just having faith in your team, DubNation?
Dek Tabz: "Should they start CP3 next game ? Just to get better offense early." -- No. These five NEED to prove it to themselves. Don't let go of the rope! (But I could be wrong, we'll see.)
Tim Kono: "Steph shouldn’t be carrying the team. Period. That means to me we have serious problems on the first unit." — Define "serious"? Well, I did write this article almost entirely for people like Tim Kono (I know, he’s a fictional character that died in Season 1 of Murders In The Building). Last year we started 3-7. THAT was serious. But okay, assuming this is serious, then I’ve just spent this whole write-up explaining that Steph has actually been part of the problem. 20% of it, to be fair.
Steve postgame said the five played their best Q3 — Problem was, it was their worst Q2 (the original notes say “Q1” but clearly I meant Q2). As is the thesis of this monstrosity, different people making bad plays at different times, taking turns almost, needs to be corrected asap. Btw once you start clicking, it could lead to a tidal wave of good things, in fact, that happened tonight within the game.
Klay on the postgame podium (btw how did Ray get him up there? Wish I could’ve been a fly on the locker room wall for that lol) bringing up last year's No. 1 rating is ironic — Because they just told us to stop talking about last year! The basketball gods have a funny way of feeding you humble pie. Steve (and you know me, I hardly ever criticize any basketball coaches as I’ve been there, first-hand experience), stop talking about No. 1 rating for that five. Stop talking about stopping talking about last year. Just be more like Gregg Popovich on that podium and be a stone wall. Don’t be so honest and open. Quite frankly, a lot of people don’t deserve Steve’s honesty and insights. But for me, I like him that way. Again, this piece is largely for the zombie apocalypse as the audience.
The final thing is, our guys are just older. Forget the regular season revenge game a week later. Already been there, done that. We lose to the Cavs does NOT mean beat them a week later. Lesson learned about our old guys.
Something did feel off just with the lack of pace after the cool start with Klay getting a steal deep in the paint on Allen and the Dray-Loon rim protection, but just remembering back to last year, this first week feels similar in terms of the number of brain farts by the starters.
And it wasn’t just brain farts, but also simple missed shots by Steph and Klay early. They’ve never really blazed into a game, have they? Meanwhile, and I’ve said this on so, so many live chats especially from last year, it seems like every young team will go at least 4-for-10 or better on their first ten threes against us. So I think we better start getting used to these slow starts, both at the micro and macro levels. Oh well, that’s the price you pay for a dynasty. I’m ok with it.
SPIDEYYY: "The only thing that stopping the Warriors is the Warriors itself. From bad shooting (but not really worried) and those turnovers it really help the other team." — Yay! 💯 from our audience!
I really hope I touched all bases here. Overall, just come to our livestreams and you’ll see the most gratitude for this team anywhere in the Warriors media ecosphere.
And as I type this, lo and behold? Fred Warner just got an interception. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Warriors’ starting five got redemption tonight on the same day that the Niners’ defense did? Man, life is great! Just anticipating how the starting five will come out tonight is enough for me.
5:00 Per Steve yesterday after practice on the podium, GP2 and Draymond good to go
7:30 on Brandon Jennings being the first UA endorser, Curry Brand collab, first teenager to go overseas and get paid
12:00 watching Klay's interview from Denver morning shootaround, I explain how Steph actually gives good quotes in his answers to newspaper reporters
33:00 some gripes about recent commentary from Warriors media
10m40 Q1 BLOB to Klay, Donovan knew what was coming
9m30 Q1 Don 3, let's see how they shoot first 10 3s (8/17 3s first half)
8m40 Q1 Loon shouldn't help on Wiggs vs Don, leads to Jarrett (in paint, pass to Mobley) fouled
52:00 HOT TAKE: just remembering back to last year, this first week feels similar in terms of brain farts by the starters (Loon has 2 of them) and not just brain farts, but also simple missed shots by Steph and Klay early (never blazed)
4m55 Q1 GP2 athletic save sideline, Don was there, GP2 finger roll on the sideline
3m20 Q1 JK late help on Jarrett and-1 vs Saric
1m32 Q1 FT: GP2 says my fault to JK after missing a bunny
9m00 Q2 Klay too much holding the ball (Moody took him out) [still 35-35]
8m40 Q2 JK argues with ref again after clear foul on Garland (All-Star)
7m46 Q2 Dray picks up needless tech, but I think it's the lack of energy, Dray yells at crowd
6m55 Q2 Dray backpack 3, apparently tech was worth it (Don missed FT), SACRIFICED FOR THE TEAM [40-35 becomes 40-38]
5m15 Q2 Dray foul on Jarrett hold, strongly argues with ref, gotta be careful, but he refuses to let team be bullied (ref crew is 10, 10, 13 years exp)
5m10 Q2 Steph dribble poked away by LeVert [47-40 becomes 49-40]
4m10 Q2 Klay comes in and promptly loses mind on shotclock, tov with 3 on clock, 94 feet score [52-40 becomes 54-40, 9-0 run, 9th turnover]
1:54:30 looking at the notes, first 5 mins of Q2 were the game-changer
1:59:00 starting five should simply play better, don't need a big man just bec CLE is big
2:03:30 I really do think that it just requires the starting five to treat games with care and like they're playoff games
2:10:30 DO WE NEED A BIG MAN?
7m30 Q3 Dray takes charge, credit Loon, words with Dray, Loon there to protect from tech
7m12 Q3 Wiggs caught in air, tov, although great move, just isn't quite himself yet
6m50 Q3 DPOY steal vs Don, but be careful not to taunt
2:21:45 can refs look back to previous play? good of Steph and GP to stand at DMZ, Yusef there to ensure Dray doesn't get fined $25k even though still might, tip your hat to Donovan, to me looked like the shove was on purpose
1m46 Q3 JK good energy, drew 4th pf on Mobley, Niang now at the 5
1m15 Q3 JK probably traveled vs Wade but athleticism gets the call, BP good steal before that
0m50 Q3 good choice CP not to close out on Garland
11m05 Q4 JK late on close out Wade? [87-83 becomes 90-83, but game stays close til at least 96-90], see below: Moody POA not so great
2:36:00 starting five needs to have a only talk
2:49:45 analyzing the Wade corner 3 vs JK: Moody POA not so great
8m00 Q4 Wiggs bites on gravity play ATO Strus [probably forgivable, but 94-90 becomes 96-90]
3:02:15 HOT TAKE: LeVert, who just scored his 22nd point on another fb, is like the Travis Hunter of the NBA, hope no other team has a guy like that -- oops, De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk is like that
3m10 Q4 Looney still fighting, dreb, Klay splashes, CP mad at letting ball go, should be in rule book
3:14:45 Tobi: "kerr needs to play TJD more when there’s obviously size" -- We shouldn't be even talking about TJD
3:16:30 to me it's all on the starting five, Kerr's frustrated at refs now, they gotta stop taking turns making early mistakes without any desire, all blame ultimately rests on the starting five
3:19:30 PacinoRules: "Styles make fights. This team is a tough matchup" -- the only thing is part of style, is playing with more joy, energy, and attention to detail as if it were a playoff game
3:22:00 Ian Villareal: "Dray playing well til he got ejected" -- not Dray's fault, don't make them like from Saginaw, Wemby/Chet are all so calm these days, Markieff Morris?
3:25:00 KM Johnson: "Should they watch film on this one or “throw it away” as Kerr would say?" -- Whatever it takes for them to take the next opponent (and more) as if it were a playoff game
0m39 Q4 BP gets crowd going after missed FT
3:36:00 on trading Wiggs: No, no, no. Not a good look for future players under contract when we extend a guy, he plays bad, and then we trade him. That's not Warriors culture. Period.
3:41:45 there's verified historical references where when we treat an opponent as if it were the NBA Finals or even Conf Finals, we end up playing winning basketball
3:58:00 on how old our team is, maybe it's just that hard to get a revenge game
4:03 Dek Tabz: "should they start cp3 next game ? Just to get better offense early." -- No. These five NEED to prove it to themselves. Don't let go of the rope! (But I could be wrong, we'll see)
4:06:30 Tim Kono: "Steph shouldn’t be carrying the team. Period. That means to me we have serious problems on the first unit." -- Define "serious". Last year we were 3-7. THAT was serious.
4:10:00 Steve said the five played their best Q3. Problem was it was their worst Q1 [I meant Q2]. It's different people making bad plays at different times, taking turns almost. Btw once you start clicking it could lead to a tidal wave of good things, in fact, that happened tonight.
4:14:15 SPIDEYYY: "The only thing that stopping the Warriors is the Warriors itself. From bad shooting (but not really worried) and those turnovers it really help the other team."
4:20:00 talk of being worried about Wiggs really just leads to why not be worried the same about Steph throwing the ball 4 times to the other team
4:23:00 our system is like a device out of Loki, but it's fragile, everything has to work and nobody's built like LeBron
4:40:00 on needing to play well together at the same time, not every team like PHX can say that, we are blessed
4:45:00 MORE KLAY PODIUM AUDIO NOW ON
4:47:00 on Klay bringing up last year's No. 1 rating, it's ironic because they just told us to stop talking about last year. The bball gods have a funny way of feeding you humble pie
4:50:00 on TK asking Klay if they talked about it: well, they hadn't reached rock bottom yet
4:53:00 on the question to Klay about not having energy: you don't need energy to not make the mistakes, it's more about focus and desire