SAN FRANCISCO -- As the minutes passed, late Monday night creeping into early Tuesday morning, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was doing more thinking than sleeping.
He couldn’t stop replaying the final minutes and re-critiquing his coaching tactics.
“It’s always hard,” Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday afternoon, “when you know you could have done a better job of putting guys in position to win.”
The Warriors took a 10-point lead on a 3-pointer by Glenn Robinson III with 3:18 remaining Monday night. At home against an Oklahoma City team that was 0-6 on the road, they were moments away from their fourth win in 18 games.
They did not score another point. The Thunder put up 13. The Warriors, for whom victory is rare this season, could not hang onto one that was in their grasp. They failed.
Or, as Kerr put it Tuesday afternoon, he failed.
“Our guys put in the effort to win that game tonight,” Kerr said in his post-practice news conference. “But we were not prepared well enough to finish a game like that. It’s a combination of just being really, really young and, as a coaching staff, focusing on a whole lot of things, trying to bring this young group along.
“And, frankly, needing to put more time in on situational stuff. Late-game execution and that kind of stuff.”
There was plenty of video study and practically no practice Tuesday. Coaches and players assessed the good, which had them in position to win, and the bad, which sent them to defeat.
For the first time this season, most of the coaching staff could be seen in Kerr’s office above the practice floor. Kerr stood on the big board for a while, pointing and gesturing and drawing. And when he left to address the media, assistant Mike Brown took over.
They realized they could have done more.
After moving the ball so well for most of the game, possessions bogged down. Over the final three minutes, the Warriors were 0-of-4 shooting from the field with two turnovers, one an offensive foul by Eric Paschall, the other a sloppy inbounds pass by Alec Burks.
They could have taken some of the burden off the shoulders of rookie point guard Ky Bowman, who for most of the game outplayed veteran Chris Paul before fading down the stretch.
They could have called a timeout earlier than with 1:18 remaining, after the two previous Warriors possessions ended with turnovers, fueling a 9-0 run by the Thunder that trimmed the margin to one.
“We were trying to find open shots,” Kerr said. “Ky was having a great game and we were putting him in pick-and-roll.
“But we didn’t do a good job -- I didn’t do a good job as a coach -- of creating the right spacing, of getting the right pieces in the right places on the floor to enable Ky to have the space he needed. This is the kind of stuff we’ll be working on and getting better with.”
Losing games that should have been won, particularly for young players, can puncture the spirit. There will be lessons, of course, but the occasional win lifts confidence and belief. It’s a natural part of the trust system that is essential for a team to prosper.
Meanwhile, it’s about trying to find balance between teaching and applying, learning and remembering, accepting defeat but not surrendering to it.
“It’s important to keep accentuating the positive,” Kerr said. “We’ve gotten a lot better the last few weeks. It’s not easy playing with eight guys. The effort was there. The defensive consistency has improved dramatically. The offensive execution, for the most part during the game, was purposeful. We took care of the ball. We moved the ball.
“Fourth quarter, when the pressure came, we didn’t execute,” he added, still replaying the final minutes. “That’s the next step for this young group. That’s what we’re aiming to improve upon, as a group, the players but also the coaches. We have to do our part to put them in the best position to succeed.”
There will be more days and nights when opportunity is presented as plainly as it was on Monday. If the Warriors are better equipped, mentally and physically, look to the coaches and the players.
If they’re not, look to the same people.