Though Draymond Green took plenty of heat for a wild 31-foot heave in the final seconds of a 105-100 loss to the Spurs on Monday night in San Antonio, Warriors coach Steve Kerr cited himself for negligence.
He didn’t remind Green and the rest of the team of information he has been aware of for more than 20 years.
“We had 8.7 (seconds) on the clock and the Spurs generally do not foul in those situations,” Kerr recalled afterward. “It’s probably my fault for not informing the team of the Spurs don't usually foul.”
With the Warriors trailing by three, Green figured they would foul. With Spurs wing Derrick White coming his way, Green, thinking of the three free throws that would come with being fouled, rushed upshot that only Stephen Curry has a reasonable chance of making.
It wasn’t close. Game over.
When the Warriors and Spurs meet again Tuesday at AT&T Center, with pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area beginning at 4:30, Kerr gets an opportunity to redeem himself.
It will be quite the challenge because the Spurs did not change coaches overnight. It has been Gregg Popovich for 25 years, long enough to have coached Kerr during his playing career and since been one of his mentors.
Popovich is one of only two NBA coaches active with the same team against whom Kerr has a losing regular-season record in six-plus seasons with the Warriors. He’s gotten the best of Erik Spoelstra, Rick Carlisle, Doc Rivers, Tyronn Lue and Mike Budenholzer. Kerr is 6-7 against Boston’s Brad Stevens and 10-11 against Popovich.
For Kerr to even the ledger, he’ll have to be better. More tuned into the details that matter and even some that might not seem to matter. That’s one of the lessons he learned in four seasons as a player under Popovich.
Moreover, the Warriors will have to be better. Kelly Oubre Jr. had a solid game, Green missed a triple-double by three points and Curry was fabulous – and all of this goodness was obscured by turnovers. In a game decided by five points, Golden State’s 20 turnovers led directly to 17 points for the Spurs. The Warriors got only five points off San Antonio turnovers.
Which ascribes to the first law of Pop’s teams. They don’t beat themselves.
There’s always an element of pupil vs. teacher when Kerr coaches against Popovich, and their accomplishments may have accentuated that. Popovich, 72, is the oldest head coach in NBA history. Kerr, 55, is the only coach to win three championships in his first four seasons.
Popovich has five rings, all as the San Antonio coach, while Kerr has eight, including five as a player, two of which were earned with the Spurs.
These achievements won’t matter much, but Kerr is a competitor. He probably knows that with one more reminder on Monday, he might have a winning record against Popovich and wouldn’t have to chase a tie on Tuesday.