The Warriors played the best game of their young season Wednesday when they walloped the San Antonio Spurs 121-99 at Chase Center. It was an encouraging sign for a young team to play a solid two-way game just two nights after they sprung an upset on the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
It looked like the Warriors were figuring out how great they can be and perhaps finding their stride a little sooner than expected. All those good feelings went out the window Thursday when the Warriors fell 119-104 to the New York Knicks.
After the loss in which the Warriors committed 26 fouls, 10 turnovers and allowed the Knicks to shoot 41 free throws, Steve Kerr delivered a clear message to his young team.
"We are not a good team," Kerr told reporters. "We are 8-7. We're a mediocre team with the potential to be a good team. Good teams learn how to win with execution and defense and rebounding. And nights when the ball is not going in the hoop you find another way to win. We're not that team yet."
Kerr clearly was frustrated with his team's lackadaisical approach on defense and even suggested he might start pulling players who commit lazy fouls.
"Maybe if a guy reaches, he comes out," Kerr said. "Forget the rotation. Just take a few games where if you reach, you come out. And we just have a bunch of guys filing in and out of the game. That's the only thing I can think of because we practice defense without fouling every day. It's not happening, so we have to somehow find a way."
It didn't help that Draymond Green got ejected in the second quarter after one of the refs mistakenly thought Green was yelling at him and not rookie James Wiseman. Green's value to the Warriors was clear on both ends of the floor as Golden State struggled after the forward was bounced from the contest.
“Everything that he provides in terms of his experience on the defensive end and even his playmaking,” Steph Curry said. “He had eight assists in 17 minutes, so you know we were moving the ball pretty well considering the pace of the game, with all the fouls.
“It was kind of a weird night all way around in terms of the flow of the game and him getting ejected. And then to come back the second half with different rotations and lineups, and it was kind of all over the place.”
The Warriors now are 8-7 through 15 games. Kerr is right in that their record is average. But the Warriors also have played the second-hardest schedule to this point in the season. They have looked great in wins over the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, and putrid in early blowout losses to Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets.
Everything else has been a mixed bag. That's to be expected of a team that has only spent about nine weeks together. Curry and Green still are learning how to play with a new supporting cast. Wiseman has only played 18 games since graduating high school. Kelly Oubre Jr. and Andrew Wiggins are playing the first meaningful basketball of their NBA careers.
It was always going to take time. Prior to the start of the season, Kerr said he'd known more about this team after 20 games. We're five games away from Kerr's checkpoint. The Warriors have a number of issues to work out. It's unclear how high their ceiling can be this season, but they've already shown they can beat anyone on any given night. They can also lose to anyone if they play with the energy and effort they did Thursday.
The good feelings from the wins over the Lakers and Spurs vanished after a pitiful performance against the Knicks.
Kerr knows he has his work cut out for him, and he made it clear to his team that they still have miles to go.