When the Warriors boarded the bus Saturday evening for the 90-mile trip to Sacramento, they could not have anticipated the discovery ahead. They might not have sensed it Sunday night, a full quarter into their game against the Kings at Golden 1 Center.
But as the game went on, with the Warriors missing more shots, making fewer 3-pointers and grabbing fewer rebounds, the truth about themselves probably dawned on them.
They were sketching a road map for a 50-win season.
And 50 is a conservative total if the Warriors stay healthy and follow directions as well as they did in a 119-107 victory over the Kings that pushed their record to 3-0.
This win was a testament to their depth, their ingenuity, their grit and their ability to finish an opponent showing the slightest sign of vulnerability. Above all, though, the Warriors have to be gratified with proving they can curb the tendency to beat themselves.
“Taking care of the ball was a huge part of our defense,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We only had seven turnovers – really six, because we took one at the end on the shot-clock violation. That was the difference in the game. They had 19 and we had, basically, six. We had all those extra possessions and we didn’t put ourselves in jeopardy in transition.”
The Warriors staggered through most of last season before righting themselves over the final five weeks -- only to stagger through two play-in games, putting them out of their misery. In the first play-in game, a three-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, they committed 20 turnovers, giving LA 29 points. In the second play-in game, a five-point loss to the Grizzlies – at Chase Center – the Warriors committed 21 turnovers, giving Memphis 22 points.
The Warriors giveth and giveth some more and, just like that, it was into the offseason.
Just as a failure to limit turnovers kept them out of the 2021 playoffs, keeping them at a minimum will send them deep into the 2022 postseason. Ball security can offset a variety of other liabilities, something the San Antonio Spurs have proved for two decades.
The Warriors won their first two games, beating the Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers, despite committing more turnovers than both. They won because they were better at shooting, better at rebounding and have Stephen Curry on the roster. On many nights, that will be enough.
But for the Warriors to go from being a good team, staying comfortably above .500 for the duration, they have to keep recklessness out of the equation. As they did on Sunday.
“It’s nice to learn the lessons we need to learn in wins and keep things moving in the right direction,” said Curry, who contributed 27 points and 10 assists while accounting for three turnovers. “It helps morale. You know it’s not going to be perfect all year, but just continue to help morale and understand we have the capability to win at a high level against any team.”
Normally, reducing turnovers against the Kings is not much of a barometer. They’ve long been one of the league’s leakiest defensive teams, but this squad seems to take that component more seriously. It seems to matter. And yet the Warriors didn’t flinch at the improved defense and didn’t let themselves get sloppy.
“We just don’t want to give up empty possessions,” said Jordan Poole, who had two turnovers in 36 minutes. “We’re such a talented team offensively, [all we have to do] is just and try to get up a good look. We’ve got a lot of guys with high IQs and make the right play. If we continue to swing the ball and limit our turnovers, we’re a more dangerous and we’re not giving up extra points on the other end.
“It was good. Coach has been stressing it all year: Stay under 12 turnovers. So, we know that having seven obviously helped us win the game.”
The Warriors beat a team they should beat, and they did it in a way that will help them overcome any opponent in the NBA.
“We know we have a lot of things that we can sharpen up, like every team in the league,” Curry said. “But we have the capability. Most teams trick themselves a little bit. I really feel that we have that capability to take productive strides every game, continue to win.”
Three games into the season, the Warriors have their blueprint to success. Over the remaining 79 games, their use of it will determine their fate as much as shooting, rebounding and defending – or turning toward Curry.