The Warriors' play this season has far more resembled the words of Bill Parcells than Dennis Green. They aren't who we thought they were. They are what their record says they are.
With their 134-124 loss to the LA Clippers on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena, the Warriors will crawl into a much-needed NBA All-Star break with a 29-29 record. Those numbers encapsulate exactly who they have been this season, an average team at best in all phases.
"It's what we've been for the year so far," Steve Kerr told reporters after the loss. "We've been up and down and right in the middle of the pack on offense, right in the middle of the pack on defense.
"We feel like we could be better. We feel like we've lost a lot of games that we should have won, but we didn't. We didn't win them. So, we are where we are."
Through the first 58 games of the regular season, the Warriors have scored five more points than they have allowed. They rank 14th in offensive rating and 15th in defensive rating. That places them as the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference standings, which would make them a play-in tournament team.
Golden State's only sense of consistency this season has been planting its flag right in the middle of the pack. The Warriors have never been more than three games over .500 this season, failing to do so with a handful of chances. They also haven't been more than two games under .500.
Good, not great. Also, not terrible. The Warriors have flirted with the panic button, but haven't had to smash it yet. On the other hand, they can't shut the glass with a blinking red light staring them through their championship soul.
"It's now or never," Draymond Green said after the Warriors' loss. "We're at .500 at the break. Middle of the pack team with those middle of the pack stats. So, you got to come out the break and win and do it at a high level or you go home in the beginning of April and everybody's happy or nobody's happy, I don't know.
"I wouldn't be happy with that. But that's what will be the result if you don't get there."
All of this sounds like doomsday for the defending champs. The reality is, the Warriors also are only two-and-a-half games back of being a top-six team in the West and avoiding the play-in tournament. They're three-and-a-half games away from being a top-four team and having home-court advantage.
The four teams ahead of them as the No. 4 through the No. 8 seed are the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans. The Warriors have a combined 2-7 record against those four teams this season.
At the NBA trade deadline, the Suns added Kevin Durant. The Clippers brought in Bones Hyland, Eric Gordon and Mason Plumlee, all of whom made an impact against the Warriors on Tuesday night. The Dallas Mavericks paired Luka Doncic with Kyrie Irving (have fun, Jason Kidd) and the Pelicans are as dangerous as anybody when fully healthy.
The Warriors' single trade deadline move was bringing Gary Payton II back from the Portland Trail Blazers and punting on the future of James Wiseman, a win-now move for a player who will be out for at least a month with a core muscle/right adductor injury. Payton's addition was mainly to help stop the offensive superstars from above. But all the Warriors can do is hope Payton can return in time, and also be the same player as last season while overcoming a lingering issue.
And still, Kerr has trust. He saw his core of Green, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson play 11 minutes together last season and win it all. That trio, along with Andre Iguodala, has seen it all. His bench has stepped its game up immensely and the Warriors have shown flashes of an all-world team.
It just doesn't typically last all four quarters.
"I think the fact that we've lost so many games that we felt like we should have won," Kerr said when asked what still makes him confident in this group. "We know we're right there. Tonight, I thought the Clippers just outplayed us. They were great in the second half and they deserved it. But all in all, we're where we are but we've lost a number of close games, just things we've got to clean up and tighten up.
"I think our bench is playing much better than it was early in the season when we got off to the slow start. Our starters are now picking it up. [Andrew Wiggins] and Klay and [Kevon Looney] is just like a rock every single night. Draymond's playing well. So again, if we can stay the course and get Steph and hopefully get Gary, we got reinforcements coming and we got a lot to look forward to."
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Curry missed his fifth straight game to his left lower leg injury, and his 20th overall this season. The Warriors are now 9-11 without him, and 20-18 with him. Wiggins missed Tuesday’s night loss, one night after his best game of 2023 with 29 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He was out to personal reasons and will be back after the All-Star, but has been sidelined for 21 games.
Iguodala missed his 16th straight game with hip soreness after playing only three games this season, and should be back on the court soon after the break. Thompson completed his first set of back-to-backs since April 2019 and should be available for both games the rest of the season. Whenever Payton returns, he’s expected to be a major fix in patching up the Warriors’ biggest hole: Defense.
There are reasons for optimism. Kerr clearly feels them.
In the end, though, while the Warriors are in the middle of the pack for many stats, they give away the second-most turnovers per game, get called for the second-most fouls per game, allow the second-most free throw attempts per game and take the fewest free throws per game.
Last season, the Warriors were 42-17 at the break. This season, they're hoping to win more than 42 games the entire season.
Parcells painted the picture, and the Warriors fit the frame ahead of finally getting away.