Considering the depths to which they plunged Monday night, politely referred to as the lower bottom, the Warriors can only go up.
Coming 25 points short against a 4-16 team reeling from a 10-game losing streak is Hall of Shame stuff, and the once-proud Warriors (4-18) earned every shred of ignominy that comes with such a performance that concluded in a 104-79 loss to the Hawks (5-16) in Atlanta.
There was an excess of sloppiness, selfishness and competitive arrhythmia that sent the Warriors down by 11 in the second quarter, by 23 in the third and by as much as 28 in the fourth. They generally played less as a team than as a bunch of dudes introduced a few minutes before tipoff after being told NBA scouts would be in the stands, pens and paper at the ready.
“We were playing for ourselves out there, instead of playing for each other,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters at State Farm Arena.
“We were trying to dribble through traffic instead of moving the ball. Everybody was trying to make a play, instead of letting the next guy make the play and we just got frustrated. We didn’t have any kind of rhythm or flow to the game. Then, I thought Atlanta really punished us for our mistakes and they played well.”
The Warriors committed a season-high 25 turnovers, including 15 in the second and third quarters, during which they were outscored 56-30.
The Warriors shot 39.8 percent as a team, only 33.3 percent aside from Eric Paschall’s 9-of-11 accuracy. The rookie forward posted team highs in points (24) and assists (six), and also snagged nine rebounds, tying Omari Spellman for the game-high.
“I feel like sometimes when we get on runs, we can be a little selfish,” Paschall said. “But I think it’s something to learn from.”
There may be no better illustration of the futility than realizing Paschall had one more bucket than starting guards Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, who combined to jack up 28 shots and made only eight. It’s as if there was no recognition of Paschall’s effectiveness, much less a concerted attempt to feed the one teammate displaying offensive rhythm and flow.
Rather, it was extended spasms of pickup ball, with an “every man for himself” dynamic.
Backup big man Marquese Chriss committed six turnovers in 20 minutes. Backup point guard Ky Bowman, a two-way signee whose ball security has been a pleasant surprise, was tagged with a career-high five giveaways.
And it’s not as if those turnovers were offset by dazzling passing that led the easy buckets. Indeed, it was the opposite. The Warriors tied their season-low with 17 dimes.
NBA teams generally aim for a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Warriors were 2-to-3.
“I feel kind of frustrated,” Paschall said. “But we are a young team, so we just have to learn from it. And we just have to keep playing together every night. We are all competitors. We play this game to win.”
The Warriors had a solid game plan to contain Hawks star Trae Young, intermittently blitzing the point guard to force the ball out of his hands. They had a measure of success with that.
Furthermore, the effort levels were for the most part acceptable. They won the rebounding battle (46-38) and put up more second-chance shots.
But they were 3-of-17 from deep, and 1-of-15 from Warriors not named Paschall.
The result is the Warriors taking a firm grip on the worst record in the NBA. At 4-18, they’re a half-game below the Knicks (4-17), one-and-a-half games behind the Hawks and a full three games behind the Pelicans in the Western Conference.
This is the Warriors’ worst start since 1987, when they started 4-21 and finished 20-62. That team didn’t win its fifth game until January.
“It’s not easy for anybody to lose, especially given that our team has fought really hard through the first quarter of the season and had some really difficult, close losses,” Kerr said. “It wears on you, and you want those efforts to be rewarded. You have to keep the faith, and you just have to keep fighting, and that’s my job to keep their spirits up, and turn it around.”
That task can’t be easy. It has to get better, though, maybe as soon as Wednesday at Charlotte.
For no matter how badly the Warriors lose, or to whom, they can’t sink any further than they did Monday.