In the Warriors' 119-104 loss to the Knicks on Thursday, the referees called a lot of fouls. Fifty-seven fouls, to be exact. The Warriors were called for three technicals — two of which were called on Draymond Green and got him ejected.
But according to coach Steve Kerr, only one of all those calls was a mistake: the second tech on Green. And that's because the refs told Kerr at halftime that they made a mistake.
All of the others were warranted, says Kerr.
"I'm not going to talk about the officiating, I'm going to talk about our poor play," Kerr said after the game. "We just fouled constantly. We're dead last in the league in fouls, I think, and free throw attempts allowed. And you can't win games when you just foul, foul, foul."
Constantly fouling prevents you from having any chance at playing in transition because every time the ball is brought up the court it's against a set defense. It also eliminates any opportunity to find a rhythm.
Green's ejection at the end of the first half wasn't helpful for the Warriors' defense -- James Wiseman called it "detrimental" -- but it wasn't what caused the inability to defend without fouling. That started when the game tipped off, and it just continued to get worse. The culmination of it all was when the Warriors committed four fouls in the first 55 seconds of the fourth quarter.
Kerr says the Warriors are who they are. But right now, that doesn't sound like a good thing.
"We're undisciplined," Kerr said. "We've got to find a way to defend without fouling, obviously."
"We weren't the team we were (Wednesday)," Andrew Wiggins said. "We weren't as focused."
But on the second night of a back-to-back, focus is a must. Kerr said two times -- once before the game and once after -- that it won't always be energy that gets them through the game. Sometimes it will have to be focusing on fundamental basketball. It's what they needed against the Knicks, but was exactly what they lacked.
Kerr couldn't get mad at the referees for their plethora of foul calls because he thought his team deserved them.
"We are raking people across the arm, we are grabbing people by the waist coming off screens, we are fouling. It has nothing to do with the refs," Kerr said. "It has to do with us. We practice defensive fundamentals every day and it's obviously not enough. I've got to think of some way to get across to these guys how we are going to defend."
Kerr hasn't fully thought through what coaching adjustments he needs to make to eliminate this nasty habit from his players' repertoire, but he did have an initial idea.
"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 was no secret that the Warriors would need time to build their chemistry this season. But what wasn't expected was the need for them to figure out how to be disciplined players. If this is the case, it's going to take longer than the 20 games Kerr gave himself to get the team on track.
"We are not a good team. We are 8-7. We're a mediocre team with the potential to be a good team," Kerr said. "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."
As Kerr said, the Warriors have the potential. And they have the capability of using their speed and length to make opponents take tough, contested shots. It's exactly what they did against San Antonio.
But, until that's a consistent occurrence and they are continuously mindful over fouling and other areas of the game they can control, the ceiling for this team is capped.