There have been times when the defense shows up and it is stifling. There are times when the 3-pointers are falling and opposing defenses look helpless. There are moments when it is apparent the Warriors are making incremental progress.
Few of those times, however, involve rebounding.
It’s not as dreadful as it was in the first three games, all on the road, when the Warriors were minus-10 in Brooklyn, minus-17 in Milwaukee and minus-13 in Chicago. But it’s not improving at the rate needed to consistently compete.
The rebounding deficit in a 114-104 loss Thursday night in Denver was seven, the Warriors pulling 43 to the Nuggets’ 50. Golden State was beaten decisively, 14-8, in a lackluster first quarter and lost that battle in two of the following three quarters.
“We struggled on the glass tonight and gave up 10 offensive boards,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The tone is set in the first quarter with (our) defense. It affects every aspect of the game and i think that's where we lost the game tonight.”
Perhaps the most telling detail on the stat sheet is that the starting front line – Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and James Wiseman – combined to grab 12 rebounds over 88 minutes, while Denver’s starting backcourt collected 13 in 70 minutes.
With 6-foot-3 point guard Stephen Curry, snagging a team-high 11 rebounds in 37 minutes, nearly matching the starting front line, Golden State’s problems were less a matter of size than of determination.
“It’s not a lot of technique to the rebound, it’s just more effort and learning the rebounding patterns,” said Eric Paschall, the 6-foot-6 small-ball center who took down five rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.
The Warriors, in this game, hurt themselves by committing 19 turnovers – with veterans Kent Bazemore, Curry and Green accounting for 15. But that’s an anomaly. This team has, for the most part, taken care of the ball this season.
Getting to the ball has been another matter. In nine of their 12 games, the Warriors have taken a beating on the glass. That they are among the NBA’s shorter teams may be a factor.
“It’s a combination of just being physical, especially when we're outsized, because it's going to happen a lot,” Curry said. “We have certain lineups that we can throw out there . . . (Paschall) at the 5 or even (Kevon Looney) at the five. With (facing) bigger guys, you have to gang rebound, just being in the right place right time but also be a physical.
“We've had a couple games where guys are cutting in from the weak side and we don’t get bodies on them, and they get the long rebounds and then the second-chance points kind of kill us. But other than that, it's just continuing to make it a priority.”
Rebounding was a priority in the draft, a factor in the Warriors’ decision to select all 7-feet of Wiseman. It was a priority in free agency, when they sniffed around Marc Gasol, who opted to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
And it definitely was a priority when they opened the season with a rotation of three “centers,” with Marquese Chriss augmenting Wiseman and Looney.
When Chriss suffered a broken leg that required him to undergo surgery that likely will end his season, the Warriors believed there was no urgent need to shop for another big man. Green and Paschall, both 6-foot-6, are adequate rebounders.
Kerr has implied that if rebounding becomes a consistent problem, the front office might consider shopping the market.
Well, it was an issue Thursday and has been one for most of this season.