The Warriors' game against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday wasn't a must-win game. But it was close.
Coming off their most demoralizing loss of the season, the Warriors needed to prove to themselves that they are better than the team that fell behind Toronto by 61 points and lost by 53 two nights prior. They needed to show they had it in them to make the push coach Steve Kerr keeps saying they will make.
It was better than the game prior, but too many fouls, turnovers and missed 3-pointers cost the Warrior the game and they fell to the Hawks 117-111 at State Farm Arena.
After missing the last game because of his tailbone contusion, Steph Curry led the team with 37 points on 12-of-22 shooting, while Draymond Green, who also missed Friday's game with a left finger sprain, added 11 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre also finished in double figures, scoring 16 and 20 points, respectively.
There were a lot of positives on Sunday, but the self-inflicted wounds were too much, and now the Warriors (23-27) drop to four games below .500.
Here are three takeaways:
Fouling continues to be an issue
After a game with non-existent defense against the Raptors two nights ago, the Warriors strung together a strong, active defensive performance against the Hawks.
As the Warriors continue to find what exactly their offensive identity is, they must stay a defensive-minded team. They need something they can hang their hats on.
On Sunday, the Warriors held the Hawks to 43.1 percent shooting. But one glaring issue remains for the Warriors on defense: they are over-fouling. The Warriors average the second most team fouls per game, with 21.7 a night.
The Hawks attempted 18 free throws in the first half alone, before finishing the night going 35-of-45 from the line. The Warriors went just 15-of-21. The Warriors' fouling issues of Sunday were nowhere near the problematic they have been in the previous few games, but as the Warriors try to make a push during the final stretch of the season, they can't give their opponents free points at the free-throw line.
Finding other ways to score
The Warriors have almost become synonymous with 3-point shooting over the years. So when they had a rough shooting night from distance, it's always a test to see if the Warriors will wait until they get going, or if they will find other ways to score.
Against the Hawks, it was the latter, as the Warriors scored 62 points in the paint and shot just 10-of-40 from 3-point range.
The Warriors should consider it a feat that they entered halftime with a two-point lead after hitting just three shots from distance in the first half and managed to stay right there with the Hawks throughout the night while their poor shooting continued. But in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter when the Warriors were within a few possessions, missing their 3-pointers was a difference-maker and helped propel the Hawks to victory.
The Warriors need much more from their bench
Golden State's bench unit has never been their strong suit this season. Production has always been an issue, as they lack a true scorer and playmaker.
On Sunday, the Warriors' bench was outscored 55 to 19. Damion Lee led the second unit with just nine points, while Atlanta's bench was fueled by Danillo Gallinari and Lou Williams, who combined for 38 points.
Having four of Golden State's five starters finish in double figures helped cushion that blow, but the Warriors cannot rely that heavily on their starters to win the game, especially when they struggled to shoot from distance as they did and there are players, such as Curry, fighting an injury.
During the final stretch of the season and into the playoffs, if the Warriors make it, the bench minutes will be the difference-maker. If the Warriors want to have a chance at anything, the bench needs to give them more.