Here is a link to my Sunday column about the Warriors. The full text runs below:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Warriors are in danger. They lost to the Grizzlies 99-89, and here’s the danger they face.
The Grizzlies may eliminate them. No one is saying the Grizzlies will eliminate them, but if the Warriors get bounced in this second round, people will say they had a nice little season, a 67-win praiseworthy season. But a season isn’t a success until a team goes into the playoffs and wins and wins some more. The team with the best record in the league, the No.1 seed losing to the No.5, results in people dismissing that team.
Nice little season, guys.
The Warriors don’t want to be that team, don’t want the sports world condescending to them.
I could go on about the Warriors’ turnovers — unsightly for the second game in a row. On Saturday, they turned the ball over 17 times and that led to 22 Grizzlies points. Ugly. I could go on about the Warriors’ 3-point shooting, how the past two games — both losses — they sank six of 26 3s each game. Ugly.
I’ll pass over all that because a few things happened after the game I want to share.
Steve Kerr came into the postgame interview room, still polite, composed. Listen to what he said:
“We lost our poise. But I thought this was a better effort than Game 2. I thought we got flustered because the shots weren’t going in. We competed in the second half. We got back in it. But, again, some lack of poise, critical turnovers stopped our momentum.
“It’s a learning process. We’re a very young team. This is a kind of our moment of truth. You have to learn in the postseason. All those little mistakes, especially against a veteran team like Memphis, you’re going to pay. We’ve got to clean those up.”
Let’s pause, digest what he said. He liked the effort in the second half, and the Warriors played better than Game 2.
To which I say, who cares? A loss is a loss. And effort counts for nothing. But there’s more.
Kerr said the Warriors are young and they are learning. Funny thing. I thought the Warriors are the best team in the NBA. When they ran New Orleans out of the postseason, no one said the Warriors were too young and were learning. They said the Pelicans were. The Warriors were just where they needed to be. Winners in a sweep and the big favorite to take the championship.
Now Kerr tells us they’re young and learning. Talk about a surprise. I’ve got news for him and Bob Myers and Joe Lacob. There is no learning period, no break-in period. The Warriors’ window of opportunity is now. Nothing is guaranteed next season. Can the Warriors win now?
I said to Kerr: “You have to clean up the mistakes you’ve been making. You’re right in the middle of it now and there’s not a lot of games left. Why are you confident you can correct these things?”
“Because we have a talented team,” Kerr said, “a group that really cares about winning. And they’re learning. It’s part of the process. You see teams go through this all the time in the playoffs. The only way to figure it out is to go through the pain of losing a game like tonight and the other night. You see the mistakes on tape.”
OK, now listen to Draymond Green — six points on Saturday. He addressed one of Kerr’s main themes — the Warriors hurt themselves by rushing.
“We definitely were a little out of whack. You have to cut down on crazy turnovers. We’ve got stuff we’ve got to clean up. Coach (Tom) Izzo (of Michigan State) and Coach Kerr say play fast but not in a hurry. I think we’re in a hurry now trying to play fast when we know we’re capable of playing fast without playing in a hurry.”
That was a great quote. One point is troubling. He and Kerr blame the Warriors for being careless. You imagine them littering in Golden Gate Park or losing their playbooks or letting food spoil. Their bad.
Nothing of the kind.
The Warriors turn the ball over and can’t drain 3s because of the Grizzlies. Because of what the Grizzlies are doing to them. The Grizzlies are making life hard for the Warriors. The Grizzlies are making the Warriors play with butterfingers and the Grizzlies have stripped the Warriors of their poise. The Grizzlies have made Kerr and Green think the team is young, in a learning phase.
This series is about the Grizzlies and it’s not about the Warriors. The Warriors need to change that, need to make the series about them. And they need to end the losing streak. A team loses two in a row in a seven-game series, that’s a losing streak.
Curry came to the interview room last. I said to him, “Your coach said you guys hurried and lost your poise. I’ve seen a lot of your games. I never thought of you guys losing your poise. What’s different now?”
Because Curry is an honest man, he said, “When you give a team like them, that plays the way they do and has savvy veterans and slows down the pace, close to a 20-point lead, it takes all you’ve got to get back in the game. Credit to us we fought and got it to five points in the fourth quarter. Just didn’t have enough down the stretch.”
Someone mentioned Kerr said this is the Warriors’ moment of truth.
“It’s frustrating but it’s fun,” Curry said. “It’s a challenge for us. You sweep in the first round and everything’s going great and on top of the world, and you win Game 1 second round and, obviously, we got hit in the mouth two times in a row. Nobody’s defeated in our locker room. I like our chances.”
Curry made no excuses, didn’t cop the appeal to youth. He likes the Warriors’ chances. Who am I to disagree? The Warriors are deep and talented, and maybe they can learn.
It’s just that the time is now. Now.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn firstname.lastname@example.org.