Wake-up call: Warriors trying to learn from late-game meltdowns

Wake-up call: Warriors trying to learn from late-game meltdowns

OAKLAND -- They say panic is not near, and it shouldn’t be. They say they will get better, and not only as they should but they must.

But after the kind of late-game meltdown that has to haunt any veteran team, much less one assembled to annihilate foes while marching toward a championship, the Warriors limped into the weekend with their backsides raw and their minds spinning.

What do they make of themselves? Do they even know who they are?

Is it acceptable to win 84 percent of the time, or must they gaze deeply into the other 16 percent to ascertain significance?

These are the questions swirling about in the wake of an abysmal and, ultimately, ruinous fourth quarter for the second time in 12 days, this one coming Friday night, a 128-119 overtime loss to the redoubtable Memphis Grizzlies before a bereaved sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

“It’s not the end of the world,” forward Draymond Green said. “Nobody is hitting the panic button because we lost a regular-season game, because I really don’t care how many games we lose. It’s about getting better.

“I just don’t feel like right now we’re getting better at the rate that we need to get better at in order to reach the goal that we want to reach.”

Blowing a 24-point third-quarter lead, the Warriors were knocked into next week by a Grizzlies team that seems to know how and, moreover, when to crack their code. They used the same formula as the Cavaliers did in overcoming a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit on Christmas Day.

“Our fourth-quarter offense has been atrocious,” Green correctly assessed.

“The reason it was a game down the stretch is not because of our offense,” said Stephen Curry, whose 40 points weren’t enough. “When you give up a 24-point lead, it doesn’t matter how many shots you miss. You’ve got to get some stops.”

Green is right, as is Curry. The Warriors (31-6) fell apart at both ends. Softened up by Memphis muscle, the Grizzlies then used clutch shooting to send them reeling and rugged defense to deck them.

They invited defeat with skittish offense and defense that faded late in regulation and totally disappeared in OT, when Memphis (23-16) made seven of its eight shots.

“It was a combination of bad defense and looking up at the score and seeing the lead dwindle down and rushing a little bit,” Curry said.

“I think we got a little deflated.”

As the catalyst of the team and its longest-tenured member, Curry should have a feel for what is happening. He seems to be implying the Warriors are searching for their edge. That the ruthlessness displayed last season, while rampaging to an NBA-best 73-9 record in the regular season, has been hard to summon this season.

“We are trying some different things,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We just haven’t executed very well. Maybe that’s something that we can do better as a coaching staff, trying to get guys in better position. We’ll look at the tape and continue to experiment and try different things. But we have to close games better and execute better offensively.”

Closing out a game on defense is partly about communication but mostly about desire. Closing out on offense is partly about swagger, but mostly about execution. The Warriors were 0-for-4 in being outscored 49-21 after the third quarter.

“We’ve got some things we need to correct to be a championship team,” Green said. “And right now, we’re not that.”

Urging patience, which the Warriors did, to a man, squares with the rational mind but is a tough sell in the age of instant gratification and double-instant results.

They’re trying to develop and grow before an audience that sees four All-Stars and expects magnificence as the routine. They also are, even if they won’t admit it, bearing the burden of the unprecedented fashion in which they lost the NBA Finals.

“We have a long way to go,” said Kevin Durant, who was signed in July to assure redemption for that June defeat. “We’re still learning about each other. We’re still learning ourselves, especially in late game situations. We haven’t had a lot.

(Saturday) we’ll watch film and get ready for Sacramento. But we’ll learn a lot from this. I think it’ll make us better in the long run.”

To suggest this may be the game that snaps them awake presumes the Warriors have compiled the NBA’s best record while sleeping through the first 37 games. Maybe they have. They have 45 games left, and they’ll win the vast majority of them.

But if the Warriors don’t wake up and realize they’re as susceptible to their own shortcomings as they are to a determined and talented opponent, their postseason will be neither as long nor as glorious as they imagine.

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

OAKLAND -- For the first time since he joined the coaching staff last summer, Mike Brown on Wednesday morning arrived at the Warriors facility a man in charge.

As acting head coach, he would decide when practice started and when it ended, and conduct proceedings in between.

The general activity was not much different for anyone else, though, as it continues to become evident that everything the Warriors do for the foreseeable future will be a Brown-Kerr, or Kerr-Brown, production.

“Steve is going to be a part of this process the whole time,” Brown said after practice. “Almost before I do anything, I’m going to consult with him. The only time I won’t consult with him is probably during a game.”

Since Kerr’s announcement last Sunday that he was taking an indefinite leave to attend to personal health issues, Brown has been wielding the clipboard. He actually coached Game 3 against Portland last Saturday, in Kerr’s absence, before knowing in advance he’d also coach Game 4 Monday night.

Brown is 2-0, with the Game 4 win clinching a Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers. Yet Brown is quick to remind anyone that he is following the plan laid out by Kerr. The two exchanged texts Tuesday and, according to Brown, “spoke at length” after the game between the Jazz and the Clippers -- one of which will face the Warriors in the next round.

Though the Warriors are operating under a different head coach, all indications are the atmosphere around the team remains stable and relatively unchanged.

“Obviously it’s different personalities, but when you make it about the players, when you make it about winning, all that other stuff really doesn’t matter,” Kevin Durant said. “He coaches us. He coaches the game of basketball and he does it very well. Our whole coaching staff does the same thing.

“When it’s about basketball, it’s not about trying to have authority over us. He’s just coaching us. He’s just coaching us up. He’s just telling us the proper way to do things on the basketball court. It’s pretty simple when you try to do that. Then it’s on us to try to execute.”

Execution has gone well, particularly over the last six quarters of the series against Portland. The Warriors wiped out a 16-point deficit in the second half to win Game 3, and then rolled to a 35-9 start in Game 4 before coasting to the closeout victory.

Brown was on the sideline in Game 4, with Kerr watching the game from the locker room.

It’s fairly apparent, though, that everyone involved feels a heightened sense of accountability and ownership.

“Mike has had a pretty big voice throughout the whole season,” Durant said. “He’s been a head coach before, understands what it takes to be a head coach. And the coaching staff is just so smart, and they empower each other.

“Anybody, if you’re around us on a day-to-day basis, anybody can tell that they work well as a group. Coach Kerr does a great job. He spearheads it all by empowering everybody, from the coaches to the players.”

After sweeping Blazers, Warriors relishing some needed down time

After sweeping Blazers, Warriors relishing some needed down time

OAKLAND -- After arriving in Oakland in the wee hours Tuesday morning, the Warriors took the day off, went through a light practice Wednesday and will take another day off Thursday.

Slackers, eh?

Not really, when the next game is at least four days away.

The semi-lax scheduling isn’t the decision of acting head coach Mike Brown. It’s not even the decision of head coach Steve Kerr, who was not at practice Wednesday and remains out indefinitely. It’s a common sense call that was made between the two men, with players and staffers on board.

“If you can sweep every series,” Kevin Durant said after practice, “then that’ll be perfect.”

This is one of the perks of sweeping a first-round opponent. By eliminating the Trail Blazers in four games and with their next opponent undetermined, the Warriors are able to balance work and rest.

“With this group here,” Brown said, “the continuity that the nucleus has and how intelligent the guys are, with the big-time veterans we’ve brought in, we feel that rest for their bodies and mentally (are) more important than coming in here and having practice on a daily basis.”

They also have a couple guys recovering from injuries. Forward Matt Barnes (right foot/ankle bone bruise) has been out two weeks, and guard Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain/hand contusion) has missed the past nine days. Both, however, are expected to be available for the next series.

The soonest that would be is Sunday against Utah, which owns a 3-2 series lead over the Clippers and can close it out Friday in Salt Lake City. If the Clippers win and push the series to seven games, the Warriors would then open against the Clippers-Jazz winner on May 2.

Meanwhile, the Warriors have no choice but to prepare for both, with plenty of time to do so.