OAKLAND — We’ve reached the dog days of the NBA schedule.
For the first time this season, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr opted to sit one of his Big Four as Klay Thompson took the day off.
“There are certain times when you can just tell a guy is worn down,” Kerr said pregame. “Klay is a little worn down. If I see that with somebody else, I’ll sit that guy too.”
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this will be Kerr’s practice going forward. There’s been months of signals leading to this point.
Before the season, Draymond Green and Kerr insisted they wouldn’t be pursuing regular season wins like they did last year.
Earlier this year, Kerr said he was concerned about his team’s “slippage” when it was pointed out the Dubs were on a historic pace again.
And just last week, the third-year coach referred to this stretch as “entering probably the toughest stage of the season physically between now and the All Star Break.”
So, if players — even the best ones — need days off, they should get them. It’s a long season and it’s accepted that regular-season pursuits are beneath this group.
But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be pretty in the near term.
On Tuesday, against a Miami Heat team that was forced to start Rodney McGruder and Luke Babbitt, the Warriors lazed to a 12-point win — not putting the overmatched visitors away until late in the fourth quarter.
“They don’t have enough firepower obviously right now to win consistently but they made us work for everything we got,” Kerr said after the 107-95 win.
No real reason for concern arose from the contest. The team is simply working its way through a burdensome portion of an 82-game schedule. But there are still aspects of executing Kerr’s system the team needs to improve upon.
At times over the last few games — dating back to the “disastrous” loss against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday — the team has reverted to the NBA norm: That is, standing around in a stagnated offense.
“A little bit of habit,” Kerr explained when asked what was the source of the offensive slowdown. “I think we need a little more force. There’s times when we need to recognize we’ve got to run a play, we’ve got to execute a play, and it’s just habit to go down and fall into a high screen or an isolation and we can’t do that. That’s not who our team is and it’s not what makes us good.”
The Warriors missed Thompson, a shooter who is constantly running around screens and stretching defense, on this night. But, he isn’t the sole reason Golden State is a transcendent group that’s altered the way the league plays the game.
And, it should be noted that against a 11-29 opponent, Kerr had freedom to experiment.
It’s just performances like this — and the one in Sacramento a couple nights ago — that makes you wonder if the Warriors are the best team at winning games they’d rather fast forward.
Contact Jacob C. Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.