OAKLAND — Before the Golden State Warriors cruised past the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night in a game which was never as close as the final 108-99 scoreline would suggest, Ian Clark offered a candid comment, summarizing the season to this point.
“We know we can outscore people,” Clark explained after shootaround at the team’s headquarters in downtown Oakland. “So, on the other end, we kind of take plays off.”
When Steve Kerr was apprised of the comment but not the source, the head coach joked that he wanted to know who had said it. Then, Kerr admitted that he understood the sentiment.
“Especially during an 82-game season and coming off two-straight Finals appearances, it’s not easy to bring every ounce of energy and effort every single night, every single minute,” Kerr said. “It’s tough. It adds up.”
With the Warriors averaging an NBA-best 117 points per game, the occasional breakdowns are inevitable. What concerns Kerr is the potential for those defensive lapses and careless turnovers to start seeping into games on a consistent basis.
“As soon as it becomes a habit,” Kerr warned, “you’re in trouble.”
The situation in Golden State, where the Warriors have become so dominant that winning is the expectation, is reminiscent of the one that Kerr found himself in when he was a reserve guard for the Chicago Bulls during the 1997-1998 season. Like the current Warriors, those Bulls had appeared in back-to-back Finals. Unlike the Dubs, the Bulls had won both.
“We had the same kind of feeling with the Bulls that third year,” Kerr said. “It was like, everyone’s kind of waiting to get to the playoffs. You have to constantly remind yourself and your team and your fans that this is a special era. Enjoy every second of it. You have to take joy in it, enjoy the process [and] don’t take the winning for granted.”
The desire to ward off the staleness was one of the reasons that Kerr and general manager/president of basketball operations Bob Myers agreed that they had to launch a full-court press recruiting effort to land Kevin Durant over the summer.
Even with the energy and generational talent that Durant has infused into the squad, there are still plenty of games — like the Warriors’ stroll past the Mavs — when the team appears ready to fast forward to April.
“It’s tiring and our guys are getting through it beautifully,” Kerr said. “But there are nights where it just looks like, ‘Can we just get to the playoffs?’ It’s not that simple. We can’t do that.”