San Francisco Chronicle
Why have the Warriors been unable to finish close games?
It’s no secret at this point in the season that the Golden State Warriors have a problem closing out games.
For fans, it has been one of the more concerning aspects of their 23-24 record. The issue reared its ugly head again in Sunday’s 120-116 loss to Brooklyn. Golden State led by 17 points in the second quarter at Chase Center, and by 13 midway through the fourth.
“We’re 23-24 for a reason,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re not good enough yet to close games. We’ve got to get better. And so we make strides and feel like we’re getting close, and then we have a lapse. The games — I’ve said this many times — the games are nothing but a bunch of possessions stacked together and you have to execute.”
The Warriors have an offensive rating of 112.9, good for 17th in the NBA. So, they’ve been essentially a middle-of-the pack offensive team through 47 games. However, that rating drops considerably — to 105.3 — in clutch time, defined as the final five minutes of a game in which the scoring margin is no more than five points. Their field-goal percentage in that time drops from 47.1 to 41.
To put the Warriors’ offensive
clutch-time rating in perspective, Houston — which as the worst offense in the league — has an offensive rating of 109.1.
Defensively, the Warriors have a 113.4 overall rating, 108.9 in clutch time. That improvement makes sense, because teams are generally more locked in defensively down the stretch. However, defensive lapses in the waning seconds of the games against Boston and Brooklyn cost Golden State.
“We’re just not sustaining a high level of execution at either end of the floor,” guard Stephen Curry said. “We’re letting the momentum slip away and it’s a make-or-miss situation down the stretch.”
The clutch-time fieldgoal percentages of the Warriors’ top four scorers — Curry (29.2), Jordan Poole (21.2), Klay Thompson (20.6) and Andrew Wiggins (17.5), — also dip.
Curry’s drops from 48.6 to 40.4, Poole from 43.6 to 35.7, Thompson from 41.7 to 33.5 and Wiggins from 47 to 45.5. Surprisingly, Jonathan Kuminga (70) and Draymond Green (66.7) are the Warriors’ best clutch-time shooters.
The Warriors also have a turnover percentage of 14.5 in clutch time versus 16.6 in regular minutes, so ball security remains an issue as well.
The Warriors led the Celtics 97-89 with 7:55 left in regulation Thursday night at TD Garden, and led the Nets 106-93 with 6:57 left Sunday night at Chase Center. In both games, Golden State then went cold from the field.
The Warriors shot 4for-12 after that point against Boston. Seven of those misses were 3-pointers, including a potential game-winner from Curry with 1.1 seconds left. Kerr would call that type of shot selection “hero ball.” Golden State also committed three turnovers during that stretch (two by Curry) — which resulted in only two points for Boston, but marked three empty possessions.
In the game-ending stretch against Brooklyn, the Warriors went 3-for-11 and were outscored 27-10. Although they didn’t get 3-point happy as they did down the stretch against Boston, they did commit four turnovers and five fouls, which resulted in seven points for the Nets at the free-throw line.
The fourth quarters of both games ended with a Golden State defensive breakdown, leading to a go-ahead 3-pointer.
“I think we’re letting guys get into the paint too easily and then you collapse,” Green said. “Teams can really shoot these days, so you keep letting the paint get broken or your defense gets broken and people are attacking the paint, you react to it and teams hit 3s.”
Some of the Warriors’ late-game issues boil down to execution. Others are a result of poor shot selection, excessive fouling, turnovers. All of it needs to be addressed soon if the Warriors have designs on a long postseason.