The CD keeps skipping, but the most beautiful music keeps playing anyway. The Warriors won another game by double digits (104-89), this time at home against the Miami Heat. The Heat didn’t have much of a chance in this one, as Dwyane Wade sat due to a hamstring injury. After the final horn sounded, Wade walked off the floor with Stephen Curry — who made seven three-point shots and scored a game-high 32 points — and you had to wonder if Wade was complimenting Curry’s Heat-killing ways (seriously, he loves playing against Miami), teasing Curry with comments about how the game would’ve been closer if Wade was a part of it, or a little of both.
Not that it matters. Wade provides flashes of brilliance, while Curry is an 82-game superstar. But the Warriors aren’t full of Currys. They’re the deepest team in the league, especially when it comes to long-limbed wing players who can defend and shoot it a bit, but the rest of the roster needs to be prodded, incentivized and motivated to keep this bulldozer rolling.
After needing a fantastic third quarter to put away the Jazz a day earlier, the Warriors defended from the start against the Heat. Then they slipped up a little and let Miami back into the game for a short period during the third quarter before sprinting back in front by 18 before the quarter ended.
After a few years of hearing about “the process” and “we got back to our brand of basketball,” it’s fun — and educational — to listen to Steve Kerr’s postgame press conferences.
“I thought our first half was great. We probably could’ve had a bigger lead. We had a couple of shots that we missed that we probably normally make. But we played an excellent first half of defense and then we absolutely let down in the second,” said Kerr.
“I think this is the beginning of the dog days in the NBA. To me, like now to the the All-Star break is when it gets hard. The newness of the season is over, we’re on this great run, and we’re not even halfway through, and guys are tired. Everybody’s tired around the league. So you have to fight through that. That’s one of the reasons we’re playing 10 guys now routinely. We’re trying to get through that period. If we can do it and pick up wins like we did tonight, then that’s great.”
Kerr spent so much time playing for two legendary NBA head coaches, Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. As far as most of Kerr’s coaching repertoire is concerned, he’s a Pop guy. He calls timeouts when the team is screwing around (Jackson loved to watch his team suffer through lackadaisical stretches, then work to clean up their own messes). Kerr’s offense resembles Popovich’s more often than not. But Jackson was cheerfully blunt during his coaching days, so confident in what he was doing that lying seemed ridiculously unnecessary. And Jackson always saw the benefit in putting everything out there and not allowing the weaknesses to hide behind pride.
Kerr seems to agree. He’s perfectly happy to let the world in, because there are very few secrets to hide when you’re winning. A simple look at video will show teams which plays you run, and a quick check at minute counts accurately portrays the current team hierarchy.
The Warriors certainly did play 10 guys on Wednesday night, but Shaun Livingston (for the second straight game) was not one of them. Kerr referenced Livingston playing excellently in December and falling off a bit in January, and compared the situation to a slumping baseball player who needs one or two days off. Livingston will play on Friday against Oklahoma City, and Kerr said he expects Livingston to bring a lot of energy.
That would seem like the smart plan, at least if you’re Livingston. Kerr just told him that his effort wasn’t enough, and these “dog days” are the time when players get to trade places on the totem pole if they do enough to please the head coach.
On that note, something else to keep in mind: Harrison Barnes did absolutely nothing (1-for-6, two points, five rebounds and two assists), while Andre Iguodala went 4-for-5 with seven assists while looking like a good complementary “point guard” during his time on the floor with Leandro Barbosa … and Iguodala played 30 minutes tonight. We already know he’s a better defender than Barnes. Iguodala might not start once this season, but he might get more of Barnes’ minutes as time goes on if this pattern continues. We’ll see if Kerr motivates Barnes publicly, or lets this situation play out until Iguodala demands a spot in the starting lineup with his production. Or, ignoring Barnes completely, Iguodala’s increased value without Livingston on the floor might keep Livingston on the bench more often than not. Either way, it’s something to follow as the dog days continue.