The inimitable Bob Fitzgerald uttered those words during Sunday's loss against the Phoenix Suns, in reference to something something I didn't actually write that part down in my notes BUT it's almost certainly safe to assume he was talking about one thing: Turnovers.
Yeah, I'm leading with this topic just to get it out of the way.
Turnovers. They are this team's biggest problem right now. You look at why the Warriors lost this game, and you see the turnovers, and, well, game over, man. Game over.
... Well mmmmmmaybe it's not THAT simple. Heck, the Warriors turned the ball over only 19 times in this game — that's three less than they've been averaging per game!
Two points I want to hit on in my fight to quell anti-turnover hysteria:
1) You can't just say "turn the ball over less", because life just ain't that easy, and
2) You can make up for it by being effective in other areas, which to this point they'd accomplished to a tune of 5-1 and #1 in the power rankings of most prominent sites, but which the Spurs were unwilling to allow on this particular night.
Shooting efficiency is one such area, and one the Warriors actually did well enough against the Spurs (and against the Suns on Sunday). Klay Thompson, whose injured hand did not seem to bother him at all, went 9-17 overall, 5-6 on threes, and 6.6 from the line — a very nice game, though much of this production occurred in that nebulous space between "maybe they'll turn the tables and come back in astounding fashion" and "straight up garbage time against the NBA Champs". Harrison Barnes had a decisively good game, going 9-12 in a big 39 minutes for 22 points, while helping in other ways with eight rebounds and only two giveaways. And Marreese Speights cruelly teased us with a rather superb performance in the 4th quarter, which he played in its entirety but no time else, going 5-5 for 11 points and rather changing the game dynamic by throwing a different defensive approach against the potent Tony Parker/Tim Duncan pick and roll, though ultimately to little effect.
After shooting efficiency is kinda where the Warriors' list of advantages ends, and where turnovers start compounding into equalling an assured defeat.
For one, the Warriors have been terrible at getting extra possessions via offensive boards, and last night they were just +one rebound away from the perfect definition of terrible (that being zero).
The big one in this game, though, was turnovers — on the other end. While the Warriors turned the ball over 19 times, the Spurs coughed up just eight of 'em. They haven't been great in that area this season (15.6% of the time, 24th in the league), but last night they looked like their vintage selves, with crisp around-the-horn ball movement coming largely from penetration off of well-executed PNRs. Before last night, the Warriors were #1 in the league in forcing turnovers (18.3% of the time).
So, while the Warriors turned over the ball a whole bunch of times as per usual, they didn't make up for that deficit by causing their opponents to return the favor, and didn't do themselves any favors by gaining back those lost possessions with board cleansing.
If the Warriors only turned the ball over 12 times instead of 19, and finished those seven possessions each with a shot attempt, and scored on them with equal efficiency, they still would have ended the game with 110 points and an L.
Does this mean that turnovers aren't the single biggest problem plaguing the Warriors so far this season? No. They are. Maybe some of us doubted they would be, or at least pleaded that we should see some results before pinning it to the top of the board. We all know better now.
So let's get back to point #1: Reducing turnovers isn't as easy as willing it to happen. The players need to learn the new system better. They need to drill better discipline into themselves, do a better job of recognizing the best play to make in each scenario. They need to actually use better fundamentals when passing, or when dribbling. Steve Kerr needs to learn which personnel groupings work with which schemes or particular plays, where certain players should be on the court to be most effective offensively. He needs to get more of a variety of guys open for clean looks, and for them to be ready to take them. They all need to figure out how best to mitigate risk wherever possible, within a system that by its nature introduces risk, especially so if not performed well.
They also need David Lee. David's offensive capabilities as a big, especially when shifted to the center position and stationed 10-15 feet out, is important for this team. His passing ability and basketball IQ are of course natural salves for a struggling offense, but so is his ability to score for himself, creating an offensive threat down low that they simply do not have in his absence. Right now, Steph and Klay have been the only reliable scorers on this team, with that third and necessary contribution coming from different guys. Lee is a reliable scorer and facilitator, and everyone's life should be easier on the offensive end when he's back out there.
And they need Andre Iguodala. Not the Andre Iguodala we saw Tuesday or Sunday, of course — he's been detrimental on the offensive end, refusing to take shots at the rim when they're clearly the best and sometimes only option, leading to poorer shots or directly to throw-aways. (He was also pretty ugly defensively last night, as he misplayed Manu Ginobili on screen after screen, took way too long to get under picks and recover back to his man, and got duped in open space.) While the Warriors can't rely on Iguodala to put significant points on the board, they should be able to rely on him to make sound decisions on the court, complementing his teammates by creating and distributing, slashing off the ball when the opportunity arises, or taking an open shot when it's been created for him. It could be that, without Lee (and maybe even with him), this team is still not properly balanced, with too much construction on the defensive side. It's certainly clear that Iguodala and Shaun Livingston together with any combination of players that doesn't include Steph Curry and/or Klay Thompson has not been effective, a situation that might not even improve with the injection of Lee unless Iguodala can show as a threat from the three point line. A team with better spacing and better balance in individual offensive capabilities is one that's less likely to turn the ball over.
And yes, it'd be nice if Steph and Klay cut down on the mistakes. If it's at the expense of their offensive production and overall effect on winning ballgames? Well, if their turnovers still offend you, maybe you should look away — I for one am willing to give them a pass, within reason. One can hope, though, that the overtly stupid giveaways will decrease as Kerr drills and grills them every day in practice. And I am at least somewhat comforted to know that our glaring offensive weakness is one that has been acknowledged by the coach, which you may not have witnessed last year.
But these are all things you tend to dwell more on when you get beat by the San Antonio Spurs, as much a model of basketball exceptionalism as has existed in the world for a decade. Actually in years passed, we all would be much more likely to just waive this off as another loss to that well-oiled machine. This year, the Warriors have a legitimate chance to surpass the Spurs in the Western Conference. It may not have looked like it last night. But we're still 5-2, have played the league's toughest schedule, have one of the best defenses in the game, and have an offense that's only likely to improve.
It was great to have Klay Thompson back last night, and he might deserve the honors. But I'm handing it to Harrison Barnes, who had a terrific first quarter, helped on the boards, held his own defensively, and was the most effective player on the floor when Iguodala came in to replace Draymond Green. Klay will have plenty of opportunities to rack up the WWs this season.