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Steve Kerr identifies the Warriors’ Achilles heel: “The effort was there, the mindfulness was not”

It’s not the turnovers, folks.

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NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

For a team with as much raw power as the Golden State Warriors, weaknesses are few and far between.

We didn’t find that elusive shooter of the bench everyone’s been pining for. Or maybe it’s some dude who can’t dribble, pass, or shoot that gums everything up.

But whatever it may be...as humans, we are looking for that silver bullet, the one shot that crashes everything. What’s the “one big thing” about the Warriors that is our biggest and greatest weakness?

A lot of people would say turnovers, but the Warriors have led the entire NBA in assist to turnover ratio over the past two seasons —they’ve racked up assists (and wins) at a historic rate. In other words, they definitely turn the ball over enough to warrant some concern, but if the turnovers were such an insurmountable problem then this team wouldn’t win as much. The team ranked 26th in turnovers this season, definitely not good, but not the sort of thing I’d consider as equal to bringing down an invulnerable warrior with an arrow from across the battlefield.

So no, turnovers can’t be the Warriors’ Achilles heel.

Mindfulness is the Warriors’ Achilles heel.

I’ve had some good discussions all year around the Warriors’ lackadaisical attitude this season, because it serves as such a common parallel for everyone — we’ve all slacked off at some point in life. In Game Four against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, the Warriors waltzed through the game like a high school senior coming into the last week of school — they got stomped for it.

“I could tell right away,” Steve Kerr said, according to an article by Drew Shiller of NBA Sports Bay Area. “Looking back at the tape, I should’ve taken a timeout three minutes into the game and broken a clipboard.”

But...

They almost pulled it off.

The Warriors could have easily sauntered into a victory despite the horrible early turnovers and poor shooting if not for the heroics of the wily basketball sage, Manu Ginobli.

If the Warriors had won that game, it would have been equivalent to the kid who skipped class everyday and then just waltzes in and aces all the tests to pass the class with a B. And it would have kind of been an affront to basketball. But more than just the one game, it feels like the one thing that could unravel the whole machine.

Marcus Thompson of the Athletic called his recap article, “Just one loss for the Warriors, nothing to worry about — well, except for this one thing.” That one thing is basically mindfulness.

It’s the string dangling from their sweater. Not a big deal on the surface but could get worse if not dealt with. It’s a flaw, much like any other, but one that especially tempts fate.

These Warriors let off the gas.

At some point, you cross from the familiar comfort of deferred tasks and into the uncomfortable burden of overdue burdens. For the Warriors, the struggle this season has been all about toeing that line and coming through when needed.

But that switch isn’t always there. And playing poorly breeds its own looming doubt.

I don’t know if you read it or not, but Shaun Livingston wrote a pretty amazing article about making it through the end of the Warriors season — it’s just one more reason to pony up and pay for a subscription at The Athletic. Look at this excerpt about trying to stay passionate:

Truthfully, the passion to play at this level, that spark we need, is not always easy to find. You know. You’ve watched us this year. We haven’t always had it. Kerr has done a great job of pacing us. He has had the difficult task of fighting against complacency and also keeping us fresh. We’re fortunate as players that he has a good pulse of the team. He understands the grind, and the balance of staying fresh while striving to get better.

He goes on to talk about how even though they were all confident that this was just managing their mindfulness... there was a creeping doubt about what was going to happen. As Livingston describes it, if everyone else is talking about there being blood in the water, at some point, the players themselves start to ask themselves, “Is there blood in the water?”

Mindfulness is defined as “the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment.” Being in the now, as they say. Attention to detail.

Not to get all deep here or anything, but I’m pretty sure the Warriors were looking past San Antonio in that last game. And lack of mindfulness is the precursor to all of the sloppy turnovers and poor execution.

Just like they looked ahead to the postseason all year. If they’re not careful, that pattern of lack of focus could end up being their Achilles heel.

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