Warriors’ weaknesses hard to find, but there might be some

The Golden State Warriors don’t have many weaknesses. That much we know. Yes, the Warriors got knocked off the by Lakers on Sunday in LA, but that doesn’t change the big picture: They’re still the odds-on favorites to win the NBA title.

As we head down the stretch of the regular season, a few minor issues have cropped up for the Warriors. These, of course, aren’t big problems because there can’t be any big problems when you’re 55-6. Still, if you’re looking to nit-pick, here’s what’s a tad troublesome:

Free throw shooting: The Warriors rank 17th in the league in foul shooting percentage at 75 percent, and all in all, that doesn’t sound like too much of a weakness. But we know those numbers are a little bit skewed when you consider Stephen Curry is shooting 90.8 percent from the line and Klay Thompson 85.9 percent from there.

But Draymond Green (.675), Andre Iguodala (.623), Andrew Bogut (.468) and the injured Festus Ezeli  (.532) have all had their issues at the line at one time or another. When you start to think of how efficient the Warriors can be at times, it might start becoming more tempting for opponents to foul

For example, in their Feb. 27 come-from-behind win over the Thunder, the Warriors had eight possessions in the game’s final eight minutes (three in regulation and five in overtime) where they came away with three points. That kind of offensive explosiveness could very well force opponents to begin to foul more — rather than take the chance of giving up the potential of three points per possession.

 

And if you can foul enough of the right players at the right time — and not so much Curry and Thompson — you might be able gunk up the Warriors machine a little bit.

Over-reliance on 3-point shooting: It’s only natural … the Warriors are the best 3-point shooting team in basketball history so why not take as many 3s as you can? Well, ordinarily that makes a lot of sense but there are some games where either you’re not making them like normal or the ones you’re taking aren’t as good as you think.

I’d say the latter was the case against the Lakers on Sunday, an unexpected loss for Golden State. Yes, the Warriors missed a lot of “open looks,” but some of them weren’t open. Some were contested, rushed or just a little askew. Nevertheless, the Warriors have a tremendous and one-of-a-kind response when they’re not hitting 3s: Utililize the back cuts or go back door.

But doing that takes a little bit of extra effort and sometimes it’s just easier to want to do it the easier way: From beyond the arc. There’s no doubt about it, the Warriors’ ability to shoot 3-pointers is a foundation of what they do, but no team can get as many layups and alley oops as the Warriors when the 3-point line is taken away some. Every once in a while, the Warriors will forget about the two-point shot, and it can get them into a sliver of trouble.

Defensive lapses: When the Warriors have defense on their collective minds, they’re awfully good at it. But when it’s not a focus, they can be susceptible to all the kinds of things they usually do to teams when they’re on offense.

Every once in a while, the Warriors have difficulty with dribble penetration. While Curry’s defense has improved over the past two years, it figures that opponents are going to try to go at him. He’s the MVP and you’ve got to try to make him work on defense. In most cases, when Curry struggles defensively — or any of the perimeter defenders — Bogut is there to save the day.

But often Bogut does more than save the day. Bogut has a penchant for not only blocking or redirecting a penetrator’s attempt but also starting a fast break if and when the Warriors come up with the loose ball.

Now and then Bogut is a step slow or the opposing guards are able to convert consistently, and at those times the Warriors can be vulnerable. Case in point: Jordan Clarkson and Marcelo Huertas were an issue yesterday.

Turnovers: While many Warriors fans see this as the most worrisome area, I’d be less concerned about it. Yes, the Warriors do have a tendency to get a little loose, a little care-free with the ball. But can you blame them?

The Warriors have been compared to the 1995-96 Bulls, the “Showtime” Lakers, the mid-1980s Celtics, etc., so how do you expect them not to try to live up to those teams? Sometimes it’s just not enough for the Warriors to win, they have to do it in breathtaking fashion.

But that comes with a price. The Warriors average 15 turnovers per game, which is 25th in the NBA. In other words, not good. But you know what? I’ll take the Warriors, playing the style they’re playing, committing 15 turnovers a game rather than, say Utah, which is averaging 14 turnovers per game but is middle of the pack in that department.

Loss of poise: The Warriors are one of the smartest teams in the league with one of the best coaching staffs. But every once in a while, they can get a little frazzled, a little emotional, a little out of sorts.

When the Warriors get like this, it’s not that they turn the ball over left and right — although that will infrequently happen. It’s more that they get too scattered, and they can’t tell the difference between playing uptempo and just playing sloppily. I refer to it as slipping into Houston Rockets’ mode.

Green, of course, has to watch his technical foul issue. He’s got 12 and he’ll be suspended for one game if he reaches 16. Also, it’s during these times the Warriors really need Andre Iguodala. He’s always got a sense of when to get the Warriors under control and all settled down.

Let’s face it, what makes the Warriors special is they have so many passers and scorers. But every once in a while it pays to re-gather and regroup after a little too much of a frenzy. Iguodala knows when th0se times are, and the Warriors missed that on Sunday.

LISTEN TO THE “NBA THIS WEEK,” A TWO-HOUR SHOW STEINMETZ HOSTS WITH JOHN DICKINSON

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About Steinmetz

Matt Steinmetz is a veteran San Francisco Bay Area sports journalist. He covered the Golden State Warriors for Bay Area News Group for more than a decade before becoming a television analyst with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Steinmetz currently co-hosts the "Warriors WrapUp" show and "NBA This Week" on 95.7-FM The Game, the franchise's flagship station, in San Francisco. He also co-hosts the Sal and Steiny podcast.
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