Steph suggests defensive tactics to Kerr, coaches after loss


Stephen Curry is not one to offer much in the way of pointed criticism about the Warriors or even opponents. His approach tends to be subtle, messages found between the lines.

Not on Thursday night. After the Warriors took their seventh loss in nine games, 122-113 to Luka Doncic and the Mavericks at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Curry floated a proposal to his coaching staff.

Though Golden State’s invigorated offense was good enough to give them a chance, the ongoing defensive deficiencies -- particularly in the first half and again in the final six minutes -- invited overall failure.

“Offensively, that’s not really the issue,” Curry said. “We’ve got to get more aligned on what we’re trying to do defensively. They were hunting isos. It seemed like they had the whole court with work with, as opposed to the other side.

“Maybe taking a page out of the way they were defending us to counter that, especially since if [we're] going pretty small and don’t have rim protection.”

This is Curry proposing that head coach Steve Kerr and assistant coach Mike Brown, who coordinates the defense, consider devoting the most threatening opponent the level of defensive intensity he sees as a matter of routine.

With Luka as the primary ballhandler, the Mavericks opened the game using his craftiness to generate open shots, particularly from deep. Dallas in the first half shot 57.5 percent from the field, including 61.1 percent beyond the arc, while scoring 68 points in the first half. The Mavs relied on ball movement and subtle player movement, and shooters did what most NBA players do when given time and space.

Luka finished with 41 points and nine assists -- and as many as a dozen “hockey assists,” passes leading directly to a teammate’s assist. While the Warriors never had a lead in the first half, Dallas was slicing away, ringing up 18 dimes.

“We know when you’re playing a team that has the head of the snake like that, you’ve got to find creative ways to take him out,” Curry said. “Make it a little bit more difficult for him to get shots. I don’t think we did that the entire game.”

Kerr conceded that this loss, like so many lately, was mostly on the defense, particularly the frequent poor rotations and allowance of penetration.

“The guys really fought in the second half,” he said. “But it’s just tough swimming upstream the whole way.”

So, the Warriors left Texas with nothing more than a “moral victory,” something no team in any sport will embrace. It’s a blow to the competitive pride and profoundly loathsome because it surfaces only in defeat.

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With their ongoing struggles and coming off a desultory performance Tuesday at Minnesota, that was about all the Warriors could seize. Curry wanted no part of it. Nor should he.

“Between Minnesota and tonight, there was a lot better energy,” he said. “A lot better competitiveness and fire. It’s the same result. But that first half was ... ugly. We didn’t put up any resistance. They were comfortable the whole 24 minutes.

“And when you climb back into it on the road, it’s really hard to get over the hump when a team is rolling like that. So, the fact that we were in it is a good sign. But no moral victories.”

The Warriors, however, are no position to spit on it. Having endured so many discouraging performances during their slide, they can’t be too proud to take such positive nuggets as Jordan Poole bringing good intentions, Andrew Wiggins dipping into his desire cup and Klay Thompson simply being back in the lineup.

Golden State looked more like a playoff team, particularly during a fourth-quarter comeback that earned a 104-104 tie with 6:28 remaining – than at any time since January.

They were outscored 18-9 the rest of the way.

The Warriors couldn’t stop the Mavs when it counted, and the outcome was the same as it was four days earlier, when Dallas wiped out a 19-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to beat the Warriors at Chase Center.

The Warriors remain No. 1 in the NBA in defensive rating (105.3), but their once-healthy margin over the Celtics (105.4) and Suns (105.6) is thin enough to see through. Moreover, they’re 13th (110.8) in the 24 games since Draymond Green was sidelined.

They looked the part for about 44 of the 48 minutes in Dallas.

“Everybody has to be on the same page, because if you’re not – especially without rim protection, like some teams have,” Curry said. “Without Draymond and Wise (James Wiseman), our perimeter defense has to be solid. That’s how they beat us tonight.”

The Lakers are next on the schedule, Saturday in Los Angeles. A very winnable game. The Warriors, coaches and players, will meet and practice on Friday and probably make some adjustments.

One thing is certain: Curry will be heard.

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