HOUSTON -- There were two bad habits that most often afflicted the Warriors in the regular season, and both were blamed on the tedium inherent to games that don't decide championships.
The defense rested far more often than it had during the previous three seasons, and unforced turnovers were much too persistent.
As they sit one loss from being eliminated by the Rockets, the Warriors can say with conviction that their defense is healthy. They held Houston to 39.5 percent shooting in Game 3, an even 39 percent in Game 4 and 39.4 percent in Game 5 Thursday night.
Turnovers, though, are punching holes in their hopes.
The Warriors left Toyota Center after Game 5 with a 98-94 loss largely because turnovers, for the second consecutive game, both close losses, subverted their best efforts in all other aspects.
"We've got to continue that effort, just make a couple more plays to take care of our turnover problem we've had the last two games, and just build some momentum back to our side," Stephen Curry said.
"We had several turnovers where we just kind of got a little too excited and threw the ball away," coach Steve Kerr said. "Ideally we take care of the ball. I always tell our guys hit singles. We were trying to hit triples. You got to hit singles. If we do that in transition, we're going to get some more good looks."
Sound familiar? Sure. Such statements have been a common refrain over the past seven months.
After giving the Rockets 20 points off 16 turnovers in in three-point loss in Game 4 on Tuesday in Oakland, the Warriors gave them 18 off 18 turnovers in four-point Game 5 defeat.
The Warriors committed a total of 17 turnovers in winning Games 1 and 3. They've committed 49 in losing Games 2, 4 and 5.
Two turnovers stood out as particularly destructive in the fourth quarter. Draymond Green tried an inbounds pass to Kevin Durant, who was being overplayed by James Harden. Harden got the steal and strolled in for a dunk that gave Houston an 88-82 lead, its largest of the second half, with 5:54 to play.
The other killer turnover occurred when the Warriors were trying to set up a potential tying or go-ahead play, down 96-94 with 6.7 seconds to play.
Curry found Green in the frontcourt, and he lost control of the ball. It ended up in the hands of Eric Gordon, who was fouled by Green. Gordon made two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining to put the game away.
"We were supposed to score," Green said, summoning a chuckle. "I lost the ball. There's kind of not much more to it than that. We wanted to get the ball to Steph. We got the ball to Steph, and he hit it ahead to me and I fumbled the ball. Nothing more, nothing less."
The Rockets have done a terrific job of tearing at the Warriors on offense. All too often, the ball goes to Kevin Durant, who has to try to make something happen, often through the type of isolation play they'd prefer to avoid.
The Warriors have lost the last two games because they've tried too hard to make something fabulous happen. That it's the kind of stuff that happens a lot less when Andre Iguodala is on the floor is not exactly a coincidence.
Iguodala, with a leg contusion, was ruled out two hours before Game 5. There is a strong likelihood he will play in Game 6.
Given his typical contributions, there is no debating his value.
"I feel great about where we are right now," Kerr said. "That may sound crazy, but I feel it. I know exactly what I'm seeing out there, and we defended them beautifully tonight. We got everything we needed.
"Just too many turnovers, too many reaches, and if we settle down a little bit, we're going to be in really good shape."
The homecourt-advantage Warriors couldn't capitalize at Oracle Arena in Game 4. The "pissed off" Warriors couldn't transform their anger into victory in Game 5.
Can the Warriors put together two games in which they don't hurt themselves with turnovers? They are capable. They've been capable. That hasn't been enough to prevent it.
Except now there is no margin for error.
|Game 1||Warriors 119, Rockets 106|
|Game 2||Rockets 127, Warriors 105|
|Game 3||Warriors 126, Rockets 85|
|Game 4||Rockets 95, Warriors 92|
|Game 5||Rockets 98, Warriors 94|
|Game 6||Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm|
|Game 7||Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm|