Until Warriors Address Defensive Struggles, It's Not Too Soon to Worry

OAKLAND -- One day after they were blown out of the building they vowed to defend for the fourth time in 47 days, the Warriors expressed no more concern than they did the previous three times.

They stifled yawns, studied video of their basketball shortcoming and broke a modicum of sweat.

"We know that we're not playing as well as we should," Kevin Durant said Wednesday. "But we know we've got a long season ahead to figure it out."

Steve Kerr is of similar mind.

"It's not that bad when we're a game out of first," the coach said. "I feel pretty good about where we are. But we do have to adjust and improve."

The biggest challenge facing the Warriors -- who actually moved into first in the West with the Denver Nuggets' loss Wednesday night -- is that they are failing to measure up to their recent history. They averaged 66.25 wins per season over past four years, and they're on pace to land in the mid-50s this season.

"Imagine uttering those words anytime over the last three decades: ‘Would the Warriors settle for 54?' " Kerr joked. "The bar has been set high. I gave [the team] that line today: ‘You guys have set the bar really high.' So everything takes on a greater sense of urgency.

"We're maybe the most scrutinized team in the history of the league. I know we're right there with the Bulls teams that I played on. It felt the same, but even more so now because of the number of media outlets and the immediacy of the judgment and criticism."

That's because the Warriors have gone where others have not. They're the only team to win 73 games, the only team to have a unanimous league MVP, the only team to have four All-Stars in back-to-back seasons and the only team with a 15-game win streak in a single postseason.

That's not a high bar. That bar is invisible to the naked eye.

Yet it does nothing for the Warriors this season. They have been a good team with profound weaknesses, nearly all of them on defense.

Their defensive rating in the last two games, against the Clippers on Sunday and the Lakers on Tuesday, is 122.7. While that's an extremely small sample size, it's still two home games during which the Warriors allowed 127 points in each.

Want a bigger sample size? OK. The Warriors, through 35 games this season, are 16th in defensive rating. That's a few stops shy of championship level.

The Warriors under Kerr have operated under the premise that great defense will lead to prolific offense. It's still true. If that defense doesn't come, the Warriors will find themselves struggling to beat teams they once owned.

Even while playing below their recent standard, they still believe they can get back to their former level. They actually understand that, in most ways, they are underachieving.

"I'm not bothered by it. I just want all of us to be better," Durant said. "I like that we're winning games, but I just want to us to keep growing and keep getting better. I wouldn't say anybody is bothered by it, but we know we've got to put our heads down and go to work and have some better outcomes."

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Durant acknowledged that he could be better, possession after possession, by accepting what he has to do on both ends and then executing better than he is now.

That could be said of everyone on the roster.

So, what to do? Adjustments are waiting to be made by players and coaches, before and during games.

"We watched the tape today and talked a lot about what adjustments we need to make," Kerr said. "Sometimes it's not as simple as ‘Here's the adjustment, go do it.' A lot of times, you see it and you work on something in practice, and then you implement it. It was a tough night for everybody overall, and we definitely need to adjust to certain things out there that we're seeing defensively against us.

"And we've got to pick up our own defense as well."

The defensive component is not happening. Not until it does will the Warriors have nothing to be concerned about.

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