SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors viewed their seven-game home stand as an opportunity to find some rhythm and finally cement themselves as the strong team they believe they are.
But, two games in, the Warriors have looked outmanned and underwhelming, dropping both games, most recently 132-122 to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.
Two nights prior, they lost to a Miami Heat team with no Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, or Caleb Martin.
Off the court, the Warriors believe their chemistry is at a high point — a stark contrast from a season ago when Golden State pinpointed its poor play to the bad energy in the locker room.
The Warriors are confident in the team’s leadership. But sitting with a 15-17 record and in 11th place in the Western Conference, it’s still not translating to the court.
“We haven’t found that grit that every good team needs, where you pull together and you just play for the group,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We are not there yet. And that’s a problem. We have great guys, but until every team connects in a way that is solely dedicated to winning each game, then we are going to be stuck in this place.”
Golden State has made numerous changes to its lineups and rotation to try to get unstuck.
Kerr changed his starting lineup again against the Mavericks, swapping Kevon Looney and Brandin Podziemski for Trayce Jackson-Davis and Chris Paul.
This switch, Kerr said, was made for a defensive boost — an area in which the Warriors have struggled the past three games. Golden State’s previous starting lineup — Looney, Podziemski, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jonathan Kuminga — had the second-worst rating of any five-man lineup in the league that has played at least 89 minutes together.
Part of the issue traces back to the absence of Draymond Green, who is suspended indefinitely. The rest of it, though, is just dedication and ability.
But what that lineup did have was an offensive spark the team desperately needed when Kerr made that initial change.
The additional changes made Saturday didn’t work.
“We’ve experimented a lot, some for forced reasons, some for us searching for an identity,” Curry said. “We haven’t found it collectively. It’s frustrating, for sure, 32 games in. Any team that is a seriously competitive contender, a good team, usually can answer that question. We have to get to that point before it’s too late.
The Warriors allowed the Mavericks to shoot 56% from the floor, Golden State’s second-highest opponent field goal percentage in a game this season. Luka Doncic scored 39 points on 14-of-29 shooting, including five 3-pointers.
This is Doncic’s 23rd time scoring at least 30 points this season — the most 30-point games through a player’s first 30 games of a season since Michael Jordan in 1986-87.
“We tried to mix it up on him,” Kerr said. “We single-covered him, we switched, we hit him. We tried a lot of different things, but he is a brilliant player and had a phenomenal game. … We weren’t communicating. We had some good stretches when we were getting stops … and then our communication broke down.”
Another reason for the starting lineup change was to put Paul on the floor with Curry, hoping to get Curry easier looks, again, especially with Green out. Curry finished the game with 25 points on 9-of-25 shooting, including six 3-pointers.
This comes after Curry’s 13-point scoring effort against the Heat. Paul also scored 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting to go along with six assists against Dallas.
All of this drove home the message that 32 games into the season, the Warriors aren’t yet confident in a set group of five players who can get the job done.
“It’s tough,” Paul said. “It’s a little bit new to me. But it’s all about winning. Whatever we’ve got to do to figure out how to win, that’s what I’ve been about my entire career. I know these guys are the same. … We’ve got a lot of selfless guys on our team. We’ve got a lot of guys with grit. Now we’ve got to figure out how to put it together for 48 minutes.”