SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Steve Kerr has spent much of his NBA career as both a player and coach living through the highs and lows of the NBA playoffs.
So in the final moments of Game 1’s stunning loss, he walked down the bench giving each one of his starters a hand, a fist-bump and kind of a half-hug.
“Steve knows how hard it is. He’s been through this his career, coaching career, and we stick together through the thick and thin, wins and losses,” said Klay Thompson. “We’re not going to splinter because we didn’t play like we wanted to. We’re just going to continue to play as hard as we can.”
Over the last few days, the Warriors have gone over the film of Game 1, plotted new strategies and reviewed the lineups and matchups in preparation of Sunday’s Game 2.
Kerr knows success in a 7-game series comes as a matter of adjustments each and every game. It’s the lesson he learned as a player with the Michael Jordan/Phil Jackson Chicago Bulls and with Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs and coaching the Warriors to their sixth NBA Finals in eight years.
“The value of experience, playoff experience, you really do understand the ups and downs of a playoff series,” he said at Saturday’s media availability. “It’s really important to turn the page one way or the other. You know, if you win and you get happy and you let your guard down, then you’re in trouble. And if you lose and you feel sorry for yourself, then you’re in trouble doing that, too.”
“It’s all about how you respond. These guys are the best athletes, best competitors on earth, and a huge part of competition at the highest stage is your emotional and mental approach. That has to be consistent.”
During the film sessions, the Warriors became aware that their Game 1 downfall began well before the fourth quarter.
“The game is always tied together offensively and defensively, but it even ties together from the first quarter to the fourth quarter,” Kerr said. “I thought we got away from ourselves in the first quarter in terms of game plan. We let a few guys walk into some shots and get comfortable. We let Jaylen Brown get a fast-break dunk with nobody touching him and kind of a five -on-four situation.”
“I think everything that happened in the first three quarters helped the process in the fourth for them to get going the way they did. But obviously they played extremely well, and the lineup that they put out there has had a lot of success throughout the playoffs, too. So kind of a combination of all that.”
So how do you fix that in Sunday’s Game 2?
“I think we have to play with more force on the defensive end,” Draymond Green said. “I think there were times in the game when they didn’t feel us, when you’re playing against a great team at this level at this point in the season, they have to feel you every possession.”
“There were times they didn’t, and then once you get into a rhythm, due to them not feeling our pressure, then it’s tough to stop. It’s easy to go back and look at the shots in the fourth quarter and be like, man, they started hitting, but the reality is some guys got comfortable early in that game, and once you get a guy comfortable, it’s hard to break that rhythm.”
“So we just have to make sure they feel us every possession.”
Veteran Andre Iguodala liked it to a high stakes chess game.
“They did a really good job with their adjustments, and they did a really good job with doing what the game says,” he said. “So much goes into a highlight play that we forget about the small nuances, gamesmanship, the — everything’s — Isiah Thomas said it on my podcast.”
“We play in tenths of seconds, not in seconds or minutes. The fine, minute things, even the way you close out, even the way you attack the defense, or your setup of personnel within a play and making sure that everyone’s a weapon , and they did a really good job of getting their guys in possession to be threats.”
“When the ball swings to them, you do what you do. The game says shoot, you shoot. The game says pass, you pass. The game says cut, you cut. They did a good job with that.”
And even if you are a 2-time league MVP, you lose a little sleep over the loss.
“How do you bounce back? You go home after the game,” Steph Curry said. “You’re probably thinking about every play that happened, when you could have done differently. A defensive rotation, shot would have gone in, a decision you made, whatever it is, those things kind of circle in your head and you probably lose a little bit of sleep that first night.”
“And then you come back the next day and realize you have an opportunity to protect your home court again on Sunday and just keep things moving. Get yourselves back into the series.”