In a 48-minute game in which referees called 55 personal fouls, one whistle overshadowed the rest.
A controversial second quarter technical against Draymond Green led to the mistaken ejection of the Golden State Warriors forward, who was tossed from a 119-104 loss to the New York Knicks after Green used profanity that was deemed to be directed at a member of the officiating crew.
Green’s ejection robbed the Warriors of one of their most important players, but as head coach Steve Kerr noted postgame, Golden State also robbed itself of important opportunities to get key stops against the Knicks.
The Warriors couldn’t stop fouling, sending the Knicks to the free throw line for 41 attempts in an ugly game marred by the constant starts and stops.
“Mindless reaching. Mindless decision making defensively,” Kerr said when describing his team’s foul troubles. “We have a very long and athletic team and the opportunity to be very good defensively and I’ve been touting our defense, especially since Draymond came back, but play after play we have guards getting into the paint and instead of having to shoot a floater over Draymond Green or James Wiseman, we are just hacking guys from behind across the wrist trying to get a steal or something.”
The Warriors’ play was a source of widespread postgame frustration, but no player addressed the issue as bluntly as Kerr.
“We are just totally undisciplined defensively,” he added.
The Knicks actually committed more fouls (29-26) than the Warriors in Thursday’s game at the Chase Center, but Golden State routinely crushed its comeback chances with unnecessary and unwise efforts to strip offensive players in the act of shooting.
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry indicated the team allowed officials to play an outsized role in the flow of Thursday’s game because Golden State was so lackadaisical with fouls in the first quarter.
“I think we started off in the first quarter setting the tone of fouling and then that changed the whole game in terms of how the refs (referees) were calling it on both sides to be honest,” Curry said. “But we mucked the game up by just letting them go to the free throw line over and over again, setting up the defense.”
Green’s second half absence clearly hurt the Warriors, but the ejection was out of the team’s control. Kerr said postgame crew chief Ben Taylor told him at halftime that second-year referee John Butler didn’t realize Green was yelling at rookie center James Wiseman when he whistled for his second technical foul.
Without their best defender on the floor, the Warriors spent too many possessions reaching and grabbing, costing themselves an opportunity to find a rhythm on offense or defense and leaving Kerr at a loss.
“We are grabbing people by the waist coming off screens, we are fouling,” Kerr said. “It has nothing to do with the refs. It has to do with us. We practice defensive fundamentals every day and it’s not enough. I’ve got to think of some way to get across to these guys how we are going to defend.”
The lack of flow in Thursday’s game made the foul trouble a prominent storyline for both teams, but Kerr’s postgame reaction appeared to be the result of frustration from seeing his team make the same mistakes on a consistent basis. Golden State ranks 29th out of 30 NBA teams in average fouls per game with 23.7 and over the last three games, the Warriors have averaged 25 fouls per game, which is the highest of any team.
“We all know that the fouling put us in a tough spot,” Andrew Wiggins said. “It is fixable. We have to play with more focus and discipline.”
The starts and stops frustrated players on both teams, but Kerr proposed an unusual solution to fixing the Warriors’ foul troubles that might rid Golden State of some of the rhythm it is attempting to find. The head coach said he may need to “forget the rotations” and immediately sub out a player who commits a mindless foul, given that nothing the coaching staff is focused on at practice appears to be translating into games.
“That’s the only thing I can think of because we practice defense without fouling every day and it’s not happening,” Kerr said. “We have to somehow find a way.”
Contributed by local news sources