Warriors’ first loss spotlights issues with and without Stephen Curry

SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors thrive on chaos, so much so that it’s become a bit of a running joke between Damion Lee and Kevon Looney.

But, especially in stretches without the mess’s master, Stephen Curry, on the floor, it’s possible the Warriors have relied on their read-and-react fundamentals to a fault. Coach Steve Kerr switched things up this season, opting to install only a few offensive sets before expanding the playbook. The change has drawn only positive reviews from players, and there was no reason to complain, until the offense stalled in the second half of their first loss Thursday night against Memphis.

Without Curry, the Warriors were outgunned by 15 points. When he returned in the fourth quarter, he didn’t make another shot.

“It’s pretty simple math there,” Curry said afterward. “You end up losing.”

“I don’t think it’s a secret,” said Juan Toscano-Anderson. “I think everybody knows we lean on Steph to lead this team, but at the same time, we’ve got to look at those type of stats and we’ve got to fix that. There can’t be that much of a drop off when Steph comes off the court, especially if you want to be a championship team.”

There are two separate problems to address here: how to best complement Curry when he is drawing double- and triple-teams, and what do when there’s nobody guarding him at all…because he’s receiving some well-earned (and hard-to-come-by) rest.

In overtime, Curry admitted he was pressing and didn’t put enough trust in his teammates.

Kerr said Curry was working too hard for his shots.

“Last year I don’t think we had much of a choice,” Kerr said. “I think this year, we have more shooting and we have more playmaking. I think this team will learn to trust one another, and I’ll learn to get them into comfortable sets where they can execute.”

The second unit’s struggles weren’t contained to Thursday night. The Warriors dug themselves further into holes in Sacramento and Oklahoma City before storming back in the second half of each game.

Golden State is counting on third-year guard Jordan Poole to provide a scoring spark when Curry is resting, but after a strong preseason showing, Poole’s play has been a little too consistently inconsistent since the games started to count.

On Thursday, Poole turned the ball over six times, one fewer than in a home win over the Clippers the previous week.

The main issue is ball movement, something that occurs more naturally in the esoteric and freestyling ways of Curry and Draymond Green. It can take time for newcomers to adjust, and it’s hard to fill their unique roles when one or both of the duo isn’t on the court.

The Poole-led second unit also doesn’t feature a traditional point guard.

“We’ve got to understand that we’re a different team than a year ago. So we’ve got to learn how to play with this group,” Kerr said. “That includes me, I’ve got to do a better job of putting certain lineups in certain sets.”

The simplistic offense was installed with intention.

Golden State features anywhere from two to six newcomers, depending on how you define it. (Is Andre Iguodala, back in the old system, really a newcomer? What about Poole, who’s taken on an entirely new role? Then there are the rookies, who haven’t seen the court much, or at all.)

“I felt coming in that it was going to be a lot easier for everybody if we just really simplified our play calls, and that’s what we did,” Kerr said. “We have options out of each set and we’re adding options periodically so far. But just keeping things really simple for the players was important because we’ve got a lot of new guys (and) a lot of young guys.”

The change of pace generated fans among the players and success on the court, averaging 115.3 points through their first four contests, fifth in the NBA, while also producing the second-most assists in the league — a staple of a well-oiled Kerr machine.

Draymond Green was all on board.

“I think less is more right now, which is great,” Green said this week. “Steve and the coaching staff has done a great job of keeping it that way and not trying to ramp it up too fast and confusing the hell out of people.”

Now, though, Kerr admits, “I think we got into some random situations too often.”

The Warriors probably can’t lean on Curry anymore than they already are, not now, at least.

He played nearly 41 minutes Thursday, 3 more than any other player, and is averaging 36.4 per game through his first five. The Warriors would prefer to have the 33-year-old at about 34 minutes per game.

Is it a coincidence, then, that Curry hasn’t scored a fourth-quarter bucket in three games?

“It’s tough, when you lose you have to start nitpicking pretty quickly,” Curry said.

His late-game execution, though?

“I’m not worried about that.”

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