Kerr pleased with how Warriors rose to challenge after blowouts

Kerr pleased with how Warriors rose to challenge after blowouts originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – About a month ago, following dismal showings in back-to-back losses to the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks, Warriors coach Steve Kerr made no attempt to hide his frustrations and emphatically declared that Golden State was missing a certain grit that winning teams possess.

Rather than sulking or getting angry over Kerr’s comments, the Warriors responded exactly the way the coach hoped they would.

In the 12 games since Kerr spoke out, the Dubs have been playing some of their most consistent basketball of the season. Scoring averages and overall shooting percentages are up, and although the wins haven’t come as much as everyone hoped, the product they’re putting on the court each night is much improved over what it had been earlier in the season.

“They responded well,” Kerr said following practice Thursday. “I feel good about the level of our competitiveness. Our guys are playing hard. We just have to tighten some things up and give ourselves a better chance to win.”

The Warriors (20-24) are 1.5 games out of the final NBA Play-In Tournament spot in the Western Conference as they head out for a five-game road trip beginning Friday in Memphis. The trip continues against the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks and Philadephia 76ers.

But the outlook is a lot more promising for Golden State than it was in late December when the season appeared to be on the verge of spinning out of control while Kerr’s frustrations built until they spilled over when he essentially called the players out for their efforts.

The coach has a different tune now, however, and is fairly pleased with how things have been working out lately.

“I think we’re trending in the right direction,” Kerr said. “I like the way guys are competing. I feel good about the direction we’re heading.”

Kerr felt even better Thursday after Klay Thompson returned to practice. Thompson did not play in the Warriors’ win over the 76ers on Tuesday because of an illness, but is feeling better and has been cleared to play on the upcoming road trip.

Friday’s game in Memphis will be Golden State’s second time in just over two weeks facing the Grizzlies. Draymond Green made his return from an indefinite NBA suspension against Memphis during the first game on Jan. 15 which ended with the Warriors losing 116-107 despite the Grizzlies being without Ja Morant, Desmond Bane or Steven Adams.

None of the three are expected to play this time, so the opportunity for Golden State to keep up the good feelings is there.

Not surprisingly, the Warriors’ turnaround came not long after Green came back after sitting out 12 games of the suspension and another four working himself back into playing shape.

Green, in many, many ways has been the glue that’s helped prevent Golden State’s ship from sinking.

The Warriors’ offense has run much more smoothly and efficiently with him on the court. Golden State has had 30 or more assists in their last three games, the first time they’ve achieved that all season. Green has 35 assists in the five games he’s been back, including consecutive games with 11 dimes.

“He’s an incredible player, the energy he brings, the brain power, the communication. All of it makes him a unique and impactful winner,” Kerr said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s come back looking so good.”

Rookie Brandin Podziemski, who recently was selected to play in the Rising Stars Game during All-Star weekend, said the Warriors heard Kerr’s criticisms and responded nicely.

“During that time obviously we didn’t have Dray. He’s added that dimension back to our lineup,” Podziemski said, “When that happened I think each of us kind of took it a little bit personally, like what we could do individually to step it up and be tougher as a collective unit and not just let teams come in here and blow us out.

“But since that and since Draymond’s been back, every game we’ve been in. I think we’re on an upward trend. We have a great opportunity to go on the road and get some wins.”

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