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Why are the Golden State Warriors struggling with their composure?

Golden State Warriors

LOS ANGELES — Usually, the Golden State Warriors have overcome any obstacle with their immense talent, depth and collaborative culture.

Yet, the Los Angeles Lakers hold a 2-1 series lead in their second-round playoff series against the Warriors for a problem that usually does not overwhelm championship-contending teams. Golden State has shown inconsistency with managing its composure.

“We got to be more poised,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

The Warriors enter Game 4 against the Lakers on Monday (10 pm ET, TNT) with concerns beyond limiting Lakers’ stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Warriors have also wrestled with problems that usually plague rebuilding teams.

In their 127-97 loss to the Lakers in Game 3, the Warriors struggled with showing discipline with their ball handling (19 turnovers) and defense (22 fouls). Those issues disrupted the Warriors in numerous ways.

Those turnovers enabled the Lakers to score 27 additional points. Those fouls allowed the Lakers to cash in at the free-throw line (28-for-37). Add it all up, and the Lakers posted 55 points because of the Warriors’ various lapses. That prompted Warriors guard Klay Thompson to concede afterwards, “we got punked.”

“There’s no point in dwelling on it, hanging our head and getting discouraged,” Thompson said. “We’ve been through more adversity than a 2-1 deficit. We know how to respond. We’ve done it in our existence in our 10 years here.”

Golden State Warriors’ championship pedigree

stephen curry
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors sure have. They won four NBA championships in six Finals appearances within the last eight years. Never did they take a direct route toward their title journey. The Warriors overcame a 2-1 series deficit in their first-round series against Memphis before winning the 2015 NBA title. The following season, the Warriors experienced both overcoming a 3-1 series deficit (vs Oklahoma City in Western Conference Finals) and squandering a 3-1 series lead (vs Cleveland in Finals). Last year, Golden State also faced a 2-1 deficit against the Boston Celtics before winning the NBA title.

Golden State accomplished its latest feat despite losing Game 1 at home and Game 3 on the road, the same outcome the Warriors have faced thus far against the Lakers. But unlike their time in the Finals last season, the Warriors’ struggles against the Lakers have involved self-inflicted wounds.

Just like in Game 3, the Golden State Warriors struggled in Game 1 against the Lakers with avoiding fouls (24) and rewarding them with extensive trips to the free-throw line (25-for-29). Both Warriors forwards Draymond Green (four fouls) and Kevon Looney (three) became limited defensively partly because they drew early whistles. That issue became even more egregious in Game 3.

With the Warriors holding a 40-37 lead with 5:22 left in the second quarter, Davis blocked Golden State guard Moses Moody on a layup attempt. After falling to the ground, Moses caused Davis to trip after grabbing on his right leg. Officials punished Moody with a flagrant foul 1, which resulted in Davis making both foul shots.

About two minutes later, Green tried to draw a charge on Davis as he drove into the lane. The Lakers challenged the call, resulting in the officials calling a block on Green for his third foul. Green then drew a technical on the bench during an ensuing timeout. Though Lakers guard Austin Reaves missed the technical free throw, Davis made both foul shots for the common foul for a 44-42 cushion with 3:32 left.

On the next play, Reaves swiped the ball from Looney and set up James for a trip to the foul line. After James canned both foul shots for a 46-42 lead with 3:09 left, Thompson then committed a traveling violation. On the next play, Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell then made a 3 for a 49-42 cushion with 2:41 remaining.  The Warriors then collected more technical fouls on JaMychal Green (arguing with officials with 16.2 seconds left) and Donte DiVincenzo (defensive three-second violation with 2.3 seconds remaining).

Through those sequences, the Golden State Warriors’ three-point lead morphed into an 11-point half-time deficit after committing six common fouls, five turnovers four technicals and one flagrant.

“It’s easier in the regular season to respond to a tough stretch, but everything is magnified in the playoffs,” Kerr said. “A bad stretch can turn into a longer stretch against a team like the Lakers that has been playing well and is very good defensively and obviously has some really great players.”

Green described those moments as “frustrating” both for the calls and the lack of explanation from officials on the difference between blocking and charging calls. How do the Warriors adjust to those whistles?

“I won’t adapt,” Green said. “I’ll keep playing the same defense that I’ve played for 11 years.”

That approach may have helped Green win an NBA Defensive Player of the Year award (2017) and land on four NBA All-Defensive First teams (2015-17, 2021). That approach may not help the Warriors with beating the Lakers in, though.

Nonetheless, the Golden State Warriors expressed optimism they will make tactical changes with showing more discipline when they contest shots and with controlling their emotions when they disagree with calls. Most importantly, the Warriors believe their championship equity will eventually reveal its value just as it has many times already through 28 different playoff series.

“Just remain confident in who we are, how we play and not get distracted by the stuff that you can’t control,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “As much as that’s frustrating, that’s the test that every team has to go through throughout a series. It’s blocking out all that type of stuff as much as you can.”

Mark Medina is an NBA Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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