Warriors’ NBA playoff fate to be determined by these factors

SAN FRANCISCO – Conventional wisdom implies the postseason fate of the Warriors will be dictated by Stephen Curry’s left foot. If it’s sound, and he’s cooking, they could reach the top. If it limits him, and he’s off his game, they could get bounced in the first round.

The reality of these Warriors, and whether they rise or fall, is much more complicated.

Though Curry’s availability and effectiveness will have tremendous impact in the first-round series against the Nuggets – he’s expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 on Saturday – the foremost factor can be distilled to a single question:

Can these Warriors, lacking a custom-built roster to win it all, fix the little things they had such a difficult time repairing over the second half of the season?

The list of such items, which separate champions from the crowd, is longer for the Warriors than it is for the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks or the defending Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns. It’s longer than that of the Miami Heat or the Memphis Grizzlies or even the Boston Celtics. It’s probably longer than that of the defense-deficient Brooklyn Nets.

And it’s nothing at all like the Golden State teams that rolled to five consecutive NBA Finals, winning three championships.

“Our past teams had proven it many times over,” coach Steve Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Those teams knew exactly what they were doing, knew they were going to be alright.

“This team, we need to figure out what we’re doing as we go.”

These Warriors are a collection of nonsense parts surrounding an aging core of established stars – Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson – each of which missed a considerable portion of the season.

That mix, and the problems laid out in plain sight, explain much of what transpired during such an uneven season.

“If you could draw it up, you’d find yourself during the regular season,” Kerr said. “The way the first half of the season went, I thought, ‘OK, we’re going to be alright.’ But then he s—t kind of hit the fan. So, the last couple months we were pretty scattered.”

Scattered is a delicate way of saying the Warriors, who were 29-7 on Jan. 4, went 24-22 over their final 46 games largely because there were too many games in which they treated the phrase “attention to detail” as if it were Sanskrit.

They repeatedly missed defensive assignments and rotations and often were sloppy with closeouts. They had a destructive tendency to overhelp off corner 3-point shooters. They suffered spasms of poor shot selection and missed free throws. They frequently neglected such basic fundamentals as blocking out and keeping their hands up on defense.

To make matters worse, the Warriors often committed the kind of silly live-ball turnovers that undermined their effort and nourished the confidence of inferior opponents.

“We could get young sometimes, with the way we throw the ball around,” said Iguodala, the veteran gatekeeper.

Every time the Warriors do that in the playoffs it will put them a step closer to the golf course or the exotic early-May vacation.

“It’s going to be important to be on top of the details and following through with the game plan,” Andrew Wiggins said. “Staying very disciplined, very detailed. One little mistake, whether it’s letting somebody go back door or giving up an open shot, anything can change a game or a series. Someone might be having a bad series, and if you give him that one open shot, it could get him going.”

That’s the concept, to take care of the little things, and it’s one the Warriors grasped in the first half of the season before losing their grip, partly due to injuries.

They are now, with the return of Curry, about as healthy as they have been all season. Game 1 will be the first time in 34 months that he can share the court with Green, Iguodala and Thompson. They will have to lead the way.

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The others, beginning with Kevon Looney and Jordan Poole and Wiggins, will have to fall in line and bring the rest of the rotation along with them.

“It’s probably going to take us getting tested in this series to really grow and become the team we can be,” Kerr said. “We’re not that team yet. We know that. We’re good enough to win this series. I believe we will. I believe in our guys, and I love our team.

“But we have to prove it.”

Few things are harder than an NBA team proving, in the postseason, that it’s no longer the team it was for most of the regular season. That it can excel in areas so difficult a few weeks earlier. That it can tighten up the loose strings and create a splendid bow.

These Warriors are capable. But, yes, they have to provide it.

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