If the Warriors’ head coach greeted every underwhelming first half with a fire-and-brimstone speech at intermission, his players would tune him out soon enough. Most nights in the halftime locker room, Kerr opts for a less dramatic approach: review a couple of noteworthy moments with his players, offer potential fixes and send them back out.
“We just talk about the mistakes,” center Zaza Pachulia said. “Actually, that might be one of the reasons we’re kind of cleaning them up.”
|Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) goes past Houston Rockets forward Sam Dekker (7) for a layup during the third quarter of an NBA game at the Toyota Center Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in Houston. ( Jon Shapley / Houston Chronicle )|
No time of the game has contributed more to Golden State’s NBA-best 37-6 record than the third quarter. It has outscored opponents by a combined 250 points in those 12 minutes this season, 68 more points than any other team. The only clubs outside of the Warriors that own an overall plus-minus of at least 100 in the third quarter are San Antonio and Charlotte.
During its 125-108 rout Friday in Houston, Golden State provided another case study in its third-quarter dominance. In the visiting locker room at Toyota Center, after the Rockets trimmed a 14-point deficit to five by halftime, Kerr stressed the importance of getting hands on shooters and ratcheting up the tempo.
The Warriors forced Houston into four turnovers in the first 2 minutes, 15 seconds of the third quarter. Midway through the period, in the span of 39 seconds, Golden State used an 8-0 run to seize a 20-point lead. In the quarter, the Rockets — a team that relies on its three-point exploits — went 0-for-10 from beyond the arc as they were outscored 37-22.
“It’s just something we put an emphasis on, coming out and getting off to a good start in the second half,” Draymond Green said. “Obviously, when we go on our run, we get rolling pretty well.”
Because they have the most stacked roster in the NBA, the Warriors consistently fight a natural inclination to lose focus. Sloppy passes, half-hearted defense and ill-advised shots often result in big early leads dwindling to single digits by halftime.
That break between the second and third quarters offers players a chance to reflect on what has gone awry. For a team that boasts four of the league’s biggest names, merely discussing first-half shortcomings is enough to trigger inspired play.
Trailing by 16 at halftime Dec. 22 in Brooklyn, Golden State used a 24-5 run at the start of the third quarter to claim the lead as it cruised to a 117-101 victory. On Jan. 8 in Sacramento, after digging a seven-point hole at intermission, the Warriors created necessary distance with a 22-3 third-quarter rally.
What made Friday’s second-half outburst especially memorable was the opponent. The Western Conference’s third-best team, the Rockets were seven weeks removed from a double-overtime win over Golden State in Oakland.
“It was a really good effort against a great team,” Kerr said.
And it hardly required an emotional halftime speech.