Updated 5:08 pm, Sunday, November 12, 2017
Photo: Jack Dempsey, Associated Press
Beneath Steve Kerr’s joyful disposition is a competitiveness perhaps rivaled only on the Warriors by Draymond Green. Watching from the bench as his team piles up turnovers and struggles to put away inferior opponents, the head coach tries hard not to unleash on his players.
Kerr recognizes that, if he greeted every underwhelming first half with a fire-and-brimstone speech at intermission, the Warriors would begin to tune him out. Instead, he tends to opt for a less dramatic approach: Review a couple of mistakes on video, open the floor to players for a brief discussion and send them back on the floor to make necessary corrections.
It is a routine that has helped fuel plenty of game-changing third quarters. Thirteen games into the season, Golden State has outscored opponents by a combined 70 points in those 12 minutes. Only Boston, with a plus-minus rating of plus-77 in the quarter, has been better.
“We get more focused in the third quarters,” Kerr said. “We have been turning the ball over quite a bit in the first half. But in the third quarter, we tend to tighten it up and take care of the ball.”
The Warriors have a knack for bringing out the best in opponents — for the first half, at least. Against a club as loaded as Golden State, inspiration can take a team only so far. There comes a point in most games, typically in the third quarter, when the Warriors’ collective powers — the switch-heavy defense, the cast of All-Stars, the deep bench, the rapid tempo, the parade of passes — take their toll.
Golden State’s 135-114 rout of Philadelphia on Saturday offered a case study. Down five with less than a minute left in the second quarter, the Warriors closed the half on a 6-0 spurt to take a 65-64 lead. At halftime, after showing his team video of several of Golden State’s 13 first-half turnovers, Kerr stressed the importance of making more accurate passes and staying focused defensively.
A couple of players shared their thoughts, echoing Kerr’s directives with more insight into what they could have done better. The Warriors then uncorked a 20-4 run and outscored the 76ers 36-21 in the third quarter. During those 12 minutes, Golden State drained six three-pointers, committed only two turnovers and held the 76ers to 7-for-21 shooting from the field.
“We just can’t relax against them,” said Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, who played Golden State for the first time Saturday despite the fact he was the No. 3 overall pick of the 2014 draft. “One mistake and the game is basically gone.”
Added Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown: “It was a tie game or two-point game in the third, then things got out of hand. That’s why they’re the gatekeepers of our league. They’re the NBA champs. We’ll walk away learning things from this game.”
A slew of teams, seemingly still in a daze over the blitz the Warriors just dealt them, have spent postgame news conferences in recent years sharing similar sentiments. Golden State was easily the NBA’s best third-quarter team last season, outscoring opponents by a combined 477 points. The Spurs were second at plus-249.
The third-quarter blueprint has been key for the Warriors in putting a bumpy start to the season behind them. They have outscored teams by a combined 54 points in the third quarter during their current six-game win streak.
“It’s not like there’s any big secret or anything,” Golden State forward Omri Casspi said. “We just talk about what we need to fix at halftime. All teams are coming to give their best against us, and this is a game they mark on the calendar. If we don’t turn the ball over, it’s really hard to play against us.”
Connor Letourneau is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Con_Chron
Who: Orlando (8-5)
at Warriors (10-3)
When: 7:30 p.m.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry is questionable for Monday night’s game against Orlando with a right thigh contusion, Golden State announced Sunday.
Curry bruised his thigh coming off a screen early in Saturday’s 135-114 rout of Philadelphia. After heading to the locker room briefly in the second quarter, he returned and finished with 22 points and nine assists in 30 minutes.
— Connor Letourneau