Warriors’ Coach Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry criticize officiating after Warriors’ loss to Nuggets with Nikola Jokić hitting 18 free throws

Steve Kerr was fed up on Christmas. So was Stephen Curry.

The Golden State Warriors suffered a 120-114 loss to the Denver Nuggets. They watched Nikola Jokić hit — and take — 18 free throws in the process. The Nuggets shot 32 free throws as a team compared to 23 for the Warriors. This did not sit well with Kerr, who used the occasion to unleash a torrent on the ills of NBA officiating.

The Warriors coach made sure to clarify that he wasn’t criticizing officials individually or even collectively — but the way that they’re officiating the game.

“I have no problem with the officials themselves,” Kerr told reporters postgame. “All across the league we have really good officials. I have a problem with the way we are legislating defense out of the game. That’s what we’re doing in the NBA. The way we’re teaching officials, we’re just enabling players to BS their way to the foul line.”

Steve Kerr was not happy with officiating on Christmas. (Ron Chenoy/Reuters)

Steve Kerr was not happy with officiating on Christmas. (Ron Chenoy/Reuters)

Kerr didn’t single out any specific foul calls. He instead castigated the entirety of the second half of the game.

“If I were a fan, I wouldn’t have wanted to watch the second half of that game,” Kerr continued. “It was disgusting. It was just baiting refs into calls. But the refs have to make those calls because that’s how they’re taught.

One call in particular appeared to rankle both Kerr and Curry in game. With the Nuggets leading 104-103 and 5:04 remaining, Curry was called for an offensive foul on Jokić. Curry ran off a ball screen, and Jokić switched on him beyond the 3-point line. Curry then pushed off of Jokić and stepped back for a 3-point attempt from the wing.

Jokić sold the contact. The 284-pound center stumbled back toward the basket after a slight shove from the 185-pound Curry, then raised his hands in the air in exasperation. An official blew the whistle for an offensive foul. Curry immediately protested, and Kerr shook his head with a grin on the sideline.

The contact was subtle. But the foul clear. Curry extended his arm fully to create space for a jump shot. And again, Jokić sold it.

“It does cater to the guys that can sell calls,” Curry said of officiating. “When there’s physicality, it’s tough ’cause it’s inconsistent at times on either side. Just, what’s the tone of the game.

“From game to game it changes. That’s the nature of basketball. But a night like tonight where you feel like there’s physicality on one side and ticky tack on the other and then they get into the bonus and it changes the complexity of the game.”

Curry then referenced Jokić specifically.

“Tonight, it slowed the whole game down,” Curry continued. “Obviously he made every free throw. It changed the momentum. Played into their hands.”

Things as a whole aren’t going right for Golden State. Now a season-plus removed from their 2022 championship, the Warriors are in 10th place in the West at 15-15. They’re continuing to deal with the disruption of Draymond Green, who’s suspended again for attacking an opposing player. Now, they feel that they’re not being officiated fairly. And Kerr’s calling for change in the way the game is called.

“The players are really smart in this league,” Kerr continued. “For over the last decade or so, they’ve gotten smarter and smarter. And we have enabled the players, and they are taking full advantage. It’s a parade to the free-throw line, and it was disgusting to watch.”

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