Warriors

Attack-mode Curry makes statement vs Blazers: 'Should've had 45 or 50'

Attack-mode Curry makes statement vs Blazers: 'Should've had 45 or 50'

OAKLAND -- The sequence of the night, without question, belonged to Kevin Durant, who in eight exquisite seconds managed to showcase his two-way impact.

The loudest statement made by the Warriors in a 125-117 win over Portland, however, was that conveyed by Stephen Curry, who for most of his 36 minutes on the floor looked like the guy with which the NBA has become familiar.

The guy who won back-to-back MVP awards.

Curry attacked early, with a comprehensively strong first quarter (9 points, four rebounds, four assists), and then came back in the second half to do most of the offensive heavy lifting that kept the plucky Trail Blazers at bay.

He totaled 35 points on 12-of-25 shooting, including 5-of-13 beyond the arc, but also added seven rebounds and five assists. Curry was not perfect (five turnovers, utterly shocking back-to-back misses at the free throw line), but he was forceful and productive.

When Curry brings that combination -- along with the bounty delivered by Durant -- the Warriors are nearly impossible to beat.

“Tonight, he was amazing,” Durant said. “He should’ve had 45 or 50; he missed some easy ones. But for the most part, 25 looks, I’m living with it. Five turnovers? That shows that he’s being aggressive. In order for us to get where we need to go, we need him to do that. And everybody is going to follow suit. He’s going to open it up for everybody.”

The 25 shots are the second most this season for Curry. Such assertiveness is something his teammates seem to have been urging of him.

“At some points in the game,” Draymond Green said, “I was like, ‘Yo, shoot that.’ There’s not like texts or side conversations where it’s like, ‘Shoot the ball.’ He knows to shoot. Everybody makes a big deal of him not taking a lot of shots in certain games or here and there. He’s a smart player. He plays within the flow of the game. Tonight he took 25 shots. I don’t think it was because someone went up to him and said, ‘Hey Steph, shoot the ball tonight.’ “

The Warriors didn’t create much separation until the third quarter, when an 11-0 run turned a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead at 81-74 on a dazzling reverse layup by Curry with 8:18 left in the quarter. He scored 12 points in the quarter.

For perspective, Portland’s starting lineup scored 11 points in the quarter. So, yes, Curry was looking for his shot while also being mindful of his teammates.

“I’m not going to fall into temptation of abandoning what makes us successful just to say I shot more,” Curry said. “I have to be aggressive and not turn down shots that I usually take and make. The way we’ve been flowing and especially down the stretch, you have to be able to rise up for those kinds of moments. So it’s a little bit of both.”

Seeing Curry in attack mode is, to be sure, a welcome sight for the Warriors and their fans, some of which are still trying to shake Curry’s languid performance in the marquee game at Cleveland on Christmas Day.

“I’m not going to overreact because he’s not getting 40 every night,” said Durant, who scored 30 points. “I just told him to be aggressive. Don’t even worry about anything else. If you’ve got a big guy on you, go to work. That’s what we want you to do, especially me. It’s fun when he gets everybody else going, when he’s aggressive.”

Which brings us to Durant and his sequence, in which his own aggression provided more fun for the sellout crowd than anything Curry or anyone else did.

The Blazers were seeking the go-ahead basket late in the first quarter, and CJ McCollum went up for a layup. Durant blocked it. The rebound went to power forward Noah Vonleh, who took it right back up, only to be rejected by Durant.

Two blocks in three seconds, with the ball going to Andre Iguodala and Durant sprinting ahead on the right wing. Iguodala took four dribbles and zipped a pass to Durant just beyond the 3-point stripe. Bucket.

“It just ignites the crowd and ignites our offense and sends a message to the other team,” Curry said of Durant. “It just brings another level of energy.”

There was no shortage of energy. Not from Durant and certainly not from Curry. It was, in the end, too much for the Blazers.

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

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What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

It’s much too early to get legitimately nervous, much less start tumbling into a panic.

The Warriors are going to be fine.

Eventually.

They most certainly are not yet what they will become in about two weeks, when they settle in for a four-game homestand that begins Nov. 6. That’s 10 games into the season, and it’s conceivable the Warriors might be 6-4.

After a 111-101 loss to the ever-tenacious Grizzlies on Saturday in Memphis, the Warriors are 1-2 and, by their lofty standard, looking about as lost as a stray cat in a hurricane.

“We’re obviously not ready. We knew that,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re not ready to put together a full effort. And I’m not doing a great job of putting together combinations, finding the right motivation to get guys going, to get some joy and laughter in here.

“It’s just one of those rough patches. And, hopefully, we can climb our way out of it. I’m sure we will. It may take some time.”

It will take some time, and of that there is plenty.

Do not blame this lull entirely on China, not when there is so much more. The Warriors are coming off their third consecutive prolonged season, this one followed by the training camp disruption caused by spending eight days in Oakland, eight days in China, followed by eight days in Oakland leading up to opening night.

It’s easy to see the timing is off on an offense that relies on precision. The spacing is off on an offense that requires room to operate. The energy is lacking on a defense that lapses into ordinary without its bedrock intensity. Both body and spirit appear less than peak.

“We’ve been playing hard,” Kevin Durant told reporters at FedEx Forum, “but I think we’ve got to take it up a level.

“We’ll be fine. It’s 79 more games left. I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

Understand, a team that won an NBA-best 67 games last season and posted a league-record 16-1 postseason doesn’t lose it because opponents load up. When the Warriors are on their game, opponents don’t matter.

For now, though, there is an individual listlessness that results in collective slumber. Stephen Curry has gambled himself in foul trouble in both losses and was booted in Memphis. Andre Iguodala missed an entire game and Draymond Green missed the fourth quarter of the first loss, a game in which the Warriors gave up a 13-point lead over the final 12 minutes.

And Durant’s 4.6 blocks per game is impressive. It also happens to be offset by his 6.3 turnovers per game.

“That’s on me,” he said. “I’m turning the ball over at a high rate right now. I’m really pissed at myself about it. I’ve just got to hold on to the ball. Just make the correct pass. I think I’m just rushing. I just need to calm down, settle down, and that would ignite the whole team. But if I turn the ball over, that’s contagious.”

The Rockets turned 17 Warriors giveaways into 21 points. The Pelicans turned 14 into 20. The Grizzlies turned 17 into 24.

Asked what has to change, Klay Thompson went to exactly the right place, saying “probably our defensive intensity from the jump.”

That’s where it starts, at least on the court. Meanwhile, there is more video work, more group texts about details and the need for more time for their bodies and minds to become one.

“We’ll be better,” Durant said. “We’re still finding a groove with each other. We’re still getting back into shape as far as playing our game, the flow, just the reads off not calling plays. We’ve got to get used to that again.”

Thompson is, however, displaying a modicum of impatience.

“We’ll come out Monday and we’ll play a great game,” he said. “I guarantee it.”

He’s probably right. The Warriors will be playing at Dallas, against a Mavericks team that is built to be devoured by the powerful.

That might be a quick fix. But it won’t be the final fix. That is weeks away.

Gameday: Curry out for payback against Conley, new-look Grizzlies

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Gameday: Curry out for payback against Conley, new-look Grizzlies

When the Warriors set foot in FedEx Forum on Saturday, they’ll find a very different atmosphere as well as a barely recognizable team of Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grindhouse is not the same. Zach Randolph and Vince Carter have left the building. So, too, has the “Grindfather” himself, Tony Allen.

So in their only trip to Memphis this season, the Warriors will focus mostly on point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol, the remaining core members of the team that reached the playoffs in each of the last seven seasons.

The Warriors (1-1) will be playing for the second night in a row, while the Grizzlies (1-0) have not played since their season opener Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.

BETTING LINE:
Warriors by 8.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Stephen Curry vs. Mike Conley: Curry has a long memory, and he will remember not only that the Warriors last season lost twice to the Grizzlies but also that Conley’s 27 points and clutch play offset Curry’s 40 points and led Memphis to an overtime win in Oakland. It won’t matter to Curry that the Warriors posted double-digit wins over the Grizzlies in the last two meetings last season. He may want to take over.

INJURY LIST:
Warriors: F Omri Casspi (L ankle sprain) has been ruled out.

Grizzlies: F JaMychal Green (L ankle sprain), G Ben McLemore (R foot surgery) and G/F Wayne Selden Jr. (R quad injury) are listed as out.

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:
The Warriors have won five of the last seven in Memphis and 10 of the last 13 meetings overall.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
BREEZE OR WHEEZE: Coach Steve Kerr has expressed some concern about the team’s conditioning level. On the second night of their first back-to-back set -- with the Warriors arriving at the hotel at 2:30 a.m. -- it could provide a glimpse of their progress. Kerr said he would consider resting one or two players. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, both coming off injuries, would seem logical candidates.

GEORGIA VS. SPAIN: The Republic of Georgia’s Zaza Pachulia and Spain’s Marc Gasol know each other well, having spent years battling internationally and in the NBA. There will be no surprises, but Pachulia will have to avoid foul trouble to remain a part of his team’s defensive rotation against one of the league’s best big men.

HOT KLAY: Klay Thompson is off to a torrid start, shooting 11-of-18 from beyond the arc through the first two games. And now he won’t have to worry about Allen, who relished in opportunities to defend the Warriors All-Star. Memphis replaced Allen with Andrew Harrison, who is not in the Grindfather’s class as a defender.