SAN ANTONIO -- With the hottest team in the NBA lurking in the next round, it won’t take long Sunday to see if the Warriors are truly focused on Game 4 of their first-round series against San Antonio or if their minds have already moved on.
It is tempting to peek ahead at the Pelicans, who have not lost since April Fools’ Day and would the opponent in the next round.
Kevin Durant is quick to dismiss the possibility of a letdown, whether it’s because the Warriors have four chances to win one game or because streaking New Orleans has been so startlingly impressive.
“When you have a veteran group that has been through the long hauls of the playoffs, they kind of know what to expect, especially in closeout games,” Durant said after practice Saturday. “Everybody here has been through situations, being up 3-0, trying to close teams out. That experience is going to help us to focus in even more than we have already in this series.”
The Spurs, from the start, weren’t given much of a chance to win this series and they’ve since been affected by the death of Erin Popovich, wife of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, on Wednesday, one day ahead of Game 3.
At this stage, the Spurs might be excused if they’re somewhat disengaged and therefore not properly locked in on the task at hand.
“It’s hard to think about that, for me personally, right now because there’s other stuff bigger than basketball,” Spurs veteran Tony Parker said after losing Game 3.
Still, the Warriors have to finish the job before they can advance and face New Orleans, which won its last five regular-season games before finishing a four-game first-round sweep of the Trail Blazers on Saturday.
“Teams have pride, especially the Spurs,” Durant said.
“Closeout games are always the most difficult,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Every team in the playoffs is talented and they don’t want to see their season end, especially on the road, trying to close a team out is very difficult. But you just go. You keep doing what you’ve been doing and hope it works out.
“The biggest thing is you don’t mess around in this league.”
Kerr pointed out that no team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit, but several have recovered from a 3-1 hole. He doesn’t want it to come to that.
“Things happen,” he said. “We’ve experienced it. You get injuries. You get suspensions. You get weird stuff that happens. So you don’t want to give anybody life. You want to try close a series out when you can.”
The Warriors, players and coaches, are NBA fans. They watched underdog New Orleans dispatch Portland behind fantastic performances by Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday.
The Pelicans are up next, assuming the Warriors take the court with the diligence required to send the Spurs into the offseason.
The answer may be revealed as early as the first quarter.