Game 3 win in Utah a reminder for Warriors of what it will take going forward

Game 3 win in Utah a reminder for Warriors of what it will take going forward

This is the game the Golden State Warriors needed to experience, apparently – the one they needed to endure to remind themselves that the job of a champion is to know the difference been how much and how, and the difference between how and what.

“How much” is what you worry about when you’re trying to dominate a team and break its will (see Games 2 and 4 of the Portland series). “How” is how well you adhere to your core philosophy (see Portland 1 and Utah 1 and 2). And “what” is what happens when the first two don’t work and you have to figure out how to win anyway (see Portland 3 and Utah 3).

And looking nothing like they have through the postseason to date, they still beat the Jazz in Game Almost The Last of this Western Conference semifinal, 102-91.

And trust us, they’ll secretly thank the Jazz for this game, and thank themselves for the reminder that elegance makes champions a lot less frequently than toughness of purpose.

And before we go any deeper with this, Kevin Durant. Simply Kevin Durant.

“You can search for answers,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said helplessly after the game. “But sometimes the answers are right in front of your bench.”

True, the Warriors know all these ball lessons because they have lived them for four consecutive springs, but it is a lesson even the best teams have to relearn now and then. The playoffs are different. They are a pyramid of difficult, and the further one advances, the harder it gets because the physics demand it.

So Saturday came, and Saturday was a huge kick in the nethers for those who have staked their fandom on a championship that becomes a coronation because the Warriors are supposed to be so many parsecs beyond every other team in the game.

But they won. They won despite horrible shooting from Stephen Curry (6-20/3-11) and Klay Thompson (1-9/0-4). They won despite a extended Draymond Green snit at official Bennie Adams that caused tongues to wag about his reputation (again). They won despite playing Utah’s game, Utah’s way.

In fairness, they also won because of some things – a high-defense, low turnover performance that prevented their possessions not to crush them, Durant’s absolute signature game as a Warrior (38/13/a thing with Rudy Gobert near game’s end), and because after losing the early initiative and chunking a substandard second quarter, dominated the fourth.

And therein is the real lesson here. They hadn’t had that game yet – not even Game 3 of the Portland series. And they will have more, even if they don’t end up looking exactly like this one.

Houston doesn’t win by holding the opponent to 100. San Antonio does, but they are more flexible with pace than Utah. Boston has the magic of Isaiah Thomas, but the burden of having to play a lot of games. And Cleveland has the Titan.

But Golden State has presented itself all along as a team whose secret skill is its defense, and while that showed itself again, this was a win that could be cheerfully claimed by Durant’s salvational performance and a team-wide level of stubborn, even crusty indomitability.

Durant will be Durant, but the Warriors need that second attribute to not only stamp this series as afterthought but to steel themselves for the next time this kind of game happens. They can take a lot of solace from knowing they still have that in the tool belt because they'll need it again.

Some time early in the next round, we’re betting.

Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns


Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns

The Warriors have lost three of their last four games, their roster is in shambles and, still, they look like pure gold in contrast to the Suns team they’re facing Saturday night in Phoenix.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff scheduled for 7:05.

Reeling from the absences of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors (52-17) showed plenty of the scrap in losing to the Kings on Friday in Oakland but couldn’t get much offense from their veterans.

The Suns (19-51) are having the worst season since 1968-69, their inaugural season. They’ve lost seven in a row, 16 of their last 17 and 21 of their last 23.


Warriors by 3


Quinn Cook vs. Elfrid Payton: Payton bolted to a 16-point first quarter and scored 29 the last time he faced the Warriors. Quinn is coming off a career-high 25-point game. With teams relying on diminished rosters, whichever of the two young PGs can set a tone gives his team an advantage.


Warriors: G Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib soreness), G Pat McCaw (L wrist fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Suns: G Devin Booker (R hand sprain) and F Alan Williams (R meniscus tear) are listed as questionable. G Brandon Knight (L ACL tear) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3.

Suns: 1-9.


Tony Brothers (crew chief), Jacyn Goble, James Williams


The Warriors won the first of four meetings this season, 129-83 on Feb. 12 at Oracle Arena. They swept all four games last season and are 12-1 against the Suns in the Steve Kerr era.


MOTIVATED VETS: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Nick Young, expected to generate offense, combined to shoot 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) in a five-point loss Friday. They must be better; they can’t be much worse. Phoenix leads the NBA in points allowed.

THE BIG MEN: JaVale McGee started nine straight games at center, but Pachulia started the last two. The Suns are long up front, so McGee could be in line for a start or more minutes. In addition, Damian Jones, the team’s other 7-footer, also could get playing time.

STREAKING WITH THREES: The Suns own the longest active streak of games with at least one 3-point make (1,128). The Warriors are No. 2 (1,121). Both streaks are endangered. Curry, Thompson and Durant are out for the Warriors. Booker will either sit out or play with a splint on his shooting hand.

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

OAKLAND -- If Quinn Cook plays at anything close to the level he performed Friday night against the Kings, the Warriors should avoid any catastrophic stumbling in the absence of their top three scorers.

They stumbled plenty in a 98-93 loss to Sacramento, but not because of Cook. The two-way player who has spent most of the season with G-League Santa Cruz scored a team-high 25 points, shot 10-of-13 from the field and played respectable defense.

He did more than could have been reasonably expected.

“I felt like this was coming,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was fantastic. He really lit it up and gave us a huge boost.”

The Warriors ran into problems elsewhere, shared among the usually reliable veterans who need to be particularly reliable in the absence of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Usual starters Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia combined to shoot 6-of-20.

Usual reserves Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and Nick Young shot a collective 13-of-39.

In the second half, when Warriors mustered only 34 points -- a season-low for any half -- the six vets combined to take 32 shots and missed 24.

Those are atrocious numbers and they explain what went wrong in a game that was there for the taking.

They’re also an anomaly.

“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Green said. “But we got some good shots. We got ‘Dre on a couple of pull-ups in the lane, I got a couple open shots, Nick got a couple open shots, Zaza got a couple open ones. D-West had one pop in and out. (Kevon Looney) had two pop in and out.

“We just got cold. But hopefully those shots will fall tomorrow.”

West, returning after missing four games with a cyst on his right arm, was 1-of-6 from the field. He came into this game as a 60.8-percent shooter this season.

Igoudala was 4-of-10; he shot 70 percent over the previous 10 games. Young was 5-of-15, well below his 44-percent shooting this season. Livingston’s 3-of-8 shooting is uncharacteristic of someone shooting at least 50 percent for four years running.

If history is any indication, Green (5-of-14) and Pachulia (1-of-6) are not going continue to miss at the rate they did in this game, the first this season in which the Warriors were without all three of their top scorers.

If history is any indication, the Warriors can’t be counted on to score 34 points on 27.3-percent shooting in the second half of a game.

“I loved how our guys battled,” Kerr said. “They really competed well and made some big plays. We just couldn’t get the ball to go down quite enough in the second half.”

That’s going to change, perhaps as soon as Saturday night in Phoenix, were the Suns are playing to lose.

So if Cook plays steady basketball, the Warriors will fall off and their fans won’t become a basket case while waiting for the three shooters. The Warriors surely believe that.

“He really showed up. I’ve been waiting on that Quinn,” Green said. “We needed that. It was great for him to come out and play like that. And most importantly, his shots were falling. Since he’s been playing (more often) he’s been playing well, but his shots weren’t really falling. But tonight, they fell for him.”

They won’t always fall at a rate of 77 percent. They won’t have to once his teammates drop in a few more of their own shots.