Warriors

Panic at your own peril over Warriors' opening-night loss to Rockets

Panic at your own peril over Warriors' opening-night loss to Rockets

Well, there’s a nice stomp on the ring finger.

The Golden State Warriors, Team Invulnerable, are already last in the Western Conference after a 122-121 loss to the Houston Rockets, and with only 98 percent of the season left . . .

Oh, who’s kidding whom? It’s an opening night, and opening nights are often liars.

But it was a more comforting lie for the Rockets, who spent most of the night chasing Warriors leads and didn’t actually catch one until P.J. Tucker’s two free throws with 44 seconds to play survived a post-buzzer jumper by Kevin Durant. The Rockets walked off the court when referee Scott Foster properly waved off the Durant basket, and new Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta jumped about the floor like he’d just finished a fire ant-encrusted brisket.

And for a team that still has much to iron out with Chris Paul and James Harden, those free throws gave the Rockets a sense that they can run with the king – and therefore would make a fine prince regent.

True, it would be better to be the king, but nobody will take this game and declare the Warriors no longer prohibitive favorites. True, they needed an effervescent shooting night from new item on the menu Nick Young to just be close as it turned out, but one game is exactly one game and no more.

In other words, panic at your own peril.

Golden State’s defense was spotty throughout (Draymond Green got a half a coach’s per diem for his work with rookie Jordan Bell alone), and the rotations in particular were often sluggish by their standards. Giving up 34 points in the fourth quarter in a non-garbage-time situation will be a topic of discussion Wednesday, to be sure.

They were also cavalier with possessions (Kevin Durant had eight of the team’s 17 turnovers alone), and in many respects looked first-game disjointed.

Steve Kerr worked hard not to blame the ring ceremony and not because of the ravages of the China trip, or the lack of normal rest between seasons or any of the rest of it. But it is the price to be paid by the endlessly desirable – if there is money to be squeezed from this particular ATM, it will be, and those are just the conditions that prevail.

Besides, if the team’s conditioning is an issue, it should not be one by November 1. And if it is, then there are much larger concerns than getting winded. The first of those might be Green’s sore left knee, which will be examined on Wednesday but is not expected to reveal anything significant.

Then again, the Rockets did not look any sharper or different, and they skipped getting rings or Asia. They remained very Harden-centric, and Paul’s debut was hampered by a very balky left knee that reduced him in most practical ways to an adjunct to the typical Harden show.

But they were also a tough out, as they normally are. Head coach Mike D’Antoni said two days ago that his team wouldn’t stop the Warriors and that the Warriors wouldn’t stop him, and he was right both times. We said opening nights are liars, but that doesn’t mean people talking about opening nights necessarily are.

If you want the shiny bauble in the fish-shaped Jell-O mold, it is that the Warriors were light years worse in their last opener against San Antonio, when they lost, 129-100, and deserved to be beaten by more.

In addition, nothing they did or didn’t do is a difficult repair, and they don’t want to do anything at all to Young, who was easily the showiest of show-stoppers on a night that peaked very early and ended with a buzzer-beating.

One which Kerr said they richly deserved. So there’s that – with only 81 more games to fix the Western Conference’s worst team for one night.

Golden State, do we have a problem? Another loss to Rockets awakens Warriors

Golden State, do we have a problem? Another loss to Rockets awakens Warriors

In saying goodbye to their impressive road win streak and a chance to make franchise history, the Warriors also experienced an awakening that should linger somewhere in their minds for months to come.

The new and improved Houston Rockets are a serious threat to the defending champs having a parade in downtown Oakland for the second consecutive June.

That threat likely can’t be realized, however, unless the Warriors put the worst of themselves on full display, as they did Saturday night at Toyota Center in a 116-108 loss to the Rockets.

“In the first quarter, every time we made our push, we gave up easy baskets,” Draymond Green told reporters in Houston. “In the second quarter, we put them on the line the entire quarter, which slowed down our pace and let them control the tempo of the game. In the third quarter, we fought back to kind of get there but not get over the hump. And then we finally did, but we just didn’t have the right amount of focus it takes to win a game like that.”

Indeed, the Warriors were guilty of questionable shot selection at various points. They were largely allergic to rebounding, taking a 46-33 drubbing in that category. And far too often they were impatient and therefore utterly careless with their passing, resulting in 19 turnovers that led directly to 23 Houston points.

“It seemed like we kept making one silly play after another,” coach Steve Kerr said.

Sounds familiar, eh? The Warriors know their greatest weaknesses and hear about them ad nauseam from the coaching staff, yet still struggle to consistently address them.

Stephen Curry, who committed a team-worst six turnovers, lamented two possessions in particular. On one, he missed Kevin Durant “butt-naked at the top of the key,” and on another he had Durant open for a dunk but flipped it to Klay Thompson for a 3-pointer that missed.

“I made two of the worst plays of the season on those two possessions,” Curry conceded. “It’s kind of one of those nights when I personally didn’t have the right vision on the floor I’ve got to take responsibility for that.”

This is why the Warriors deserved to lose this game, which gave the Rockets a 2-1 victory in the season series and the homecourt tiebreaker should the two teams finish with identical records.

The Warriors took a 122-121 loss to Houston at Oracle Arena on opening night, then went to Houston on Jan. 4 and claimed a 124-114 victory.

This is enough to prove the Rockets are capable of beating the Warriors. We also note that in the other loss, Warriors’ turnovers gifted 21 points to Houston.

“We know the recipe against this team,” Curry said. “They’re going to shoot a lot of 3s. They’re going to make some tough shots. But if you turn the ball over and if you foul, which we did both in the first half, then that plays right into their hands. It’s just a lack of focus on the game plan.”

That lack of focus is something that has nagged the Warriors numerous times over the course of the season.

Here’s Houston’s problem: The postseason Warriors tend to be a bit sharper than the regular season Warriors.

And the Rockets, well, remain a postseason mystery. Chris Paul, who was so magnificent Saturday night, has an inglorious postseason history, complete with multiple collapses. MVP candidate James Harden also has dubious postseason resume, with epic pratfalls against the Warriors and the Spurs.

So the events of Saturday night, and the three games in the regular season, serve as reminders that if the Warriors play smart and tough and are fully engaged, they’re still the better team. Despite the chance to set a franchise record with a 15th consecutive road victory, the Warriors were less than fully engaged.

There’s a better than even chance of them being fully engaged in the postseason, should these teams meet again.

“We always talk about hitting singles,” Kerr said. “Well, we were trying to hit home runs all night, and you can’t do that against these guys.

“On the bright side, we know we can play a lot better. And we will.”

Curry takes 'unpopular position' on All-Star draft, has picked assistant GMs

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Curry takes 'unpopular position' on All-Star draft, has picked assistant GMs

Steph Curry will be one of the leading players in the NBA's new experiment with the All-Star Game.

Curry and LeBron James will pick the teams from the pool of available All-Stars. Conferences are no more, giving the game a completely different look.

"It's the first time it's happened in the league, so you really don't know what to expect or how it's going to unfold, and just specifically, what it will look like on the floor with mixmatched rosters. LeBron has been an All-Star, what 14 straight years? And he's been with Eastern Conference guys every year, so to see him have to pick some Western Conference guys and vica versa, us in the West, you have the staple guys that are there every year. So to switch it up, I think it's going to be a fun look on the floor. Might take some getting used to, but the actual draft part of it will be cool<' Curry said to reporters after shootaround in Houston on Saturday.

LeBron has the first pick since he received more total votes than Curry. So that sets up the dynamic that LeBron picks Warriors forward Kevin Durant.

"That's a possibility. I'm putting together an assistant GM staff that can help me get my draft board and all that stuff and know how to respond if he picks a certain way. Get the algorythm going," Curry said.

Curry's assistant GM staff will consist of his father Dell and brother Seth.

"I may have to ask Riley and see what she thinks," Curry joked.

All-Star reserves will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23 and it's possible Draymond Green and Klay Thompson could be among the players Curry can select. Does he feel an obligation to pick them if they are available?

"I don't feel obligated. I would want to. To have the opportunity to play with them on the All-Star Game court, that's what it's all about, kind of embracing that moment, so we'll see how it goes," Curry said.

The big debate surrounding the new All-Star Game format is whether or not the draft should be televised or the results made public. As of right now, the NBA has no plans to show the draft on TV or reveals the order in which players were drafted.

"We've had a lot of dicsussions around that. There's a lot of people in favor of watching it live. There's also a lot of people that understand the reasoning why it's not this year. I'm sure as the new format unfolds year after year, it'll happen. But it won't be this first time," Curry said.

So which way does Curry lean in the debate?

"I've always been a proponent of protecting the players. I know that's kind of the unpopular position. I know we're all grown men, we can all handle it, We're all All-Stars, but we want to see how the new format the first time so it's presented in the right light," Curry said.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr doesn't believe players should worry about where they get drafted.

"No shame in being the last All-Star picked. You're still an All-Star," Kerr said after shootaround.

The All-Star teams will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 and game will take play Sunday, Feb. 18 in Los Angeles.