Warriors

In Splash Brothers absence, Bell and Iguodala return to Warriors

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AP

In Splash Brothers absence, Bell and Iguodala return to Warriors

OAKLAND -- The Warriors will be bolstered by the return of two key players but they’ll be without three All-Stars Wednesday night when they face the Lakers at Oracle Arena.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6:30, with tipoff scheduled for 7:35.

Coming off back-to-back losses on the road, the Warriors (51-16) will take the court without Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Andre Iguodala and Jordan Bell, however, will return after brief absences.

Though the Lakers (31-36) are out of realistic playoff contention, they have reached the 30-win mark for the first time since 2012-13, which also is the last time they appeared in the postseason.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 6.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Kevin Durant vs. Kyle Kuzma & Co.: Kuzma tweaked his ankle Tuesday and is listed as questionable. If he’s unable to go, the Lakers likely will turn to seldom-used vet Luol Deng or move SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to SF. If Kuzma is cleared, there is the potential for fireworks. He is averaging 15.5 ppg and is coming off a 26-point effort on Tuesday. Durant is averaging 38.7 ppg over the last three games and 29.9 since the All-Star break. He’ll have to carry the bulk of his team’s scoring load.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: F/C Jordan Bell (R ankle sprain) and F Andre Iguodala (L wrist sprain) are available. G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Draymond Green (R shoulder soreness), G Pat McCaw (L wrist fracture), G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) and C/F David West (R arm cyst) are listed as out.

Lakers: F Kyle Kuzma (R ankle tweak) is listed as questionable. F/C Channing Frye (appendectomy), G Josh Hart (L hand, fourth metacarpal fracture) and F Brandon Ingram (L groin strain) are listed as out.

LAST 10

Warriors: 7-3.

Lakers: 8-2.

GAME OFFICIALS

Marc Davis (crew chief), Matt Boland, Brian Forte

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors have won three of the first four meetings this season, 127-123 (OT) on Nov. 29 in Los Angeles, 116-114 (OT) on Dec. 18 in LA and 113-106 on Dec. 22 in Oakland. The Warriors are 12-3 against the Lakers in the Steve Kerr era.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE NEW GUYS: Second-year C Damian Jones and rookie two-way C/F Chris Boucher both participated in the morning shootaround. Jones will be active and could make his fifth appearance of the season. Boucher is expected to be added the active list and possibly will make his NBA debut.

THE STARTERS: If the Warriors are missing three starters, coach Steve Kerr will have to dig deep into his bench. Would he start Bell, who missed the last three games, in place of Green? Could Nick Young get the call to replace Thompson? It’s a very thin roster, so there won’t be much of a bench no matter how Kerr plays it.

THE POINT MEN: With Iguodala back, Shaun Livingston becomes the likely starter at PG against Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. It’s intriguing matchup, the wily 6-foot-6 veteran against the youngster whose basketball smarts are beyond his years. Iguodala, another savvy vet, also will take turns defending Ball.

Warriors brief: Klay Thompson on pace for best playoffs yet

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USATSI

Warriors brief: Klay Thompson on pace for best playoffs yet

When it comes to scoring, Klay Thompson is way ahead of pace of his previous playoff runs. It is clear that Klay has reached a comfort zone to start off the 2018 playoffs, scoring nearly 26 points per game on 63 percent shooting from the field and 65 percent shooting from deep. He has not scored less than 19 points through three games, and has not shot less than 50% from deep so far.

In last year's postseason, Klay struggled to find his shot. He only scored 19 points or more in four of the 17 games played, and shot 50 percent or better from three-point range in five of the 17 games. 

In the 2015-16 playoffs, Klay Thompson performed at an exceptional level. In 16 of his 24 games Klay scored 19 or more points and in 10 of the 24 games, he shot 50 percent or better from deep. 

As of now, he is far and away ahead of pace of even his stellar performance a couple years ago. It has only been three games, but so far, so great for Klay. 

It's hard to find a fault in any of Kevin Durant's play of late. His defense has jumped up a notch since the end of the regular season malaise, his rebounding numbers are consistent as usual, and he has even shared the ball with much success, averaging over six assists per game thus far in the playoffs. It takes a little nitpicking to find any issues in his game, but right now his three-point shot is just not falling. 

Deep Impact

Over the first 63 games he played in the regular season, Kevin Durant shot 43 percent from deep, which would have been a season high in long-range shooting and high atop the NBA leaderboard. However in the last eight games, including the playoffs, Durant has shot 28 percent from deep (15-of-53, to be exact). Durant really has not found any consistency with his three-point shot of late, especially if you eliminate the second half of Game 2 against San Antonio in which he made three of four attempts from deep,

Having said all of that, Durant has averaged nearly 27 points per game during that same eight-game stretch, and he has shot over 52 percent from the field in the playoffs so far. So a fair warning to the playoff challengers that lie ahead for the Warriors: Watch out for when Kevin Durant gets back into a three-point groove. 

With health No. 1 concern, Warriors aiming high for sweep of Spurs

With health No. 1 concern, Warriors aiming high for sweep of Spurs

SAN ANTONIO -- The Warriors now know that if they come into Game 4 Sunday with the same level of energy displayed so far in their first-round matchup against San Antonio, they’ll accomplish a series sweep.

They’re also starting to feel they might need to get a sweep.

They’ll be shorthanded again Sunday and could use the time to heal before the next round begins, as soon as next weekend. Five days to a week between games is as good as it gets.

With Stephen Curry out since March 23 -- and for at least another week -- the Warriors picked up two more aches in the final minutes of Game 3. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston both rolled their left ankles and left the game.

An hour later, Durant was walking without a discernable limp. Livingston spent plenty time on the trainer’s table and was walking with a very discernable limp.

Livingston wouldn’t rule himself out of Game 4, saying he’ll take Friday off, receive some intense treatment, and then see how he felt prior to practice on Saturday. Based on the visual, he’ll be sitting. And should be sitting.

Curry’s status was updated Friday. He has been cleared for “modified” practice activity beginning Saturday and will be reevaluated next April 27.

Game 1 of the next round of the playoffs could be as early as April 28.

In the hours after the Warriors’ 110-97 victory in Game 3 on Thursday, Klay Thompson pointed out some of the advantages of advancing as quickly as possible.

“Limit our road travel, expand our time to rest and get our best guys healthy, like Steph, KD and Shaun,” he said.

The Warriors almost certainly will need their best selves to deal with their next opponent next weekend.

There are 16 teams in the NBA playoffs, and none has been more surprisingly spectacular than the Pelicans. Suffocating the Trail Blazers on one end and shooting them into submission on the other, New Orleans is up 3-0 and on the brink of advancing.

It was evident from the buzz in the postgame locker room that the Warriors are impressed with the No. 6 seed Pelicans’ demolition of third-seeded Portland.

A week into the postseason, only the Warriors’ net rating of 20.2 is better than New Orleans’ 11.3. The Warriors are second in offensive rating, the Pelicans fifth. The Warriors are third in defensive rating, the Pelicans fourth.

New Orleans is thriving because point guard Rajon Rondo is fully engaged, Anthony Davis is playing with gusto and combo guard Jrue Holiday is reminding folks how terrific he was before his career was temporarily rerouted by injuries to himself and a serious health scare to his wife, former soccer star Lauren Holiday (nee Chaney).

“People forget, but he was really good when we were teammates,” said Andre Iguodala, who spent three seasons with Holiday in Philadelphia. “He could score, he could pass and he always could defend. He can do pretty much anything on the basketball court.”

It’s not that the Warriors are looking past the Spurs. It’s that they expect to win the series and realize they’ll need to be better should they advance.

“We have been in a decent rhythm,” Draymond Green said, referring mostly to the offense. “There is still another level we can get to and I have no doubt in my mind that we will get to that level.

“But, as bad as we were playing (to close the regular season), to kind of get to where we are is pretty solid. It’s still the first round, so . . . if you can still win and not be clicking and peaking at that time, that’s great. And I don’t think we are. It has been solid. We’ve been able to find a decent rhythm, but there are some things that we can clean up on that side of the ball and we will.”

That level is most easily reached when all four All-Stars are in the starting lineup. That can’t happen until Durant is healed -- he says he’s fine -- and Curry returns and vets Andre Iguodala, David West and Livingston are in their customary roles.

The Warriors likely win Game 4 even if Livingston joins Curry in street clothes on Sunday. Game 4 of the Pelicans-Blazers series is set for Saturday in New Orleans. Wins this weekend or early next week would have Warriors-Pelicans tipping off in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals on April 28 or 29.

As Thompson indicated, the Warriors would like as much time as possible to heal and prepare. The way the Pelicans have been rolling, they’re going to need it.