Warriors

Warriors flipped the calendar, not a switch, to start postseason

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USATSI

Warriors flipped the calendar, not a switch, to start postseason

OAKLAND -- The Warriors opening the NBA playoffs with a wire-to-wire rout of the respected but assailable San Antonio Spurs was not the result of flipping of some mystical, magical switch.

It was, according to Kevin Durant, more of a flipping of the mental calendar from six months of tedium and disparate objectives to two months of full commitment to single-minded purpose.

“Throughout the regular season, so many guys are playing for so many different things,” Durant told NBC Sports Bay Area on Sunday. “You have guys playing for All-Star positions, for MVPs or best records. There are so many different agendas you’re playing for.

“Now there’s just one thing you want to do, and that’s to win.”

The Warriors owned Game 1 and will seek to do the same in Game 2 on Monday in hopes of taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

For unlike the regular season, the actual number of wins is the only thing that matters in the playoffs. Four per round means advancement and anything less than 16 results in a sour conclusion.

Players clear their minds of regular-season debris because that book is closed.

“Stats start over, techs start over and all you did in the regular season doesn’t matter once the playoffs start,” Durant said. “You’re 0-0 again. Everybody is .500.”

The game changes in mid-April, as do the games. The magnitude of the moment is impossible not to feel. There was an intensified vibe in every home arena from Oakland to Boston this weekend.

“Everybody knows when it’s playoff basketball if you’ve watched the games for a while,” Durant said. “We can’t approach the playoffs like the regular season. Every possession is important and we’ve got to know that. It’s just us, but every team in the playoffs understands that. That’s the beauty of playoff ball.”

After coping with a litany of injuries and a obvious measure of ennui during the regular season, the Warriors were charged from the opening tip on Saturday. They played a complete game with a minimum of miscues.

The Warriors never let the Spurs breathe on offense and didn’t allow themselves to be contained by their defense. Durant wasted no time exhibiting his elevated fury, scoring 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, grabbing four rebounds and recording four assists in the first quarter.

Along with the entire starting lineup, JaVale McGee in particular, Durant set a searing, aggressive tone that rarely wavered during the 113-92 victory in Game 1.

“I just never know how teams are going to guard me,” said Durant, who rang up 24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 32 minutes. “I don’t think a team is just going to let me do what I want to do out there. So sometimes, I’ve got to go and take it. I can’t come out there relaxed, thinking I’m going to get as much space as I want or catch the ball where I want to. Or get an open shot.

“I’ve got to kind of take everything I have out there. It’s like an anxious, nerve-wracking feeling you have before the playoffs because you just never know how teams are going to guard you.

“It’s fun though.”

It’s not as if the regular season lacks motivations and consequences for players and coaches. Jobs are more often at stake in the regular season, after which there is the firing of coaches and the decisions to part way with players.

When a team has reached the NBA Finals three consecutive seasons, as have the Warriors, there is less concern about changes among the core group.

“You still want to win in the regular season, but you also want to play well,” Durant said. “You also want to hit incentives. You want to average this many points or chase the MVP or Rookie of the Year or Most Improved. You want to do those small things along with winning.”

“But then you erase all of that, and it’s all about the wins. And you realize what’s most important.”

Durant has been Rookie of the Year (2008). He has been MVP (2014). As a nine-time All-Star, he has no need for incentives. The regular season for him is mostly about preparing for what is now at hand.

It’s not a switch that gets flipped. It is, instead, a calendar that flips, ringing in the NBA’s version of the New Year.

Breaking down Pelicans vs Warriors Western Conference Semifinals

Breaking down Pelicans vs Warriors Western Conference Semifinals

SAN ANTONIO -- By eliminating the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, the No. 2 seed Warriors advanced to the Western Conference Semifinal round, where they will face New Orleans, with Game 1 set for Saturday at a time to be determined.

The No. 6 seed Pelicans advanced last Saturday with a four-game sweep of the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.

Here is a look at recent history as well as matchups -- as best we can determine, considering many will involve cross-matching -- between the Warriors and Pelicans:

POINT GUARD

Andre Iguodala vs. Rajon Rondo: It’s possible but not likely that Stephen Curry will be available for Game 1, which means Warriors coach Steve Kerr should stay with Andre Iguodala, whose defense and intellect were on display against the Spurs. Rondo clearly is the leader of the Pelicans and is playing at a very high level. He averaged 13.3 assists per game against Portland and scored well enough (11.3 ppg, 48.7 percent FG) to keep defenses honest.

EDGE: Even.

SHOOTING GUARD

Klay Thompson vs. Jrue Holiday: This matchup, featuring the best two-way guards in the league, should be highly entertaining. With the exception of Game 4, Thompson was fabulous against the Spurs, averaging 22.6 ppg on 52.9-percent shooting, including 51.6 percent beyond the arc. Holiday also was superb, averaging 27.8 ppg on 56.8-percent shooting while shutting down Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard. Thompson is four-time All-Star and Holiday, who hasn’t been an All-Star since 2013, is reminding everyone of his considerable skills.

EDGE: Even.

SMALL FORWARD

Kevin Durant vs. E’Twaun Moore: Durant is a consensus top-5 player and, at 6-foot-11, presents a matchup headache for any defender. He can also expect to at times match up with Pelicans star Anthony Davis. Durant led the Warriors in scoring against the Spurs (28.2 ppg, 48 percent FG but only 25 percent from deep) and will be target No. 1 for the New Orleans defense. Put another way, Moore, will spend less time on Durant than a couple of his teammates.

EDGE: Significant edge to Durant.

POWER FORWARD

Draymond Green vs. Nikola Mirotic: Another juicy matchup, featuring the splendid defensive gifts of Green against the brilliant shooting of Mirotic. Though Green also will get turns against absurdly good Pelicans center Anthony Davis, he is sure to see plenty of Mirotic, who against Portland averaged 19.3 ppg, shooting 46.2 from deep and 57.1 overall. In either case, Green, who at times single-handedly thwarted San Antonio’s offense, will have to spend more time playing on-ball defense.

EDGE: Slight edge to Green

CENTER

Entire Warriors army vs. Anthony Davis: The matchup description is not much of a stretch. Davis, who is every bit to matchup headache that Durant is. Davis’ 33 ppg in the first round leads all playoff scorers, is going to see no fewer than four different defenders -- Kevon Looney, JaVale McGee, Durant and Green -- over the course of this series. Anyone who defends the 6-10 star is going to need both skill and luck. On the other end, Davis will patrol the paint in an effort to protect the rim. He leads all playoff performers in blocks (2.8 bpg).

EDGE: Significant edge to Davis

SEASON SERIES

The Warriors and Pelicans met four times, with the Warriors winning three times:

Nov. 20 at New Orleans: Warriors 128, Pelicans 120 Nov. 25 at Oakland: Warriors 110, Pelicans 95 Dec. 4 at New Orleans: Warriors 125, Pelicans 115 April 7 at Oakland: Pelicans 126, Warriors 120

Draymond calmly claps back at Webber, 'my (championship) jewelry fit well'

Draymond calmly claps back at Webber, 'my (championship) jewelry fit well'

OAKLAND -- Draymond Green concedes he doesn’t generally look to score, that he’d rather set up his teammates to provide that for the Warriors.

So he was only mildly annoyed by comments made by TNT analyst Chris Webber during the telecast of Game 5 between the Warriors and Spurs on Tuesday night.

Webber said that if Green were on another team and was expected to score that “he may not be in the starting lineup.”

Naturally, Green was fully loaded for a ready response.

“I don't have a scorer's mentality, especially for the team that I play on,” Green began after a 99-91 victory. “If I did have a scorer's mentality, it would throw all this off and it wouldn't work out.

“You know, there are times in the game where I probably need to score more, but it's hard to turn a scorer's mentality on and off. I've had that once before in my life. You don't just click that on or off. Nonetheless, I do know when I need to be more aggressive and that helps my team out.”

Green was just warming up, saving his best stuff for punctuation.

“But I don't care,” he continued. “I've done some great things in this league. I've been to All-Star (games) twice averaging like 11 points, 10 points or something like that. Look, you know, I don't need to score.

“However, I don't think (Webber) can find many GMs are coaches that wouldn't say I wouldn't start on their team, and you know, my -- I'm fine without scoring the ball. I think I've created a new lane for guys in this league to where you don't have to score 20 points to be an All-Star or be a starter in this league and it is what it is.

“That's fine and my (championship) jewelry fit well. So I'm doing really pretty good. You know, much love to C-Webb, though, from Michigan, State of Michigan, you know, we good.”

There is good reason to believe there is at least a degree of friendly-unfriendly rivalry at work. Webber grew up in Detroit and attended the University of Michigan. Green grew up in Saginaw and, and 15 years later, attended Michigan State University.

For the record, Green averaged 11.4 points, a team-best 11.2 rebounds and a team-best 8.0 assists in the five-game series with San Antonio.

Green has earned two championship rings with the Warriors, who have reached three consecutive NBA Finals with him at power forward.

Webber spent his rookie season (1993-94) with the Warriors, and was named Rookie of the Year. Though the Warriors were swept by Phoenix in the first round that season, he eventually appeared in 80 playoff games -- 53 as a member of the Sacramento Kings -- but never reached the NBA Finals.