Warriors go to the reservoir, turn on the defense to beat Nuggets

Warriors go to the reservoir, turn on the defense to beat Nuggets

OAKLAND -- The Warriors have a certain faith in their defense, and they don’t bother denying it. They believe that with a few minutes of high-intensity defense, at the right time, they can strangle the peskiest of opponents.

It’s an oft-used formula, and it was applied again Monday night, when the Warriors allowed the Denver Nuggets to shoot 54.2 percent in the first half before turning the game around by limiting them to 29 percent in the third quarter.

The result, a 127-119 victory at Oracle Arena, is something the Warriors can live with while also realizing it can be risky.

“When we get stops, we obviously fuel the rest of our game,” Stephen Curry said. “Whether it starts out in the first quarter like that, or it takes a minute to get going -- you don’t want to play with fire -- we know we have a lot of energy throughout 48 minutes to leave an imprint on that side of the floor.”

This approach has been effective since Steve Kerr took over as coach in May 2014. It helped the Warriors win a championship in 2015, pushed them to an NBA-record 73 wins in 2016 and has been crucial to them becoming the first team ever to win at least 30 of its first 35 games in three consecutive seasons.

Another record, another bill paid by a sequence of game-changing defense.

Denver led by as much as four in the second quarter and was hanging around, keeping it close, with nine different players scoring at least four points in the first half. The Nuggets, 15-point underdogs, pulled to within two, 70-68, early in the third quarter before the Warriors dug in and got stingy.

“They spread you out, shoot threes and they attack,” Kerr said of the Nuggets. “But I didn’t think we had the defensive intensity that we needed. We finally started defending well the last five minutes of the second quarter. That carried over into the third and we were much better for the most part.”

Forcing five straight Denver misses and a shot-clock violation, the Warriors needed a little more than two minutes to expand the lead to 10 (80-70). Though the Nuggets didn’t capitulate, they never got close to tying or regaining the lead.

“When we string together some stops and we get a little lead I think that kind of breaks the back of their team, especially if they’ve been shooting the ball well,” Kevin Durant said. “If it’s late in the game and we put together three or four stops in a row that deflates them a little bit. Tonight we had to do that.”

It wasn’t that the defense needed to bail out poor offense. With Draymond Green posting his second triple-double of the season, with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, the Warriors (30-5) played solid, balanced offense, recording 33 assists and getting double-digit scoring from all five starters, as well as Ian Clark off the bench.

“That’s pretty much our team, right there, where you don’t need one guy to go off every night,” Green said. “It’s pretty spread out, and we’re very dangerous when it is like that.”

The Warriors shot it well, at 52.6 from the field, including 44 percent from 3-point distance. There was a rebounding deficit (48-43), which was offset by the Warriors forcing two more turnovers, and scoring six more points off giveaways.

But when the threat became real, when Denver (14-20) kept coming, the Warriors went to the reservoir and turned on the defense. They’ve done it many times before. And it generally works.

“You can’t really let that be a habit,” Green cautioned. “You don’t want to build bad habits. We didn’t defend for the first 20 minutes of this game. Then all of a sudden, we turned it up a little bit.

"But I still don’t think we ever got to the point where we need to be on the defensive end. It’s game 35, the beginning of January. We don’t expect everybody to be in playoff form right now or have playoff intensity every night. It’s physically impossible. But the attention to detail has to be there.”

Well, no, it’s not ideal. It’s not likely to work nearly as well against legitimate contenders. On most nights, though, it’s enough for them to walk out of the arena having achieved their primary goal.

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Because it’s only two games against two of the worst teams in the NBA, it’s prudent to resist the temptation to fall in love with Quinn Cook.

Putting up Stephen Curry numbers in consecutive games does not make one Stephen Curry.

It’s impossible, though, not to clearly understand why the Warriors have consistently expressed faith in Cook, the two-way point guard who has spent three years trying to make an NBA team.

Two fine games are enough, though, for the coaching staff to recommend adding him to the postseason roster. It’s wise to have a contingency in case Curry has to miss any of the games that matter most, and the Warriors are a smart bunch.

Cook on Saturday told reporters in Phoenix that the Warriors have not addressed the possibility of being on the postseason roster. That doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it.

“He’s proven that he can compete at this level,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Saturday night in Phoenix. “The last couple games, you’re seeing what he can do. He’s a great shooter. We’ve known that."

Cook scored, on back-to-back nights, 25 and 28 points, shooting 70 percent (21-of-30) from the field, including 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from deep. That’s Curry-type quality when he’s on a roll. Cook also handled the ball well, recorded seven assists and was pesky enough on defense to nab five steals.

“Quinn is showing the world that he is an NBA player,” Draymond Green said.

Cook’s 10 3-pointers over the past two games are more than anybody not named Curry, Durant or Thompson have drained over a similar stretch -- and only Nick Young among the team’s reserves have made more over any single month.

The Warriors, it just so happens, are dead last in 3-pointers made by reserves, averaging 2.0 per game, with Young accounting for 1.5 per game.

Cook is showing he might be able to help with this.

Kerr loves 3-point shooters. General manager Bob Myers is fond of saying he can never have too many shooters.

The Warriors are discovering they can’t have too many capable point guards, particularly when Cook is proving that he, like Curry, also is comfortable playing off the ball. Pairing Cook with Shaun Livingston, the primary backup to Curry, is a nice option to have.

“I’ve said all along,” Green said. “I sit here and watch so many other teams play and I wonder, ‘How is Quinn Cook a two-way player?' And then you’ve got guys in the league that can’t dribble with their left hand, or can’t go left, can’t go right, but you’ve got a guy like that as a two-way player.

“So I’m happy for him. I pray that he gets rewarded and gets what he deserves.”

Cook had brief trial runs with the Pelicans, as a rookie, and the Mavericks last season. He played a total of 14 games with the two teams. He has played 21 with the Warriors, seven as a starter, but only in the last two has he looked entirely comfortable in his role and with these teammates.

With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Curry out, the Warriors need Cook to score. He knows he needs to score. He is scoring. And doing a few other things, too.

“Playing in the NBA is something that I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Cook said after his 28-point performance in a win over the Suns. “I can’t really put it into words, just being able to put on an NBA jersey night in and night out, practice with an NBA team every day, has been my goal since I can remember. I’m just trying to get better every day and live in the moment. I’m just trying to win games. I’m trying to help out as much as possible, whether it’s getting guys shots, playing defense, shooting the ball.

“Lately the ball’s been going in a little bit. But with three All-Stars out, I’ve got to step up. I’m just taking it game by game and competing night in and night out.”

Sometime early next month, if not late this month, the Warriors expect to have their starting backcourt. Curry and Thompson will have returned before the playoffs begin April 14-15, and both will need to be available if for reasonable chance to repeat as champs.

But Cook is making his case for inclusion. He’ll get another test Monday night in San Antonio, where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is sure to throw at Cook a few wrinkles he may not have seen, but the Warriors have seen enough to know he can help.

“He’s a good fit for us, too,” Kerr said. “It’s not just his ability. It’s his maturity. He’s very professional, does whatever is asked, the guys love him. They want to go to war with him.

“He’s a guy. He’s an NBA guy. We’re lucky to have him.”

That’s not an demand, or even a preference. To add Cook to the roster, the Warriors would have to shed one of their 15 players currently on a standard NBA contract.

But somewhere among Kerr’s words, I believe I see an endorsement.

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.