Warriors have the dagger, just aren't putting it in deep yet

Warriors have the dagger, just aren't putting it in deep yet

The Golden State Warriors played the second game of this Western Conference Semifinal as though it was the first game of this Western Conference Semifinal, which allows them to look ahead to Saturday and what historically would figure to be their worst game of this Western Conference Semifinal.
In beating the Utah Jazz, 115-104, the Warriors looked in two significant ways as they had in Game 1 when they won 106-94. They rebounded better, took less care of the basketball, tried harder to force pace and got more tangible contributions from Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
But mostly, they followed the lead of Draymond Green as they had in Game 1, and they took early control of the game and never relinquished it, as they did in Game 1.
Put another way, the Warriors have trailed for exactly zero seconds in this series, and Green  (21/7/6/4 steals and plus-10) defined the difficulty the Jazz have in making this a series.
Except for one thing. Game 3.
The Warriors are not a great Game 3 team; they are 4-8 in their 12 series since going through their larval stage and became a relevant team, and this would be worrying going into Saturday’s game at Salt Lake City if not for the fact that it is only marginally worse than the NBA history for teams up two games to none in a series. Teams are 105-151 in such scenarios (.410), and though only 16 teams (out of 255) have blown 2-0 leads, Golden State has barely hit what is presumed to be their stride in this series.
In other words, they have neither put Utah out of its misery nor theirs. And that, in honesty, is a thin reed upon which to stand the notion that this series is about to turn in any direction but toward Golden State's favor.

Now it could be that this is what a playoff rout should look like – a game in which the winner does not waste a lot of extraneous energy building a massive lead. Then again, massive leads don’t take a lot more energy to build than your standard comfortable lead, and the Warriors have had to do little to defend what they have created here. The Jazz are not fully healthy (which has been true most of the year) and always one option short, but they do not recede from their disadvantages. They are a tough out, but they are bordering closer to “out” than “tough.”
As Klay Thompson explained it, “Sometiems we got too comfortable  . . . we’re 6-0, but we can’t let teams get confident. We had a chance to put ‘em away.”
But if the other team never has a lead, or is even within two possessions of the lead, how far is that from being “put away?” Under normal circumstances, this would be a ponderable and maybe even existential question, and there is surely something to be said for the fact that the Warriors have not trailed at any point in any of the last three games.
“We’d love to take a 15-point lead and turn it into 20 or 25, but they don’t quit,” Stephen Curry said. “There were probably three or four or five possessions where we lost focus a little bit, lost track of our men in transition, gave them some easy buckets . . . let go of the rope just a little bit.”
This is a fairly insane standard to meet, and though Curry has his own underestimated jugular instinct that makes every game a list of what could have been and wasn’t, there is only one game – Game 3 (see?) of the Portland series in which the Warriors have fought back from behind for the preponderance of the game. The other five games have been boilerplate performances in which Golden State has led for a preposterous 221:44 out of 240 minutes, or 92 percent of the time.
And if you throw in Game 3, which they won only 119-113, it’s still 81 percent.
So on the basis of that, the Warriors have been utterly dominant, not just in this series but in the one that preceded it. Their inability to put the dagger in is really just a complaint about how deep the dagger is being inserted.
But make no mistake, it’s there, and if it stays there in Game 3 Saturday, Game 3 will likely be a formality.

Casspi defends his spot on Warriors, explains why he's not worried about being cut


Casspi defends his spot on Warriors, explains why he's not worried about being cut

OAKLAND -- Like much of the NBA and everyone with an interest in the Warriors, Omri Casspi has watched the emergence of Quinn Cook, who came out of the G-League and is making a strong bid to make the postseason roster.

Casspi, out since spraining his right ankle last Friday against Sacramento, happens to be at or near the top of the list of the tiny group of players that might be dropped should the Warriors decide to add Cook.

The 6-foot-9 veteran forward has heard the chatter.

“First of all, it’s you guys talking,” Casspi said, referring to media. “I don’t really feel it from the organization. At the end of the day, I’m focused on getting healthy and playing. That’s all I can control.

“I feel like the team needs me and know what I can do for the team. My focus is on getting healthy and playing.”

The Warriors have until April 11 to submit their playoff roster.

Casspi’s roster spot is in danger for three reasons.

One, he has lost confidence in his long-distance shooting, which was influential in the team’s decision to sign him to a one-year minimum contract last July.

Two, his defense has been a glaring weakness, with teams attacking him at every opportunity.

Three, he had fallen out of the rotation when the team was fully healthy and didn’t return until after succession of injuries. Casspi exceeded 10 minutes of playing time in only one of the 12 games before injuries to several teammates became a factor.

Stephen Curry’s ankle woes this season, along with Cook’s impressive play, are making a persuasive argument for adding the third-year point guard.

For now, Casspi is determined to get back on court after missing the last two games.

“With my role on this team, when I’m healthy I want to go out there and play, maybe not 100 percent healthy, but close to it,” he said. “That’s what I’m focused on, on feeling good and running up and down and being able to cut and move and be out there again with the guys.”

As Warriors inch closer to full health, Kerr provides update on Durant, Klay


As Warriors inch closer to full health, Kerr provides update on Durant, Klay

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all worked up sweat Wednesday, putting the Warriors ever closer to being whole again.

Only Draymond Green did not full participate in the non-contact practice session, but he’s expected back in a matter of days.

So while the Warriors are a little more than a week away from possibly having the full squad available, they’re starting to feel a little less vulnerable.

“They’re all kind of day-to-day,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Steph is closer to playing than KD and Klay.”

Curry has not played since March 8, when he tweaked his surgically repaired right ankle. He missed the last six games. Durant (rib cartilage injury) and Thompson (right thumb sprain) sustained their injuries on March 11 at Minnesota, though Durant played one more game, March 14, before receiving a diagnosis. Durant missed the last three games, Thompson the last four.

Green sustained a pelvic contusion Monday night at San Antonio, but believes he will be available this weekend, either Friday against Atlanta or Sunday against Utah.

Curry, though, is fully cleared for all activities.

“Steph looks great,” Kerr said. “He’s chomping at the bit. But we’ll see how he responds in the next couple days before we decide whether he plays or not.”

Durant loathes acknowledging pain or injuries, and his return will be dictated by his ability with withstanding the contact inevitable in the course of a game.

“I don’t expect KD to play this week,” Kerr said. “It’s not like a timetable . . . just sort of a feel thing. It’s symptomatic with him.”

Thompson seems, at this point, the furthest away from full activity.

“Klay did some stuff," Kerr said, “but not full participation.”