Warriors

Warriors losses send joy throughout NBA with perception of parity

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AP

Warriors losses send joy throughout NBA with perception of parity

OAKLAND -- Acknowledging how uneven this season has been, at least by the standards of the New Warriors, two of the team’s veterans pondered the reasons behind some of the poor performances resulting in losses.

“(You’re) not going to have the same intensity level for 82 games,” forward Draymond Green said. “It’s just not going to happen. It’s not realistic.”

There is more than a kernel of truth in that statement. The Warriors own the league’s best record, 33-9, as they face the Bucks Friday night, but they realize their ultimate verdict can’t come until the second season, which begins in mid-April and, given their recent history runs through mid-June.

So during the regular season they are bound to have “off” nights. They find themselves sometimes fighting boredom or complacency. Home losses to such wholly inferior teams as the Clippers and Hornets and Nuggets and Kings provide evidence they’re fully capable of losing those battles.

Veteran forward Andre Iguodala tried rationalizing some of the stunning losses and, skeptic that he is, landed upon an unexpected silver lining.

“You know how it is with us,” he told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We’re always searching for something.

“I don’t know. Maybe the NBA thinks it’s good that we lose . . .. It keeps the engagement of the fans.”

Iguodala is known for the clever, cryptic packaging of his feelings and beliefs. This, though, was a sly dropping of another kernel of truth.

The Warriors, as we all know, are in Year 2 of their Super Team phase, which began 18 months ago with the signing Kevin Durant. After becoming the first team in NBA history to roll through the postseason at 16-1, they entered this season as prohibitive favorites.

Who could possibly have a chance against this Goliath on growth hormone?

Suddenly, now, the Warriors seem more vulnerable, if only slightly so. They’re still very much the favorite to win it all, but the regular season is proving that the Warriors are susceptible to losing to any team willing to take the fight to them.

Fans of the other 29 teams enjoy beating up on the bully. When the Kings came to Oakland on Nov. 27 and walked out of Oracle Arena with a victory, it was the happiest day for Sacramento sports fans since their team’s eight-year streak of playoff appearances ended in 2006.

Every loss any team hangs on the Warriors, though, has to send the NBA and its media affiliates into another sphere of joy. It gives the appearance of parity, a goal toward which every executive of any sports league strives.

No doubt the NBA was happy to ride this team’s wave two seasons ago, as the Warriors were marching toward 73 wins. From their 24-0 start that went deep into December -- and through the heart of football season -- they were the hottest daily story in sports. What is more attractive than the possibility of making history?

The Warriors this season are chasing no such fortune. They have six losses within the conference and three of them are to teams outside the eight-team playoff box and facing long odds against climbing in.

They’re fallible, at least for now.

For the sake of legitimate competitive intrigue, the Warriors need a foil and there currently isn’t one. The notion of the Cavaliers is fallacy, as proved last June. The Celtics are interesting and play the Warriors tough, beating them two months ago in Boston, but do they have the horses to hang in June? The Raptors are posers until they get past Cleveland or Boston.

The Spurs aren’t it, either, despite the imposing presence of coach Gregg Popovich. They’re a solid team, expertly coached, but lacking the firepower needed to keep pace with the league’s most explosive team.

Which brings us to the Rockets, who according to comments made by Houston general manager Daryl Morey last month are “obsessed” with beating the Warriors.

Houston is, on the surface, the closest thing to a threat the Warriors will face. They’ve split two games this season, each winning on the other’s floor. They play once more in the regular season, and the outcome will not be relevant anything that might happen in the playoffs.

There are three months to go before we get there, though. That’s plenty of time for the Warriors to look beatable enough, often enough, to keep the bettors guessing, the haters hopeful and a smirk on the faces of the league’s brass.

Warriors reminded of Stephen Curry's importance in Game 4 loss to Spurs

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AP

Warriors reminded of Stephen Curry's importance in Game 4 loss to Spurs

SAN ANTONIO -- The Warriors were comfortable going into the first round of the playoffs without Stephen Curry. Logic dictated they would prevail with relative ease against a Spurs team without Kawhi Leonard.

And after winning each of the first three games by double digits, a sweep seemed probable as the Warriors approached Game 4 on Sunday.

But they were out of sorts from the start, undoing their cause with a cascade of turnovers and uncharacteristically poor shooting. They did a lot wrong in in a 103-90 loss, but much of it could have been righted by the presence of Curry.

The potential closeout game was the first time in the series that Curry was missed in a massive way. He’s still a week or more away from returning, but the Warriors are smart enough to know their margin for error shrinks considerably when he’s not on the court.

It was profoundly evident, once again, on Sunday that when Curry is out, the game becomes harder for his teammates, and the Warriors could not fill the scoring void.

Kevin Durant made a valiant effort, scoring a game-high 34 points, but was 12-of-28 from the field. The 28 attempts are more than he has had in all but two of 151 games since he joined the Warriors.

“They did a good job of being physical with us on our movement and taking us out of some of our actions,” Durant said.

Klay Thompson, incredible through the first three games, was contained as much by the shortcomings of the Warriors’ offense -- too many possessions with poor ball movement and too few transition opportunities -- as a more tenacious San Antonio defense. Under the added pressure, he was 4-of-16 from the field.

“When we don’t execute, it’s harder for Klay to get open looks,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Where do you take 16 shots? I only remember two or three of them open. When we play the way we normally do, when we defend with a purpose, when the ball moves, Klay tends to get more open looks.”

Thompson also gets more open looks when Curry is on the floor drawing opposing defenses like a magnet. Multiple defenders routinely cheat toward him, and the result is an open look for a teammate.

Without him, and with the Spurs boosting their physicality, the Warriors struggled to score. In the 66 postseason games since Kerr arrived, only twice have the Warriors failed to crack 90 points, most recently in losing Game 7 of The Finals in 2016.

Game 4 on Sunday represents the first time in 21 postseason games, since Durant’s arrival, that the Warriors did not reach 100 points.

Draymond Green was 4-of-14 from the field. Andre Iguodala was 0-of-3. The starting lineup shot 34.3 percent (23 of 67) and the team as a whole was at 37.8 percent, its lowest since the 2016 Finals.

“They definitely pressured a lot at the start of the game,” Draymond Green said. “But we eventually got through that.

“But you got to give them a lot of credit. They came out and they probably played with more intensity this game than they did the entire series and they were able to get a win.”

This was only one game, one loss in a game they surely wanted to win. But it put a spotlight on the vulnerability of the Warriors without Curry.

If the Spurs, even for one game, can lock up the Warriors -- with help from the Warriors, of course -- the Pelicans, with defensive aces Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, surely long for a couple shots at the champs without Curry, whose status for the next round is in question.

The Warriors are a great team, a championship team. The Curry effect, however, is necessary for the Warriors to win it all this season. This loss is a stinging rebuttal to the argument that they don’t need him to do so.

Will Warriors sweep Spurs for second straight postseason?

Will Warriors sweep Spurs for second straight postseason?

SAN ANTONIO -- The Warriors will try to complete a four-game sweep here for the second consecutive postseason when they face the Spurs on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Center.

Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 11:30 a.m., with postgame coverage immediately after the final horn. The game telecast is on ABC.

Though the Warriors have dominated the series thus far, winning all three games by double digits, they expect the Spurs, still reeling from the death of coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, to put up a spirited fight to avoid elimination. Popovich missed Game 3 and also will miss Game 4.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 7

MATCHUP TO WATCH

JaVale McGee & Co. vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge is San Antonio’s horse and he must have a stellar game to give his team any chance of winning. The Spurs have tried several tricks to get him going, with success only in Game 2, when Aldridge scored 34 points. The Warriors will start McGee, who will alternate with their platoon of big men in trying to contain Aldridge.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: G Shaun Livinston (L ankle sprain) is listed as probable. G Stephen Curry (L MCL sprain) and G Pat McCaw (lumbar spine contusion) are listed as out.

Spurs: F Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) is listed as out.

SERIES TO DATE

Game 1: Warriors 113, Spurs 92 Game 2: Warriors 116, Spurs 101 Game 3: Warriors 110, Spurs 97

GAME OFFICIALS

Scott Foster (crew chief), Tony Brothers, Brian Forte, Dedric Taylor (alternate)

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors won three of four in the regular season, 112-92 on Nov. 2 at San Antonio, 122-105 on Feb. 10 in Oakland and 110-107 on March 8 in Oakland before losing 89-75 on March 19 in San Antonio. The Warriors swept the Spurs in the 2017 Western Conference Finals. The Warriors are 14-6 (including postseason) against San Antonio in the Steve Kerr era.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

SPURS ENGAGEMENT LEVEL: As if the loss of Erin Popovich was not enough to weigh down their hearts, the Spurs also are staring at the kind of deficit no team has overcome. How far can pride carry an overmatched team? Do they have the grit to summon their best under such adverse conditions?

WARRIORS IN THE MOMENT: Being so dominating in the first three games and already aware that their second-round opponent will be New Orleans, the Warriors will have to fight off overconfidence. Can they stay focused for 48 minutes against a team they’ve beaten seven consecutive times in the postseason?

THE ARC: Through three games, the Warriors have been riding their defense and letting the offense come as a result. The Spurs lack a naturally potent offense and further diminished by their inability to make 3-pointers. The Warriors have held them to 24.1-percent shooting from deep. It’s tough to win like that.