Whenever Durant returns, Blazers-Warriors series shouldn't change much

Whenever Durant returns, Blazers-Warriors series shouldn't change much

I suppose a person could, if properly motivated, make an argument that without Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors tend to make a more concerted and consistent effort defensively.
It’s a grab at straws, of course, because the Warriors are a strong defensive team in general (and take your complaints about Charles Barkley to Charles Barkley, okay?), but as a function of beating the Portland Trail Blazers, 110-81, in this Western Conference first round blowout-under-construction, they negated what the Blazers did well in Game 1 (Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum) without being hurt by what they didn’t (the rest of the roster), and turned a relative white-knuckler three days ago into a stern and comprehensive smothering.
So maybe that’s the actual myth of Kevin Durant – that the Warriors should be fretted over without him. They are better with him, and only a moron would argue otherwise, but it may well be that they personally emphasize their defensive requirements more assiduously.
“They understand that on their own,” head coach Steve Kerr said as he surveyed the box score that showed that Portland scored 35 points in the second half. “They know that defense is what we’re built on. People talk about our shooting and our guards all the time, but this has been a great defensive team since, well, since before I got here. I think it’s been the last five years.”
Close enough; they’ve been in the top fifth of the league in defensive rating each year since 2014, and the least of their defenders are still league average or above. And if defense was strong before Durant arrived, it would stand to reason that defense would remain a mental emphasis.
Indeed, Wednesday’s performance probably made it more difficult for Durant to play in Game 3, because whatever urgency Kerr could fight off to play him in Game 2 with his wonky calf muscle is that much less urgent in Game 3.
“If he can play, he’s going to play,” Kerr said, “but if there’s any question, then we won’t play him.”
Indeed, there are more things for Portland’s Terry Stotts to think about between now and Saturday, starting with the seeming disappearance of his backcourt. Lillard and McCollum were guarded with more bodies, got fewer good looks, and missed 25 of their 34 combined shots. McCollum in particular looked like he was hampered with an injury that kept him from being as physically dynamic as he was in Game 1, and without big man Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers had to play both small and short, and could do neither well.
There is no smart guess on if/when Nurkic will be back, although healing rates have been proven to increase in direct relation to the number of wins the opponent has. It is also unclear on how much of a difference he can make, save disrupting McGee and Zaza Pachulia from having their run of the paint. Indeed, this series has not played to expected form because of all the missing and disadvantaged pieces, but the differences between the two sides are still as stark as your typical No. 1-No. 8 match.
And it only stands to be more stark when Durant returns, whenever that is.
“Obviously they’re a better team with him on the floor, more talent and more weapons,” Lillard said afterward, “but they were a championship team before he got here. So we didn’t look at it as an opportunity with him not being off the floor. We knew it would be tough either way.”
And it has been. Barring a massive change in both teams’ form in Portland Saturday and Monday, it seems likely to stay that way.

With Green listed as doubtful, expect Warriors to rely on rookie Jordan Bell


With Green listed as doubtful, expect Warriors to rely on rookie Jordan Bell

After getting a rude “Welcome to the NBA” facial from Rockets guard Eric Gordon in his debut Tuesday night, Warriors rookie Jordan Bell stands to get a more legitimate baptism Friday night in New Orleans.

That’s where Pelicans All-Stars Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will be waiting, eager to abuse the new guy.

With starting power forward Draymond Green listed as doubtful with a strained left knee -- MRI test results were negative -- Bell can expect significant minutes when the Warriors and Pelicans meet at Smoothie King Center.

Aware Green’s availability is in question, Bell sees what’s ahead in Davis and Cousins, as they both possess skills that rank among the top five big men.

“I’m definitely excited about that,” Bell said Wednesday. “(They are) some of the best bigs in the league, so I’m definitely excited to get tested against that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr generally avoids tinkering with his set rotations, in which case David West and JaVale McGee would continue to come off the bench at center. Of the other “bigs” on the roster, Bell is most likely to start if Green is unable.

Bell played 12 minutes in the opener, and they were in slots that typically go to McGee, who never left the bench against Houston. Citing the matchups created by the Rockets’ smallish lineups, Kerr opted for the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Bell over the 7-foot, 270-pound McGee.

That will change Friday, regardless of Green’s status, as both Bell and McGee will be needed against Davis and Cousins, both of whom possess wing spans over 7 feet. Only Bell is suited to play power forward or center, and the staff is coaching him at both positions.

“At the 4, I have to be more of a facilitator, like (Green) is,” Bell said. “Some plays (Kerr) has me doing the same things Draymond does. Sometimes he has me bring the ball up in practice. Calling plays, putting me in positions on the elbows to make the right pass, make the right read.

“When I’m at the 5, I have to be more of an aggressor, a more physical guy on the court, focusing on rebounding and finishing around the rim.”

It’s exceedingly rare for a second-round draft pick to start a game in his first week as an NBA player. The Warriors believe Bell can handle it. So in the case of Green being held out, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the rookie’s name is called.


Report: Draymond Green receives results on left knee MRI


Report: Draymond Green receives results on left knee MRI

The Golden State Warriors and Dubnation have been holding their breath a bit awaiting the results of Draymond Green's MRI. 

They can breathe a little better now. 

According to ESPN, the forward underwent an MRI on his left knee and results came back negative. 

Green left Tuesday's game against the Rockets one point shy of a triple double after 28 minutes of work. 

The Warriors were left in a defensive deficit in his absence and ultimatley lost to the Rockets 122-121. 

More to come...