Warriors

Without Green, Iguodala, fourth quarter turns into disaster for Warriors vs Rockets

Without Green, Iguodala, fourth quarter turns into disaster for Warriors vs Rockets

OAKLAND -- The defending champion Warriors started cracking in the hours before tipoff Tuesday night and broke apart when they usually come together.

The fourth quarter was a disaster area and it cost the Warriors, as the Houston Rockets wiped out a 13-point deficit and tagged them with a 122-121 loss before a stunned sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

So ends, as it should, the spurious notion of a rubber-stamp championship for the Warriors. A strain here and a tweak there and they found themselves on the painful end of the score.

The Warriors learned prior to the game that forward Andre Iguodala, their valuable Sixth Man, would be out nursing a strained back. They were hit with another injury, this one to Draymond Green, who was highly effective, late in the third quarter.

“He was our best player tonight,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was the guy who was bringing the energy and the life.”

Green’s numbers -- 9 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists -- barely hint at his value in this game. Green and Iguodala are the primary defensive communicators, and Green held it down fairly well -- until he, too, was gone.

“Our communication wasn’t very good and we didn’t stick to the game plan; we gave them too many wide-open threes,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 first-quarter points but only 5 over the final three.

“We did a good job in the half-court of keeping them in front,” said Kevin Durant, who also scolded himself for committing eight turnovers. “But in transition we got cross-matched so many times and we just didn’t communicate well enough.”

Games aren’t always lost in the fourth, despite the frequent narrative, but this one most assuredly was. With Green in the locker room accompanied by ice, the Warriors were outscored 34-20 in the fourth quarter.

After shooting 45.8 percent through three quarters, the Rockets took it to 56 percent in the fourth, closing the game on a 13-5 run over the final 4:01.

The Warriors don’t yet know when Green and Iguodala will return, whether it’s as soon as Friday at New Orleans or a matter of weeks. Until they do, Kerr will have to resort to patching things together.

Problem is, aside from the scoring of Nick Young (23 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 6-of-7 from deep) and Jordan Bell (8 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 12 minutes), the bench did not distinguish itself.

That was particularly true on defense, which happen to be where Iguodala and Green make their greatest impact. The reserves accounted for 13 of the 25 fouls called on the Warriors.

“We’ve got to be better,” Durant said. “We’ve got to be better, and we’re looking forward to practice Wednesday.”

Coming Soon: The Steph Curry Effect

Coming Soon: The Steph Curry Effect

OAKLAND -- Postseason basketball is about to get considerably easier for Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant and, well, the rest of the Warriors.

Stephen Curry, sidelined for the past five weeks with a knee injury, could rejoin the Warriors as soon as Saturday for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinal series against the New Orleans Pelicans.

After going through his first controlled scrimmage since mid-March on Thursday, Curry was upgraded to questionable.

“He did everything and looked good,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

Curry’s return is significant largely for his impact on offense, as his mere presence puts immeasurable pressure on opposing defenses. Nobody spreads the floor quite like he does.

Though he wasn’t needed to put away the Spurs in the first round, Curry might be essential against a white-hot New Orleans team that rolled up points (114.5 per game, 114.7 offensive rating) while containing guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in their first-round sweep of the Trail Blazers.

As good as Lillard and McCollum are, Curry and Thompson would pose an altogether deeper set of problems. Thompson’s length (he’s 6-foot-7) and strength will be tough to the Pelicans to handle. With Curry, the challenge is defending his ability to shoot from deep as well as he penetrates.

The Warriors posted an astonishing 120.4 offensive rating in the 51 games that Curry played in the regular season. Without him, they dropped to just above 106. Those statistics illustrate the Curry Effect.

As Durant has said on multiple occasions: “Steph is the system” with the Warriors. On a team for which any one of three players can ring up 30 or more points in a game, Curry is the centerpiece.

With him, they can take the floor knowing they can outscore just about any team. Without him, they know they that would be an exceedingly tall task.

“We were excited,” Thompson said of seeing Curry on the practice court. “I know he is very eager to play. He’s a competitor, so I know that sitting down kills him. We can‘t wait for him to get back, whenever that is.”

It may be Saturday.

“What we have to do is see how his body responds the rest of the day and put him through another practice (Friday),” Kerr said. “He needs to string together a few good days, but it was very positive today.”

Curry is ready. He closed his practice session, supervised by assistant coach Bruce “Q” Fraser, by shouting, “We back, Q! We back.” The two then leapt into the air, bumping chests and giggling.

Statistical comparison between the Warriors and Pelicans since Cousins' injury

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AP

Statistical comparison between the Warriors and Pelicans since Cousins' injury

On Jan. 26, the Pelicans lost DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending injury.

Without Cousins, they went 21-13 down the stretch and finished with the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

Over that same time period, the Warriors won 19 of their final 33 games (including only seven of their last 17) as they dealt with an onslaught of injuries to their stars as well as their bench.

These stats below (from Jan. 27 through the end of the regular season) paint a picture of how Golden State and New Orleans differed, leading up to their second round matchup starting Saturday night:

OFFENSE:

Assists per game:

Pelicans T-3rd: 27.1 assists
Warriors 5th: 27.1 assists

Rebounds per game:

Pelicans 5th: 46.1 rebounds
Warriors 24th: 42.5 rebounds

Field goal percentage:

Warriors 1st: 49.1%
Pelicans 8th: 48%

3-point percentage:

Warriors 5th: 38.2%
Pelicans 20th: 35.3%

Points per game:

Pelicans 3rd: 112.6 ppg
Warriors 12th: 109.5 ppg

Turnovers per game:

Pelicans 16th: 13.8
Warriors 25th: 15.1

DEFENSE:

Opponent field goal percentage:

Pelicans 5th: 44.6%
Warriors 11th: 45.8%

Opponent 3-point percentage:

Pelicans 5th: 34.5%
Warriors 11th: 35.5%

Defensive Rating:

Pelicans 5th: 103.7
Warriors 12th: 105.6

Blocks per game:

Pelicans 1st: 7.0 blocks
Warriors 2nd: 6.8 blocks