Stephen Curry

Steph Curry recalls pregame atmosphere before Warriors-Rockets Game 6

Steph Curry recalls pregame atmosphere before Warriors-Rockets Game 6

When Kevin Durant went down with a strained calf during the third quarter of Game 5 of the Warriors' second-round NBA playoff series with the Houston Rockets, a number of people pushed the panic button for the two-time defending NBA champions. 

Steph Curry was in a horrible shooting slump and the Dubs' bench had been rendered almost unplayable against the team that is obsessed with taking them down.

But there was no panic from the battle-tested Warriors.

Instead, holding a three-games-to-two series lead, the Warriors rolled into Houston for Game 6 and brushed aside James Harden and Co. behind Curry's 33 second-half points.

The addition of Durant has made the Warriors almost unbeatable, and it's easy to forget that Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala led the Warriors to the 2015 title and 73 wins in 2016. 

So the Warriors felt no different heading into Game 6 in Houston, despite missing the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

"It wasn't anybody having to go in and make a speech before practice or a game like, 'Alright, let's block out the noise, guys. Let's not listen to anybody,' " Curry said Friday after practice. "Nobody has to say that. It's like we just show up and play basketball."

That approach has served the Warriors well. 

After dispatching the Rockets, the Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals to advance to their third straight NBA Finals appearance.

[RELATED: Steph, KD right to be on message ahead of NBA Finals]

Durant is not expected to be available early in the NBA Finals, but the Warriors hope to get him back at some point in the championship round.

Until then, Curry, Thompson, Green and Iguodala will be tasked with finishing off another championship run.

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant right to stay on message ahead of NBA Finals

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant right to stay on message ahead of NBA Finals

OAKLAND – Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, speaking minutes apart on Friday, were in perfect harmony. They’ve been teammates long enough to know this may disappoint a segment of sports fans.

You’ve heard them. How can you not? These people say things like the Warriors are a better without Durant. Or the team’s famously fabulous chemistry is being compromised, by Durant.

“I feel like for the last three years, everybody has taken their shots at trying to nitpick or break us down or drive a wedge in our team chemistry or our togetherness or whatever the case is,” Curry said after practice. “And even this year, it’s been amplified even more with (Durant’s) free-agency stuff. Nobody can say anything without it getting scrutinized or criticized. Nobody can be happy when people are playing well. That’s the part, to me, that’s most surprising. If it’s KD playing well, it’s ‘Oh, they’re playing a different style and it’s not as fun to watch.’ Or when he’s out and we’re winning games, ‘Are we better or more fun,’ whatever the question is, you hear it all the time.”

Never mind that the Warriors are in the midst of the most successful NBA run since Bill Russell, now 85, was patrolling the middle for the 1960s Boston Celtics. Or that when the NBA Finals begin next week the Warriors are favored to capture a third consecutive championship.

Yet Durant, particularly since he dropped out of the lineup May 8 with a calf injury, remains a popular target, with some folks claiming he is a man apart – and not always because of his singular talent.

“It’s been that way since I got here, that it’s the Warriors and KD,” Durant said. “I understand that. And I feel like my teammates and the organization know exactly what I’ve done – on and off the court – to become a part of this culture.

“I know what I bring to the team,’ he added. “But I also know a lot of people from the outside don’t like to see us together. I get it.”

Every argument, every off-script moment and every sideways glance can lead to social media buzz, as well as that of TV and radio talk shows. The Warriors constantly are having their temperature taken by folks trying to diagnose from a distance.

Durant often gets the blunt end of the discourse, at least partly because he, for better or worse, engages more than most.

“It’s hard to get away from that because I watch the games and watch the lead-up to the games and that’s all everybody is talking about,” he said of the negative outside noise. “From my perspective, I want to focus on rehab, but I also want to be a fan of my teammates. I want to enjoy my teammates from a different view.”

Durant is not expected to play early in the NBA Finals, which begin next Thursday, but he is holding out hope he can get back on the court at some point during the series.

Much of the recent chatter is related to the Warriors being 5-0 since Durant went down, winning Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals in Houston before sweeping the Trail Blazers in the conference finals. This has spawned the usual instant “analysis” that some try to pass off as informed opinion.

“We are one group, until we’re not,” Curry said. “I don’t think we’re going to let any noise around us – as frustrating or entertaining or whatever you want to call it is on a daily basis – break us down in terms of distracting us from what the goal is.

When Durant was asked a question Friday – ‘’How have you thought about their (the Warriors) play?” – it was notable that he quickly corrected the reporter.

“Our play? I think we’ve been playing great.”

Even with continuing subplot of Durant’s looming free agency, both players stressed that the “common goal” overrides all other factors. Durant was having perhaps the best postseason of anyone before he was injured. Curry has since grabbed that torch.

[RELATED: How KD's early NBA Finals absence affects Warriors' matchups]

The Warriors went as far as possible in the first two seasons with Durant. The story of this season, despite predictions of collapse at several points, is in progress.

“We’re a great team because everybody who puts on the uniform goes out and competes at a high level,” Curry added. “We look out for each other. There’s a little bit of sacrifice. But at the end of the day, it’s all about winning. And no matter who is on the floor, that’s what we’re all about.”

While it’s true all is not blissful with this team, that doesn’t automatically mean it is a catastrophe waiting to happen

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Warriors care about NBA titles, not noise

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Tara Funk / NBC Sports Bay Area

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Warriors care about NBA titles, not noise

Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, will take you inside the two-time defending NBA champions as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #askkerith

Tip-Off

Right off the top, let’s get to the injury updates that @CuffyMarva @JustLuna13 @Prannoy29 @daphatroan and others asked about this week for DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant.

DeMarcus: He practiced Thursday for the first time since tearing his left quad on April 16. He very likely will play in the NBA Finals, though which game he'll make his debut in is TBD.

KD: Although he is making good progress, he has not been cleared for on-court activities. He likely will not play in the first games of the Finals, but the Warriors have hope that he’ll be able to play sometime during the series.

Some of this uncertainty might frustrate fans because the exact time for either player to return is unclear. But that’s the nature of injuries. Give DeMarcus and KD the space to heal and prepare to play at a high level. This time of year demands it.

Game On!

@SN0FL4KE How do you compare Boogie and Durant’s road to recovery? Durant seems to get a lot of negative media attention, while DeMarcus (who was in the same boat as Durant to start the year) has been able to fly under the radar for the most part. Is it fair in your opinion?

The Warriors had an idea that DeMarcus’ quad injury was serious, but they also knew a timeframe for his possible comeback. KD’s calf injury has been an evolving situation, with weekly progress reports. And KD has a higher profile on the team, and in the NBA, so the intrigue about his injury feels different.

I saw the hot debate question has moved on from, “Are the Warriors better without KD?” to “Are the Warriors more fun without KD?” and both are silly. Regarding fun and big performances, the Warriors found a way to clinch the series against the Rockets and then sweep the Trail Blazers because they had to. Lose, and it’s over.

I like how much fun Steph, Draymond and Klay had doing it. They’ve been the long-term foundation of the team, and it’s a healthy situation that they play so well together. But I do not understand the negativity around KD. He joins the fun. He creates the fun with some dominating scoring performances. This team celebrates the hot hand. They all shine.

Whatever way the wins come, everyone on the team reacts well to each other as they strive to win a third consecutive championship. Here’s what Kevon Looney told me about the journey the Warriors have been on this season to arrive at the Finals.

@CandlestickWill Will all these “insiders” talking out of their (peach emoji) actually lead KD to stay with the Warriors?

Nothing someone says on a debate show, in an article or on social media will make KD do something.

He told me months ago he has nothing to prove, nor would these people talking out of their (peach emoji) mean anything to him. This is random, but do remember during these playoffs when Jeff Van Gundy dropped a gem during a broadcast: “Don’t listen to criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from”? KD isn’t listening to anyone he doesn’t respect.

He has an inner circle of people he cares about, and they’ll help him arrive at his free-agency decision. It’s his choice. Everything else is noise to be ignored.

@707SportsFan Can any of Draymond's great play as of late be attributed the report where NBA players called him overrated? Is there any extra fire in him being on on the national spotlight after that report?

Draymond probably saw that report, but that doesn’t mean it’s fuel. He’s beyond needing extra fire to play his best. Here’s another player who doesn’t have anything to prove. He’s self-motivated to live up to the talent and desire inside himself.

Regarding this report, with 30 teams and a 15-man roster for each, that’s 450 guys. The report contained the results for 127 guys who talked. That’s a small sample size. And of that sample, just 47 answered the question, “Who’s the most overrated?” Draymond and Russell Westbrook tied for first with 17 percent of the vote.

Don’t get bogged down in this stuff. Draymond isn’t.

@dshiao @KerithBurke Damian Jones picked up the 3 quick fouls in Game 3. He was pulled after 3 minutes and was then DNP'd in Game 4. Will he get some minutes in the Finals? #askKerith

I think so. But emphasis on the “some.”

Steve Kerr acknowledged he probably played Damian too soon. Kerr was talking about the situation, not that DJ wasn’t ready to play physically. Kerr tried a lineup shake-up, and it didn’t work out. Oh well.

DJ will bounce back, and the time in between the Western Conference finals and the NBA Finals will help give him more runway to be comfortable playing at game speed again. There aren’t many practices during the playoffs, but nine days off in between games means solid practice time is popping up.

DJ won’t get many minutes with DeMarcus Cousins coming back. His usage also will depend on matchups and other injuries impacting the rotations. The usual stuff.

@Prestemon Do players wait for help getting up off the floor as a bonding thing or do they really have trouble doing it by themselves?

It’s a support-your-teammate thing. It’s camaraderie. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if no one helped you up? You’d have to be an unpopular guy, or on a team undisciplined about the norms.

Via IG, @arock75 asks, Will the time off be good for our Warriors?

Oh yeah. I know there’s a “rest versus rust” concern, but this time off will heal bodies and soothe minds. The mental part of performing at a high level is draining, and it’s been a long season. I’m not playing 48 minutes of professional basketball every other night, but I know how I feel this time of year. Tired. Mind-scrambled. Lots of deep sighs.

Having lighter team obligations and time away from basketball makes it easier to go back to the game refreshed. The mental edge will make the Warriors more powerful.

@rj1975 Is there reporter protocol at the post game press conferences? #AskKerith

Postgame is the place for questions that react to what happened in the game and how those things might fit into larger team storylines or NBA history. The people facilitating the press conference ask reporters to say their name and workplace before asking their question.

@MLEco2h2o When do we finally get a WNBA team in the Bay Area?

I don’t know exactly when, but it’s something Joe Lacob is thinking about. Last March, Lacob said he believes a Bay Area WNBA team would be successful and he’s open to exploring the possibility.

According to this 2017 report, timing is important ... as in, when Chase Center is completed. That’s soon!

And for the folks who don’t know, the WNBA regular season starts today! Read the major storylines on Swish Appeal and High Post Hoops.

High Five

Congratulations to the Warriors for collecting some honors. Draymond and Klay made the NBA’s All-Defensive Team as second-team selections. Additional kudos go to Steph Curry for making the All-NBA First Team, and to KD for making the second team.

Klay was perturbed he wasn’t an All-NBA selection, and he wondered aloud, “Do I think there are that many guards in the league better than me? Nope.”

Warriors Outsider Drew Shiller detailed why Klay will miss out on millions of dollars because he wasn’t picked for this All-NBA team. But in typically Klay fashion, he declared what makes him feel better: “Rings.”

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors coverage all season.