Warriors

Doc Rivers: Warriors lucky they didn't face Clippers or Spurs

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Doc Rivers: Warriors lucky they didn't face Clippers or Spurs

In case you forgot, the Warriors won the 2015 NBA title.

In the process, they became just the 10th team to win 67 regular season games.

They won those 67 contests by an average of 10.1 points -- the eighth team in league history to finish with a win-differential of +10 or better.

According to Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, the Warriors needed some help from the Basketball Gods to capture the championship.

“You need luck in the West,” Rivers recently told Zach Lowe of Grantland.com. “Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs. But that’s also a lesson for us: When you have a chance to close, you have to do it.”

Rivers is correct. The Warriors didn't have to play the Spurs or Clippers en route to hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

[RELATED: Harden: Not knocking Steph, but 'I deserved the MVP' last year]

Los Angeles knocked off San Antonio in an epic seven-game series, that would not have been a first-round matchup in the 2016 playoffs.

The third-seeded Clippers (56-26) squared off against the sixth-seeded Spurs (55-27) because the Blazers (51-31, sixth best record in the West) were awarded the four-seed by virtue of winning their division.

Last month, the NBA announced that a division-winner will no longer automatically get a Top 4 seed.

If that rule was in place last season, the Clippers would have faced Portland in the first round, with Memphis (four seed) squaring off against San Antonio (5 seed).

Would the Spurs have beaten Memphis and faced the Warriors in the second round? Possibly. Could the Spurs have beaten the Warriors? Possibly. 

Rivers' Clippers could have had a shot against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals had their season not come to end with a Game 7 loss to the Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Los Angeles had a 3-1 series lead, and beat Houston 124-99 in Game 3 and 128-95 in Game 4.

After dropping Game 5 in Houston 124-103, the Clippers returned home for Game 6, and looked like they would cruise past the Rockets.

Los Angeles led 87-68 with less than three minutes remaining, yet lost the game 119-107.

The collapse became official with a 113-100 loss back in Houston.

“The more I tried to process it, the angrier I got,” J.J. Redick told Lowe. “I’m not saying we definitely would have beaten Golden State, but if you make the conference finals, you have a chance. I’ve given up trying to explain what happened.

“The championship window in the West is so narrow. Ours might only be open another couple of years. But you need some breaks. Golden State was the best team in the league, but they also had everything go right for them. They didn’t have one bad break. I don’t have any doubt about the DNA of our team.”

During the regular season, the Warriors took three of four from their Pacific Division rivals.

2015-16 meetings: Nov. 4 and March 23 at Oracle Arena, and Nov. 19 and Feb. 20 at Staples Center.

Five issues Warriors must confront to clear path to another championship

Five issues Warriors must confront to clear path to another championship

OAKLAND -- The Warriors reconvened Wednesday, settling in for a sprint they hope ends with triumph in June. Knowing what lies ahead and recognizing the clearest path to that goal, they scrimmaged for maybe the fourth time since preseason.

There are five issues that, if not solved, could derail hopes for a third consecutive championship and one last Warriors parade through the streets of Oakland.

Here are those issues, in order of importance:

1) STAYING HEALTHY

This is easily the most essential component, though much of its fate is more dependent on luck than any other factor.

This is about more than keeping the five 2018 All-Stars -- DeMarcus Cousins, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson -- upright and productive. That’s the obvious.

[RELATED: Kerr explains how rehabbing Cousins was 'pain in the a**']

But it can’t stop there. The Warriors come out of the break with six games in nine days. They have five back-to-back sets over the final seven weeks, including three over the final 18 days.

“Our health will be the No. 1 priority, over everything, entering the playoffs,” coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “If we need to rest guys, we’ll rest ‘em.”

To get Playoff Andre (Iguodala) and Peak Draymond, for example, it’s imperative to manage minutes.

2) COPING AMID THE NOISE

The Warriors pride themselves on their positive culture, citing their work/fun balance as a primary aspect of their success. That will be tested like never before.

Durant’s impending free agency already has been a source of agitation for some, and it has not always been kept in the locker room. It was at the crux of the very public squabble between Durant and Green in November.

It could get worse. On top of teammates already teasing KD about joining the Knicks, we now have All-Star Weekend chatter and video of Celtics free agent Kyrie Irving (also speculated as a future Knick) and Durant having one-on-one conversations.

[RELATED: Dubs reportedly 'have no idea' what KD will do this summer]

This is not going away. How the Warriors navigate this will take plenty of skill. One more wrong move could threaten their goal.

3) DEFENDING WITH A VENGEANCE

The Warriors were a top-10 defense four years running -- until last season. They finished 11th in defensive rating, but dialed it up in the postseason to finish No. 1.

With 25 regular-season games remaining, they are 15th. That won’t be good enough. Can they crank it up before the postseason? Can they find it in the postseason? They are acutely aware of the matter and believe believe they know how to fix it.

“Our communication on the defensive end could get better,” Green said. “Everything on defense for us over the course of the last three, four or five years, it’s been second nature because we’ve been playing together. You can call a switch and the other guy will just know to switch.

[RELATED: Outsider Observations: Dubs face questions down backstretch]

“We’ve added so many pieces this year that it’s not second nature. You have to communicate a bit more. We weren’t necessarily great at that, so we’ve got to improve upon that.”

4) SECOND-UNIT COHESION

Kerr has spent four months tinkering and adjusting with his rotations. He’s not done, either. As long as there are matchups to consider and inconsistencies impacting decisions, this could be fluid.

The important thing here is to find a group that won’t open the second and fourth quarters surrendering much of, if not all of, the cushions built by the starters.

That means, for the most part, finding offense when Curry and Durant are resting. It has been an issue for much of this season, and it often forces the Warriors to win the game two or three times before it’s officially won.

[RELATED: Report: Warriors have mused about making run at Giannis]

That means getting offense from Thompson and Cousins and also a third party. Could be Iguodala. Could be Jonas Jerebko or Alfonzo McKinnie. Could be the player who fills the open roster spot (assuming one is signed). Has to be somebody.

5) TAKING BACK ORACLE

The Warriors in Kerr’s first two seasons were practically invincible at home, going 39-2 each year before dropping to a superb 36-6 in 2016-17.

They lost that touch last season, posting 29-12 records both home and away.

The Warriors are 22-7 at home this season, the last at Oracle Arena. With 14 dates remaining, anything less than 12-2 could imperil chances of getting the No. 1 overall seed. It won’t be simple -- unless they master the four aforementioned factors.

Steve Kerr explains how DeMarcus Cousins was 'pain in the a**' to Warriors

Steve Kerr explains how DeMarcus Cousins was 'pain in the a**' to Warriors

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Thursday night at 6 p.m. PT, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

DeMarcus Cousins made his season debut on Jan. 18 against the Clippers.

He's back in action, and pretty much everything surrounding his return has been positive. But his year of rehab certainly had its trials and tribulations ... and there were certainly some dark times.

The process was not easy for the four-time All-Star. It also wasn't completely rosy and drama-free for the Warriors.

“I’ll be dead honest with you and you can print this: he was a pain in the a** when we were trying to get him ready and scrimmage,” Steve Kerr said (while laughing) to Tim Kawakami of The Athletic. “He was just so angry, because he wasn’t playing.

“He was just in a bad mood because he’s a passionate, emotional person and you think about what was taken away with the injury, not just the playing time and the joy of being out there, but the contract that he was looking at. His life got turned upside down.”

Yes, it did.

And now Cousins is hoping to change the narrative surrounding him and his long-term potential. The blueprint is to win a championship, prove he is back to being the player he once (was while being a great locker room presence) and secure a big payday in free agency.

[RELATEDNBA rumors: Warriors 'have no idea' what Kevin Durant will do in free agency]

If things go according to plan, it will all have been worth it. But Cousins will never forget the lows of the recovery. Those scrimmages against Warriors staffers in December and January were not fun for the two-time All-NBA selection.

“I hated it!” Cousins told The Athletic last week.“I hated it so much. I hated it. But I appreciated those guys just grinding with me, going through that grind with me, laying their bodies on the line. Of course, they’re not in basketball shape or even prepared physically to be out there playing. But to risk that for me … I appreciate those guys for it."

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller