SAN ANTONIO -- The Warriors now know that if they come into Game 4 Sunday with the same level of energy displayed so far in their first-round matchup against San Antonio, they’ll accomplish a series sweep.
They’re also starting to feel they might need to get a sweep.
They’ll be shorthanded again Sunday and could use the time to heal before the next round begins, as soon as next weekend. Five days to a week between games is as good as it gets.
With Stephen Curry out since March 23 -- and for at least another week -- the Warriors picked up two more aches in the final minutes of Game 3. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston both rolled their left ankles and left the game.
An hour later, Durant was walking without a discernable limp. Livingston spent plenty time on the trainer’s table and was walking with a very discernable limp.
Livingston wouldn’t rule himself out of Game 4, saying he’ll take Friday off, receive some intense treatment, and then see how he felt prior to practice on Saturday. Based on the visual, he’ll be sitting. And should be sitting.
Curry’s status was updated Friday. He has been cleared for “modified” practice activity beginning Saturday and will be reevaluated next April 27.
Game 1 of the next round of the playoffs could be as early as April 28.
In the hours after the Warriors’ 110-97 victory in Game 3 on Thursday, Klay Thompson pointed out some of the advantages of advancing as quickly as possible.
“Limit our road travel, expand our time to rest and get our best guys healthy, like Steph, KD and Shaun,” he said.
The Warriors almost certainly will need their best selves to deal with their next opponent next weekend.
There are 16 teams in the NBA playoffs, and none has been more surprisingly spectacular than the Pelicans. Suffocating the Trail Blazers on one end and shooting them into submission on the other, New Orleans is up 3-0 and on the brink of advancing.
It was evident from the buzz in the postgame locker room that the Warriors are impressed with the No. 6 seed Pelicans’ demolition of third-seeded Portland.
A week into the postseason, only the Warriors’ net rating of 20.2 is better than New Orleans’ 11.3. The Warriors are second in offensive rating, the Pelicans fifth. The Warriors are third in defensive rating, the Pelicans fourth.
New Orleans is thriving because point guard Rajon Rondo is fully engaged, Anthony Davis is playing with gusto and combo guard Jrue Holiday is reminding folks how terrific he was before his career was temporarily rerouted by injuries to himself and a serious health scare to his wife, former soccer star Lauren Holiday (nee Chaney).
“People forget, but he was really good when we were teammates,” said Andre Iguodala, who spent three seasons with Holiday in Philadelphia. “He could score, he could pass and he always could defend. He can do pretty much anything on the basketball court.”
It’s not that the Warriors are looking past the Spurs. It’s that they expect to win the series and realize they’ll need to be better should they advance.
“We have been in a decent rhythm,” Draymond Green said, referring mostly to the offense. “There is still another level we can get to and I have no doubt in my mind that we will get to that level.
“But, as bad as we were playing (to close the regular season), to kind of get to where we are is pretty solid. It’s still the first round, so . . . if you can still win and not be clicking and peaking at that time, that’s great. And I don’t think we are. It has been solid. We’ve been able to find a decent rhythm, but there are some things that we can clean up on that side of the ball and we will.”
That level is most easily reached when all four All-Stars are in the starting lineup. That can’t happen until Durant is healed -- he says he’s fine -- and Curry returns and vets Andre Iguodala, David West and Livingston are in their customary roles.
The Warriors likely win Game 4 even if Livingston joins Curry in street clothes on Sunday. Game 4 of the Pelicans-Blazers series is set for Saturday in New Orleans. Wins this weekend or early next week would have Warriors-Pelicans tipping off in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals on April 28 or 29.
As Thompson indicated, the Warriors would like as much time as possible to heal and prepare. The way the Pelicans have been rolling, they’re going to need it.