Lou Williams sends warning to Warriors about looking ahead to Rockets

Lou Williams sends warning to Warriors about looking ahead to Rockets

Klay Thompson and the Warriors have admittedly been looking past the Los Angeles Clippers during their first-round NBA playoff series, with the Houston Rockets awaiting in the second round.

That was a mistake.

The Warriors have lacked mental focus throughout their first-round battle with the Clippers. After blowing a 31-point lead in Game 2, the Dubs won Games 3 and 4 to take a commanding 3-1 lead with the series heading back to Oakland.

But with their eyes squarely on the Rockets and not on the scrappy underdog in front of them, the Warriors let the Clippers off the hook as Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell led L.A. to a 129-121 Game 5 win Wednesday night.

After the win, Williams had a quick cautionary message for the Warriors about looking ahead.

"For us, our focus was to come in, extend the series and get another win on the home floor," Williams said when asked about the Warriors' openness about to looking toward Houston. "It's their mistake for looking ahead. So that's on them."

Williams, who scorched the Warriors for 33 points in Game 5, has a point.

[RELATED: Rockets reportedly flying to Bay Area in anticipation of date with Warriors]

While the Warriors clearly have the talent to turn it on whenever they want, their nonchalant approach to the Clippers has put them in a bind.

Dropping two games to the underdog Clippers has cost the Warriors valuable rest days they could have used with the Rockets on the horizon. There also is the more pressing matter of a Game 6 at Staples Center that won't be easy to win. The Warriors have the ability to come out and squash the Clippers if they are focused on the annoying pest in front of them.

But if they once again find themselves peaking towards a date with James Harden, they could find themselves heading back to Oakland for a do-or-die Game 7 instead of Game 1.

Warriors looking to balance rest and staying sharp entering the Finals

USA Today

Warriors looking to balance rest and staying sharp entering the Finals

OAKLAND - Four days ago, after eliminating the Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference, the battered Golden State Warriors earned the right to rest. 

The achievement comes with a caveat for a team with seven days full days until the NBA Finals: How to balance getting the necessary rest while staying sharp. 

"We all kind of have an understanding of how our body responds and what we need to do and how to also get off your feet," Warriors guard Stephen Curry said following practice Friday afternoon. "Knowing that the rest should work to our advantage once the Finals start." 

The extended break came at an opportune time for the champs, who now have time to dedicate a full training staff to help heal injuries for DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, and Andre Iguodala. As the Warriors wait for a winner to emerge from the Eastern Conference Finals matchup between the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks, they have taken a cautionary approach towards preparation. 

After taking two days off, Golden State resumed practice Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday, the Warriors went through a full scrimmage, which included Cousins, who is rehabbing from a torn right quad. Following Saturday's practice, the team will take Sunday off and resume workouts Monday morning with more scrimmages on the horizon. 

"Throughout the scrimmage, you don't have to go 100 percent playoff intensity," Curry said. But you can still focus on the things that help you on win games defensively like rotations and switches. And then offensively, certain play calls we know we're going to run, even though, in our scrimmages, everyone knows what the plays are."

Golden State has been in this position before. Two years ago, after sweeping the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Finals, Golden State had nine days to prepare for the NBA Finals matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who they beat in five games. Over the last five years, Golden State has had at least a week break three times. 

"We kind of understand how mentally you want to refresh," Curry said. "I know the playoffs are demanding. So if you have time to reset a little bit, take advantage of it." 

History suggests that rest doesn't nessessarily mean success in the NBA Finals.  Teams with at least a one-week rest before Game 1 of the NBA Finals are 14-11 in the series all-time.

"There's no easy answer to it all but you have to scrimmage," Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area. you have to play and that's scary because guys could get hurt."

More than 30 years ago, after dispatching Kerr's Suns in the 1989 Western Conference Finals, Lakers coach Pat Riley, decided to hold a three-day mini camp in a remote area near Santa Babara, Calif to keep his team in peak condition. During the two-a-day sessions, Lakers guard Byron Scott pulled his hamstring. Days after the camp, star guard Magic Johnson pulled his hamstring in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons, missing the rest of the series as Detroit swept the series. 

"Pat Riley is one of the great coaches of all time. How do you handle it? I don't know," Kerr said. "You got to strike a balance, you got to try and keep their conditioning and keep their lungs, but you can't risk injury." 

With seven days until their next professional game, the Warriors will continue to tow the line between resting and keeping their game up to par for their biggest series of the season. 

"You just got to have fun and compete with it, obviously," Curry said. "You want to stay safe and really it's just to make sure the lungs still work for the Finals."


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.