Warriors

Many reasons behind Warriors' loss in Miami: 'They played harder'

Many reasons behind Warriors' loss in Miami: 'They played harder'

So, what happened to the Warriors in Miami?

They were undone by a combination of factors, from the locale to the challenge of playing on consecutive nights to their tendency to saunter through the first half before unleashing the full force of their talents in the second.

From the poor long-distance shooting to the thrashing they took on the glass.

There also was the absence of Andre Iguodala, sitting on a rest night, and perhaps most of all, Heat guard Dion Waiters performing as if he were Superman.

Each of these was a factor, and the combination of challenges was too much for the Warriors to overcome in a 105-102 loss at American Airlines Arena.

“Tonight was an NBA loss on a Monday, nothing to panic over,” Kevin Durant told reporters in Miami.

“We were just a step slow.”

That they were, at both ends. The offense too often trudged about as if jogging in mud, and the defense lagged along as if affected by fatigue or disinterest.

“Give Miami credit: They played harder,” Klay Thompson said.

The Warriors (38-7) through the first three quarters were outrebounded 37-29 and outshot from 3-point distance -- their specialty -- 37.5 percent to 18.2 percent. If go into the fourth quarter shooting their average (38.7 percent) from deep, they have an eight-point lead.

Instead, they were down four, 77-73, and in need of a comeback on a night when Waiters was a force field against that possibility. He scored a career-high-tying 33 points on 13-of-20 shooting, including 6-of-8 from deep.

“You have to tip your hat to him,” Durant said of his former teammate in Oklahoma City. “He made big shots all night. He was aggressive. He had his jumper going. He didn’t hit the rim tonight; everything went straight in.”

The Warriors were down, 98-88, with less than four minutes to play before embarking on a stirring comeback to tie the game, 102-102, on a Durant dunk with 11.7 seconds left. They came alive, suddenly playing with their hair on fire.

And Waiters, who scored 24 points in the second half, poured water right on top of their heads, draining a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds to win the game.

“We didn’t have a good effort just trying to execute the first 3[1/2] quarters,” said Stephen Curry, whose 10 rebounds were more than Draymond Green and Durant combined. “You feel like you still have a shot down seven to 10 with six minutes left.

“But when you get down like that on the road and a guy hits some tough shots like Dion did, you have to take that pill and understand we put ourselves in that position to allow those shots to effect the game. He played well, but we didn’t do anything to help ourselves the first 3[1/2] quarters.”

So ended the seven-game win streak during which the Warriors were utterly dominating, beating opponents by an average of 19.4 points per game. The usual culprit, death by turnover, is not to be blamed.

The Warriors committed 14 turnovers, off which the Heat scored 8 points, while scoring 18 points of 15 Miami giveaways.

“It was more a case of not being fully engaged defensively and on edge like we need to be,” coach Steve Kerr said.

In Miami, of all places, the Warriors strayed from their normal routine. They arrived late Sunday afternoon and did not have a shootaround Monday morning. They rested Iguodala. They missed eight free throws and 22 triples.

They found no real rhythm until the final, futile minutes.

“We just have to play from the beginning,” Draymond Green said. “I don’t think we really ever established ourselves in that game. Other than a little at the end, that was it.”

And, still, that might have been enough, if not for Waiters.

Warriors find rhythm on road trip with NBA playoffs’ top seed in reach

Warriors find rhythm on road trip with NBA playoffs’ top seed in reach

MINNEAPOLIS — One day after the Warriors lost by more than 30 points to the Boston Celtics in early March, Draymond Green stressed that his team needed to attain three goals during the final stretch of the season: Better execution, improved defense and homecourt advantage throughout the NBA playoffs.

Weeks later, following another embarrassing home loss to the Phoenix Suns, the defending champs seemed to fall short of all three ahead of a strenuous four-game road trip featuring three playoff teams. 

After wrapping up that trip with three wins -- including Tuesday's 117-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves -- the Warriors seem to be finding their rhythm at just the right time.

"Great trip," coach Steve Kerr said after the Warriors' win. "To go 3-1 against the caliber of competition with the difficulty of the back-to-back ... really good trip." 

Tuesday's victory encapsulated Green's vision from nearly two weeks ago. Entering the matchup tied with the Denver Nuggets atop the Western Conference, the Warriors had one of their best offensive performances.

They dished out 39 assists to just 13 turnovers, and held the Timberwolves to 40 percent from the field. Stephen Curry, who struggled to find his shot in recent games, scored 22 of his game-high 36 points in the third quarter. 

The win over Minnesota also capped a four-game trip where the Warriors ended the Rockets' nine-game winning streak, and produced their best defensive performance of the season against the Thunder. Plus, they added Andrew Bogut into the fold as DeMarcus Cousins sat with an ankle injury. Over the trip, Golden State held opponents to 41.3 percent from the field and just 29.9 percent from 3-point range. 

Last season, the Warriors finished with a 7-10 record over the last 17 games. They also dealt with injuries to Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, and were locked into the West’s No. 2 seed for much of the final stretch.

After the All-Star break this season, the Warriors lost five of their first nine games. The loss at home to the lowly Suns prompted a different approach on the road. 

"It's definitely a different mindset," Kerr said. "Each game takes on more importance. Last year, I think the final 20 games, we kind of knew we were going to be the two seed, so its a little different this year, and I think it's going to help us." 

In the first game of the trip, Golden State beat Houston behind 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists from Cousins. Three nights later, the Warriors held the Thunder to just 32.3 percent shooting, including a 2-of-16 performance from All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. 

"The first two games were important to us, especially after that Phoenix loss," Durant said Tuesday. "To come out and beat two teams on the road, it was probably the best two-game stretch of the season for us, and we needed that, we needed to feel good about ourselves, going on the plane, going to practice the next day."

[RELATED: Steph hits 300 3-pointers in a season ... again]

Now, with 12 games left in the season, the goals Green laid out following the loss to Boston still are within reach.

Following Tuesday's win, Golden State is a half-game up on Denver for the West's top spot, armed with a tiebreaker and a home matchup April 2. For a team that's won three championships in the last four years, this is familiar territory.

"It's always good to set goals and reach something, but for us, we know exactly where we want to be," Durant said. "We've reached the point twice, and we had fun doing it. We were a two seed last year, and we started off on the road in the Western Conference Finals and won Game 1, so it's about playing great basketball. I think everybody's in a great rhythm, groove, I think that's way more important than trying to get a seed." 

"We know what we're capable of," Curry added. "It's just a matter if we do it on a night-to-night basis."

How Jonas Jerebko came out of hibernation, helped spark Warriors' win

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USATSI

How Jonas Jerebko came out of hibernation, helped spark Warriors' win

After spending much of the past three months in hoops hibernation, Jonas Jerebko resurfaced Tuesday night and reminded the Warriors why they hired him last summer.

The 6-foot-10 forward came off the bench in the second quarter and stunned not only the Minnesota Timberwolves but also the Warriors by lighting up the scoreboard at a level usually reserved for the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Jerebko took three 3-pointers and made them all. His 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 shooting from the free-throw line translated to 14 points in nine minutes.

Who was that guy?

“I haven’t played him much at all, and the guys were taking a lot of joy from Jonas’ performance,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after a 117-107 win at Target Center. “He’s just a pro. He comes out there and hasn’t played in about a month and stays ready and does that. That’s why he is who he is.”

Jerebko scored 18 points in 18 minutes -- the first time he hit double figures since Dec. 22, when he rang up a season-high 23 points in a win over the Dallas Mavericks. For someone who hadn’t seen much action, Jerebko's timing and rhythm was flawless.

The Warriors signed Jerebko in hopes of getting some offense off the bench. To be specific, they identified the veteran power forward as someone capable of stretching the floor, making life easier for his teammates.

And for a while, they were getting what they wanted, with Jerebko drilling 37 3-pointers in his first two months as a Warrior.

But he made just 18 triples over the next three months. His shot deserted him, his minutes vanished and he became a cheerleader.

The roles were reversed Tuesday. His teammates were enjoying the Jerebko Show.

“If he knocks down those shots and keeps shooting them with confidence, he builds off that,” Kevin Durant said. “He made his first few. And then he got going. He’s driving to the rim, he’s shooting hook shots. You knock a few shots down, then your confidence is through the roof.”

Jerebko kept busy by putting in work. There were times when he wondered where he fit, if he still fit and whether he’d have another chance. He only knew that if the opportunity came, he would have to produce.

“Stay in the gym,” he said. “Get early to practice, get shots up and work on your conditioning and always stay ready. Control what you can control.

“It helps when you’ve been in the situation before, which I have. I’m confident in my abilities, so like I said, I’ve just got to stay ready and help the team out whenever they need it. That’s all I can do, and tonight was a good night.”

With 12 games remaining in the regular season, the coaching staff is assessing the roster, evaluating individuals and pondering matchups for the playoffs. They believe there will be games when Jerebko can make an impact.

If his shot is falling as it did Tuesday, that would apply to any game and any opponent.

“He fits their system well, and he can shoot the ball well,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “If you allow him to be comfortable, he’s a difference maker for that team.”

[RELATED: Steph reaches 300 3-pointers in a season for third time]

Not every defense will allow him or anybody else the privilege of comfort. Jerebko knows that. The Warriors know that.

They only hope one comfortable night can lead to a few more in the coming weeks.