Mike D'Antoni explains why Warriors playing better without Kevin Durant

Mike D'Antoni explains why Warriors playing better without Kevin Durant

When Kevin Durant left Game 5 of the Warriors' second-round playoff series with the Houston Rockets, everyone assumed the two-time defending champions were in a world of trouble.

But after a rocky first half in Game 6, the Dubs brushed aside the Rockets and went on to sweep the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals all without Durant, who continues to rehab his calf strain ahead of the NBA Finals.

The return of the old-school Warriors (if 2015-16 can be considered old school), has led many to wonder if the Dubs are actually better without Durant.

This, of course, is insane. But you don't have to take my word for it. 

Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni had the misfortune of facing both versions of the Warriors during Houston's second-round loss, and he knows it's ridiculous to think the Warriors are better without the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

"They play a little bit differently, but I know one thing: When Kevin went out, everybody and every player and every coach and everybody in the country … who was against them was relieved that Kevin (wasn’t there)," D'Antoni told Sam Amick of The Athletic. "That gives you a clue, to me, that they’re better with him when everybody says, ‘Oh, thank goodness (he’s out).’

"Now, does that mean they’re not (capable of winning it all without him)? Heck, they were really good (before him). They won 73 games and a championship without him one year, and they probably should’ve won two. So it doesn’t mean they can’t win and be an unbelievable team, but Kevin Durant is just a special player. And again, I think without a doubt they’re better with him. But they’re really good without him also."

The Warriors have taken their play to another level with Durant out. D'Antoni thinks the improved level of play is a mixture of desperation and letting other players shine in different roles.

"Well, I think it puts them into more of a desperation mode," D'Antoni said. "We don’t have Kevin, and so yeah (they’re) more desperate. Do they turn it up a ways? Yeah, probably. But again, I think where they’ve gotten beside the point (in that discussion) is that we know how good the Splash Brothers and Kevin are, but Draymond Green is playing at a very, very high level, and he’s as valuable – if (not) more valuable – than anybody.

"They’ve got a bunch of players who can go, and missing one, I just think, made them more aware of what they needed to do. "

Without Durant, the Warriors looked vulnerable. But the Rockets swung and missed at the champs yet again, allowing Steph Curry to explode for 33 second-half points in Game 6 to eliminate them. 

So, what went wrong for Houston?

"We gave them too many shots," D'Antoni said. "You cannot give them extra possessions. We did that. We didn’t rebound the ball well, so that means we weren’t in transition as much as we should’ve been. And their defense, in a set half-court, is really, really good. I think the combinations of those two things, just getting out in transition and how we couldn’t do it because of the rebounding, I think that killed us. That killed us.

"We actually shot, probably, better than them for most of the series. I don’t know about the last game, but most of the series we shot better. So we did our parts on a lot of it, and I thought our defense was good. They made some great individual plays at the end of Game 6 – some great individual plays. What Steph did on a couple shots, and Klay (Thompson) in the first half (in which he had 21 of his 27 points), and then Steph in the second half. They have that championship mentality, and we just couldn’t snuff it out of them.”

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

After losing to the Warriors yet again in the playoffs, the Rockets have to go back to the drawing board to find a way to knock off the champs.

That's no easy task, no matter what Durant decides to do in free agency.

Steve Kerr explains why Warriors rookie Eric Paschall will play a lot

Steve Kerr explains why Warriors rookie Eric Paschall will play a lot

Warriors fans should expect to see a lot of Eric Paschall this season.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr was a guest on KNBR 680 on Tuesday afternoon, and was asked if the soon-to-be 23-year-old is one of the rare rookies that he can trust.

"One hundred percent, you're right on it," Kerr said. "He's a mature rookie. He's got an NBA body. He's physically capable of standing up to anybody in the league. One of the problems for most rookies -- and you'll see it a little bit with Jordan Poole this year -- you just have to mature and get bigger and stronger.

"Most guys when they come in, they're just not ready for this level of strength and force that exists in the game. Eric's ready for all that.

"He's gonna play a lot this year. We're really excited about him."

Glenn Robinson III will be the Dubs' starting small forward in the season opener Thursday night against the Clippers, and could start the majority of games this season.

But don't be surprised if Paschall -- who played primarily power forward or center during the preseason -- ends up starting some games at the three.

Over five preseason games, the Villanova product averaged 9.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per contest.

[RELATEDWhy Draymond thought Warriors GM Myers was turning on him]

Defensively, he consistently is where he needs to be.

"Great kid, great work ethic and just a guy who I think will be able to guard multiple positions," Kerr added. "And is definitely not afraid of the moment, so really excited about Eric."

You should be, too.

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Steph Curry takes high road on Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame comment

Steph Curry takes high road on Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame comment

Steph Curry could have come out guns blazing at the GOAT, but instead, the sharpshooter took the high road.

After Michael Jordan told NBC's "Today" that the Warriors star was not a Hall of Famer "yet," Curry had every right to unload on the absurd opinion. He is, after all, the greatest shooter in NBA history, a three-time NBA champion and a unanimous MVP. Instead, Curry decided to take the road less traveled nowadays -- the high one.

"I think I’m good, but then I’m never complacent," Curry told Full Size Run's Matt Welty, via Complex Sports. "I know I have more to prove to myself. When you hear a guy like that who’s the greatest of all time, it’s kind of funny. Since we’ve been on this stage, we’ve heard a lot of retired guys chiming in on this generation of basketball player and evaluating talent and saying their generation was better and all that. It’s a great conversation for the fans to get in on. I know I’m in good shape for that, but I still have a lot to prove to myself."

There's no doubt Curry would be a Hall of Famer today if he were eligible. He transformed the way the game is played and was the star on one of the best teams in NBA history, leading the Warriors on an almost unprecedented dynastic run to five straight NBA Finals. 

[RELATED: Kerr offers take on MJ's belief Steph isn't Hall of Famer]

As the Warriors transition to Chase Center, Curry faces the next task in his Hall-of-Fame career (sorry, MJ).

With Kevin Durant moving on and Klay Thompson injured, Curry will be tasked with navigating the Warriors through the treacherous Western Conference and back to the playoffs.

It's a tall task, to be sure. One fitting of a Hall of Famer.

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