Warriors

NBA Gameday: Warriors end regular season against Lakers team looking to future

NBA Gameday: Warriors end regular season against Lakers team looking to future

OAKLAND -- When the Warriors close out the regular season Wednesday night against the Lakers at Oracle Arena, they’ll treat the game as if it were a preseason battle.

In a way, it is. The Warriors (66-15) last month locked up the Pacific Division title and last week secured the No. 1 overall seed for the postseason, which begins this weekend.

With the Warriors in full playoff-preparation mode, resting players and monitoring minutes and hoping to avoid injuries, Game 82 is strictly cosmetic.

As for the Lakers (26-55), despite their current five-game win streak, they have spent the season preparing for the future. A midseason front-office overhaul indicates a change in direction as they approach the lottery.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 13.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

JaVale McGee vs. Larry Nance Jr.: Though McGee is not expected to start, any time he shares the floor with Nance (who has been starting at center for the Lakers) offers the promise of air traffic. Both play above the rim, live for the lob and can deliver fantastic highlights. In a game with such low stakes, eye candy is as good as it gets.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: F Matt Barnes (R ankle/foot sprain), F Draymond Green (rest), F Andre Iguodala (rest) and F Kevon Looney (L hip strain) are listed as out.

Lakers: F Brandon Ingram (R patellar tendinitis) is listed as probable. G D’Angelo Russell (personal) and C Ivica Zubac (R high ankle sprain) are listed as out.

ROSTER NOTE

Rookie C Damian Jones has been recalled from Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors won two of three meetings earlier this season and 10 of the last 13 dating back to 2012-13. They have won the last eight played at Oracle Arena.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

KD PART III: This is Durant’s third and final tune-up for the postseason in the wake of a 39-day layoff caused by a sprained knee and bone bruise. He was better in Game 2 Monday than he was in Game 1 last Saturday. He is 0-of-9 from beyond the arc, though, and vows to get that fixed ASAP.

CURRY 2K: Stephen Curry needs 21 points to reach 2,000 for the season, which would make him the fourth player in team history to post multiple seasons with at least 2,000 points. The other three: Wilt Chamberlain (five times), Rick Barry (four) and Chris Mullin (two).

KLAY CLIMBS: Klay Thompson and Curry own the top five totals for 3-pointers made in a single season. With three more triples, he would surpass Ray Allen’s 269 in 2005-06 to join Curry with the six highest totals. Thompson and Curry are the only two players to reach 270, Thompson last season and Curry on four occasions.

DeMarcus Cousins finally solves Oracle Arena riddle in win over Pacers

DeMarcus Cousins finally solves Oracle Arena riddle in win over Pacers

OAKLAND - A little more than a week ago in a Toyota Center hallway, DeMarcus Cousins was having a hard time solving a riddle. 

Following a 27-point, eight-rebound performance against the Rockets, Cousins was still facing a conundrum. 

"For some reason, I can't just have a good game at Oracle, I don't know what it is," Cousins said on March 13. "But I'm sure it'll happen eventually." 

Entering Thursday's matchup against the Pacers, Cousins averaged nearly six more points on the road than his home output, shooting less than 37 percent from the field. However, in a 112-89 demolition of Indiana, Cousins, for the moment, beat the meager odds, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. 

"DeMarcus was fantastic," head coach Steve Kerr said. "He was physical in there, getting a lot of drives to the hoop, drawing a lot of attention defensively and making great passes." 

When the Warriors signed Cousins, then recovering from an Achilles tear, the hope was for the former All-Star to give the champs an element it hasn't seen during its run: An offensive-minded center who can dominate down low. Remnants of that promise was seen Thursday evening, as Cousins scored 13 points in the first half, helping Golden State shoot 51 percent from the field. 

"The dude is amazing," Stephen Curry said. "He did it all different ways in terms of inside, outside. Put pressure on their bigs to have to make decisions."

Since Cousins returned more than two months ago, he's seen both the highs and lows of an Achilles rehab. Those lows have typically coincided with home outings. Entering Thursday, he averaged 12.5 points on just 36 percent shooting from the field, compared to 18.5 points on 54.7 percent shooting away from Oakland. 

Perhaps Indiana is an appropriate team for the man they call 'Boogie' to find his groove. Two months ago against the Pacers, in just his fifth game back in the lineup, he scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half, punishing Indiana's frontline, giving a glimpse of the levels Golden State could reach. 

"It's just a different dimension for us that we've never had," Kerr said. "We did play through David West on the low-block the last couple years, but it's different when DeMarcus gets going downhill, with shooters around him, he's just a force."

[RELATED: How golf has helped Iguodala]

For the last two months, the Warriors have been searching for ways to integrate the talented center, and for the time being, the two sides seems to be clicking. Over his last five games, Cousins is averaging 19 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists.

"I love playing with DeMarcus." Klay Thompson said. "He sets great screens, he catches everything you throw at him and he's just an amazing presence out there with his toughness and competitiveness and he's going to be such a big part of what we do in the playoffs."
 

Warriors summoning their ruthless defense at precisely the right time

Warriors summoning their ruthless defense at precisely the right time

OAKLAND – Not for a minute were the Warriors truly worried. Perplexed, maybe, but never concerned about finding the best of themselves. Even as they were stacking up shoddy defensive performances, inviting layups and open 3-pointers, they always knew.

Always knew that when the bright lights began twinkling in the distance, they’d muscle up.

So now, with the postseason three weeks away, they’re energizing their defense and getting serious about suffocating opponents.

The latest example came Thursday night, when the Warriors harassed the Pacers back to Indiana with raw backsides and a 112-89 loss for their time in Oakland. Indiana shot 24 percent in the first quarter, 32.7 percent in the first half and 38.9 percent in the third quarter, by which time the crowd at Oracle Arena was dancing and sipping and celebrating a 28-point lead.

For a team playing its third game in four nights, across two zones, this was profoundly impressive.

“Our energy was great; everybody was engaged,” assistant coach and defensive coordinator Ron Adams said. “And our spirit was the best I’ve seen in a long time.”

Adams acknowledged the efforts and Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins but was particularly pleased with the defensive intensity displayed by Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. Durant set a tone with three first-quarter blocks and Curry limited Indiana point guard Cory Joseph to 1-of-7 shooting.

Indiana shot 50 percent shooting in a garbage-time fourth quarter to lift its field-goal percentage to 38.5 for the game.

“They forced us to take some tough (shots), especially when they did some late-clock switching,” Pacers forward Thaddeus Young said. “We were forced to take some contested shots, and they didn’t go in and then that’s what they thrive off of. When you take a bad shot, they either get a leak out or they’ll push the break in transition and get 3s.”

A pattern is developing.

The Warriors have spent the past five games harassing offenses to the brink of despair. Nine days ago in Houston, they limited the Rockets to 26.8 percent shooting from deep, which is their core offense. Last Saturday in Oklahoma City, the Thunder shot 32.3 overall. The Spurs shot 46.6 percent Monday in San Antonio and the Timberwolves shot 40.4 percent Tuesday in Minneapolis.

The Warriors prior to the last five games were 15th in the NBA in defensive rating (109.2), causing worry lines to form within the fan base. Over the past five games, they are third (100.6) – and No. 1 in the Western Conference.

No worries.

“It’s really been fun to see,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re more engaged and active.”

The Warriors started dismantling the Pacers by outscoring them 18-10 over the final 5:03 of the first half and took them completely apart by opening the second half with a 17-3 run to build a 70-48 lead with 5:58 left in the third quarter.

“You have to give their defense a lot of credit,” said Indiana assistant coach Dan Burke, who took over for Nate McMillan, who is temporarily away for family reasons. “They have so much flexibility and versatility, and that switching is like a stoplight for us.

“We can’t allow that to happen. We have to move the ball. We are not an iso team. We played like there were a lot of mismatches there. I didn’t see very many mismatches.”

Andrew Bogut, who received a standing ovation upon his return to Oracle after nearly three years, offered a succinct and accurate analysis: “We made them take bad shots in the half court, late in the shot clock and turned them over.”

[RELATED: What we learned from Warriors' blowout win vs. Pacers]

Indy’s starters shot 28.6 percent (14-of-49) from the field. The Warriors forced 16 turnovers, off which they scored 21 points.

With 11 games remaining, the defending champs are turning ruthless. They’re finding their edge, the one they’ll need beginning the second weekend in April.

The team Warriors fans have been waiting for is materializing before us.