Rewind: Warriors go 'after each other,' top Clippers late


Rewind: Warriors go 'after each other,' top Clippers late

OAKLAND –- This was the type of game any team with championship aspirations must encounter in the regular season, the kind of experience that adds steel to the spine and a few cells of maturity to the mind.

After winning their first four games by double digits – and an average of 25 points – the Warriors on Wednesday night found themselves in a heated duel, a real test of their nerves and togetherness.

“In the third quarter, honestly, there were some emotions on the bench,” Steph Curry said. “And that’s what we need, a little fire to ignite. Guys were going after each other, challenging each other in a healthy way, which is good. You could tell that this means something to us, to start off 5-0 and to keep winning and to never get complacent, especially at home.

“You need those kinds of moments to test you and we answered that.”

[RATTO: Win over Clippers shows Warriors repeat won't come easy]

The Warriors came through the anxiety and agitation with a 112-108 victory over the Clippers. The triumph reminded them what it’s like to take a few damaging blows, and how best to respond to a crisis.

The Warriors trailed by 10 with about eight minutes left, by nine with a little more than seven minutes on the clock. Interim coach Luke Walton turned things around by resorting to what has become the team’s most reliable rescue tactic.

They went to a small lineup, featuring Draymond Green at center and Harrison Barnes at power forward, with Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Curry essentially as guards.

“We turned it up,” Green said. “Our defense, we started getting stops. Once we get stops, there are not many teams that can keep up with us.”

The Warriors pulled it together and held Los Angeles to 4-for-16 shooting over the final seven minutes, while also forcing a shot-clock turnover. In less than three minutes, a 10-point deficit became a one-point Warriors lead.

“We were pissed off,” Green said. “We don’t really get concerned. 10 points? We’ll cover 10 points in a couple minutes.”

[Barnes' barrage propels Warriors to win, 'huge weight off shoulders']

Pretty close, as it took precisely 2:16 for the Warriors to regain the lead on a Curry 3-pointer with 5:32 left. The Clippers led only once more, and for all of nine seconds, as the Warriors closed it out.

“You learn from games like this,” Thompson said.

The Warriors rediscovered that when times get tight, they can push each other through those tense moments. They can communicate, sometimes colorfully, and achieve the desired results. They can jump the officials, if necessary.

They also learned that Walton’s normally placid exterior can be stripped away and replaced by outward expressions of indignation.

“Luke’s not a fiery guy,” Thompson said. “But we respect everything that comes out of his mouth. He’s a very smart, intellectual coach and he told us what had to be done and we responded well.”

Walton’s display of pique was effective. It was the first time he reached into his coaching bag and pulled out that tool.

Then again, he hadn’t needed it before Wednesday.

“I’m still laid-back, but I’ve always been competitive,” Walton said. “When you’re in the heat of battle and get going, there are going to be some emotions out there. It’s the same way as when I played. You want to win and you try everything you can to make that happen. Sometimes it makes you louder than normal and you use some words that you normally would not use.”

The victory pushed the Warriors’ record, making them the first teams since Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls (1995-96, 1996-97) to win their first five games in back-to-back seasons. The Warriors lifted to 21 their franchise-record home win streak.

The win also was the Warriors’ eighth in a row – and 18th in the last 20 – over the rival Clippers within the confines of Oracle Arena. L.A. in the offseason retooled its roster and still suffererd a familiar outcome.

“It was good for us to feel a little bit of adversity against a good team like that,” Curry said. “We know what we’re not going to blow everybody out this year, and we answered the bell.”

How Warriors gain flexibility in Willie Cauley-Stein trade to Mavs

How Warriors gain flexibility in Willie Cauley-Stein trade to Mavs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Willie Cauley-Stein walked out of shootaround, down a long corridor that leads to the Warriors' locker room in Chase Center late Friday morning in preparation for a game scheduled hours later against the Indiana Pacers. The trek marked the big man's last as a member of Golden State.

By Saturday morning, Cauley-Stein officially was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the Utah Jazz's second-round draft pick in 2020, ending his short tenure in the Bay Area. Along the way, the Warriors set themselves up for future flexibility. 

In the immediate aftermath, the Warriors shed Cauley-Stein's current $2.17 million salary and his $2.8 million player option for the 2020-21 season, while freeing up an open roster spot for this season and beyond. From a financial perspective, it sank Golden State $2.57 million below the hard cap, according to ESPN's Bobby Marks. Additionally, the Warriors have enough salary space to convert the two-way deals of either Ky Bowman or Marquese Chriss. 

Six months ago, Cauley-Stein came to Warriors in search of career revitalization. After four years in Sacramento, he demanded that the Kings rescind his qualifying offer to make him a free agent last summer. After garnering more lucrative offers from other teams, he chose to sign a one-year contract with Golden State, which included the player option. With a new contract, the center hoped to keep the Warriors' postseason streak alive while earning a payday next summer. 

However, those wishes didn't come to fruition. A week before training camp, Cauley-Stein sprained his foot, causing the center to miss the first month of the season. His injury, coupled with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney missing significant time, led to a lost season for the big man.

Nonetheless, Cauley-Stein expressed a desire to stay with the Warriors long term, citing his relationship with coach Steve Kerr. 

"He wants to build a relationship with you," Cauley-Stein told NBC Sports Bay Area last month. "I think, in the past I hadn't had a relationship with my coach. [Former Kings coach Dave] Joerger, me and him had a pretty good rapport, pretty good, like cordial, but we never had like in-depth conversations about life and stuff like that, and the first couple of conversations I had with coach Kerr was real-life stuff and that hit home with me like, 'Damn, he really tried to get to know me.' "

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Unfortunately for Cauley-Stein, he won't get to continue that relationship with Kerr.

Now, with Dallas in need of a center with the loss of Dwight Powell, his hope to find a similar relationship with Rick Carlisle will immediately start in a Mavericks uniform.

How Willie Cauley-Stein trade changes Warriors' frontcourt this season

How Willie Cauley-Stein trade changes Warriors' frontcourt this season

SAN FRANCISCO -- Willie Cauley-Stein crept into the Warriors' locker room about an hour after his soon-to-be former team's 129-118 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday, armed with a round of goodbyes. 

Walking near each stall at Chase Center, he said farewell to any staffer within an eyeshot, finishing with teammates Omari Spellman and Jordan Poole. As he towered over his former domain, his teammates were forced to reconcile a basketball life without the seven-footer around 12 hours before Golden State officially traded Cauley-Stein to the Dallas Mavericks. 

"It sucks," Warriors big man Marquese Chriss said. "It's hard when you're with somebody every day and you're playing games with them, and they're gone in a snap of a finger. I wish the best for him." 

Before Chriss and others bid adieu, the two-way center started for just the fourth time this season. Chriss scored 13 points, but he grabbed just three rebounds while Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis finished with 16 points and 10 boards. Along the way, Indiana outscored Golden State 56-28 in the paint, shedding light on the Warriors' frontcourt struggles.

Once Cauley-Stein officially is traded, Chriss and Omari Spellman are the only healthy big men on the Warriors' roster. While serviceable, both players routinely are playing out of position. At 6-foot-9, Spellman prefers to play on the wings, with a game more suitable for jump shots than post-ups. Meanwhile, Chriss has played much of his career as a power forward, providing a learning experience in his new role.

"Marquese was good tonight," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Every night is a learning experience for him. He's going to be a guy that shoots a high percentage from the field because of his athleticism.

"He's going to get good experience going forward, so we're just going to keep working with him and I know he will work hard."  

As Chriss adjusts to his new role, coach Kerr said he would be open to bringing up rookie Alen Smailagic from the G League for a unit in need of improvement. Over the last two games, the Warriors have been outrebounded 92-75, including a 56-37 disadvantage in Wednesday's loss to the Utah Jazz.

That, combined with Cauley-Stein's trade, is prompting a new approach moving forward.

"Marquese and Omari will get some experience out there and we'll let Draymond play some center," Kerr said, "and then it's a matter of helping with defense with all five guys on the screen and we have to communicate."

[RELATED: What we learned as Warriors fumble chance to beat Pacers]

Cauley-Stein's departure could be the first of many for the current roster. Last month, league sources told NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole that the team would be open to parting with Alec Burks in the coming weeks for the right deal.

But before the Feb. 6 trade deadline, Cauley-Stein's replacement says he's up for the challenge of filling the departing big man's shoes. 

"I've tried making a role off playing hard and doing the dirty work," Chriss said. "I'm not the guy who is going to shoot 20 shots and get you 40 points. I'm gonna try and be that guy that is down low and banging, getting rebounds and setting screens."