Warriors

With Rockets healthy and dominant, this will no doubt be Warriors' hardest championship

klay-cp-ap.jpg
AP

With Rockets healthy and dominant, this will no doubt be Warriors' hardest championship

This has been a trying season for the Golden State Warriors – I mean, trying being a relative term here – but especially for those Warriors who were here in 2014-15 and watching the Houston Rockets have that very season.
 
Fortunately for them, they are channeling most of their energies in escaping the injury list, but the fact remains the same. Houston is playing better, may well BE better, and is showing no signs of slowing to enjoy the view in the rear-view mirror.
 
This isn’t just the way they beat Portland in Portland Tuesday night, but they way they have gone 30-3 – which is 29 more versions of the way they beat Portland Tuesday. They are not a direct comp with that Warriors team except at the macro level, which is that they are the ones whose players know how they fit with each other, and they are the ones who have one more effective player than everyone else.
 
And they’re the ones fielding the full team when everyone else is dented and belching blue smoke.
 
The Warriors won their two championships for many reasons, but one that bears repeating is the fact they finished fourth from the bottom in man-games lost to injury – in other words, they were healthy when all those around them are not.
 
Now they look like tired and creaky and spare-part-y, and as much as people have tried to hitch their wagons to the secret stopgap of the week – this week’s winner, Quinn Cook – they are getting karma’d the hard way this year. The player who has played the most games is Nick Young, who was hailed as an excellent 10th man when he was signed, and their top four players (Harrison Barnes being the pre-Kevin Durant) have gone from missing 10 games in 2015 to 21 to 33 to 46.
 
This may seem normal given that this has been a worse year for injuries in the NBA than last year, but timing matters too. James Harden’s last missed game was March 11 (before that January 15), Chris Paul’s was December 28, and Clint Capela has missed one game since December 29. Houston’s run began on January 8.
 
Coincidence? No. The reason Houston is better? Also no. There are plenty of other metrics that show that pretty clearly, including those pesky standings. The best team has the best record, as it did in the last three seasons (exempting, of course, that troublesome June in 2016), so live with it. 
 
Can this change? Yes. It’s March 21, and lots of things can happen to any team, most of them bad. But the difference is this – Houston needs as few of those things to happen as possible, and the Warriors need several of them. That hasn’t been true before. One-seeds have won eight of the last 10 titles for a reason, and the Warriors have been inspirational frontrunners.
 
But now they have to punch uphill, and they can’t even start punching until their injury list shortens to a manageable – oh, let’s say five; don’t want to peak too soon.
 
And then let’s see how long it takes for them to get up to speed, both physically and as a unit. It is not inconceivable that they could run out of time before they run out of problems.
 
The point is, Houston is showing just how hard this is going to be for the Warriors, and if Golden State does win anyway, it will be their best championship because it will be the hardest. Not their most fun, mind you, but legacies are built on degree of difficulty.
 
Anyway, they no longer have a choice. They’re coming off the pace, or they’re not arriving at all.

Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers agree that Cleveland is worst NBA road city

Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers agree that Cleveland is worst NBA road city

The verdict is in. Cleveland doesn't rock.

In fact, Cleveland sucks, according to Warriors guard Quinn Cook and Rockets guard Austin Rivers.

Why?

"My family is there, they're calling me all the time, it's muggy and it's cold," Cook told Warriors sideline reporter Kerith Burke and Rivers on The Uninterrupted Road Trippin' podcast.

Cook's first professional contract actually came with the Cavs. After he went undrafted out of Duke in 2015, Cleveland signed him to a contract in September of that year. A month later, they waived him.

Why does Rivers hate Cleveland?

"It's just always freezing there," Rivers said. "And if you're there a day in between, which teams don't even do anymore, like you guys are staying here [in Houston] right now so you guys don't have to go to OKC for two days. There's nothing to do. What do you do?"

[RELATED: Rivers on how Curry transformed NBA]

Cook may not like the city of Cleveland, but his greatest professional accomplishment occurred there last June when he won an NBA championship with the Warriors.

You can hear the rest of Rivers, Cook and Burke's conversation on Road Trippin' in the player below, and subscribe here.

Warriors thought they had found consistency, but it vanished in Mavs loss

Warriors thought they had found consistency, but it vanished in Mavs loss

OAKLAND - Less than a week ago, the Warriors were seemingly out of their post-All-Star Game hangover. 

Following a 4-5 start after the break, the Warriors entered Saturday evening having won four of their last five games. They beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, and crushed the Pacers 112-89, all but alleviating any ill will entering the final 11 games of the season. 

Two days later, that equity all but vanished against the Mavericks, who handed the Steph Curry-less Warriors a 126-91 loss, the team's worst under coach Steve Kerr at home, exposing, at least for a night, the inconsistency that's marred the champs for most of the season. 

"A lot of breakdowns," Kerr said. "A lot of miscommunications or lack of communication." 

With the Warriors in a malaise, the Mavericks jumped out to a 35-16 lead in a first quarter that saw Dallas shoot 65 percent from the field, including two 3-pointers from Dirk Nowitzki. By halftime, Dallas had built a 28-point advantage. More alarming was Golden State's offense, which made just 40 percent its shots, was Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined to go 13-of-38 from the field.

The loss dropped Golden State a half-game behind the Denver Nuggets for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Performances like Saturday night have been an all-too-familiar occurrence for a team pushing for its third straight title. Of the team's 11 losses at home this season, six have been by more than 23 points, and three have been by teams eliminated from playoff contention. 

"It is weird, you're supposed to win at home," Green said. "And you expect to win at home. We've had quite a few letdowns this year."

"These late-season games for teams like Dallas, who are out of the playoffs, it's a free swing," Kerr added. "There's no pressure. We talked about that before the game. We knew they'd come out firing and playing with freedom and just letting it loose. I kind of expected a slow start, a little bit of a letdown game, but I thought we'd pull it together." 

Most curious about Saturday's loss is that it came during a stretch where Golden State was playing its best basketball of the season. Entering Saturday, the Warriors were 4-1 over their last five games, holding opponents to just 98.8 points per game, posting a 97.8 defensive rating.

[RELATED: Oracle not an advantage anymore]

Two weeks ago, following the loss to Phoenix, the Warriors stated their goal to was to reach the top seed in the Western Conference for the fourth time in five seasons. But, as Saturday proved, that will require a consistency the Warriors have struggled to find much of the season. Fortunately for the champs, they'll have another chance less than 24 hours, against the Detroit Pistons, to find it. 

"I think everybody in that locker room had their asses beat down," Durant said. "We all did. I know this experience is different with how much winning we've done the past few years, but we still are in the NBA... And guys have been a part of terrible games, along with great games as well, so the good thing about it is we play tomorrow night too."