Warriors

The second Warriors-Cavs matchup not just another regular season game

The second Warriors-Cavs matchup not just another regular season game

OAKLAND -- When the Cleveland Cavaliers set foot in Oracle Arena late Monday afternoon, the Warriors and their fans will be waiting, along with the NBA, basketball nation and beyond.

So let’s dispense with the pretense, the clichés and claptrap about how this is just another regular-season game, or that it will be meaningless if these teams reconvene for the NBA Finals in June.

For the Warriors, this will be no less than a moment of truth -- even if they say otherwise three days out.

“I’m more excited about having an off day tomorrow,” Kevin Durant said late Thursday night, after the Warriors posted a 127-107 win over Detroit.

“I’m very excited about that,” Draymond Green said of the down time before Monday. “I don’t remember the last time we had that, so I’m not mad at all. I don’t think there will be any rust built over the course of three days. If so, who cares? I’ll take my three days.”

The Warriors are completely off Friday -- Klay Thompson will be in Southern California for a ceremony retiring his number at Santa Margarita High School -- with coach Steve Kerr planning a full, live practice Saturday and light workout Sunday.

In the wake of the Christmas Day Collapse, the game on Monday is about as big, at least for the Warriors, as any regular-season game that doesn’t involve clinching a playoff berth. The last time the Warriors needed a win this badly, they failed. It was against the very same Cavaliers last June, Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

They already had failed in Games 5 and 6 before that, losing all three and, in the process, becoming the first team in NBA history blow a 3-1 lead in The Finals.

The four consecutive games to Cleveland is the longest streak by a Warriors team against any opponent, under any conditions, since losing seven straight to the Spurs spanning the 2013 playoffs and the first month of the 2014-15 regular season.

It would seem to be of some appreciable benefit, at least psychologically, if the Warriors were to defend their home court and snap the streak, rather than see it extended and possibly still active should the teams meet in The Finals.

“I don’t look at it that way,” Kerr told CSNBayArea.com late Thursday night. “I really don’t. Last year was last year. This year is a new year, with a different team. We blew a lead. We should have won the (Christmas Day) game and we didn’t. So let’s bounce back and get a win.

“A year ago, just about now, we went to Cleveland and beat them by 40 (actually 34, but a rout just the same). I don’t remember reading anything about it, but I’m sure everybody was saying, ‘Oh, Cleveland can’t beat the Warriors.’ And, then, in The Finals they got us.

“So . . . things change, and they can change quickly and dramatically. Momentum, injuries, suspension . . . stuff happens.”

The Cavaliers, underdogs last season, made an epic comeback that shed lifted spirits throughout Northern Ohio. They shed the ghosts of Cleveland failures past. They want another championship, just because.

The Warriors want to prove that they not only have the best record in the league but also are capable of thriving despite the burden of being favored, as they were last season, to win it all.

That’s the KD Effect.

“I know the talk around us is we have this super team and we have 12 superstars on one team,” Durant said. “I hear that all the time. But this is an adjustment.”

Well, yes, adjustments were made after the loss 19 days ago in Cleveland. More adjustments were made after the Warriors blew another double-digit lead, against Memphis, a week ago in Oakland.

The Warriors are three days away from seeing if the adjustments pay off. All eyes will be on them.

Ask Kerith Mailbag: Warriors' biggest weakness; last word on Pat McCaw

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NBC Sports Bay Area

Ask Kerith Mailbag: Warriors' biggest weakness; last word on Pat McCaw

Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, will take you inside the two-time defending NBA champions as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #askkerith

Tip-off

After the Warriors announced Draymond Green’s one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, a few quotes stood out to me.

Bob Myers got a question about whether Kevin Durant’s free agency has anything to do with the tension. Myers responded: “It’s hard to win a championship. You can’t allow anything else in the locker room, in the narrative.”

After Tuesday’s game against the Hawks, Klay Thompson spelled out how the Warriors will keep going after tension between Draymond and KD, indicating what could heal things: “A win on Thursday, and a win on Saturday and Sunday. That’s called a win streak. (The incident) will not matter, and this will be in the past like a pony tail.”

Winning is the spackle over cracks. Winning heals a lot of things, at least on a professional level. That’s the theme emerging from the team. Draymond and KD are competitors who want to win. That will be the bond that carries them forward, even if it’s unclear if forward means forgiving and forgetting.

When KD spoke after the Hawks game, he got a question about whether this tension reaching an eruption point can make the team stronger. KD replied, “We’ll see.”

The emotion bundled in those two words — We’ll see — could impact the rest of the season. Mature teams sort things out, and we have every indication this is a mature team.

When it comes to strength, Draymond made a declaration at Thursday’s shootaround: “If you think you saw something before, good luck with us now. We’re not going to crumble off of an argument.”

Game On!

@pdparticle What do the Warriors see as their weakness this season?

I had a long answer written out in the first draft of this mailbag that delved into complacency and injuries. Those still are important factors. But the long answer got the control-alt-delete treatment once Draymond’s suspension came.

The No. 1 thing that can defeat the Warriors this season is the Warriors. If locker room strife festers, it can be poison. Poison can break down bonds, make guys suspicious of other guys’ motives and shift the focus away from team. The team has a huge goal this season to three-peat. When players describe how hard it is to win championships, believe them. It takes everyone, playing at their peak abilities, together.

Marcus Thompson of The Athletic wrote the deepest story on the nature of the fracture between Draymond and KD. Marcus learned that Klay’s voice rang out strongly to help reset the focus. Here’s how Marcus closed his story:

“We all want to win,” Thompson said in the locker room after the (Clippers) game, per accounts of the people in the room. “That’s all this is about. We all want to win. I think we’re the only team that can beat us. Nobody else can beat us. So let’s go kick ass.”

@LisaDimmick1 What is REALLY going on with Pat McCaw?
Richard Manso, via Facebook: Any update on McCaw?
@rlangeles If Pcaw returns who do you think will be moved to make space? #askKerith

No offense to these question-askers, because they’re asking the most common mailbag question for weeks now, but the Pat McCaw topic feels like a bygone.

To sum it up quickly, the Warriors own Pat’s rights, so any hope he has of landing with another team goes through the Warriors. I haven’t heard any updates on the impasse between Pat and the team. I also checked with Warriors Insider Monte Poole. He’s not detecting any movement either, and it seems this situation is near dead.

When I saw these Pat McCaw questions, I thought of something random: a love poem from Pablo Neruda about heartbreak and letting go. It’s called Poema XX, and you can read the English version here.

Why the heck am I bringing this up? Because this poem captures a range of emotions, like loving someone, wondering where they are now and reflecting about how things ended. The poem asks, What does it matter that my love could not keep her.

The poem also contains the lines, Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer/ and these the last verses that I write for her.

I don’t know why Pat and the Warriors broke up. But may these be the last words I write for him in the mailbag.

@__OhMyLanta Nov 11 How is Steph’s new bodyguard? #askkerith

He’s great! His name is Dwight Pruitt, and he retired as a lieutenant from the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department in 2011.

I told him there was a mailbag question about him, and the people want to know who he is. I asked what his hobbies are. He said, “basketball!”

Turns out Pruitt used to be an assistant high school basketball coach. In the 2008 Division III state basketball championships, Pruitt’s school, Sac High, was defeated by Klay Thompson’s school, Santa Margarita.

Pruitt was on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ security team last season. He’s a friend of Steph’s old security guy, Ralph Walker. When Walker retired in the offseason, Pruitt applied for the job.

High Five

This week’s high five goes out to the guy who wondered if I could dunk on Jim Barnett. Look, I’m tall, and I have a decent vertical, but I cannot dunk.

Jim and I have had some long chats on the team buses as we go from airport to airport. He has a heart of gold, but I think you already knew that.

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors coverage all season.

Report: Draymond Green dared Kevin Durant to leave in free agency

Report: Draymond Green dared Kevin Durant to leave in free agency

Over the last three days, multiple stories have come out with snipets of what Draymond Green said to Kevin Durant on the bench during Monday's game against the Clippers.

Now, with the Warriors trying to put the drama behind them, a new story from Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reveals that Green dared Durant to leave the team in free agency next summer.

“We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave," Green said to Durant while in the huddle following the end of regulation against the Clippers, according to Haynes.

Whoa.

On Thursday morning in Houston, Green met with reporters and said that he had spoken with Durant and they would attempt to move forward. After Thursday's 107-86 loss to the Rockets, Durant was asked about his relationship with Green and wanted no part of the question, telling a reporter "Don't ask me about that again."

Durant has the ability to opt out of his contract at the end of the season and most observers expect him to do so. Whether he re-signs with the Warriors or bolts for a new experience is a dark cloud hanging over the Warriors right now. It appears Green is poking that cloud, looking for rain.