Steph Curry, Dwyane Wade exchange jerseys after Warriors-Heat game

Steph Curry, Dwyane Wade exchange jerseys after Warriors-Heat game

Whoever had Steph Curry in the “Who will Dwyane Wade trade jerseys with after the game?” poll, congratulations. You're a winner.

Wade participated in his final game ever at Oracle Arena on Sunday night, a matchup the Warriors ultimately won after falling behind big in the first frame.

Immediately following the conclusion of the game, the Heat's future Hall of Famer found a Warriors future Hall of Famer to perform the ceremonial jersey swap.

"I mean, everywhere he's gone, you watch on TV, and it's a different energy when he gets the ball," Curry said of Wade after the game. "You understand how important he's been to the game throughout his career, and no matter who you root for throughout the league, you respect greatness in terms of what he's been able to do throughout his entire career.

"Tonight wasn't a loud night, but he had some pretty influential plays," Curry continued. "It seems like he's got a lot more in the tank. That's what I told him after the game ... Obviously, with him going to every road arena one more time, it's a different energy for sure."

As the Warriors' longest-tenured player, no current member of Golden State can speak to the dominance Wade displayed all too often against the Dubs throughout his decorated 16-year NBA career quite like Curry can. As such, if anybody deserved Wade's game-worn jersey, it was him.

And, years from now, Curry can return the favor, perhaps to another future Hall of Famer.

Warriors look beyond, not past, Clippers as playoff series vs. Rockets looms

Warriors look beyond, not past, Clippers as playoff series vs. Rockets looms

OAKLAND – Though the Warriors need another win to get out of the first round and officially reach the Western Conference semifinals, they are not afraid to peek beyond the Los Angeles Clippers.

Arrogant? Not really. Looking beyond is, in this instance, not the same as looking past.

The Warriors have plenty of motivation to oust the Clippers on Wednesday in Game 5 of their first-round NBA playoff series at Oracle Arena. But it’s directly linked to their desire to maximize their mental and physical preparation for the team widely believed to be their biggest threat.

Yeah, those guys.

The Houston Rockets.

Each team’s current series is a dress rehearsal for the next, and there’s no point in pretending otherwise. Both the Warriors and Rockets have 3-1 leads with Game 5 coming at home. Each player, Warriors or Rockets, knows the current matchups, as well as the possibilities as they advance. Houston and the champions are on a collision course.

“We watch every game and understand what’s going on,” Stephen Curry said in advance of Game 5. “We may not be as tuned and focused on the details. But I like watching basketball in general. It doesn’t really matter who’s on. It’s really not hard at all.

“We know what Houston’s about and we know what Utah’s about and their style of play. At this point, there really isn’t anything different jumping off the TV.”

First, of course, the Warriors must handle their business with the Clippers and the Rockets must dispatch the Jazz. There is little chance of the Warriors getting extra rest before the next round. That evaporated when they squandered a 31-point lead to lose Game 2 and deny themselves a chance to sweep LA.

The Warriors are angrier about losing Game 2 at Oracle than Houston is about taking a 3-0 series lead into Game 4 at Utah and losing to the Jazz.

If the Warriors and Rockets win their Game 5s, and both are favored, they could face each other as soon as this weekend. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best they can do. Each game either team loses only delays the inevitable.

“Any chance you get during the playoffs for some rest, you have to try to get that,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s a long haul. If you go to the Finals, that’s almost two months. The more we can have time in between for preparation and rest, the better that serves us going forward.”

The Warriors know they have to go through LA to get to Houston. As much as they love their trips to Southern California, they want no part of a Game 6 on Friday.

“Six, seven games, the fans love it,” Klay Thompson said. “We love it, too.

“But we’d rather end it quickly. It’s such a long year that any day’s rest you can get, it’s beneficial in the long run.”

So, go ahead and rub your hands together. Buy the wings now and remember everything you’ll need for the nachos. Warriors-Rockets is the series wanted by each team, by their fans and by pretty much anyone who cares the slightest about the NBA.

“They’re a great team. They have two Hall of Fame guards in the backcourt. Everyone else has carved out a nice role,” Thompson said of the Rockets. “I know they’re itching to get another shot at us. When two teams meet like that when the stakes are that high, it makes for the best basketball in the world.”

Kerr noted that “closeout games are always difficult.” That’s particularly true of teams without closers and with too much complacency. The Warriors have several closers, and all of them are engaged.

[RELATED: Kerr makes an odd request of Steph as playoffs continue]

Expect the Warriors to roll in Game 5 and the Rockets likely will do the same in Houston. Seeing each in the distance doesn’t mean they can’t see what’s in front of them.

Warriors' Steve Kerr makes odd request of Steph Curry in NBA playoffs

Warriors' Steve Kerr makes odd request of Steph Curry in NBA playoffs

OAKLAND — Steve Kerr’s latest request of Steph Curry is short, simple and initially puzzling: Let ‘em score.

Three words, easily understood, but completely against the competitive instincts of an elite NBA player conditioned to accept defense as an essential part of the game.

Kerr isn’t telling Curry to neglect defense. Rather, the coach is advising his superstar to weigh his overall value to the Warriors in the NBA playoffs against the significance of committing fouls in hopes of preventing two points.

“Sometimes, he just gets in the habit of trying to strip the ball,” Kerr said Tuesday after practice. “So, more than anything, it’s just about trying to get him past that habit. I keep telling him how valuable he is. I’d much rather he just got out of the guy’s way and gave him a layup and kept playing.

“He’s much more valuable than two points. And we’ve got plenty of help; our defense is predicated on help.”

This, in the big picture, makes sense. While the Warriors seek to close out the Clippers in Game 5 of their first-round series Wednesday, advancing likely means getting a dose of potent Houston.

Anyone care to imagine Curry on the bench with foul trouble against the Rockets?

Curry’s impact against Los Angeles was neutralized by foul trouble in Games 3 and 4. Though having him on the bench for long stretches, saddled with foul trouble, is not ideal in this series, it would invite disaster should the Warriors advance and face Houston.

After committing four or more fouls just four times over the final 27 games of the regular season, Curry has been whistled at least that often in every game against LA. Picking up five fouls in Game 3, including his fourth early in the third quarter, limited him to 20 minutes.

So Curry, prior to Game 4, put a message on his shoes, “No Reach” -- a reminder to avoid a tendency that usually is his quickest route to foul trouble.

“I have confidence in my hand-eye coordination and hand speed,” Curry said. “That’s how I get steals usually, by being quick. But that’s how I get fouls, too, so I’ve got to balance both of them.

“The ones I’ve had trouble with in this series are ones that I shouldn’t even be in that situation to begin with. There’s help behind the play. I’m not even involved in the play, really. I’m just kind of lunging at it. That’s just a lack of focus.

“We could nitpick each one of them and understand exactly why. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to continue to stay on the floor on our normal rotations and not foul.”

There was progress in Game 4 insofar as Curry generally avoided reaching. And when he committed his third foul with 4:16 left in the first half, Kerr stayed with him.

Curry rewarded the coach by playing the rest of the half and the entire third quarter without a whistle. He played 35 minutes, committing four fouls.

Moreover, the Warriors won both games.

[RELATED: Beverley explains why he doesn't talk trash to Curry]

“If he’s got a couple fouls already, he should be able to play with those fouls,” Kerr said. “I’ve always trusted him. Since I’ve been here, I’ve generally played him with two fouls in the first half or three in the third quarter. I believe in letting a guy go, letting him play, a star player like that especially. The second half was a great sign that he’s kind of made it past that habit.”

The Warriors would like to think so.

They’d like to believe that building better habits in this series will make them stronger in the next one. History has shown they are strongest with Curry on the floor.