Steph Curry knows Warriors must pick up the pace before All-Star break

Steph Curry knows Warriors must pick up the pace before All-Star break

OAKLAND – Long past their most impressive stretch of the season, winning 11 in a row by an average of 17.5 points, the Warriors are coming off a weekend wandering through the festivities, winning two games almost by default.

What’s up with the defending champs, now in their fourth week with five All-Stars in the starting lineup? Shouldn’t they be spending their nights smashing opponents to remind folks of who they are – and what they’re about to become?

Who better than Draymond Green to ask? So I did.

“Do you want my honest opinion? My honest opinion is it’s the dog days right now,” he said. “You usually hit that in January. We haven’t really hit that, because we got DeMarcus (Cousins) back, so it kind of gave us an extra boost. We’re there right now. But we found a way to win (the last two games) and that’s what’s important.”

That’s Draymond, peeling away the platitudes and sprinkling some truth into the discussion. Natural incentive was lacking and the Warriors at this point of the season feel no need to lock in from tip to horn.

That was risky against the last two opponents, Phoenix and Miami. It would be silly against the next two.

The Warriors close out the pre-All-Star break schedule at home against the Jazz on Tuesday night and in Portland against the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. Both teams have beaten the Warriors this season.

Moreover, both are possible opponents when the playoffs begin in two months.

There’s the incentive. The Warriors often talk about playing the right way, building the right habits and achieving a standard that applies only to them. The goal is to enter the postseason ready to destroy.

Consider Utah, which has beaten the Warriors four times in the last six meetings, a test of focus against a team that can be difficult to play.

Consider Portland, which has won nine of its last 10 games at Moda Center, a trial run for the postseason and an opportunity to soar into the break.

What the Warriors put out against the last Phoenix and Miami will not suffice. The early-game loitering, the failure of fundamentals – watching both collect offensive rebounds simply by chasing – is a recipe for 0-2 entering All-Star Weekend.

Such shortcomings, which occasionally surface with the Warriors, are highly visible.

“We will fix it,” Stephen Curry said.

“That’s the second game in a row the team has gotten up 20 more shots than us,” Kevin Durant said after the win over the Heat. “Whether it’s turnovers or offensive rebounds, we are going to lose in the playoffs like that.”

Durant’s assessment is totally on point. Bad habits lead to postseason disappointment, and anything less than a championship qualifies as a failure for the Warriors. They’re built to win it all and it is anticipated they well.

Meanwhile, they’re expected to rise to anything resembling a real challenge.

“We are in a good groove; I don’t know what we’ve won – 15 out of 16? Doing really well and we can get better,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We will be challenged by Utah and Portland. Hopefully, we will get Andre Iguodala back (left hamstring tightness) and see how he’s doing and we’ll be ready to go.”

[RELATED: Durant explains why he lashed out at the media]

Iguodala or not, the Warriors need nothing less than to lose back-to-back games for the second time this season. They flirted with it against Phoenix, a team with both eyes of the draft lottery, and Miami, a team with more toughness than talent – before going from jog to sprint and track them down.

It has become apparent that the Warriors, in Year 5 of their near-dictatorship, tend to respond best when they can feel the stakes. The stakes over the next couple days are not playoff-caliber for them, but they are that for the Jazz and the Blazers.

Just knowing that should make a difference for the Warriors.

Klay Thompson proclaims Warriors' championship dynasty 'far from over'


Klay Thompson proclaims Warriors' championship dynasty 'far from over'

All the national pundits and talking heads have danced on the grave of the Warriors' dynasty.

With Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston gone, and Klay Thompson out for a large portion of the upcoming season after ACL surgery, most believe the Warriors' reign of dominance is over.

But Thompson isn't listening to the noise. The Warriors might be down, but they aren't out.

"The dynasty ain't over," Klay said Friday during the second annual Thompson Family Foundation golf tournament in Newport Beach, Calif. "It's far from over."

After five season atop the NBA mountain, the Warriors no longer are the favorites to win the title, and they will look vastly different this season.

At the beginning of the season, Steph Curry and Draymond Green will be flanked by newcomers D'Angelo Russell and Willie Cauley-Stein. Instead of Durant at the starting small forward spot, Warriors coach Steve Kerr might go with Alfonzo McKinnie.

Super Death Lineup this is not.

Making matters tougher for the Warriors is the improvement of other teams in the Western Conference. The Clippers, Lakers, Jazz and Rockets all made blockbuster moves over the summer, while the Nuggets and Blazers return teams that were top-four playoff seeds in the West last season.

But once Thompson returns in February or March, the Warriors will be able to close games with a lineup of Curry, Thompson, Russell, Green and Kevon Looney, who signed a three-year contract in the offseason.

[RELATED: Eight things Warriors need to do to make playoffs]

As Green said last week, no one will want to face the Warriors in the playoffs. That will be especially true if Thompson is 100 percent in April.

Durant isn't around anymore, but the dynasty isn't dead until Curry, Thompson and Green say it is.

Magic Johnson can't believe Kevin Durant was unhappy with Warriors

Magic Johnson can't believe Kevin Durant was unhappy with Warriors

Kevin Durant came to the Warriors in 2016 in pursuit of a family and NBA titles.

Despite all the winning the Warriors did with Durant, he told the Wall Street Journal last week that he never quite felt like one of the guys. That possibly had something to do with him refusing to commit long term to the Warriors. It's hard for a family to accept you when you have one foot in the house and the other on the front porch.

NBA legend Magic Johnson can't begin to fathom Durant's logic in leaving for the Brooklyn Nets after three seasons and two championships in the Bay.

"KD, I hope that he finds happiness," Johnson said Friday on ESPN's First Take. "If you can't find happiness at Golden State, where are you going to find it at?

“First of all, give Steph Curry a lot of credit for saying, 'I'm a two-time MVP. I'm willing to take a backseat because I want to win.' Give Klay Thompson a lot of credit, because you know whose game suffered the most? Klay Thompson. He used to get a lot more touches before KD got there, and he said, 'I'm OK with that as long as we win a championship.' Draymond Green, even he had to take a backseat.

"So, Kevin, if you won back-to-back titles, you won MVP of the Finals as well, where are you going to find happiness at? I just want him to find happiness because when I look at Michael Jordan, when I look at Kobe Bryant, this brother, Kevin Durant, is one of the greatest scorers we've seen in NBA history, so I just want him to be happy. I just don't know where he's going to find it at if he can't find it at Golden State."

We imagine every single Warriors fan feels the same way as Magic does.

[RELATED: Durant shows no sign of limp after surgery]

Unlike Thunder fans, Warriors fans don't hold any ill will toward Durant. They're just puzzled by his decision to leave. He had everything he wanted in the Bay Area, and Golden State could have offered more money. Yet he still decided to leave.

But maybe Durant never will be happy in the same spot for too long. It's possible that in three years, Nets fans find themselves wondering why Durant wasn't happy, just like Warriors fans are right now.