Warriors

Warriors afflicted with visible malaise, biggest challenge is themselves

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USATSI

Warriors afflicted with visible malaise, biggest challenge is themselves

SACRAMENTO -- The Warriors have six games to play before they can take a deep breath and get refreshed. At this rate, they’ll be fortunate to win half of them.

If ever there were a time for them to sharpen focus and summon energy, it was Saturday night. They were coming off a zestless performance in Utah that resulted in 30-point loss, their worst of the season. They were facing Kings, who only wish they could play at a level near the Warriors.

A team that when last they met, on Nov. 27, outplayed the Warriors in Oracle Arena.

That was not enough to motivate them to play as we’ve come to know and expect. The Warriors came out sluggish and sloppy, falling behind 20-7 in the first six minutes before fighting though their malaise and mistakes well enough to sweat out a 119-104 victory at Golden 1 Center.

“We won,” coach Steve Kerr said, finding the only sliver of goodness in this grotesque effort.

“We just found a way,” Stephen Curry said.

More accurately, the Warriors stumbled into a way, tripping over 25 turnovers -- one off their season high -- from activities that ranged from the foolish to the ridiculous to the pointless.

Passes sailed out of bounds, bounced into vacated areas and directly into the hands of the Kings. There were times when it seemed the Warriors were in another dimension, one in which the object is to do all they could to give the opponent every possible opportunity.

“Just throwing the ball to the other team or just out of bounds,” Kerr said.

This was, for the second consecutive game, Warriors basketball at its worst relative to their champion status. They didn’t care to defend against the Jazz and while they improved in that area against the Kings, they couldn’t be bothered with fundamentals.

Curry committed six turnovers, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green five apiece, Zaza Pachulia and Pat McCaw three each. The Warriors were fortunate not to be playing a more formidable team.

“It directly correlates to focus,” Green said. “And it’s that time of year when focus is a little hard to come by. We’ve just go to try to figure it out.”

Kerr didn’t disagree, blaming the last two performances on mental fatigue as well as this being the dog days of the season, the stretch from late January until the mid-February All-Star break when all 30 teams are struggling in one way or another.

“Our guys are dying to get to the All-Star break,” he said. “We’re limping to the finish line of the All-Star break. But we’ve got to fight through it until the break, and then we need to get the hell away from each other and go sit on a beach and relax.”

The Warriors get no break Saturday, as they arrive in Denver in the wee hours for a game against the Nuggets that tips off a 7 p.m. They return home for games against the Thunder on Tuesday, the Mavericks on Thursday, the Spurs on Feb. 10 and the Suns on Feb. 12. They conclude the pre-break schedule against the Trail Blazers in Portland on Feb. 14.

It’s six games in 12 days, with two of them against teams -- Denver and Oklahoma City -- that have beaten the Warriors this season. Two more games, against Dallas and Phoenix, are against the kind of lottery-bound bound group that also have exploited the ennui of the Warriors.

“We’ve just got to be professional,” Green said. “We’re a championship team. We know what it takes. There are going to be more games where you just don’t have it, but you’ve got to find a way to win.”

The Warriors earned every bit of their loss in Utah. They defended well enough when they had to against the lowly Kings, outscoring them 30-16 over the final 7:30.

They haven’t looked like the Warriors we’ve come to know since the final three quarters of the game against the Celtics last Saturday. They felt threatened in that game, but they clearly are having problems hearing alarms against teams that, on paper, don’t pose much of a challenge.

Right now, the greatest challenge to the Warriors is the Warriors.

Andre Iguodala ruled out for Game 4 against Rockets

Andre Iguodala ruled out for Game 4 against Rockets

UPDATE (4:15pm on Tuesday): Andre Iguodala will not play in Game 4, Steve Kerr announced to the media.

***

OAKLAND -- Already bracing for a difficult test Tuesday night when they meet the Rockets in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors may be forced to make yet another lineup change in their effort to take a commanding 3-1 lead.

Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area Plus begins at 4 p.m. with Warriors Outsiders, with tipoff at Oracle Arena scheduled for 6 p.m. Pacific.

The Warriors have utilized four different starting lineups this postseason, and a fifth might be needed. It’s possible that Andre Iguodala, who has started 12 of 13 games, including the last five in a row, won’t be available.

Iguodala's status has improved, however, to questionable. He was listed as doubtful on Monday.

[RELATED: Warriors brief: Why Jordan Bell is a candidate to start in place of Andre Iguodala]

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 8.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Stephen Curry vs. James Harden: They won’t be assigned to each other, but no two players are more likely to dictate the outcome of this game. Each has experienced moments both shining and forgettable. Once the Warriors established a lead in Game 3, Curry got behind the wheel and floored it, resulting in a rout. Houston needs a Harden takeover game. Is he up to it?

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: F Andre Iguodala (L lateral leg contusion) is listed as questionable. G Pat McCaw (lumbar spine contusion) is listed as out.

Rockets: No injuries listed.

GAME OFFICIALS

Mike Callahan, Kane Fitzgerald, Derrick Stafford, Sean Wright (alternate)

THE TALLY

Game 1: Warriors 119, Rockets 106 at Houston Game 2: Rockets 127, Warriors 105 at Houston Game 3: Warriors 126, Rockets 85 at Oakland

ROAD TO THE CONFERENCE FINALS

Warriors: Defeated San Antonio in five games in the first round, defeated New Orleans in five games in the conference semifinals.

Rockets: Defeated Minnesota in five games in the first round, defeated Utah in five games in the conference semifinals.

SERIES HISTORY

The teams met three times in the regular season, with Houston posting a 122-121 win on Oct. 17 at Oakland, the Warriors taking a 124-114 victory on Jan. 4 at Houston and the Rockets prevailing, 116-108, on Jan. 20 in Houston. The Warriors have won 12 of the last 15 meetings in the regular season.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE LINEUP: If Iguodala is out, the Warriors have three viable options. Going with Kevon Looney at center seems most likely, but it’s possible Nick Young will make his third start of the postseason. The third option is Jordan Bell, who is inexperienced but the best physical matchup with Rockets big man Clint Capela.

THE START: When the Warriors went ahead late in the first quarter of Game 3, with the crowd roaring at ear-splitting levels, the Rockets cracked a little more each minute. Down nine after one quarter, they never got closer than seven after that. The second half score, 72-42, is indicative of a team that lost its resolve.

WARRIORS D: The Warriors were disciplined in Game 3, during which their defense alternated from sound to terrific. They forced 20 turnovers and limited Houston’s top three scorers to 16-of-45 shooting from the field, including 6-of-22 from beyond the arc. Similar success would practically assure a victory.

Jordan Bell receives votes for All-Rookie team

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AP

Jordan Bell receives votes for All-Rookie team

The All-Rookie teams were announced on Tuesday morning, and Jordan Bell received some love...

... but just a little.

The 38th pick in the 2017 draft got five All-Rookie Second Team votes.

From the beginning of the season though the Warriors' matchup vs the Cavs on MLK Day, Bell appeared in 37 of 45 games and made 10 starts.

[RELATED: Warriors brief: Why Jordan Bell is a candidate to start in place of Andre Iguodala]

He averaged 5.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 0.7 steals in 14.8 minutes per contest over that stretch.

Some of his best performances:

-Nov. 24 vs Bulls -- 7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 blocks, 2 steals
-Dec. 1 at Magic -- 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, steal
-Dec. 14 vs Mavs -- 8 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals
-Dec. 22 vs Lakers -- 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, steal, block
-Dec. 27 vs Jazz -- 5 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, steal

On Jan. 17 in Chicago, he suffered a bad left ankle sprain and missed the next 14 games.

Bell appeared in 19 of Golden State's final 22 games (2 starters), averaging 3.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 blocks and 0.5 steals in 13.8 minutes.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller