Warriors

Warriors' blowout loss to Raptors deserves long look in the mirror

Warriors' blowout loss to Raptors deserves long look in the mirror

OAKLAND -- If you believe the Golden State Warriors are truly invulnerable, then Wednesday’s 113-93 muzzling at the hands of the Toronto Raptors was a fairly revolting performance all around, but hardly worth the worry.
 
Of course, there is the other possibility – that Toronto is really difficult for Golden State to play with or without Kawhi Leonard, which creates its own set of worries come money-in-the-pot time.
 
Either way, one of the most anticipated pre-Christmas games of the season ended up a flatline special. Leonard did not play and the Raptors were better than they were two weeks ago in Toronto, which is surely an anomaly. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green did play and the Warriors looked far worse, which is equally improbable.
 
Now it could be that the waxing crescent of the moon was just getting some of its own back after Curry decided to mock its role in the history of space exploration. But more likely, the Raptors just showed their undisputed quality; they hammered two of the best teams in the Western Conference (combined record, 36-18, 21-4 at home) by 44 points on back-to-back nights on the road without their best player.
 
Head coach Steve Kerr saw all of that and went to the place that ought to scare everyone involved with the defending champions – that there may be a new version of themselves in the argument.
 
“We’re now in a place where we’re defending a title,” Kerr said, “in a place where we’re defending a mantle that we’ve had for several years. It’s a different vibe than when you’re on the climb like Toronto is, like Milwaukee is, like we were a few years ago. It’s harder to get up for each game, and there are certain nights when you can just feel it. If you’ve played in this league or coached or followed it, sometimes you can just feel it.”

[RELATED: Steph Curry says Warriors would beat Shaq's Lakers that had three-peat]
 
He stayed for a few more questions, but in practical terms he had dropped the mic already. The Warriors have been served notice by the Raptors that their expertise in championship runs is being challenged by Toronto’s youth and hunger . . . and, if you want to be less granular, you can include Milwaukee and Philadelphia as well.
 
But motivation alone does not bell the cat, as people who puts bells on cats will tell you. The Warriors spent the first half Wednesday deciding whether it was worth it to them to play defense, and by the time they decided to give it a try, they were, in Kerr’s words, “swimming upstream.”
 
And offensively, they struggled to get their usual raft full of open looks. Fred Van Vleet defended Curry into near-invisibility and Klay Thompson never found a comfort level against an ever-changing set of defenders, predominantly Kyle Lowry. The Warriors committed 19 turnovers, were outrebounded at both ends (credit Raptors Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam and Jonas Valanciunas before he got hurt for that level of control), and in general found that most of their possessions were a thorough grind.
 
That explains Toronto, but the Warriors . . . well, their lack of energy speaks to the reality that not every game we think is a measure of their mettle is viewed with the same gravity by the players themselves. And it isn’t just being the hunted – they’ve been that for three consecutive seasons. It’s that they find urgency to be optional more often than they used to.
 
If there is a silver lining for Golden State, it is Kerr’s rhetorical attempt to steel his players’ spines.

“I would think we would have the edge (if the two teams reached the NBA Finals) in that they’ve kicked our butts twice,” he said, laying the task of motivation directly at the players’ locker stalls. He has made his view clear that the Warriors let this happen Wednesday night, and now they have given a team the kind of life they took for granted in 2015, when everything was energy and carbonation and fun and free chips from the dealer.
 
That should work, if only because the Warriors aren’t done yet. But they now see themselves as they once were, and teams emulating their path to glory. Toronto is but  the best of the teams who can inspire that kind of nostalgia – the kind that could end up burning them in the end if they don’t recognize it for what it is.
 
A direct challenge from their own history.

Warriors' Juan Toscano-Anderson looks forward to guarding James Harden

Warriors' Juan Toscano-Anderson looks forward to guarding James Harden

James Harden scored 29 points on 16 field-goal attempts the last time the Warriors faced the Houston Rockets back on Feb. 20. Houston won that game 135-105, and it sounds like Golden State's Juan Toscano-Anderson was looking forward to the rematch.

With the NBA season indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Toscano-Anderson and the Warriors have some free time on their hands. Toscano-Anderson made use of it by holding a Q&A on Twitter on Saturday night, at which time he was asked which player -- whether teammate or opponent -- he was most looking forward to playing with or against when the season starts back up.

Toscano-Anderson provided multiple answers.

"Excited to get our whole team back to full strength," Toscano-Anderson replied. "I was very excited to guard James Harden."

Well, you've got to appreciate the fact that he's not afraid of a challenge. There might not be a tougher player to guard than Harden in the entire league, but then again, Toscano-Anderson didn't finally establish himself as an NBA player this season by taking the easy way out.

[RELATED: Toscano-Anderson reveals all-time Warriors starting five]

The Warriors and Rockets were scheduled to play each other for a fourth and final time this season in Houston on April 2. Obviously, that particular game won't take place on that day, but whether it is postponed or canceled, Toscano-Anderson surely will have more opportunities to try to make things harder on Harden.

Seven candidates for Warriors' massive Andre Iguodala trade exception

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AP

Seven candidates for Warriors' massive Andre Iguodala trade exception

The Warriors don't know if or when the current NBA season will resume, much less the next one. But whenever the 2020-21 season takes place, they'll likely have used several assets at their disposal with which to return to a level of legitimate contention.

But in terms of the Warriors' asset that likely will have the greatest determining impact on their success next season, the $17.2 million trade exception they received for sending Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies last summer stands apart from the rest.

Trade exceptions cannot be combined with others, so through the Iguodala trade exception, Golden State cannot acquire a player making more than $17.2 million (technically, it's $17,185,185.) However, trade exceptions can be split, so the Warriors could theoretically use the Iguodala trade exception to acquire multiple players, as long as their combined salaries don't exceed that amount.

While Golden State should absolutely be able to acquire a good player with that trade exception, the Dubs will have the added challenge of only having a tight window with which to use it. Once the league moratorium concludes at noon ET on July 6 (as currently scheduled), the Warriors will only have until the end of the following day to utilize the exception in a trade. They cannot use it prior to the moratorium, though in theory, they could agree to a trade at any point along the way.

Given the indefinite league stoppage due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it's possible that Golden State will be granted some kind of an extension to use the Iguodala trade exception, but there is no guarantee. Whenever it expires, however, the Warriors would be wise to use it on one of the following seven players prior to that point.

CLICK FOR SEVEN POTENTIAL CANDIDATES FOR THE IGUODALA TRADE EXCEPTION