Warriors

Warriors consider lineup change vs. Clippers as they seek ruthlessness

Warriors consider lineup change vs. Clippers as they seek ruthlessness

OAKLAND – The Warriors wouldn’t ever acknowledge that they have reached the point of desperation in a first-round series. Too proud. Too accomplished.

But that’s where they are as they approach Game 6 against the Clippers, who have lost three of the first five games but never once shown any sign of surrender.

The Warriors are not necessarily desperate to win Game 6 because, should they lose, they still have Game 7.

They have to be desperate to reestablish the identity they have forged over the vast majority of Steve Kerr’s five-year run as head coach. Talented, skilled, smart, unified and ruthless.

They’re still talented and skilled. They’re generally smart. The unity has become uneven. That ruthless thing, however, has never been more elusive than this season – and it has carried over into the first five games of these playoffs.

So, on Thursday, before the team left Oakland for Los Angeles -- where Game 6 will be played on Friday -- Kerr uttered phrases that serve as euphemisms for desperation.

“Everything’s always on the table,” Kerr said. “Every playoff game, everything is always on the table. We consider everything. We go over every possibility. We hash it out. We ask the players their opinions on stuff and we make adjustments.

“That’s how the playoffs work.”

Kerr said the staff is evaluating rotations and units. Asked about a possible change in the starting lineup, he played coy.

“We could,” he said. “You never know.”

If there is a change, it will come at center. Andrew Bogut, who played so well in Games 3 and 4, struggled in the 129-121 loss in Game 5 on Wednesday. He had six points, five rebounds and two assists. He played 17 minutes and was minus-15 in the plus/minus.

Backup Kevon Looney was, by contrast, effective, as he has been for most of the series. Playing 22 minutes, he scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds, finishing a team-best plus-15.

But the issues with this team run deeper than can be solved with a single change. The Warriors have not been able to sustain the “killer instinct” required on championship teams. They’ve had it in the past, so it’s still somewhere within their collective DNA

They’re often playing it cool, even as LA is running hot. And they’re no more tired, at least physically, than the Clippers.

“I didn’t see fatigue (in Game 5),” Kerr said. “I just saw a lack of urgency, and you can’t win a playoff game without urgency. It’s not that easy.”

The first indicator of ruthlessness is effort. The Warriors brought it in Game 1 and for the better part of Game 2, before they completely and inexplicably lost it – and the game. They hit 10 on the ruthless meter in Game 3 and brought enough of it to squash a Clippers rally and prevail in Game 4.

It never appeared in Game 5.

“When we get a nice lead, we just tend to relax a little bit,” Kevin Durant said after Game 5, which the Warriors never led by more than four. “I’ve said it before, teams are looking for something just to get them back into the game.”

The Clippers didn’t so much as look for something in Game 5 as come and take it.

“More than anything, they played harder than we did,” Kerr said. “Schemes go out the window when a team plays harder than you. Schemes don’t matter unless you compete. I always say it, every year, that the first adjustment you have to make is to playing harder. And then you can get into switching rotations and matchups.

“In LA, we played really hard. In our last two home games, we let our guard down. The one thing you should know from watching the Clippers all years is that this is a competitive, fun team that enjoys playing together. They’re not going to go away. You’ve got to put them away by competing.”

[RELATED: Beverley's grit and hustle has Clips on Dubs' heels]

The Warriors in Game 5 met most of their offensive goals. They had 31 assists and eight turnovers. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant combined for 91 points on 49.1-percent shooting. They know they have the Curry/Durant pick-and-roll, and they’ll use it if a boost is needed. But the problem in Game 5, as well as the pivotal portion of Game 2, was an utter lack of defensive focus, execution and effort.

They fixed it last postseason and won a championship.

The Warriors know the formula. Desperate times in the NBA playoffs call for an inspired defense. Without it, even the Warriors are vulnerable.

Warriors vs. Raptors preview: Who has edge in 2019 NBA Finals matchup?

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NBC Sports Bay Area

Warriors vs. Raptors preview: Who has edge in 2019 NBA Finals matchup?

With the Toronto Raptors beating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night, the Warriors' NBA Finals matchup is confirmed. 

The best-of-seven series will pair the back-to-back defending NBA champions against Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Drake (possibly) and a Raptors organization fresh off clinching the first Finals appearance in its 24-year history. 

For the first time during their current five-year run, the Warriors will not have home-court advantage, and they could be without injured starters DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant at the onset of the series. 

For now, here are the biggest things to watch heading into the series, which starts Thursday night in Toronto.

Projected starting lineups 

Warriors
F Andre Iguodala
F Draymond Green
C Andrew Bogut
G Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry

Raptors 
F Pascal Siakam
F Kawhi Leonard
C Marc Gasol
G Kyle Lowry
G Danny Green

The Warriors will be without Durant for at least the start of the series with a calf injury. Cousins, who began practicing with the team this week, could make his return from a torn quad in Game 1 if he continues to progress in his rehab.

Still, the Warriors have the healthy Splash Brother duo of Curry and Thompson, who combined to score nearly 57 points per game in the Western Conference finals.

Meanwhile, Leonard has been productive all postseason for Toronto, averaging 31.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 18 games. Following a breakout season, Siakam was a dependable second scorer in the conference finals. Lowry is a reliable regular-season contributor but has routinely struggled in the playoffs, and a thumb injury could hamper his production. 

Edge: Draw (until Durant comes back)

Bench

Like the Warriors, the Raptors have struggled to get contributions from their second unit this season, finishing the regular season 24th in bench scoring.

The postseason hasn't been much better for Toronto, which averaged just 25.1 bench points per game through the first three playoff rounds. Former Warrior Patrick McCaw signed with the Raptors midseason after declining an offer from the Warriors and having a brief stint in Cleveland. However, he's averaging just 2.1 points per game across the regular season and playoffs. 

With Durant out, the Warriors have gotten contributions from their bench. Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook and Kevon Looney have stepped up in particular, and all three will be counted on in the Finals. 

Edge: Warriors

[RELATED: Iguodala alludes to retirement when asked about workload]

Coaching

Although he wasn't nominated, Toronto's Nick Nurse is putting together a Coach of the Year-worthy campaign. He helped guide the Raptors to 58 wins in his first season, despite Leonard missing 22 games.

Under Nurse's tutelage, the Raptors finished with the league's fifth-best offense, and he oversaw a defense that largely shut down Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals. 

However, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has presided over the best six-year run in NBA history, and is on pace to win his fourth championship in five years. 

Edge: Warriors

2019 NBA Finals schedule: Warriors vs Raptors dates, times, TV channel

2019 NBA Finals schedule: Warriors vs Raptors dates, times, TV channel

Hurry up and wait.

That's what the Warriors did, after completing a four-game Western Conference finals sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday, and now they'll visit the Toronto Raptors to start the NBA Finals after a nine-day layoff.

The Raptors finally punched their ticket Saturday with a 100-94 Game 6 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. It will be the first NBA Finals appearance for the Raptors, and the first time the championship round will be played outside the United States.

It's the Warriors' fifth consecutive NBA Finals trip, but they won't have home-court advantage in the series because the Raptors finished with one more regular-season win. So, Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 are set for Toronto, and Games 3, 4, 6 will be in Oakland, as a fitting send-off for Oracle Arena.

Here's the schedule for the 2019 NBA Finals, with all games televised on ABC. NBC Sports Bay Area will have full pregame coverage, starting two hours before tip-off of each game, as well as postgame coverage, with analysis from Greg Papa, Garry St. Jean and Kelenna Azuibuike, and on-site interviews with Kerith Burke and Warriors players and personnel.

Game 1: Thursday, May 30, at Toronto, 6 p.m. PT
Game 2: Sunday, June 2, at Toronto, 5 p.m. PT
Game 3: Wednesday, June 5, at Golden State, 6 p.m. PT
Game 4: Friday, June 7, at at Golden State, 6 p.m. PT
Game 5*: Monday, June 10, at Toronto, 6 p.m. PT
Game 6*: Thursday, June 13, at at Golden State, 6 p.m. PT
Game 7*: Sunday, June 16, at Toronto, 5 p.m. PT
*If necessary