Warriors don't want narrative surrounding Harden, Paul to change on their watch

Warriors don't want narrative surrounding Harden, Paul to change on their watch

OAKLAND -- As the Warriors prepare to face Houston in the Western Conference semifinals, the biggest unknown about these Rockets will come to the surface only if they face elimination.

That’s when all of Houston will turn its eyes toward leading MVP candidate James Harden and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul, pleading for them to save the championship hopes.

Neither guard has a history of doing that, but that was when they were on different teams. This is their first year as teammates.

“Chris is the obvious difference in their team now,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday after practice. “They’ve been really good for the last few years, but he gives them a new dimension. He’s a great player, one of the best in the league and a future Hall of Famer. So we have to account for what he does.

“He’s different from James. They attack in different ways. But they’re both ball-dominant and very effective with what they do.”

Just because Harden and Paul haven’t crushed the title hopes of others doesn’t mean they can’t. That’s the mentality the Warriors are taking, and it’s the right one.

“Those two guards, there’s no stopping them by yourself,” Klay Thompson said. “They’re going to get their numbers. But you don’t want James and CP or James Harden to have a huge game because that usually indicates they’re going to win.”

Harden and Paul have played a combined 184 postseason games, and neither has ever gone into summer feeling the glow of triumph. Moreover, no two players of their elite status and experience have consistently felt more graceless dismissals.

Paul is in his 13th season and this is his first trip to the conference finals. Until Houston’s win over Utah on Monday, Paul’s 85 postseason games without reaching the final four were the most in the league.

The Clippers built around DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Paul. With Paul as the veteran leader, they had promise. The three All-Stars were together for five seasons and never once got past the second round.

Paul’s most recent elimination game was last spring, when the Clippers lost to Utah in Game 7 of the conference semifinals. Paul shot 52.6 percent over the first six games, and then faded to 31.6 percent (6-of-19) in the Game 7 loss.

Yet the most startling dismissal of those Clippers came in 2015. They took a 3-1 series lead over Houston and then lost three straight, including Game 6 in LA after building a 19-point lead late in the third quarter.

It’s not that Paul’s postseason metrics are bad. It’s that he has not fared well when faced with elimination.

Harden has been considerably worse. He is both undeniably skilled and exceedingly vulnerable to shrinking from the big moment.

It was Harden, an MVP candidate last season, who submitted a zombie performance in his last elimination game. After averaging 29.1 points in the regular season, he scored 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting and committed six turnovers in Game 6 against the Spurs. Who can forget the sight of him sitting on the bench in the final minutes, holding a stare as vacant as an empty gym?

He was worse against the Warriors during the 2015 Western Conference Finals. The Warriors won in five games, and Harden’s Game 5 meltdown was flabbergasting. He had 14 points on 2-of-11 shooting and 12 turnovers, an NBA record.

Again, this is not to say that Harden and Paul can’t summon greatness in the clutch but to acknowledge that they generally have not.

“If we play too lax and lazy with these guys,” Kevin Durant said, “they can burn you because they’re great one-on-one scorers.”

The most important factor for the Warriors will be disallowing either one to get into a rhythm -- especially Harden, who is as good as any offensive player in the league.

“You don’t want to foul him because he gets there the most of anybody in the NBA,” Thompson said. “But that’s easier said than done. Don’t give him too many passing lanes, because he’s also a great assist man. And just close his airspace because when he’s doing his thing with his dribble, he’s so hard to stop when he’s comfortable.”

What’s different is that Harden and Paul have not been teammates until this season. When the Rockets traded for Paul, a traditional point guard, there was legitimate reason to wonder if he could play alongside Harden, who tends to control the ball.

The Harden-Paul backcourt succeeded in the regular season, wildly so when they were sharing the court with center Clint Capela. The Rockets are 50-5 when all three are in the lineup.

The postseason is a different beast. There is no knowing how Harden and Paul will respond as teammates when faced with the prospect of elimination. The Warriors simply want to put them there.

Steph Curry out at least 10 more days for Warriors with groin injury

Steph Curry out at least 10 more days for Warriors with groin injury

Programming note: Watch Thursday night's Warriors-Rockets game streaming live at 5 p.m. PT on the MyTeams app.

Steph Curry is Houston bound.

The two-time NBA MVP is traveling with the Warriors to Texas for the three-game road trip, but he will not play in any of the contests, the team announced Wednesday.

The Warriors will face the Rockets on Thursday, the Mavericks on Saturday and the Spurs on Sunday.

Curry will be re-evaluated in 10 days, which means he's scheduled to also miss next week's games against the Thunder (Wednesday) and the Trail Blazers (Friday). Golden State will host the Kings next Saturday, which is 10 days from now.

[RELATED: Report: Steph went to Draymond's house to get his side of the story]

The three-time NBA champion has missed the Warriors' last three games -- wins over the Nets and Hawks, and a loss to the Clippers. He is averaging 29.5 points, 6.1 assists and 5.0 rebounds this season, while shooting 51.5 percent from the field and over 49 percent from 3-point range.

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

Positives, negatives from Warriors' back-to-back vs. Clippers, Hawks

Positives, negatives from Warriors' back-to-back vs. Clippers, Hawks

OAKLAND -- The Warriors on Tuesday completed the third of 12 back-to-back sets that they will have this season, and this one might have a lasting impact.

There are few moments to remember and many to regret, most notably the blow-up between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green on Monday night.

Here are two positives and two negatives culled from splitting the two games, a loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles and a win over the Hawks in Oakland:


The bench didn’t waver

With Stephen Curry missing both games and Green missing the second while on suspension, the Warriors needed a boost from their reserves. They generally got what they wanted.

The bench scored 39 points on 68.2 percent shooting against the Clippers. It was the starters' 77 points on 40.3 percent shooting that failed the test.

Against the Hawks, the bench didn’t shoot as well, perhaps because two reserves -- Quinn Cook and Jonas Jerebko -- were in the starting lineup. Cook and Jerebko combined for 32 points (46.4 percent), 17 rebounds and eight assists.

If Cook and Jerebko keep making shots and stretching the floor, the Warriors will benefit.

Iguodala’s shot looks niiice

If there is a sense the Oracle Arena crowd holds its collective breath every time Andre Iguodala hoists a 3-pointer, it’s because it does.

When he misses, and sometimes badly, there is a groan.

[RELATED: Iguodala references Kobe-Shaq when asked about Draymond-KD beef]

When they go in, there is plenty of extra hearty in the cheer.

These days, they’ve been going in. Iguodala, the team’s multi-skilled Sixth Man, scored 22 points, on 8-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-5 from deep, over the last two games.

Since missing his first eight shots from beyond the arc, Iguodala is 8 of 14. That’s 57.1 percent. He won’t maintain that pace -- nobody does -- but that scoring boost is particularly timely with Curry out.


The Green-Durant quarrel

The Warriors can’t hide this one. They can’t deny it. Durant and Green squabbled in plain sight Monday night, with teammates trying to soothe each of them.

With the score tied and about five seconds remaining in regulation, Green yanked down a rebound. Durant was a few feet away pleading for the ball. Green ignored him and went dribbling up the court. He committed a turnover, the Warriors did not get off a shot, and the game went into overtime, with Durant fouling out and Golden State fading over the final minutes.

That led to the dispute on the bench that carried over into the locker room. It also prompted the Warriors to suspend Green for conduct detrimental to the team.

This might be the biggest tiff yet involving Green, a firebrand that injects energy and enthusiasm but in this instance might have become too abrasive for the general good.

Will it have any lasting effect? If comments made by players and coaches are any indication, it possibly will.

Young bigs struggling on the glass

The Warriors determined this was the year they’d go away from a veteran center rotation and turn things over to the three youngsters: Jordan Bell, Damian Jones and Kevon Looney. Results have been mixed.

One element that has been fairly consistently disappointing is rebounding. Bell played just 13 minutes over the last two games and grabbed three. Looney played 45 minutes and grabbed seven. He has been the best rebounder of the group.

Jones has started every game. In 32 minutes over last two games, he had six rebounds. His season high is six. He has had eight games with three or fewer boards.

The Warriors need them to be better.