Warriors not worried about repeating 2018's poor stretch run before playoffs

Warriors not worried about repeating 2018's poor stretch run before playoffs

OAKLAND -- Marcus Smart stared in Kevin Durant's direction after hitting a 23-foot jumper with 2.6 seconds left in the first half Tuesday night.

Smart's shot capped off a 14-4 Celtics run to close the half with a 25-point lead, but the sentiment behind the Boston guard's stare provided a familiar sight for the Warriors in recent weeks. 

Since the All-Star break, the Warriors are 3-5, ranking near the bottom of the NBA in defense over that span. Last season, the team limped into its championship run, finishing the regular season 7-14. Now, following the worst loss of the Steve Kerr era, Golden State will try not to replicate last season's effort during this year's stretch run. 

So far, the Warriors have done little to quiet the comparisons to that performance. Over their last six games, Golden State has given up 119.3 points per game, while posting a 114.5 defensive rating. 

Coinciding with the slide in the Warriors' defensive performance has been its lack of depth. The team is averaging just 29.0 points off the bench, the second-worst output in the league. Last year's standout Quinn Cook, offseason acquisition Jonas Jerebko and training camp invite Alfonzo McKinnie have struggled to provide a consistent scoring punch. 

Last season, Golden State battled injuries to Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson during the last 24 games of the season, failing to find cohesion down the stretch. Now, with a healthier group, the Warriors believe this regular season won't be more of the same. 

"This year is different," said Stephen Curry, who finished with 23 points. "Last year, we had some injuries and a depleted roster. This year, we have new pieces, I'd say we have some of the same patterns that we need to correct and prove ourselves that we can do it." 

For the moment, the Warriors look stuck in mud, evidenced by Tuesday's performance.

The Celtics, who came into the matchup losers of five of their last six, shot 51.0 percent from the field and 41 percent from the 3-point range. Gordon Hayward, who came into Tuesday averaging just five points over his last five games, scored 30 points on 12-of-16 from the field in 28 minutes. 

"No sense of urgency," Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins said. "Another sluggish start. Bad energy. That was on us tonight. You can't even really get into the X's and O's or make excuses about making shots, or whatever the case may be. It started off with our energy from the beginning and regardless, came out ready to play and we didn't. Simple as that." 

[RELATED: Kerr, KD searching for answers after 'embarrassing' loss]

Fortunately for the Warriors, it isn't last year. Golden State is still 1.5 games up on the Denver Nuggets after Tuesday's loss. The teams will play at Oracle Arena on Friday night, for the top seed in the Western Conference, even though the Warriors have lost five of their last eight games.

“Whoever they play next, I wouldn’t want to be them because they’re probably going to play very hard,” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said. 

For the Warriors' sake, the team hopes Brown's words ring true for the rest of the season. 

Nets players free of coronavirus symptoms, but Kevin Durant might be delayed

Nets players free of coronavirus symptoms, but Kevin Durant might be delayed

Good news. The four Brooklyn Nets players who had tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) are now free from symptoms.

Nets general manager Sean Marks announced Wednesday during a conference call with reporters that all members of Brooklyn's traveling party had completed a two-week quarantine. Even so, they will continue to abide by social-distancing guidelines.

"As it pertains to the team," Marks said (via ESPN's Malika Andrews), "I sense -- like all of us, like the rest of New York and really the rest of the globe -- we're trying to deal with this as best we can."

The Nets were scheduled to face the Warriors at Chase Center in front of no fans on March 12, but the NBA indefinitely suspended the season the previous night after two Utah Jazz players became the first in the NBA to test positive for the coronavirus. Upon returning to Brooklyn from San Francisco, the Nets paid a private company to test the team for COVID-19, which revealed that four players had tested positive.

Of those four players, three were asymptomatic. According to Marks, however, the lone player exhibiting symptoms has since recovered.

Former Warrior Kevin Durant admitted he was one of the four Nets to test positive for the coronavirus. He hadn't played all season while recovering from a torn Achilles, and was already ruled out for the duration of the 2019-20 campaign. While Durant might have some extra time on his hands these days, it's possible that the season being indefinitely paused could delay his return to game action.

The same goes for Brooklyn point guard Kyrie Irving, who underwent shoulder surgery on March 3. Though they are able to continue their respective rehabilitations, they obviously don't have access to the practice facility, which could slow the process.

"I couldn't give an answer on when they'll play this season," Marks said. "I don't think it's fair to those athletes nor the performance team to put a timeline on it. I think everyone is dealing with bigger, far more pressing things."

[RELATED: Steph had to assemble hoop Ayesha ordered in quarantine]

Marks insisted he would have a better idea of each player's respective timeline in another three weeks to a month, when he hopes to have more clarification about the NBA's plans to resume the season.

Of course, there's no guarantee that will happen, either.

Steph Curry explains how he's above average in 'Tour de Warriors' race

Steph Curry explains how he's above average in 'Tour de Warriors' race

Warriors players can't go to Chase Center to work on their game while the NBA season is indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

They can't use the team facilities to ride the bike, or hop on the treadmill or use the elliptical.

And not everybody has exercise equipment at home.

But those who do have been able to work out together ...

... virtually.

Ben Cohen of The Wall Street Journal has the details:

(Steph Curry) does have a Peloton bike at home. As it turns out, he’s not the only one: The Warriors have been going for a group ride in the morning.

The invitation goes out on a Slack group -- Curry admits to skipping one class because he didn’t see the message -- and then a maniacally competitive bicyclist named Draymond Green attempts to destroy everyone around him, according to a person familiar with the rides.

“In the Tour de Warriors,” Curry said, “I’m above average, but I’m not on the podium yet. I have to figure out how to get there. There’s always something to shoot for.”

It's not a surprise to hear that Draymond is competitive during these sessions, as he has been a regular at SoulCycle for quite some time.

[RELATED: Steph had to assemble hoop Ayesha ordered in quarantine]

“You walk out feeling sweaty, feeling good like you got a workout in, but it doesn’t put much strain on the body," the three-time NBA champion told NBC Sports Bay Area's Kerith Burke about one year ago. "Sometimes it’s good to get away from the game of basketball or the typical weight room.

“You’re working out with a different group of people, you’re all on rhythm, trying to stay on the beat with each other. When you add music to a workout, it’s fun. I do it a lot with my fiancée, and we have a good time. We sit next to each other. She’s really good at it.”

As for Steph -- knowing how competitive he is, don't be surprised if we learn that he wins the "Tour de Warriors" on the regular very soon.

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