Warriors overcome injuries, Blazers en route to some much-needed rest

Warriors overcome injuries, Blazers en route to some much-needed rest

PORTLAND, Ore. — They lost one starter in the first round. Lost another in the second round. Lost a subsequent starter in the next round, in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

The Warriors won Game 4 against the Portland Trail Blazers anyway. 119-117 in overtime. On the road. After trailing by 17 points.

Golden State was desperate for a few days of rest, so the defending champs threw everything they could pull from themselves Monday night into a furious fourth-quarter rally at Moda Center. That was enough to push the game into OT, during which they staggered to the final buzzer with a two-point victory over the Blazers, completing a four-game sweep that was about as perilous as any sweep can be.

“I’m ready to retire,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area, before cracking a smile.

“But not until after The Finals.”

Kerr was joking. He also was leaning over a railing on which he rested his elbows.

Fatigue hung over this coaching staff and these players like 90-pound lead jackets. After averaging 103 games over the past four seasons, the Warriors are at 98 and counting in Year 5 as they become the first team since the 1960s Boston Celtics to make five consecutive journeys to the NBA Finals.

“It’s really hard to differentiate each run,” Klay Thompson said. “They have been different in their own unique ways, but it has felt like one big season lumped together for the last five years. And we would have it any other way.”

This postseason, the Warriors endured six games in the first round before vanquishing the stubborn LA Clippers. Six more in the second round, summoning two years of malice and execution in equal amounts to dispatch their enemies in Houston.

The Warriors knew the Blazers, coming off an exhaustive seven-game series with the Denver Nuggets, were vulnerable. That meant they had to resort to some emotional trickery to fight off any potential for complacency.

That scheme was aided by the absences of DeMarcus Cousins (injured in the first round) and Kevin Durant (injured in the second). The Warriors realized that shrinks their margin for error to something that will fit through the head of a needle.

That’s where Draymond Green came in. The firebrand guard-forward-center took care of that bit of business, defending as if his family’s safety were at stake and pushing the rock at every opportunity, forcing his teammates to come along for the ride or be left in his wake.

Green received plenty of help from Stephen Curry and Thompson, the other two starters still standing. Thompson’s offense was less than reliable this series, but his defense was enormous. Curry mostly kept the nets hot, averaging 36.5 points over the four games.

The supporting cast, all the way down to rookie guard Jacob Evans III, delivered at least well as anyone could have hoped, particularly in helping the Warriors wipe out a 17-point deficit in Game 4.

“You’ve got to give credit obviously to Steph and Draymond. They set the tone tonight,” Thompson said. “But our bench has been incredible. Kevon Looney, a double-double, 12 [points] and 14 [rebounds]. Quinn Cook coming in making a difference. Shaun Livingston played great. [Andrew] Bogut, everybody.”

That’s what it took to overcome the loss of Cousins and Durant, who were joined on the inactive list by Andre Iguodala in Game 4. The Warriors proved they can be as gritty as they are pretty.

“When you’ve won a championship or two, there’s a little bit of pressure that’s taken off because you’ve already proved you can win the big one,” Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area. “There’s a sense of, ‘Man, that was so much fun, I want to do it again.’ And that accounts for how they played in pressure situations like tonight and like [Game 3].”

The road to the three-peat is mostly behind the Warriors. They’ve won 12 of 16 games and are setting their sights on four more wins, against either Milwaukee or Toronto in The Finals.

Five in a row, though, that’s high living. That’s historical. The stuff of dynasties.

“Basketball careers aren't that long. If you can get 10 [years] out of it, you're lucky,” Green said. “To be to five straight Finals, I don't even know what to say about it. This is what you play for. This is our goal every year, and to get here five straight times is special.”

[RELATED: Warriors' championship pedigree too much for Blazers]

The Warriors got here the hard way, with the roster getting leaner every round. They did by coming back from deficits of at least 17 points in Games 2, 3 and 4 — the last two at Moda Center.

“Our guys are not afraid,” Kerr said. “They’ve got nothing to lose. They’ve forged their reputations for life. They’re champions. So why not get greedy and go for more?”

The first priority Monday night was to create some down time, a few days to savor and recover. They did. They’ll get some rest. They’ve earned it.

Draymond Green pokes fun at D'Angelo Russell's defense, offers insight

Draymond Green pokes fun at D'Angelo Russell's defense, offers insight

Warriors forward Draymond Green is one of the best quotes in the NBA. He speaks his mind and tells you like it is.

So when he was asked about D'Angelo Russell's defense after practice Wednesday, Green didn't exactly sugarcoat things.

"Watching him in practice yesterday, I told him, 'Oh you showed me you can defend. I didn't know you could. So that's the expectation now,'" the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year told reporters. "It's interesting because you just never know what's been asked of someone.

"You can easily judge a situation and say, 'Oh man, he hasn't really defended much,' or, 'He's not that good on the defensive end.' But if he's never been asked to defend, it's kind of hard to make that judgment. 

"Obviously, we're going to ask him to defend. Yesterday, he was asked to defend and he showed that he can. I told him that'll be the expectation moving forward.

"Sorry, buddy, you showed it."

Russell had a career year in Brooklyn last season, averaging 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game.

He did register 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest, but he's pretty much universally regarded as a below average defender.

The 23-year-old will be under the microscope this season, but Draymond made sure to keep things in perspective.

[RELATEDKerr explains why rookie Paschall will play a lot for Dubs]

"We don't expect him to go out there and be Patrick Beverley or Kawhi Leonard," the three-time NBA champion added. "That's just not who you are (laughing).

"Just go out and be competitive on that side of the ball."

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Steve Kerr explains why Warriors rookie Eric Paschall will play a lot

Steve Kerr explains why Warriors rookie Eric Paschall will play a lot

Warriors fans should expect to see a lot of Eric Paschall this season.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr was a guest on KNBR 680 on Tuesday afternoon, and was asked if the soon-to-be 23-year-old is one of the rare rookies that he can trust.

"One hundred percent, you're right on it," Kerr said. "He's a mature rookie. He's got an NBA body. He's physically capable of standing up to anybody in the league. One of the problems for most rookies -- and you'll see it a little bit with Jordan Poole this year -- you just have to mature and get bigger and stronger.

"Most guys when they come in, they're just not ready for this level of strength and force that exists in the game. Eric's ready for all that.

"He's gonna play a lot this year. We're really excited about him."

Glenn Robinson III will be the Dubs' starting small forward in the season opener Thursday night against the Clippers, and could start the majority of games this season.

But don't be surprised if Paschall -- who played primarily power forward or center during the preseason -- ends up starting some games at the three.

Over five preseason games, the Villanova product averaged 9.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per contest.

[RELATEDWhy Draymond thought Warriors GM Myers was turning on him]

Defensively, he consistently is where he needs to be.

"Great kid, great work ethic and just a guy who I think will be able to guard multiple positions," Kerr added. "And is definitely not afraid of the moment, so really excited about Eric."

You should be, too.

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