Warriors

Warriors schedule close-up: Can't-miss game, toughest road trip and more

Warriors schedule close-up: Can't-miss game, toughest road trip and more

Upon receiving the NBA schedule Friday, the Warriors surely noted back-to-back sets (13), the longest road trip and homestands (11 days each) and even total mileage (50,430). Not much to complain about, aside from ending the season with a road back-to-back.

We took a deeper and more subjective examination of the Warriors' 2018-19 schedule and this is what we found:

CAN’T-MISS GAME

After three years of storylines related to Warriors-Cavaliers and two to the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook “conflict” within Warriors-Thunder, the game most worthy of attention is Warriors-Lakers on Christmas Day. Two huge fan bases, the LeBron James Factor (reviving L.A. pride) and such curious figures as Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and ex-Warrior JaVale McGee. This will indicate whether the Lakers are gold, or merely fool’s gold.

[RELATED: Warriors announce full 2018-19 regular season schedule]

POSSIBLE FINALS PREVIEW

The Warriors will venture into Boston's TD Garden on Jan. 26 to face the expected Eastern Conference champion Celtics. The Warriors under Steve Kerr are 5-3 against Boston, including a four-point road loss last season. If the vaunted Warriors offense is stifled, chatter will rage for at least 38 days -- until the March 5 rematch in Oakland.

ALLURE TIMES THREE

The playoff races heat up in March, and the Warriors open the month at Philadelphia on March 2. Three reasons for intrigue: 1) The 76ers are very talented; 2) They have irrepressibly loquacious Joel Embiid; and 3) after years when the Warriors took over the building in Philly, this might be the game where everything changes.

TOUGH ROAD TRIP

Not since 2011 have the Warriors tackled the Texas Triangle. It’s back. Three games in four nights: at Houston on Thursday, Nov. 15; at Dallas on Saturday, Nov. 17; and at San Antonio on Sunday, Nov. 18. The upsides are that it’s the first month of the season, and the toughest game -- against the Rockets -- comes first.

TOUGHER ROAD TRIP

It’s the longest trek of the season, with two games on the West Coast, two in the East and one in the Midwest. It starts in Los Angeles, where the Warriors will engage the Clippers (Friday, Jan. 18) and the Lakers (Jan. 21, MLK Day), and then moves to Washington (Jan. 24) and Boston (Jan. 26) and, finally, Indiana (Jan 28). Though six non-game days seems plenty sufficient, the arrangement doesn’t suggest rest.

TOUGHEST ROAD TRIP

How about four playoff-caliber opponents, over seven days, beginning in south Texas with Houston on Wednesday, March 13? Then, it’s off to Oklahoma City on Saturday, back to south Texas at San Antonio on Monday, immediately followed by a 1,200-mile journey north, to Minnesota for Part II of a back-to-back on Tuesday. Anything better than a 2-2 record must be considered exceptional.

[RELATED: 10 must-see Warriors games next season]

GOOD REST STOP

There will be a number of nights when Warriors coach Steve Kerr rests one or more players. He’ll have to be careful on national TV games. Game No. 21 -- on Saturday, Nov. 24 against the Kings -- will be the third in four nights, after Oklahoma City and Portland at Oracle Arena.

BETTER REST STOP

The dog days of January bring only one back-to-back set. Naturally, it involves the Nuggets in Denver, where lungs lock up. That’s on Tuesday, Jan. 15, followed by a home game against the go-go Pelicans. Pick a night. Any player in his right mind will sit in Denver.

BEST REST STOP

It’s Game No. 82, on Wednesday, April 10 at Memphis. It comes less than 24 hours after the Warriors deal with the Pelicans in New Orleans. Assuming nothing is at stake in the standings, it would seem wise to turn this one over to the bench.

CURFEW BEING CONSIDERED

That would be the weekend of Jan 18-21. The defending champs play the Clippers on Friday at Staples Center. There is no game Saturday or Sunday, inviting the Warriors to indulge in the temptations of Hollywood before meeting the Lakers on Monday. Also: The Warriors tend to snooze through at least one game every season in L.A.

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.

Montrezl Harrell has message for Warriors after Clippers' Game 5 win

Montrezl Harrell has message for Warriors after Clippers' Game 5 win

The Los Angeles Clippers are feeling themselves, and for good reason.

Given zero chance to beat the Warriors heading into their first-round NBA playoff series, the Clippers have pushed the two-time defending champions to a Game 6 back in Los Angeles on Friday.

Down 3-1 in the series, most expected the Clippers to roll over Wednesday in Game 5 at Oracle Arena. But Lou Williams dropped 33 points and Montrezl Harrell added 24 as the Clippers grabbed a 129-121 win.

After the victory, Harrell had a quick, NSFW message for the Dubs and he screamed it as he sprinted back to the locker room.

"Bring that ass back to LA" Harrell shouted, via The Undefeated's Marc Spears.

Be careful what you wish for.

While the Warriors have admittedly been looking past the Clippers to a potential second-round date with the Rockets, the Dubs likely will be locked in Friday. Golden State has all the firepower needed to smolder the pesky Clippers, and the last thing they want is to have an unnecessary Game 7 because they were unfocused at the task at hand.

[RELATED: Lou Williams thinks Dubs made mistake by looking ahead to Rockets]

Harrell has been an issue for the Warriors all series, tormenting them in the pick-and-roll with Williams. His energy and ferocity have been unmatched by anyone on the Warriors, including Draymond Green. 

But with the Dubs having to bring their derrieres back to Southern California, we expect the Warriors' energy level will be a little different in Game 6.