Warriors

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 104-100 Game 1 win over Rockets

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 104-100 Game 1 win over Rockets

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OAKLAND -- Emotions flying high, 3-pointers falling hard and neither team able to create separation, Game 1 of Warriors-Rockets lived up to the hype that preceded it.

With Kevin Durant scoring 35 points and Stephen Curry draining a massive triple with 24.4 seconds remaining, the Warriors were able to hold off Houston to nab a 104-100 victory, taking a 1-0 lead in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series that many believe features the league's two best teams.

Here are three takeaways from the Western Conference semifinal opener that was relatively close throughout at Oracle Arena:

Say hello to the Hamptons 5

The first indication of how seriously the Warriors are taking the Rockets came with their starting lineup: The “Hamptons 5,” with Curry and Klay Thompson at guards, Andre Iguodala and Durant at forwards, and Draymond Green at center.

This is the lineup Warriors coach Steve Kerr turns to when he wants to increase the pace, playing frenzied hyper-aggressive defense that generates turnovers.

The decision produced mixed results. The Warriors led for most of the first quarter, but they never could build a truly comfortable lead.

Because the Warriors won, it’s likely Kerr will stay with it for Game 2 on Tuesday night.

Aiding the enemy

The Warriors spent much of the game being their own worst enemy.

Though Houston’s defense appreciably improved over the second half of the regular season, it was only part of the reason the Warriors didn’t light up the scoreboard Sunday. They committed eight turnovers in the first quarter and finished with 13 in the first half.

Most of the giveaways were of the damaging live-ball variety. The empty possessions sabotaged the Warriors’ offense while also handing the Rockets easy buckets and free-throw opportunities. Houston scored 16 of its 53 first-half points courtesy of Warriors turnovers.

The Warriors committed 20 turnovers for the game, giving the Rockets 20 points. Houston’s 16 turnovers led to 10 points for Golden State.

The Warriors got through it this time, but there will be plenty of problems to study when they gather for their video session Monday.

Curry again battles foul trouble

Despite Curry’s tendency to get into foul trouble against the Clippers, the Warriors escaped the first round, largely because of Durant’s offensive brilliance. That formula shouldn’t be tried against Houston.

Yet there it was, Curry picking up his fourth foul with 4:34 left in the third quarter and the Warriors up 68-67. Curry went to the bench for Shaun Livingston. Something strange happened, though, as the Warriors outscored the Rockets 15-9 over the rest of the quarter.

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Curry took the floor for the fourth quarter and lasted less than four minutes, leaving with 8:01 remaining after being whistled for his fifth foul. He returned less than two minutes later and was able to close out the game and sink the big 3-pointer late.

The Warriors survived this in Game 1, but it’s a risky way to play and a problem they must address.

Why Warriors' next 10 games offer chance to encourage somber fan base

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USATSI

Why Warriors' next 10 games offer chance to encourage somber fan base

If any stretch of the season is ideal for the Warriors to toss their starving fans four or five crumbs, it is the next 10 games, beginning Monday night against the Grizzlies.

Reason No. 1: The Warriors are about as healthy as they’re going to be for at least the next three months. They could suit up 12 players against Memphis.

Reason No. 2: They’re at home for eight of the next 10 games, and the only back-to-back set comes on the last weekend of December.

Reason No. 3: They’re staring directly at the best opportunity they’ll have this season to string together three consecutive victories.

Reason No. 4: The trade market swings wide open on Dec. 15, and productive players are vastly more attractive to teams seeking someone able to help in the second half of the season and, possibly, the playoffs.

And it doesn’t hurt that from a realistic and long-range viewpoint, a solidly competitive three weeks could build good habits without sacrificing the likelihood of finishing with a record that would assure a premium lottery pick. There will be plenty of games marked with an “L.”

Let’s take a game-by-game look at the next 10:

Monday night: Grizzlies at home

Under Steve Kerr, the Warriors once went 145 games without back-to-back losses. With Grizzlies' team engine Ja Morant coping with a balky back – he has missed the last four games – this is an excellent chance put some life in Chase Center with their first consecutive wins this season.

Win probability: Very high.

Wednesday night: Knicks at home

It’s the Knicks, on their first swing through Western Conference, on the second night of a back-to-back set. Enough said.

Win probability: Very high.

Friday night: Jazz away

Even with the tremendous Warriors teams of recent seasons, playing at altitude on the road was never a walk. Mike Conley’s hamstring is barking, but Emmanuel Mudiay is playing well.

Win probability: Very low.

Dec. 15: Kings at home

The first meeting this season between Kerr and former assistant Luke Walton, and also the first reunion of former Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein and his former teammates. One question: Can Cauley-Stein bring intensity? Another question: Who can guard Sacramento gunslinger Buddy Hield?

Win probability: Medium.

Dec. 18: Trail Blazers away

Tough place to win with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Tougher to win without them. The Dame-CJ-Melo trio poses problems for a Warriors defense than can be exploited. This game will need the best of Draymond Green at both ends, and some loud offense from Eric Paschall.

Win probability: Low.

Dec. 20: Pelicans at home

Will Zion be back? It doesn’t look likely. Has anybody seen Derrick Favors? New Orleans is a mess right now, and a turnaround in the next couple weeks seems unlikely.

Win probability: High.

Dec. 23: Timberwolves at home

Minny is one of only four teams to beat the Warriors at least once in each of the last four seasons, and those Warriors were four levels better than this year's squad. Coach Ryan Saunders seems to have unlocked the secret to Andrew Wiggins’ potential. But this is the second of three straight games in the Pacific time zone.

Win probability: Medium.

Dec. 25: Rockets at home

The simple game plan is to keep James Harden off the free-throw line and force Russell Westbrook to launch jump shots. If either fails to find a rhythm – and there’s a decent chance of that – the Warriors can pull off the upset.

Win probability: Low.

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Dec. 27: Suns at home

The Suns are dealing with the growing pains that come with a new coach determined to change the culture. They’re quite good some nights, quite unsightly on others. But they have two players, Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr., that are capable of causing problems. Big man Deandre Ayton will back by then and will have had a couple weeks of conditioning.

Win probability: Medium.

Dec. 28: Mavericks at home

It was widely believed the Mavericks might be good enough find a low seed to the playoffs, but Luka is trying to take them even higher. It’s Luka Time, and the Warriors – on Night No. 2 of a back-to-back – must be at their best to avoid being another canvas for this kid’s wizardry.

Win probability: Low.

NBA rumors: Warriors 'not pushing' to trade guard D'Angelo Russell now

NBA rumors: Warriors 'not pushing' to trade guard D'Angelo Russell now

When the Warriors acquired D'Angelo Russell as part of Kevin Durant's sign-and-trade with the Nets this past offseason and signed the star point guard to a four-year, $117 million contract, it seemed like a bit of an odd fit.

How would Russell fit with fellow point guard Steph Curry? What about when shooting guard Klay Thompson became healthy? More than anything, it looked like Golden State added a great trade asset. 

But the Warriors reportedly are in no rush to trade D-Lo. 

“If it is something that they’re going to do quickly, like before the end of this month, I wouldn’t say they’re pushing for it,” one NBA general manager recently said to Heavy.com's Sean Deveney. “Maybe they have a deal in mind, maybe they’re sitting on something and laying low. But I’d be surprised.

"That’s not how they’d approach it, I’d think. You want to create a market if you are going to trade a player like him, you want to pit teams against each other, drive up the price. You don’t want to lock into one deal. But the market thing, that’s not really happening yet. They’re not pushing the market for him.”

If the Warriors do indeed have a trade in mind, they soon can start taking calls. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement prohibits the Dubs from parting ways with Russell until Dec. 15. 

Since acquiring the All-Star, general manager Bob Myers has made it clear the Warriors aren't trying to get rid of Russell. 

"We didn't sign him with the intention of just trading him," Myers said to reporters on July 15. 

Russell has been a bright spot on the 5-19 Warriors when healthy. He has been limited to only 12 games while dealing with a sprained right thumb, but has averaged a career-high 22.3 points, 6.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. 

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The Warriors truly won't be able to evaluate the 23-year-old's future with the team until he has played more with Curry and the rest of the injured Dubs.

Golden State has until the Feb. 7 trade deadline to move Russell, but as of now, that doesn't seem to be at the top of the team's priority list.