Warriors

What makes the Warriors so special? Livingston singles out Zaza and JaVale

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AP

What makes the Warriors so special? Livingston singles out Zaza and JaVale

Zaza Pachulia did not play a single second in either of the Warriors' first two playoff games vs the Spurs.

JaVale McGee got the starting nod, and recorded 15 points, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal in Game 1.

In Game 2, he notched 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.

[PODCAST: If JaVale is out, who starts at center?]

Shaun Livingston wrote a diary for The Athletic on Thursday morning (be sure to read the whole entry), and praised both of the Warriors big men:

"What really makes us special is what we saw from Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee. Z didn’t play a second in the first two games, but he showed all you need to know about him. He has championship pedigree — which means you do what’s in the best interest of the team.

Coach pushes those buttons and he makes those decisions. If it were me, I wouldn’t want a DNP. I’m sure Z didn’t want one either. But instead of being, like, “This is bulls**t,” he made the sacrifice and was supportive of his team. That’s championship pedigree.

You’re playing for something bigger than yourself. I commend Z for taking that backseat and still staying ready, because you never know what can happen.

And the guy who took his place in the starting lineup, JaVale, is a prime example of what it means to stay ready. No matter what, whether he’s playing or not playing, he is the first one off the bench during timeouts, greeting and encouraging his teammates.

Him being able to get his shot now, to see him getting his shine, that’s the story.

When Livingston says "you never know what can happen," it's the truth.

McGee is listed as questionable for tonight's Game 3 because of a left thigh contusion.

If he is unable to play, it's quite possible that Pachulia gets the start...

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

Warriors in for a real fight through rest of Conference Finals

Warriors in for a real fight through rest of Conference Finals

OAKLAND -- This Western Conference Finals was never going to be a stroll through a warm breeze. The Warriors, generally superior, have too many blemishes. The Rockets have too much firepower and a memory that surely can recall last Oct. 17.

After winning two of the first three games, the Warriors looked ready to deliver a knockdown in Game 4 Tuesday night. They actually registered two, one in the first quarter and another, seemingly more devastating, in the third.

The Rockets got up each time. They came back with a vengeance, putting sharper teeth in their defense and more gusto in their offense and staying with it until they hung a 95-92 loss on the Warriors to even the best-of-seven series at 2-2.

“This game was sort of trench warfare,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It was just everybody grinding it out.”

The Warriors, for the first time, saw the improved Houston defense that was so heralded at the start of the playoffs. It’s not that they didn’t get open looks. They did. But they were open only after absorbing some physical punishment, and they weren’t open very long.

“They fought and scrambled every play,” Kerr said. “Their half-court defense is pretty good,” conceded Draymond Green.

The Warriors were limited to eight fast-break points. They never could sustain any flow. Stephen Curry was 10-of-26, Kevin Durant 9-of-24 and Klay Thompson 4-of-13. It’s exceedingly difficult to win when your best scorers combine to shoot 36.5 percent from the field and your offense gives away 20 points off turnovers.

The Warriors built two 12-point leads in the first quarter, the Rockets wiped them out in the second to take a 53-46 lead into halftime. When the Warriors, behind scorching 17-point third quarter by Curry, led by 10 (80-70) at the end of three, the Rockets came for blood in the fourth.

“You look at how the game went, we were in pretty good shape for 44 minutes with a chance to win and take really control of the series,” Curry said. “But it didn't happen.”

The Warriors scored all of 12 points in the fourth quarter. They took 18 shots and missed 15. They coughed up four of their 16 turnovers, giving Houston 5 points.

Game.

The Houston team that once routinely collapsed under its own weight now expects to clobber you with it. If Harden fades, and he did, scoring six points in 22 minutes after halftime, Paul is there to close it out. And the defense now rises when needed.

When Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said on Monday that the Warriors were facing more pressure in Game 4, he was trying to pacify his team. He was lying.

That lie is now the truth. The Warriors go back to Houston to face a team that is fresh off showcasing its improved defense and, moreover, more confident than it was when this series started and exponentially more confident than it was after taking a 126-85 drubbing in Game 3.

When your reply to a 41-point loss in Game is to wipe out a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit in Game 4 -- on the road, no less -- it feeds steroids to your swagger.

“We've been doing it all year long,” Harden said of Houston’s resilience. “That's the main reason we're in this position we're in today. (Game 3) was just one loss. We all know what that is. We've got the mentality that we were going to win Game 4. We've talked about it. We've preached it.”

“And we came out and then stopped. They made runs and they were going to especially at home, and we kept fighting, kept fighting, and defensively kept locking in and making big time shots.”

The Rockets came into Oracle Arena on opening night, last Oct. 17, and after trailing by 13 entering the fourth quarter toughed out a 122-121 victory. After wiping out double-digit deficits twice in Oakland to defeat the defending champs, they believe.

That’s what the Warriors now have to face. The New Rockets are different. They can summon a fearsome defense. And they don’t seem inclined to hurt themselves.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2 Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3 Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4 Rockets 95, Warriors 92
Game 5 Houston -- Thursday, May 24th at 6pm
Game 6 Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm
Game 7 Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm

After D'Antoni's harsh critique, Rockets prove they aren't soft with Game 4 win

After D'Antoni's harsh critique, Rockets prove they aren't soft with Game 4 win

OAKLAND -- Following Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at Oracle Arena Sunday evening, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni called his team soft. After a stunning 95-92 victory in Game 4 Tuesday evening, he backtracked a bit on his critique of his team.

“They’re not soft and they proved it. I misspoke and you guys miswrote it,” D’Antoni said with a laugh.

Twice the Rockets fell behind by 12 points, once in the wild first quarter and again in the early fourth. But they rode out the offensive outbursts of the Golden State Warriors and showed incredible grit and physicality down the stretch.

“We’ve been doing it all year long, that’s the main reason we’re in this position today,” James Harden said following the victory over the Warriors. “That third game was just one loss.”

It’s not easy to shake off a 41-point drubbing, but that is exactly what the Rockets did on Tuesday. A raucous Oracle crowd turned silent when Stephen Curry missed a potential tying 3-ball as time expired.

“I think there was great basketball played on both sides, stretches of it,” D’Antoni said. “The rest of it is just gutting it out and finding a will, a way, a want.”

With the win, the Rockets have retaken home court advantage as the series moves back to Houston. They’ll play two of the next three at the Toyota Center, if the series goes a full seven games.

“We’re back to even. We know what we have to do. See if we can do it against a great team,” D’Antoni said.

Clamping Down in the Fourth Quarter
Houston is an offensive juggernaut. During the regular season, they hoisted 3-point shots at an incredible clip and finished the year with the league’s second highest scoring offense.

But the playoffs are a different game and the Rockets are adjusting to the physicality of the NBA’s second season. For one night, they played playoff caliber defense, especially late in the contest with the game on the line.

After falling behind big in the fourth, Houston turned up the intensity and the Warriors didn’t respond well. The Rockets held Golden State to just 12 points in the fourth quarter on 3-of-18 shooting.

“We were really disciplined all game long, especially in the fourth,” Clint Capela said.

Houston’s rotations were on point throughout the final 12 minutes as they held the Warriors to 0-of-6 from behind the arc. What few shots the Warriors did make were contested well.

“When we’re locked in and we’re all on a string, we’re a really good team,” veteran Trevor Ariza said.

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant combined to hit 2-of-13 from the field in the final frame as Rockets came away with the unlikely road win.

Harden Disappears
Harden was on his way to a breakout game Tuesday evening at Oracle Arena. He’d used an array of crossover dribbles and step back 3-pointers to lead Houston with 24 first half points.

After shooting 8-of-17 in the first two quarters, the likely league MVP struggled after the break. He finished the evening with 30 points, scoring six points in the second half on 3-of-9 from the field and 0-for-6 from long range.

“I don’t care how many points I scored, who cares, we won,” Harden told the media following the game.

Harden is correct, the final score is all that matters in the end. Harden looked like a completely different player after the intermission, but his team is all knotted up at 2-2 against the reigning Champs.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2 Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3 Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4 Rockets 95, Warriors 92
Game 5 Houston -- Thursday, May 24th at 6pm
Game 6 Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm
Game 7 Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm