Why Warriors have solutions to end lull but also trouble applying them

Why Warriors have solutions to end lull but also trouble applying them

After a heartbreaking loss Wednesday in Miami, Kevin Durant came out of the visitor’s locker room pointing each finger on both hands in the same direction.

Not at his teammates but at himself.

“I’ve got to be better at setting a tone ... just being aggressive downhill and creating stuff and maybe getting to the free-throw line early to slow the game down,” Durant told reporters at American Airlines Arena after yet another sluggish start by the Warriors. “I just think I need to be aggressive, and everybody feeds off that. I’ve got to be better to start the games.”

It doesn’t matter if Durant was sincere or if he was looking for words that fit the profile of a traditional team leader. He took accountability, and that matters.

It matters even more considering we’re just three days removed from Stephen Curry saying the Warriors must work their way out of their lull and that doing so would require “a full commitment from everybody.”

And we’re just four days removed from coach Steve Kerr saying, in the wake of a home loss to the Rockets, “We weren’t prepared to play, and I’m the coach, so that’s on me. I have to do a better job getting these guys ready to play.”

Now that we’ve established the Warriors all are “on the same page,” all taking responsibility, what’s left to determine is the path toward a solution.

That should not be the easiest part of all.

It’s called effort. With a team as talented as these Warriors, that usually translates to production, which begets success. That talent, along with effort and mindfulness, explains why they have gone 32-6 over the past two postseasons.

When the Warriors really want to crush an opponent, that poor team is reduced to broken hopes and splinters.

Crush mode, however, has been absent over the past couple weeks, during which the Warriors have lost three of five. They spotted the Rockets a 15-0 lead last Saturday, let the Hornets hang around Monday before subduing them in Charlotte, and let the Heat go up 10 in the first quarter and 24 eight minutes into the second.

The Warriors came back, with a vengeance, even taking a lead into the final minute. But the 126-125 loss should be pinned on the early indifference.

“We didn’t lose the game at the end,” Kerr said. “We lost it in the first half.”

They lost by fouling too much and defending way too little, and also by missing too many shots (36.4 percent from the field in the opening quarter). Aside from Klay Thompson (21 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the first half), not much was working.

Most glaring, though, was the difference in determination between the teams. Only the Heat consistently played as if the game meant something.

“We have to start games with a little bit more intensity, just a little bit more, not passion, but more energy to bust the game open early,” Durant said. "We’re easing our way into it, trying to see how teams are going to play us. But we’ve got to put our foot on the gas early.”

Nail, meet hammer. The Warriors are going through too many first halves with the pace and desire of team practicing for season-ticket holders.

“We’re better when everybody is in attack mode,” Curry said. “Sometimes we try to ... maybe overthink it a little bit early and maybe be a little bit more choreographed, if you will, in terms of play calls and sets.”

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Nice breakdown, and maybe there's something to it. There have been plenty of stilted moments on offense early in recent games. They’re trying too hard to feed DeMarcus Cousins. They tried Wednesday to manufacture something and didn’t find a rhythm until the second half.

It very nearly was enough for the Warriors to win another game they deserved to lose. They’ve had a couple of those recently, including a 120-118 win over Miami 17 days ago in Oakland.

The Warriors have the solution. They’re speaking it. That doesn’t help nearly as much as doing it.

Watch Steph Curry FaceTime brave coronavirus nurse wearing his jersey


Watch Steph Curry FaceTime brave coronavirus nurse wearing his jersey

An Oakland nurse turns to her beloved Steph Curry jersey for strength and inspiration while caring for patients affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Curry himself gave her some more personally over FaceTime on Tuesday.

The Warriors star called Shelby Delaney, an ICU nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, and thanked her and her colleagues for their tireless work ahead of their Tuesday night shift.

“I love it,” Curry said in a video posted on Delaney’s Facebook page (via Bay Area News Group). “I can’t thank God enough for what you’re doing and just the sacrifice, the selflessness and the way everybody’s coming together. Thank you so much for what you do, your heart and the inspiration you provide for everybody.”

Coronavirus patients began being admitted to Alta Bates last month, and Bay Area News Group’s Julia Prodis Sulek reported Wednesday that Delaney was one of the first nurses to volunteer to care for them. Loved ones can’t visit affected patients in order to limit the virus’ spread, but Delaney stands by her their side and offers reassurance.

Delaney revealed last week in a Facebook post that she wore her Curry jersey under her scrubs on a day she “felt powerless and defeated … [needing] to summon her inner Warrior.” She instructed how people could help nurses like her in the fight against the coronavirus, employing the Warriors’ “Strength in Numbers” mantra.

Her post prompted Bay Area News Group to reach out to the Warriors, and Prodis Sulek wrote that Curry wanted to personally reach out to Delaney and her colleagues.

“I wanted to thank you for how much you inspired me,” she said (via Bay Area News Group), “especially when I first started my job here, it’s a really steep learning curve, you have two people that you’re trying to make sure they don’t die on shift, and a lot of tough stuff going on with family.

“There were times I wanted to quit, give up. … That’s when I started wearing the jersey. That was like, just my way of kind of gathering my strength, reminding myself I’ve got this.”

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Curry has long been Delaney’s favorite player, and Prodis Sulek reported Delaney owns 10 Curry jerseys. Delaney’s first date with her husband was at a Warriors game at Oracle Arena, and the two had a Warriors-themed wedding last summer.

Delaney changed into a pair of Under Armour’s Curry 4 sneakers when it was time to hit the dance floor on her wedding night, and she was wearing Curry 6s on Tuesday.

“I appreciate that,” Curry said. “What we do is fun and all that, but more people need to know about what goes on in your world … especially in a pandemic like this, so thank you to you, the whole staff, everybody.

“We are praying for you, thinking about you guys. I wanted to just thank you personally for sharing your story.”

How Warriors' Steph Curry vanquished his 'stopper' in 2015 NBA Finals

How Warriors' Steph Curry vanquished his 'stopper' in 2015 NBA Finals

For a couple days in June 2015, Matthew Dellavedova’s game was a prominent storyline in the NBA Finals.

Stephen Curry made sure it didn’t last.

Dellavedova spent most of that season as a Cavaliers reserve. That changed after the Warriors won Game 1 of The Finals. Cleveland coach David Blatt elevated the second-year guard into the starting lineup for Game 2 with a very specific assignment: Contain Curry, by any means necessary.

The former Saint Mary’s College star responded with 42 minutes of wrestling and grabbing and shoving and bumping Curry, who finished with 19 points, on 5-of-23 shooting from the field, including 2-of-15 from deep.

“Steph Stopper.” That was Delly. The Cavaliers won Game 2 in Oakland and took Game 3 in Cleveland, backing the Warriors into a corner and prompting them to make a significant lineup change of their own.

They replaced 7-foot center Andrew Bogut with 6-foot-7 Andre Iguodala, moving 6-foot-7 Draymond Green to center. They were going small. That was the decisive tactical adjustment that tilted the series toward the Warriors.

Curry, though, had his own move to make. After putting in 22 points as the Warriors rolled to a 21-point victory in Game 4, tying the series at 2-2, it was time to come home for Game 5 -- which NBC Sports Bay Area will re-air Wednesday night at 8 p.m. -- and kill a flawed narrative.

Curry, you see, wasn’t satisfied. He was the league MVP. The Warriors were 39-2 at Oracle Arena and not about to lose and go down 3-2. Dellavedova was in trouble.

Curry carried the team with 37 points, including a dazzling 17-point fourth quarter, to lift the Warriors to a 104-91 victory that gave them a 3-2 series lead.

"Not a lot you can do, honestly,” Blatt said in admiration. “He made some terrific shots."

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With Curry burying, once and forever, the spurious notion of Delly being the “Steph Stopper,” the Cavs went back to Cleveland without legitimate answers to the problems posed by the Warriors’ small lineup in general and by Curry in particular.

To understand the impact Curry had in Game 5, the other four Warriors in the starting lineup -- Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Iguodala and Green -- combined for 50 points on 41 shots.

Curry’s 37 points came on 15-of-23 shooting, including 7-of-13 beyond the arc. No matter how scrappy Dellavedova was, Curry consistently found a way to abuse him. Whether it was nasty crossovers, wicked step-backs or coming off screens, the MVP sent a message that the mere idea of a “Steph Stopper” is pure folly.

"Falling, step-backs off the dribble. I'm OK with that. We're OK with that,” LeBron James said. “You tip your hat to the best shooter in the league."

Curry read the situation and knew it was time for a convincing reply to Dellavedova and the Cavaliers. He knew that even the slightest hint of being neutralized would make the Warriors vulnerable. So, he tortured Delly.

“Those are plays I’ve been making all year,” he said. “And moves I’m confident in.”

The Cavs kept the game tight, taking an 80-79 advantage on a James 3-pointer with 7:47 to play. Curry answered with a triple, giving the Warriors a two-point lead they never relinquished -- mostly because he scored 12 points in the final 3:10.

"We didn't turn it over, we were patient," Thompson said. "And two words: Stephen Curry."

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It was Curry driving the Game 5 triumph and pushing the Warriors to the brink of their first championship in 40 years.

The “Steph Stopper” subplot was cute but not built to last. Curry wasn’t having it then, won’t have it now. That much rang loud and clear in Game 5.