For Warriors, new faces, old result; ‘This team is the NBA champ’
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Art Spander in David West, Jordan Bell, Kevin Durant, Trail Blazers, Warriors, articles, basketball

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — No Steph? No Draymond? No Zaza? Three starters missing because of injuries? Ehhh. Maybe if the entire lineup was on the bench, the Warriors might be in trouble. Repeat: might.

But as one of the guys who did play, Kevin Durant, reminded us après game, “This team is the NBA champion.” And, one implies, believes it will be again, a third time in four years.

But we get ahead of ourselves, a legitimate failing when dealing with the Dubs. No matter who’s on court or who isn’t, the script seems wonderfully boring — wonderfully if you’re a Warriors partisan.

On Monday, with three-fifths of the normal starting lineup unable to take part, the Dubs whipped the Portland Trail Blazers, 111-104, at the Oracle.

It was a bit of a bummer that Nick Young was elbowed in the head in the third quarter and incurred a concussion. Not to make light of the matter. Concussions are serious, but somehow a blow to the head, sprained ankles (Steph Curry) and sore shoulders (Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia) have little effect.

Not when there’s a rookie name Jordan Bell. Or veterans such as David West or Omri Casspi.

Strength in numbers. You’ve heard it and read it ad infinitum. But that’s what the Warriors have. Just swallow hard and accept the repetition. And the success.

That was the Dubs’ seventh win in a row, the previous six, of course, coming on an historic (for them) road trip when they swept through the country from La-La Land (Lakers) to the Atlantic (Miami) without a loss, if you don’t count losing Curry when he stepped not lightly but on an opponent’s foot.

The Warriors were up by 20 much of the second half Monday against the Blazers, but as so often happens in a sport governed by a 24-second clock, big leads are difficult to retain, especially when Portland has that Oakland kid, Damian Lillard, who scored 39.

Durant had 28, nine rebounds and three blocks. Bell had the block of the night and 11 points. Klay Thompson had 24 points, And the NBA's most senior player, 37-year-old West — “I like competing,” was his reason not to retire — had 10 points.

“David’s had a spectacular season,” said Steve Kerr, the Warriors coach. “Every night he makes five or six shots and blocks shots. He’s one of the smartest players on the floor. A guy who’s a been a star, this late in a career, is like playing with house money.”

At 22, Bell is 15 years younger than West, but as Kerr said when asked about integrating young and old(er), experienced and inexperienced, “It’s not hard when you have people with talent who are willing to work.”

Said West, about Bell, Young and Casspi, new this season, “Those guys figure it out. Bell is learning quickly. He’s been getting a crash course from all the coaches and the veterans. It’s a golden opportunity just being around such great players.”

Kerr said using Bell — the coach teased pre-game and waited to announce him as his fifth starter — becomes a trade-off between youthful exuberance and youthful mistakes. “We point them out,” the coach explained. “He’s been coming on fast.”

Kerr was particularly enthused by the Warriors’ defense, especially without Draymond, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year for 2016-17. “Jordan was really powerful," he said. "That makes him feel good. That makes us feel good.”

Teams occasionally get sloppy in the first home game after a long trip. There’s a tendency to relax. But Durant said the two days off between the Friday night game at Detroit and Monday night game in Oakland allowed time to refocus.

He also pointed out that, no matter who couldn’t play, the people who did play were 6-foot-11, 6-7 and 6-6 and with plenty of reach. “We know how to play defense,” said Durant. “We’re not going to give up how we approach a game.”

No matter who can play or can’t.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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