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9:45AM

Warriors’ Kerr: ‘We deserved to lose’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — So the greatest team in NBA history, or least what many forecasters told us it either would be or should be, lays another egg on another opening night. Well, one down and 79 to go.

Yes, after ceremonies, speeches and the dispensing of the little ornaments that athletes say drive them more than money — championship rings — Tuesday evening became a bummer for the Golden State Warriors.

Ahead by 17 points late in the second quarter, giving the all-too-confident fans exactly what they wanted, the Dubs lost Draymond Green, their lead and the game, 122-121, to the all-too-eager Houston Rockets.

Not that the Dubs, despite every publication from Boston to Beijing predicting they were a lock for a second straight title and third in four years, were going to go undefeated. But they did want to start things off a little better than this.

That the game came down to a last-second shot by Kevin Durant, which he made but the red light glowing under the backboard properly negated, was not the issue.

You’re up by 17 before the first half ends, you’re supposed to win.

Especially after the stories that the Warriors were far and away the best team in the NBA and that everyone else was merely play for exercise, particularly in the Western Conference. “The Warriors and 14 other guys,” was the headline in the New York Times.

One of those “guys” is the Rockets, with that nemesis James Harden. He scored 27, and with Green, the league’s defensive MVP, out of the game because of a leg injury incurred in the first half, Harden was throwing up those jumpers when he wasn’t throwing down those dunks.

The big problem, according to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, was their lack of proper condition, a byproduct of their eight-day trip to and from China where, adored by the fans over there, the Dubs helped promote basketball internationally but not their own well being.

“It didn’t surprise me,” he said of his team’s inability to stay in front of the Rockets. The Warriors, who had only a few days of what would have been the normal training camp, were gassed.

“Our lack of conditioning was apparent,” said Kerr. ”We deserved to lose. They outplayed us. We had control of the game most of the way, (but) it never felt like were executing or defending at a high level. I just thought we looked tired.

“I don’t think we are in good enough shape yet to play a 48-minute game against a great team.”

Not with Green bruising his knee. Not with Houston getting 43 rebounds to 41 for the Warriors.

Kerr said Green, who played around 12 minutes in the second half, tweaked his left knee. “He was our best player tonight. He brought most of the energy. He had an incredible dive for the loose ball in front of our bench. He had so many great hustle plays. When you are lacking conditioning, like we are right now, you have to have your high-energy guys out there.

“As soon as he went out, things went south for us. We just couldn’t get any traction.”

What they did get was a huge first half, 8 of 9 and 20 points from the guy they signed this summer as a free agent, Nick Young, who calls himself “Swaggy P.” He finished with 23, one more than Steph Curry, three more than Durant.

“Nick was great,” affirmed Kerr.

The Warriors still may be great, but after winning a title and then receiving so many endorsements for this season, the danger is complacency. Sometimes, teams believe they are as good as people tell them they are.

And everyone’s been telling the Warriors they are not just good but fantastic.

"We will keep our edge,” promised Kerr before the game. ”We have a lot of depth. On nights that we don’t have the motivation or the energy, we have a lot of guys to go to who should be able to help us in that capacity,”

They couldn’t on Tuesday night. There were ceremonies, but in the end there was no jubilation.

8:57AM

Warriors loss ‘shows where they are’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — This was a prove-it game for the Warriors, a game that would show when the other team was hot — in this case the Houston Rockets, that frequent nemesis — the Dubs could be as tough as advertised, prepared and ready to show what was possible.

Or maybe impossible.

A 12-game winning streak was on the line, and maybe on the Warriors’ minds, but it ended Thursday night at the Oracle in front of a sellout crowd that was as disappointed as it was bewildered. How did this happen? And was it portentious?

The night and the game seemed to last forever, starting late at 7:52 p.m. because TNT wasn’t ready, and ending at 11:06. A double-overtime that had virtually everything: comebacks, Steph Curry fouling out, Draymond Green getting a flagrant foul, Kevin Durant scoring 39 points.

Everything except a Warriors win, the Rockets holding on, 132-127.

After all those relatively easy victories the past few weeks, this was a difficult loss, especially after building a four-point lead in the first OT.

“It kind of shows you where you are,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “It’s easy to execute when you are winning by a lot of points. Under pressure with a tough game, you’ve got to execute better.

“That’s on us and our staff to do a better job of getting our guys ready into some things that they will be comfortable with down the stretch.”

The Warriors are all too familiar with the Rockets, who each of the last two years they outlasted in the playoffs on the way to the finals. Particularly the sleight-of-hand of James Harden and the muscle of Trevor Ariza.

What they didn’t know was how two new additions, Ryan Anderson, the 6-foot-10 forward from Cal who had been with New Orleans, and Eric Gordon would fit in. Perfectly, it turned out.

Anderson is astute and alert, and shoots like a smaller man. He had 29 points, the same as Harden. The Rockets moved the ball beautifully and got key rebounds after an occasional missed shot.

Curry, meanwhile, was failing early. He had five points and three fouls at halftime. And although recovering enough to score 28 points, Steph was only 9-of-22 and 4-of-13 on threes.

“They did a good job of switching,” Kerr said of the Rockets. “They outplayed us. They deserved to win.”

Harsh words for Warriors fans who, with the team’s acquisition of Durant as a free agent, possibly believed the championship that got away in 2016 would return in 2017. The Dubs are now 16-3 and obviously vulnerable.

“We started the game off slow,” said Durant, who was 12-of-28, “and let them get some confidence. They got a lot of long rebounds.”

So after the Warriors would force a missed shot, Houston came back for another shot and didn’t miss. At one point, the Rockets would be up by 10. All the shouts of “Defense, defense,” from fans properly distressed by the game’s direction, didn’t help much.

“We did not play well,” Kerr said. “We got off to a horrible start. We didn’t move the ball very well. We had our moments, especially in the first overtime. We had a real cushion, and I thought we let it slip away when we had every opportunity to finish them off.”

But they couldn’t, and they didn’t.

“We can compete with anybody,” said Harden. He draws fouls — he was 11-for-11 from the line. He draws boos.

“It’s a huge win for us,” said Harden.

Not a huge loss for the Warriors, but a reminder there is more to the NBA than the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs.

“They make it tough,” said Durant of matching up with Houston. “They stretch you out, and they have James (Harden) handle the ball a lot, well all game. He’s good at making plays. They have shooters.”

Shooters who shot down the idea that the Warriors would just keep winning.

8:09AM

S.F. Examiner: Warriors send hapless Rockets home with Curry wearing a suit coat

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

The next round won’t be this easy. It can’t be. The Warriors are good, very good, record-setting good, and the Houston Rockets were, well, not very good at all. The Rockets probably shouldn’t have been in the playoffs.

For certain they weren’t at all in Wednesday night’s game. Figuratively, of course. Literally, that’s open for debate.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner

8:48AM

S.F. Examiner: With Steph, without Steph, Warriors win as a team

By Art Spander

They missed Steph Curry. What, you thought the Warriors wouldn’t? But the Warriors didn’t set the all-time record for regular-season victories — 73, as you know so well — because they were dependent on only one player, even if he is the MVP.

They are a team, and what they didn’t miss Monday night at Oracle was a chance again to beat the Houston Rockets.

Read the full story.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner

6:08PM

Warriors roll with the punches, roll over Rockets

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — These are the playoffs, when basketball changes from ballet to boxing, when defenses rule and physical play is not only tolerated it is expected. So when Patrick Beverley smacked Stephen Curry early on in Saturday’s first-round game between the Warriors and Houston Rockets and the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena booed and hollered, the men on the floor and bench all but shrugged.

“No, there was nothing dirty,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr responding to a question on how to explain the style. “It’s the playoffs. There was nothing dirty. Just two teams that want to win. So there were a few physical plays. So that’s to be expected.”

Also to be expected was a Warriors win — after all, the W’s were 3-0 this regular season against Houston and 11-1 over the last two seasons, playoffs included. Expectations were met in grand style, with the W’s, in arguably their best defensive performance in a year, building a 29-point lead and winning, 104-78.

Not to be expected was Stephen Curry twisting the right ankle that used to give him problems — the official description was “a tweak" — and for his own precaution being held out for all but three minutes of the second half. Despite Curry pleading with Kerr. “I was 0-for-3,” Curry said of his attempts to persuade the coach.

Where it mattered, on field goal attempts, he was 8 for 13 (5 of 7 on three-pointers) and so still ended up as the top scorer for either team with 24 points.

Game two of this best-of-seven series is Monday night at Oracle, and the only question is whether Curry, who was limping as he left the post-game interview room, will be ready. Kerr used the description “questionable,” a fall-back phrase of indecision — but the man himself said, “Right now I don’t see a scenario where I’ll be out.”

Time to exhale? Probably. Early on this year one might have said, “Time to McHale,” but Kevin McHale, the Rockets coach, was canned in early November and replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff, who contended that Houston didn’t move around on offense when pressured by a great Warrior defense.

It was a physical game, yes, but it also was strange game. The Rockets’ James Harden, who was second in the NBA in scoring (29 points a game compared to Curry’s 30.1) and led in free throw attempts (he’s clever at making people foul him), had only 17 points and didn’t try a single, solitary foul shot, something that hadn’t happened since January 2015.

“Yeah,” said Kerr of Harden’s blank. “That’s what he does better than anybody in the league, get to the line, draw fouls. So I thought Klay (Thomson) and Andre (Iguodala) did a great job. Our bigs stayed vertical. They didn’t reach when (Harden) came into the paint.”

It’s a given in sports that defense wins, because it’s easier to keep the other team from scoring than to score yourself, to win a game 3-2 in baseball, 14-10 in football or, as the Warriors did Saturday, holding the opposition to under 80 points, the Rockets not even reaching the 20-point figure in three of the four quarters.

Kerr had said Friday he thought the Warriors were playing their best defense of the year, and so he wasn’t at all surprised when they jumped out to a 33-15 first-period lead, Houston making only six of 20 attempts, a pathetic 30 percent.

“I thought defense was excellent,” said the head coach. “We didn’t reach. We made them earn every point. We did have the brief moment when Steph went out and we lost our poise and lost our focus a little bit, but we quickly recovered.”

Curry had 16 in the first quarter (or one more than the entire Houston team), despite Beverley grabbing and shoving. When Curry shoved back it seemed there would be a fight — memories of Mike Riordan and Rick Barry in the 1975 finals — but a technical foul against each player ended that.

Curry, however, didn’t injure his ankle until just before halftime. “I just tried to change direction,” he said of what occurred. “Missed the shot and tried to get back on defense, and then slipped a little bit and felt it slip or tweak. That’s when the pain kind of came in. I was able to do a couple more possessions, and it started to get a little worse.”

Off he came. “As a competitor, I was ready to go back in,” he said.

He didn’t go back, and of course the post-game conversation dealt with the possibility of the Warriors having to play without the guy who was MVP last season and most likely will be again this season.

“Well, you lose the MVP of the NBA,” said Draymond Green, who some might say at times is the MVP of the Warriors, “it definitely changes your team, so there is some concern. Hopefully when we play again, he’ll be fine. If not, it’s the same mentality we’ve had throughout the year. He can’t go, next man up.”   

In other words, if you’ll pardon the expression, just keep punching along.