After sluggish start, Warriors put on matinee show against Magic

ORLANDO, Fla. — Steve Kerr was worried before the game.

The Golden State Warriors’ coach was concerned because his team didn’t practice Saturday after an overnight stay in Houston on Friday because of weather conditions, and because there was no typical pregame meeting leading up Sunday’s noon ET start versus the Orlando Magic.

From his own playing experiences, Kerr said skipping those ritual sessions often leads to carelessness. And his concerns were valid.

But thanks to a dominating, inspiring third quarter, the Warriors overcame early-game mishaps and did away with the Magic 118-98 at Amway Center on Sunday afternoon.

“Difficult. Extremely difficult,” Draymond Green said of the early start time. “I think you could tell in our play in the first half, but it’s the NBA. You gotta figure things out like that. We figured it out.”

Stephen Curry scored a game-high 27 points and was a pivotal force in getting his team out of Orlando with a seven-game winning streak.

The Warriors came out flat and disengaged, turning the ball over eight times in the first seven minutes. Most of their passes were telegraphed, and the Magic capitalized by getting out in the open court for transition baskets.

Golden State was also a step too slow on defensive rotations in the first half. Orlando zipped the ball around swiftly and was able to locate the open guy. The Warriors were down by as many as 11 in the second quarter.

Kerr called timeout after timeout to light a fire in his players. After what surely felt like a 9 a.m. Pacific tipoff — this was the first time the Warriors played a noon ET game since March 26, 1995, coincidentally also at Orlando — the game was tied at 50 at the break.

“There was no morning,” Green said with a chuckle. “It was wake up, grab some food, throw on some sweats, get out of there. I think my bus [to the arena] was at 9:30. That’s 6:30 [a.m.] West Coast time. We’ve only been gone for two days. So it was brutal.”

Golden State performed sluggishly over the first 24 minutes, but these Warriors have relished third quarters this season. Entering this contest, they were a league-high plus-250 in the third on the season. Sunday was just the latest dominant third-quarter performance from the Warriors.

“For whatever reason, we’ve had a bunch of really good third quarters the last couple of weeks,” Kerr said. “It seems to me the time when we pick up our defense, and that translates into some transition hoops and some 3-pointers.

“And I don’t know why, but that seems to be the key time for us these days.”

The Warriors went on a 22-6 third-quarter run, spearheaded by Curry. The two-time MVP exploded for 16 of his 27 points in the quarter and knocked down four of his seven triples during that juncture.

And just like that, a 50-50 tie was replaced by a 20-point advantage after a Curry 3-pointer. The Magic weren’t able to regain their footing, even though the Warriors coughed up the ball 18 times in the game. Golden State outscored Orlando 42-24 in the third, and this victory made it seven straight wins over the Magic.

“We found our energy and execution and stopped turning the ball over,” Curry said. “And after that, we get stops and our talent was able to take over on the offensive end. It’s nice to see shots going in, obviously, but we got to get stops and take care of the basketball to really get that done.

“To bounce back in the third quarter and do what we did, it shows a lot about our mentality and focus and how much winning means to us.”

Klay Thompson also converted seven triples on nine attempts for 21 points. Kevin Durant went for 15 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Zaza Pachulia added 14 points and five boards.

“It just felt good to get the win,” Thompson said. “It’s not easy to play technically a 9 o’clock West Coast time, but we adjusted.”

Elfrid Payton led the Magic with 23 points and 10 assists. Orlando backup point guard D.J. Augustin exited in the second quarter after spraining his right ankle.

The Warriors will travel to Miami for the second game of a back-to-back on Monday and then finish off their four-game road trip in Charlotte on Wednesday.

After this weekend’s quick turnaround, Curry & Co. will welcome the short break: They’ll have almost 30 hours until Monday night’s 7:30 p.m. ET tip against the Heat.

“It’s nice [that] it’s 2:54 to be done,” Curry joked. “I’m ready to get to the next city.”

Draymond Green: ‘Pretty confident I’ll be playing’ against Hawks

OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green made it sound as if he will return to the starting lineup Monday night against the Atlanta Hawks.

“I think everything is going to be based on how I feel pregame,” Green said after Monday’s shootaround session, “but I’m pretty confident I’ll be playing.”

Green suffered a left ankle contusion in Friday’s 109-85 road win against the Los Angeles Lakers, and sat out Saturday’s 115-102 home win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The incident occurred in the third quarter when Green appeared to graze teammate Ian Clark on the throat and twisted his left ankle, and as Green fell, he inadvertently struck Clark on the head with his right knee.

Both players left the game and would not return. Clark did not play Saturday as well.

“It feels good,” Green said of his ankle. “It’s still a little tender, but it’s probably going to be that until whatever.”

Typically, it’s a battle to get Green to take a game off. He wanted to play Saturday but the organization convinced him it was in his best interest to take the evening off.

Due to it being so early in the season, Green chose not to fight it.

“Pushing through it on Game 15 is a little on the extra side,” he said. “It’s not easy. It’s boring sitting out. It’s not fun at all. I’d rather not.”

Green says this isn’t an injury he’s overly concerned with and described it as a fluke accident.

“How many times are you going to come down on somebody’s neck? Maybe foot,” Green said. “Coming down on someone’s foot all the time, but coming down on someone’s neck, it was weird.”

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New Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant(Kevin Durant Jersey) admitted Wednesday that his relationship with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook likely “won’t ever be the same again” and that he’ll just have to get used to being the villain.

Durant told China’s Sina Sports that he talked to Westbrook before signing a two-year deal earlier this month to join a loaded Warriors roster that also boasts two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

“I just told him. I let him know how I felt,” Durant said of his conversation with Westbrook. “Obviously, our relationship won’t ever be the same again. But it’s something I wanted to do, and I expressed that to him. Hopefully he respected it.”

He also told Sina Sports that he’ll get used to the backlash and the Warriors being labeled as “villains.”

“Yeah, it’s difficult. I’m not used to this much attention, but I’m getting used to it,” Durant said. “Obviously, people don’t like me right now, but it is what it is. I can’t please them all. I’ve got to still go out there and handle my business.

“They’re not going to get up at 9 o’clock in the morning and work on their game for me. I’ve got to do all of that on my own. I can’t worry about people on the outside. I’ve got to go to sleep at night, I’ve got to get up and I’ve got to perform. I’ve got to do all that stuff. It is what it is. Once we start playing the games, I’ll feel a little bit more better. Right now, it’s definitely a change. There’s a different vibe going around, but I’ll get used to it.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday said he didn’t think Durant’s decision to join the Warriors and form a so-called super team was “ideal from the league standpoint.”

But Durant said the goal — a championship — is what drove him to join the Warriors, and he doesn’t think an excess of talent will be a problem in achieving that goal.

“I want to win a championship, but you’ve got to play great basketball to win a championship,” Durant told Sina Sports. “Those guys were so close last year, so they’re hungry this year to get back. I want to help them. I want to be the guy that takes them over the top.

“We don’t have any selfish players on the team. That’s the thing: I think everybody expects us to play selfish, but guys want to go out there and win and just play the right way. That’s what they’ve been doing. It’s on me to come in there and adapt to what they’ve been doing. It’s going to take me some time, but I’m going to get used to it pretty quick.”

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CLEVELAND — Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut(Andrew Bogut Jersey) avoided a major knee injury, but he will nonetheless miss the rest of the NBA Finals, the Warriors announced Wednesday.

While Bogut will not require surgery, he is projected to be out from six to eight weeks.

An MRI on Tuesday revealed Bogut suffered bone bruises to his proximal tibia and distal femur, two major bones in the leg. The injury happened in a collision with Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard J.R. Smith in Monday’s Game 5.

Bogut contested a shot in the lane by Smith, who ran into Bogut’s fully extended knee. He walked very gingerly as he left the arena Monday night.

Bogut traveled to Cleveland for Game 6 on Thursday, when the Warriors will try again to close out the Cavaliers and win their second NBA title in a row.

Bogut had five blocks in the Warriors’ Game 2 victory, but his role had been limited during the series. He only averaged 12 minutes per game, putting up 3.2 points and grabbing 3 rebounds per game. He averaged 4.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in 22 postseason games.

The Warriors are expected to start either Draymond Green at center with sixth man Andre Iguodala added to the starting lineup or start backup center Festus Ezeli in Game 6.

“I’ve been in this position before; be aggressive,” Ezeli told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears. “Especially on the boards and in the paint. We win that way.”

Bogut will be in the final year of his contract next season and is scheduled to earn $11 million.

His updated status was first reported by NBA.com.

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala(Andre Iguodala Jersey) said he wasn’t going to assume intent regarding a shot to the groin he received from Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

Contact occurred with 34.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter, when Dellavedova swiped down as Iguodala dribbled the ball. The resulting scuffle caused a stoppage of play, and Dellavedova was assessed a common foul.

“I’m not going to judge or say anything negative about him,” Iguodala said after the Warriors’ 104-89 win. “He’s out there competing. There are a lot of emotions going on out there. I respect a lot of guys’ hustle in this league. You’ve got guys who’ve got to get a little dirty, got to be a little physical, to make a life and to feed their family, so I can only respect that. For me, it’s just keeping my composure and continue to try to do things for my team to help us win.”

Of where he was struck, Iguodala said, “Where most men wouldn’t want to be hit.”

Senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia addressed the shot in a postgame interview with NBA TV.

“It seems like a normal basketball play in the beginning,” Borgia said. “Dellavedova reaches in and fouls Iguodala. But then you get the reaction by Iggy and all the players coming over.

“Listen, when you look at it, this was really a legitimate basketball play. He does reach in. He fouls him on the elbow and then his hand sort of glances off the elbow and goes down. Iggy’s movement’s going forward, you have some slight contact to the upper leg, groin area, but at the end of the review, the officials said this was not unnecessary. It wasn’t unsportsmanlike. Therefore, they just ruled it a common defensive foul.”

Iguodala made a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession as the Warriors engineered a 28-5 run en route to the win.

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LOS ANGELES — Sunday served as a reminder that there’s a thin line between wondrous and perilous for the now 55-6 Golden State Warriors.

Even though their unexpected 112-95 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers left them still on track to surpass the Chicago Bulls’ 72-win season of 1995-96, it left them only 2.5 games ahead of the San Antonio Spurs in the pursuit of the NBA’s best record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs this season.

Steve Kerr maintains the No. 1 seed is all that matters, that it’s pointless to speculate about winning 73 until it’s actually within reach. But the 73 talk is out there, awaiting the Warriors everywhere they go — to the detriment of the team’s focus, some in the Warriors organization believe. Yet it’s also possible that the goals are one and the same, that securing the top seed could necessitate winning 73 games. That’s how good the Spurs and their .855 winning percentage have been this season, with about 1/90th the buzz of the Warriors’ season.

Kerr says he believes any lamenting over missing a chance at history would quickly be erased by refocusing on the task at hand of winning a championship. What about missing out on not only the best team of all time but the best team of 2015-16? That would be, as Kerr said, “anti-climactic.” And falling behind the Spurs in the standings would probably mean carrying the additional mental weight of losing at least two of their remaining three games against San Antonio.

But the Warriors aren’t at a point of panic about seeding yet. Far from it.

“We’re still in control of that conversation,” Stephen Curry(Stephen Curry Jersey) said. “We want to keep looking ahead, not looking behind us. [The Spurs] are playing well. But we don’t need any help down the stretch. We’ve got control of our own pace. We’ve allowed ourselves that room to maybe drop one here or there, but we’ve gotta turn it back on.”

If the Warriors are a shooting team, they need to have that shooter’s mentality: the belief that no matter how many misses they rack up the next one’s going in. Curry made only one of his 10 3-point shots Sunday — just enough to keep his streak of hitting a 3-pointer in consecutive games alive at 131 straight — and no one thinks he’s about to pack away his jump shot. Klay Thompson surely won’t stop firing after his 0-for-8 performance.

The ability to turn it on when they need to has pushed the Warriors to 55 victories so far. It’s why Kerr didn’t berate them in the locker room for this lackluster effort. He knows the impossibility of asking a room full of athletes to be at their competitive best for 82 regular-season games of varying significance. He recognizes the professionalism they have shown in keeping the lapses to a minimum.

That didn’t mean he found Sunday’s effort acceptable.

“It’s the NBA, and if you’re not ready to play, anything can happen,” Kerr said. “And we weren’t ready. We had zero attention span out there at either end of the floor. Our guards were leaking out, not helping on the glass, turning the ball over, over and over again. Not following the scouting report defensively, not putting any pressure on the ball. And the Lakers played a great game.”

It would be easy to point to the Warriors’ 4-for-30 long-range shooting display and say, “See! That’s what happens when jump-shooting teams go cold.” That wasn’t what this loss would be about. The Warriors are built to survive cold-shooting performances. Before Sunday, the Warriors had shot below the league average of 35 percent on 3-pointers 14 times and still managed to win 13 of those games. (The lone loss came in Milwaukee the night after a double-overtime win in Boston).

Sunday the Warriors combined poor shooting with pitiful effort. That’s what did them in. The Lakers jumped into passing lanes, leaped for rebounds and hustled for loose balls.

“They beat us from start to finish,” Andrew Bogut said. “We didn’t come out and compete the way that we have to compete.”

Kerr likes to joke with Curry that Warrior miscues are due to the “Millennial mentality” of this young team. The undelivered punchline is that the Warriors so often display the opposite of the entitled-attitude stereotype of the generation. But Sunday?

“Guilty as charged,” Curry said.

You could chalk it up to an early Sunday afternoon game against an inferior opponent after a Saturday night in Los Angeles, which might be as valid an explanation as any.

“In an 82-game season, there are so many variables that go into it,” Curry said. We’ve been pretty good at mastering those every single night. We haven’t played well every night, we haven’t brought our A-plus game, but we’ve found a way to win. That’s what we’ve been most proud of all year.

“The big thing is how we respond [after the loss].”

Not just big, but necessary, for their shot at history and their quest for the No. 1 seed. The teams in the third and fourth Western Conference spots, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers, spent last week saying that seeds didn’t matter and only health and momentum going into the playoffs were important. That could be why they’re the third and fourth seeds.

The Warriors believe things like the No. 1 seed are important, and have spent much of the season acting in that manner. The response to their previous loss, a road pounding to the Portland Trail Blazers coming out of the All-Star break, was to win the next five games on their trip, culminating in that memorable overtime victory in Oklahoma City. Their response to the loss before that, against the Detroit Pistons, was to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Spurs by a combined 107 points over the next four games.

“We’ll be all right,” Curry said after Golden State’s defeat.

It sounded more like belief in what his team can do than denial about the way his team had just played. If the Warriors want everything they’ve openly sought, they’ll need to be more than all right.

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Stephen Curry(Stephen Curry Jersey) did not practice Monday because of an ankle injury and is listed as questionable for the Golden State Warriors’ game on Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks.

Coach Steve Kerr said Monday that Curry’s ankle was “a little sore.”

The Warriors’ star point guard rolled his ankle in Saturday night’s 121-118 overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, a game in which he finished with 46 points and won the game with a 3-pointer from 30 feet. The game winner was his 12th 3-pointer of the game, which tied the NBA single-game record.

“We’re not going to do anything crazy, obviously. We’ll err on the side of caution. But if he’s healthy enough to go, we’ll play him,” Kerr said.

Curry said he will play as long as he doesn’t risk making the injury worse by taking the court.

“If I’m able to play, I can help the team and [not] put myself in jeopardy of making this thing more than it should be, then I’ll play,” he said.