Monte Poole

Warriors 'should have our guard up' in Rockets-Spurs back-to-back

Warriors 'should have our guard up' in Rockets-Spurs back-to-back

Programming note: Warriors-Rockets coverage starts today at 4pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

The Warriors left town Monday atop the Western Conference, on the wings of a seven-game win streak and staring into the most consequential 30 hours of the season.

They’re at Houston on Tuesday night, and the explosive Rockets, third in the Western Conference, have emerged as a legitimate threat to reach the NBA Finals.

Immediately after that game, the Warriors make the roughly 200-mile trip to San Antonio for a Wednesday night battle with the Spurs, the most consistent contender of this generation -- and the team whose footsteps are cluttering the ears of the Warriors.

Winning both games is conceivable only if they reach the level of lights-out defense that has been essential to their recovery in the wake of losing Kevin Durant. A sweep also stretches the boundaries of probability.

A split would be acceptable, under the circumstances, particularly if the victory is over the Spurs.

Losing both games would slice into the Warriors’ hopes of maintaining the No. 1 overall seed for the playoffs.

The Warriors say they are ready. And coach Steve Kerr insists they are rested.

“We should have our guard up and we should be ready to roll,” Kerr says. “We are playing well. We’ve got to keep it going.”

The Warriors (59-14) own the best record in the NBA and have a two-game lead over the Spurs (57-16). A win over the Rockets (51-22) would guarantee the Warriors would finish ahead of Houston.

Here’s the rub: The Warriors are 0-2 against the Spurs and 1-1 against the Rockets.

“We know it’s a tough trip,” Draymond Green says. “The Rockets are playing well and, also, San Antonio is playing well.

“But you know, we’re going there and play a hard game, which we’ve done a good job of as of late. We’re going there with a defensive mindset and everything else will fall into place, and we’ll be just fine.”

Defense has been the hallmark of the Warriors for much of this season, and certainly over the past seven games, during which they have led the league in defensive rating. The lockdowns generally start with Green, but the efforts of his teammates, particularly Andre Iguodala, also have allowed the Warriors to play some of their most efficient offense of the season.

They’ve managed to post an NBA-best 99.0 defensive rating this month despite the absence of Durant, who had been stellar on defense and, overall, the team’s best player.

No opponent in the NBA tests defenses to the degree the Rockets do. With MVP candidate James Harden orchestrating things, they’re second in scoring (115.8 points per game), just behind the Warriors (115.9), and their 25.4 assists per game is No. 2, behind the Warriors’ 30.4. Moreover, Houston is No. 1 in 3-point makes and attempts. They average 14.7 threes per game; the Warriors are fourth at 12.0.

“You’ve got to be really disciplined against these guys,” Kerr says. “That means sticking to your principles but not getting frustrated when they do make shots. They make tough shots. But as long as they’re tough ones, and not easy ones, and you stay with it, you can get through it.

"We played a really disciplined game here last time and won in this building. That’s what it takes. We’ll see if we can do it again.”

Doing so won’t make the next night, San Antonio, any easier. It will be different, given the Spurs’ shooting accuracy and offensive proficiency, but no less challenging.

Iguodala making loud free agency case to Warriors in Durant's absence

Iguodala making loud free agency case to Warriors in Durant's absence

OAKLAND -- It was with impeccable timing, for the Warriors and for Andre Iguodala, that he has spent recent weeks summoning all the best parts of his game.

He has been a disruptive force on defense, as usual, but at a time when the Warriors needed something extra at both ends of the court, he is providing an abundance of offensive electricity.

Iguodala came through once more on Sunday as the Warriors suffocated Memphis in the fourth quarter to take a 106-94 win at Oracle Arena. Though the team’s Sixth Man again scored at an efficient clip -- 20 points on eight shot attempts -- his ability to energize teammates from Stephen Curry to Draymond Green to Klay Thompson and beyond is no less significant.

“We feed off his energy when we see him get a rebound or get a steal, push up the court, make a crazy inside-out dribble and finish at the rim, knock down threes or play-make for other guys,” Curry said. “It’s fun to watch.”

Iguodala’s rise has coincided with the loss of Kevin Durant, the team’s leading scorer and someone who plays the same position. With Durant out, Iguodala has taken on additional playing time, which can be risky for someone in his 13th season.

“He’s been fantastic,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He looks incredibly athletic, bouncy and fresh. He’s a pro. The guy just knows how to take care of his body. He’s done a great job of stepping up in KD’s absence and recognizing what we need from him.”

The Warriors have played 13 games since Durant went down with a knee injury, and Iguodala has played in 11 of them, shooting 44 percent from deep and 61.8 percent overall. The man who shot 62.3 percent from the line in his first three seasons as a Warrior is at 70.1 percent this season. Leadership also is part of the package.

“I try to read (what’s needed) when I get into the game,” Iguodala said. “Try to bring that energy. And, more than anything, lead by example. Not say too much. Just show it.”

When Iguodala is sprinting up and down the court, rising and dunking on one end, stripping balls away on the other, the Warriors are appreciably better team. If the Curry-Durant-Green-Thompson foursome is the engine, Iguodala is the turbo boost.

“We’re a completely different team when he’s as aggressive as he’s been of late,” Green said. “When he’s moving the way he’s been moving -- he’s beating everybody down the floor -- it makes us a completely different team. “

Igoudala’s minutes have spiked, from 23 per game in November, to 26 in December, to 27 in January and February, to almost 29 in March.

“I don’t want to run his minutes up too much,” Kerr said. “But if he has to play a couple extra minutes while KD is out, then that’s fine.”

It’s fine with Iguodala and it’s paying off for the Warriors.

Iguodala hopes it pays off, literally, when he becomes a free agent in July.

Though free agents entering their 14th season don’t often command big money, he is making a very impressive audition for the Warriors or any team that might be interested in his services.

Iguodala has made it clear he’d prefer to stay in the Bay Area, and at this rate the Warriors may have to find the necessary coins to bring him back.

Instant Replay: Warriors finish strong, grind past Grizzlies

Instant Replay: Warriors finish strong, grind past Grizzlies

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- There was plenty of tension and more than a few pulse-stopping moments, but the Warriors found a way to win their seventh consecutive game.

The Warriors’ 106-94 victory Sunday over the admirably recalcitrant Memphis Grizzlies was a work in persistence and overcome moments in which the worst of their work was on full display before a sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

Klay Thompson scored 31 points to lead the offense. Stephen Curry had 21 points and a game-high 11 assists, Andre Iguodala had 20 and Matt Barnes finished with 10 as the Warriors evened the season series with the Grizzlies at 2-2.

The Warriors (59-14) fought off numerous Memphis rallies but turned up the defense in the fourth quarter, holding the Grizzlies to 13 points on 5-of-25 (20 percent) shooting over the final 12 minutes.

The Warriors offset 18 turnovers, giving the Grizzlies 16 point, by shooting 54.2 percent from the field.

Mike Conley scored 29 points to lead Memphis, which fell to 40-33.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

As good as the Splash Brothers were, and they were superb, it was Iguodala’s play at both ends that made a major difference.

Iguodala’s line: 20 points (7-of-8 shooting from the field, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, 4-of-5 from the line), a team-high-tying seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot. He played 32 minutes and was plus-9 for the game.

TURNING POINT

After the Grizzlies pulled into an 81-81 tie with 25.2 left in the third quarter, the Warriors responded with a 15-5 run to go up 96-86 on a 3-pointer by Curry with 4:57 remaining.

Memphis got no closer than nine in the final minutes.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L knee sprain and bone bruise) is listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.

Grizzlies: C Marc Gasol (L foot strain) was listed as questionable and declared out prior to tipoff. F Chandler Parsons (L knee rehab) was listed as out. C Deyonta Davis and F Jarell Martin are on assignment with Iowa of the D-League.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors travel Monday to Houston, where on Tuesday night they face the Rockets at Toyota Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.