Warriors-Kings: What to watch for

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Warriors-Kings: What to watch for

Warriors coach Mark Jackson is calling Saturdays matchupwith the Kings a big game, which is easy to snicker at. After all, theWarriors are 8-12 and the Kings are just 7-15.
STEINMETZ: Kings "big game" for Warriors
But the Warriors are going for their third consecutive win,which would be a season high. And Jackson believes the Warriors are turning thecorner with this team, saying that he believes they have gone through theirrough stretch.The Warriors are headed toward getting back to .500, Jacksonbelieves, and the game at Sacramento is one important step to getting there.Here are some things to watch for:
Thornton returns: Kings shooting guardMarcus Thornton is back after missing five games because of a strained leftquad. Thornton didnt play in the Kings 93-90 loss at Golden State on Tuesday,but he returned Thursday and scored 20 points in Sacramentos win overPortland.Thornton is an explosive scorer who had a career-high 42points against the Warriors last March in a game at Sacramento. Thorntonsreturn to the lineup Thursday meant rookie Jimmer Fredette earned his firstDNP-CD of his career.Thornton and Tyreke Evans arent the easiest backcourt forMonta Ellis and Stephen Curry to match up against.Bench play: The Warriors bench was mostresponsible for the win over Sacramento on Tuesday. Jackson stuck with hisbench for most of the fourth quarter, subbing only after Ekpe Udoh fouled outand for foul shooting in the last minute.The Warriors substitutes have been a big bright spot thisseason. But the fact of the matter is that the Warriors havent played a ton ofroad games. And if the Warriors are to make any kind of run this season, thebench is going to have to be there at Oracle and away from it.Jackson vs. Smart: Theres no gettingaround the coaching angle in this one. Sacramento coach Keith Smart was thecoach of the Warriors a season ago but wasnt retained despite winning 10more games than in the previous season. At the time, one of the things owner Joe Lacob said was thathe was looking for a coach with more experience than Smart. Instead, Lacobhired Jackson, who had never coached at any level before. Smart ended up getting the Kings job after Paul Westphal wasfired earlier this season. Road woes: The Warriors arent goinganywhere this season unless they figure out how to win on the road. Over thepast three seasons theyve gone 26-97 away from Oracle, and this season theyrejust 2-5. So far, the Warriors have played 13 home games and justseven on the road. In other words, unless the Warriors start winning at abetter rate away from Oakland, their chances of turning around the season arevery slim.

Rewind: Warriors 'weren't on the same page' in loss to Memphis

Rewind: Warriors 'weren't on the same page' in loss to Memphis

He is a cheerful presence, a terrific teammate with considerable knowledge of how basketball should be played at the NBA level.

Only in exceedingly rare cases, though, is Anderson Varejao able to produce for the Warriors, and he’s no help at all when most of his teammates fail to show up.

Such was the case Saturday night in Memphis, when the Warriors, with Varejao starting at center in place of Zaza Pachulia, submitted their worst performance – worse, even, than that stunning setback to the Lakers on Dec. 4 – of the season in a 110-89 loss to a shorthanded Grizzlies team that, even when fully healthy, has difficulty scoring.

Though Varejao was a special level of awful, he was not alone in his ineptitude.

“It was one of those nights, you know,” Kevin Durant told reporters in Memphis.

Stephen Curry was careless on offense and indifferent on defense. Klay Thompson struggled with his shot and, therefore, his game. Draymond Green didn’t bring his usual energy but picked up a technical foul for beefing with an official. Durant didn’t meet his usual standard but acquitted himself relatively well.

The Warriors were smashed by a team of castoffs and hopefuls circulating around the established talents of Marc Gasol, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. Most of the damage, however, was self-inflicted – as in 23 turnovers, resulting in 30 points for the Grizzlies.

Asked what went wrong with the offense, Warriors coach Steve Kerr didn’t hesitate.

“Everything,” he said. “Poor decision-making, poor ball-handling, good defense on their part. They were denying a lot of things and trying to knock us off our cuts, and they did a good job of that.”

So bad were the Warriors that Kerr, joked about his job status.

“I just checked with Bob,” he cracked, referring to general manager Bob Myers. “I’m not fired. I called him just to make sure.”

It was that kind of night, laughably bumbling, the kind of showing that has led to the firing of coaches on shaky status. It was stunning to watch the best team in the NBA, take the court at FedEx Forum and performed as if scrimmaging for season-ticket holders at team headquarters.

With stars Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and Vince Carter out with injuries, the Grizzlies owned the night from the start, leading by as much as 30.

“We weren’t on the same page,” Thompson said. “We were trying to force too many things. We weren’t patient enough. When you play a team like that that plays at a slow pace you have to be patient. You can’t play at a fast pace like we have in the past. You have to be patient. You have to move the ball around the perimeter. You have to trust each other. It’s a bad night.”

The Warriors were playing without Andre Iguodala, who was resting, and Kevon Looney, who was nursing a sprained right ankle. Pachulia, with a contusion on his right wrist, was a late scratch.

The result was Varejao joining Green, Durant, Thompson and Curry in the starting lineup. It didn’t take long to get ugly, as Memphis took leads of 29-11 in the first quarter and maintained a double-digit lead until the final buzzer.

Varejao played 18 minutes and contributed five rebounds, two assists, one steal and two turnovers. He took only two shots, missing both, and finished minus-21.

“We definitely missed Zaza,” Durant said, “but that’s not the reason why we missed the basketball game. We waited too long to try to be physical. Once we started it was a little too late.

“We definitely want to have all our guys there, but sometimes it’s not in play. We still have to go out there, and play a better game than we played tonight. It’s just one of those games we have to throw out and get ready for the next one tomorrow.”

Well, that’s all there is to do. Every team, no matter how gifted, will have nights when its members stagger about like zombies. The Warriors have had two in 24 games.

The upside of this one was that Kerr could pull his starters early in hopes of preserving them for a game Sunday against the defective but frisky young Minnesota Timberwolves.

Sloppy Warriors blown out by Grizzlies in Memphis

Sloppy Warriors blown out by Grizzlies in Memphis

BOX SCORE

MEMPHIS --  The Grizzlies bolted out of the starting gate and never looked back.

The Warriors weren't exactly gaining on them anyway.

Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and Memphis rolled over Golden State 110-89 for its sixth straight win.

"We couldn't have played much worse," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, "and I thought (the Grizzlies) were great. They came out, took it to us.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures, including Zach Randolph and JaMychal Green with 14 points each.

"We stayed poised, we stayed in control, we stayed aggressive," Gasol said. "We played to win. We didn't play not to lose."

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis had a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter.

Golden State ended a four-game winning streak. The Warriors had won 16 of 17, the lone loss in the stretch coming 132-127 in double overtime to Houston on Dec. 1

Kerr benched his starters with 10 minutes left and Memphis leading 93-65.

It was just one of those rare nights for Golden State, which entered with the league's best record at 20-3. The Warriors had a season low in points, a season high in turnovers (23) and were close to their season low in shooting percentage (44.2 percent).

Golden State's 38 first-half points were its fewest in any half this season.

"We weren't on the same page. We were trying to force too many things," Thompson said, adding that "(the Grizzlies) definitely took us out of our rhythm early, and we let that affect us on the offensive end and the defensive end."

The lead ballooned to 68-38 when Memphis scored the first seven points of the second half, and the Grizzlies held an 87-65 lead after three quarters.

"It was one of those nights," Durant said.

TIP-INS

Warriors: C Zaza Pachulia was a late scratch with a right wrist contusion. Anderson Varejao started his first game of the season (and first with Golden State)... Damian Jones made his NBA debut in the fourth. Jones was selected with the 30th overall pick out of Vanderbilt in last summer's draft. ... Curry's 3-pointer in the third quarter tied him with Steve Nash for 17th career in 3-point field goals.

Grizzlies: Gasol made a 3-pointer in the third quarter. The 7-foot-1 center has now made a shot from outside the arc in eight of the last nine games. ... JaMychal Green (14 points, 10 rebounds) recorded his fifth consecutive double-double. .Memphis trailed for only 31 seconds in the game, 3-2.

CELEBRATING IAN

Clark had his high school number retired Friday night at Germantown High in a Memphis suburb. Clark, who attended college at Belmont, is the only former Germantown player to make the NBA. Several teammates, including Durant, Draymond Green and Curry, attended the ceremonies.

TOO MUCH WARRIOR LOVE

Gasol has grumbled this year when opposing fans have packed into FedExForum and subtly mentioned it Saturday night.

"We did a good job of keeping their crowd out of the game for the most part," he said. "I think our crowd won. We didn't let their fans get too excited throughout the game."

UP NEXT

Warriors: Continue a five-game trip at Minnesota on Sunday. The five-game swing matches the longest stretch away from home for Golden State this season.

Grizzlies: Play their only road game over a two-week stretch traveling to Cleveland on Tuesday night. The teams then travel to Memphis to face each other Wednesday in a back-to-back.