Instant Replay: Warriors beat Hawks, finish road trip 6-1

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Instant Replay: Warriors beat Hawks, finish road trip 6-1

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There’s no precise definition of the term for real.

So the Golden State Warriors have to write their own meaning.

The Warriors capped a historic road trip with a 115-93 blowout victory against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.

Despite falling to the Orlando Magic on Friday, the Warriors win in Atlanta concluded an unprecedented 6-1 road trip, the best in the franchise’s history.

“We bounced back and I think it’s important for us to do that, to show that we’re for real and we’re going to be here for the long haul,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said.

Golden State is clinging to for real, having propelled itself even more into the conversation as one of the league’s authentic winners, after the impressive road trip.

The Warriors (16-8) hold the fifth best record in the Western Conference approaching the one-third mark of the season.

The Warriors season-long, seven-game road trip included wins against the Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets and now the Hawks, who are no slouch. Atlanta had lost just twice at home all season and entered the night winners of 11 of their last 13 games.

“This is definitely a playoff-caliber team and this win speaks volumes for us as well,” Warriors guard Jarrett Jack said.

The mental character is changing for Golden State. Once, built-in excuses like fatigue offered an easy way out. Now, the team seems to rally behind the challenge, a characteristic of a motivated team.

“It makes us battle-tested, none of these teams gave us any of these games,” Jack said. “We had to come out here and work for each and every game as soon as we stepped inside the lines. There were some games we were down and could have folded, and came back and played hard.”

Curry finds his way as one of the league’s elite
So much of Golden State’s success relies on the vulnerable ankles of Stephen Curry, who nearly had a triple-double with 18 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Curry is having a breakout season in his fourth year with the Warriors, displaying a quickness and strength on cuts that only comes with health. He’s also realizing a greater offensive awareness, although it may not have been on full display in Saturday night’s less-than-efficient 6-for-20 shooting performance.

The streak continues
David Lee finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. He tallied 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in each of the seven road games.  

Balanced win
Saturday night was more than just the Curry-Lee show as the Warriors displayed a balanced attack. The Warriors tallied a season-high 32 assists and received 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting from rookie Harrison Barnes.

Off the bench, Jack added 13 points and eight assists and Carl Landry scored 19 points on efficient 8-for-10 shooting. The Hawks entered the night allowing just 93.1 points per game, fifth best in the league.

On a play emblematic of the Warriors bench on Saturday night, Jack drove the lane mid-second quarter, missed short off the front rim, only to have Landry grab the putback with his left mitt and power back an emphatic slam.

Of course, beating Atlanta is much easier when Josh Smith shoots 1-for-12 for just three points, a credit to the Warriors defense that also added 10 steals.

This social media conversation will only heat up
@B_Trail707 wrote: “@csnwarriors #warriorstalk another huge win for GSW. What a great start to the season. How are @StephenCurry30 and @Dlee042 not all-stars?”

Truth be told
@wildBlue82 wrote: “Jarrett Jack is possibly the best offseason pick-up by the Warriors. He and Landry are a big part of the 15-8 start. #WarriorsTalk”

Finishing with legs
Fatigue wasn’t a factor on the seventh and final game of the road trip. The Warriors burst out of the gates on the second day of a back-to-back, shooting 54.3 percent from the floor and 8-for-12 three-point shooting to score a season-high 62 points in a half.  The team finished the game at 49.5 percent from the field.

Outrebounding the opposition
The Warriors won the rebounding battle 54-45 against Atlanta and are now 15-1 when they outrebound their opponent.

Ezeli stays out
Festus Ezeli sat out the remainder of the game in Orlando on Friday night when he suffered a right knee contusion after colliding knees in the third quarter with Moe Harkless. The Warriors thought he would play in Atlanta, but he was scratched just prior to the game. Andris Biedrins started in his place and logged 14 minutes, scoring no points but grabbing seven rebounds.

The Korver factor
Kyle Korver is a great shooter for Atlanta, but Hawks coach Larry Drew had to limit his minutes and hide him defensively. First it was Klay Thompson, and then it was Barnes, who took advantage of Korver’s limited defensive abilities. Korver, who averages 28.3 minutes per game and 10.8 points, played just 21 minutes and had three points. Drew also pulled most of his regulars early in the night.

Follow @jimmypspencer for more Warriors news and analysis

Warriors complete Phase 1 in preparation for trilogy Finals vs Cavs

Warriors complete Phase 1 in preparation for trilogy Finals vs Cavs

OAKLAND -- The Warriors studied video and practiced for nearly two hours Saturday, completing Phase 1 of the plan they’ll take into the NBA Finals.

Everybody on the roster is healthy, including starting center Zaza Pachulia, who missed Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals with a heel contusion, and seldom-used forward Kevon Looney, out for seven weeks with a hip strain.

“We had a great film session with the team, a great discussion with the team and put our keys up on the board for our guys and went over that stuff with them before practice,” acting head coach Mike Brown said after practice.

Defending Cavaliers star LeBron James surely was among the topics to generate considerable dialogue. It provides some relief that Andre Iguodala says he feels fine after battling knee soreness in the Western Conference Finals.

It was Iguodala, after all, who earned the NBA Finals MVP award after doing such a fine job as a primary defender of James in 2015. It’s an altogether different test now that the Cavs are healthy and have a surplus of shooters surrounding James.

“You still try to watch film, any new sets or anything that they try to implement for their team, because he’s the type of player that is so dynamic he can hurt you in different ways, especially with his passing ability,” Iguodala said.

When facing elite scorers, the Warriors typically vary their defensive looks. In addition to Iguodala, James will see some Kevin Durant, some Draymond Green and probably some Matt Barnes.

Nearly as important as Iguodala’s health is that of Pachulia. Though Cleveland is more willing to go small than in the past, there will be times when a big body, such as Pachulia, will be needed to keep Cavs big man Tristan Thompson off the glass.

Thompson had five of Cleveland’s 18 offensive rebounds last Christmas Day, when the Cavaliers came back for a 109-108 victory over the Warriors in Cleveland. The Warriors lost the rebounding battle by nine (60-51).

When the teams met three weeks later in Oakland, the Warriors pulled off a 126-91 rout largely on the strength of outrebounding Cleveland 58-35. Thompson had two offensive rebounds and five overall, while Pachulia gobbled up 13 rebounds -- 10 on the defensive glass.

The Cavs outscored the Warriors 17-8 in second-chance points in the first game, but the teams tied, 12-12, in that category in the rematch.

“It’s part of their strength,” Pachulia said. “Second-chance points are a killer. It’s something we have to take away. That’s one of the keys for us.”

 

Klay's next assignment: Slow down Kyrie...and he's got a gameplan

Klay's next assignment: Slow down Kyrie...and he's got a gameplan

OAKLAND -- Klay Thompson spent nearly eight minutes Saturday answering a variety of questions, many of which were related to his diminished offense this postseason and his primary defensive assignment in the upcoming NBA Finals.

Mired in a shooting slump, by his standards, the Warriors guard now has to confront the fabulous offensive arsenal of Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.

As much as Thompson would love to rediscover his shooting touch in Game 1 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors may be more delighted if he can prevent Irving from finding his.

“I take pride in (playing) both sides of the ball, defense as equally as offense,” Thompson said after practice at the team’s downtown facility. “Whether or not my shot falls, I can always control that part of the game.”

The Warriors are undefeated (12-0) this postseason despite Thompson averaging only 14.4 points (compared to 22.3 in the regular season) on 38.3-percent shooting from the field (46.8 in the regular season), 36.4 percent beyond the arc (41.4 in the regular season).

That spotless postseason record is, in part, a reflection of Thompson’s work on defense. In all three rounds, he has guarded the opponent’s most dangerous backcourt player.

“I couldn’t be happier with how he’s helped us win games,” acting head coach Mike Brown said.

Next up for Thompson is Irving, who has hit game-winning shots in each of the last two times Cleveland has beaten the Warriors, a 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2015 Finals and a midrange fadeaway jumper last Christmas Day at Quicken Loans Arena.

Irving has played well this postseason but lately has lifted his game to another level. In the five-game Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, Irving averaged 25.8 points per game, while shooting 62.2 percent.

He was particularly dazzling as the Cavs finished off the Celtics in Games 4 and 5, averaging 33.0 points on 64.9-percent shooting.

Irving’s recent run prompted Cleveland teammate LeBron James to label him one of the best one-on-one players of all time, a compliment Brown did not argue.

“There are a lot of guys that can shoot the 3, but that’s all they can do,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that can dribble drive and finish at the rim, but that’s all they can do. Here’s a guy that can shoot the 3 off the catch-and-shoot, he could shoot the 3 off the dribble. He has medium-game pull-up. He has medium-game floater. And then he can get to the rim. And when he gets to the rim, he can finish in traffic among 7-footers.

“The way he puts English on the ball, how high he gets it off the glass when he needs to, all those things play into a factor of why he is one of the greatest one-on-one players of all time.”

Thompson said Irving’s offense “easily” belongs in the discussion with the league’s best, a group including the likes of MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, as well as Thompson’s teammate, reigning MVP Stephen Curry.

“He’s done it in big moments, so you’ve got to give him credit,” Thompson said of Irving. “Not only have I seen him do it in the pros, but I’ve seen him do it with the USA Team, too. Kyrie’s a very tough guard. We’ve got a game plan for him, and it’ll be fun.”

Thompson said he will try to crowd Irving, contest every shot and not be outhustled. Still, he concedes that may not be enough.

There is, however, one other thing Thompson cited that could impact Irving’s offensive production. Make him work on defense, something both Warriors guards have the ability to do.

For Thompson, that means finding his stroke.

“I’d like to see the ball go in the basket,” he said. “It has, just not as frequently as I want. But that means nothing now. That’s in the past. It wouldn’t have mattered if I shot lights-out if we didn’t finish the job off.

“Now that we’re here, it’s a clean slate. It’s time to go. Can’t be worried about a few bad shooting games or the percentages when you went 12-0. You’ve just got to do what you can and have the intentions to win the game, not to go out there and score a number of points but to just go out there and win the game and make winning plays. That’s what I’m focused on.”