Warriors

One thing is clear after Warriors' Game 2 evisceration of Spurs

One thing is clear after Warriors' Game 2 evisceration of Spurs

OAKLAND -- And with that, all the side narratives for the Western Conference Final died the grisly deaths they so richly deserved.

In a game so desiccated of drama that not even a Red Panda halftime could save it, Golden State Warriors eviscerated the already perforated San Antonio Spurs by a final score that can best and most cruelly be described as “32 Minutes Of Garbage Time.” The actual numbers for you pedants are 136 to the homes and 100 to the guests, but unless you were giving 36½, you don’t really care that much.

And while San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich explained the size of the loss as the result of an almost team-wide timidity, the Warriors played at a level that almost no team would have been able to match, let alone one with a shredded roster.

Golden State made all the points upon which you may rely for the remainder of this series. They defended too well. They pushed the pace too well. They created open looks and converted them too well. They were the direct antithesis of the Warriors who began Game 1, and did not let up even as the margin became the seventh-largest in conference final history, and the final total tied for fourth.

Oh, and San Antonio doesn’t do a good job of replacing their two best players when confronted with the previous paragraph. Or, according to head coach Gregg Popovich, when only one player engages with the task before them.

“The only way I can process this is that I think it’s not O’s and X’s or rebounds or turnovers or anything like that,” he said. “I think we’ve maybe felt it too much, Kawhi (Leonard) being gone, in the sense that, as I watched, I don’t think they believed . . . I don’t think they started with a belief, and it showed in the lack of edge, intensity, grunts, all that sort of thing. When you’re playing a team that’s as good as Golden State, you’re going to get embarrassed if that’s the way you come out.”

The only player he exempted from this analysis was Jonathan Simmons, who replaced Leonard in the starting lineup and finished with 22 points in 25 minutes. “He was one of the very few who came to play. Jon was great, on both ends of the floor, he was intense and he came to win for sure.”

But the fact that Simmons stood nearly alone was only San Antonio’s issue for one night. The more compelling truth is that the Warriors have pressed their post-Leonard advantage, outscoring the Spurs, 194-133, putting math to not only the matter of belief but the different in present talent levels as well.

“It’s funny you mention that,” said Stephen Curry (29/7/7 in 30 minutes), whose pull-up three seven minutes into the game gave the Warriors a double-digit lead that only bloated as time went on. “I was watching them right before the game, at the National Anthem, and they were having fun, pretty light on their feet, the normal pregame get-hyped moment. It looked like they were all in tune. But when the game starts it’s who wants to grab that momentum early and set the tone for the game, and I think we did that a little bit better tonight.”

So maybe the answer to the night’s most ridiculed question was 2:28 into the game, when Zaza Pachulia cut to the basket and dunked over nobody, or maybe it was Klay Thompson’s open-look 20-footer a minute later, or Curry’s second three with 4:52 left in the first that gave the Warriors their first double-digit lead. Pick a shot, any shot. The game came and went almost too quickly for the human eye, and the rest of the night was just a matter of waiting for the Inevitable Express to pull into the station.

That pace of domination by Golden State likely cannot be maintained as the series heads to Texas, nor does it need to be. The mesmerizing effect of style points is always greater than their true value.

But Golden State’s style is defined largely by its use of defense and pace, which it lacked through much of Game 1. Seeing its effects in Game 2 have probably refreshed in their heads the easiest way to, in Curry’s words, “to avoid getting into bad habits and keep our feet on the gas pedal.”

At this point, the likelihood is that this series will not see the light of next weekend. Popovich may get the belief he is looking for this weekend in San Antonio, but belief alone falls well short of the standard required to beat these Warriors. Belief can prevent this level of embarrassment, but in its present state San Antonio clearly struggles to master Golden State’s multiplicity of weapons.

Believe that.

Swaggy 3s: Warriors send 'shoot it, shoot it, shoot it' message to Nick Young

Swaggy 3s: Warriors send 'shoot it, shoot it, shoot it' message to Nick Young

OAKLAND -- Meanwhile, the Warriors are preparing to defend their NBA championship.

With most inquiries and discussion over the past three days related to the growing conflict between President Donald Trump and professional athletes, with the Warriors being central to the topic, their first preseason game looms on Saturday.

If one thing rang clear after practice Sunday, it’s that coaches and players want Nick Young to be the shooter they wanted when they signed him in July.

Through the first two practices, Young has been such a reluctant shooter that Andre Iguodala and some of the incumbent Warriors have been urging him to shoot.

“I’ve been saying the same thing to Nick -- shoot it, shoot it, shoot it,” coach Steve Kerr said Sunday after practice. “The whole thing for any of our new guys to understand is we want the first good shot we can find. If we don’t have a good shot, try to get a great shot.

“Let’s keep the ball moving, but be aggressive and find that balance. I don’t want Nick out there thinking. He’s one of the best shooters in the league and he should let it fly every time he’s open.”

Through the first two practices, it seems Young is more concerned with adapting to a new culture.

“I found myself passing a little bit more than normal today,” he said, chuckling. “It felt good, as long as I was getting some assists.”

That’s not why the Warriors hired the reserve guard after four seasons with the Lakers. Bench scoring was a visible weakness last season, and Young has averaged double figures in scoring in six of the last seven seasons.

He is particularly fond of the 3-point shot, having taken more triples than 2-point shots in each of the past two seasons. Young shot 40.4 percent from deep last season in Los Angeles.

Given the talent around Young now, and the fact that the 10-year veteran will be facing fellow reserves, he can expect to have even greater scoring opportunities.

“I’ve been getting a lot of open 3s,” Young said. “I’ve got to get used to not having somebody guarding me that much, get used to being in that corner for a while.”

In all likelihood, the Warriors won’t have to cajole Young much longer. He has developed during his 10-year career a reputation for chucking ‘em up. So, in all likelihood, the Warriors won’t have to do much more cajoling.

“Everybody’s going full speed,” Young said. “The more I get used to the plays, the more the shots will be open. I’m just in everybody’s way right now.”

Crucial to the cause, Warriors have a week to decide on anthem protest

Crucial to the cause, Warriors have a week to decide on anthem protest

OAKLAND -- The Warriors took note of the protests sweeping through the NFL on Sunday. They saw players dropping to their knees and raising fists during the national anthem as a way to spotlight the fight for equality.

“The NFL players are doing a great job of sending a great message,” forward Kevin Durant said Sunday after practice. “We stand behind them as athletes and we support them as well.”

As of Sunday afternoon, though, no decision had been made regarding any action they might take when the anthem is played before their preseason opener next Saturday at Oracle Arena.

“It’s not something we’re talking about right now,” coach Steve Kerr said.

“I don’t think we have to have stance on the anthem,” forward Andre Iguodala said.

Kerr, Durant and Iguodala are well aware that the Warriors were crucial to the cause that gained momentum this weekend. After President Donald Trump crudely urged NFL owners to fire any players that demonstrated during the anthem on Friday, he followed up on Saturday by scolding Warriors superstar Stephen Curry and announcing that the NBA champions would not be invited to the White House for the traditional celebration with the president.

Those two actions by Trump spurred players from the NFL and NBA, as well as owners and commissioners from both leagues, to respond to the president for his divisive rhetoric.

“I just don’t agree with our president that’s in office right now,” Durant said. “I don’t believe in what he believes in, and I’m all about equality. I’m not a real big politics guy, but I know right from wrong and I feel like I know how people are supposed to be treated. We don’t agree on those things.”

Though the demonstrations would like to send a message to Trump, they are more specifically directed toward two issues to which he has aligned: racism and police brutality. Those are the original causes for which former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee before every national anthem last season.

The Warriors have a week to decide what, if anything, they do the next time they take the court for the anthem.

“I don’t know . . . we know what’s going on, but we definitely want to stay locked in on our work,” Durant said. “But, also, we want to talk these things out. Our coaching staff and our organization (do) a great job of making sure we come together and (collaborate) on these topics and talk about these topics as a group.”