OAKLAND The Warriors held their annual open practice and scrimmageon Saturday at Oracle Arena, and it was mostly fun and games. Coach Mark Jackson,micd up for approximately 5,000 to hear, played the animated role of master ofceremonies, there was plenty of crowd participation, and the rookies all had tosing and dance like in years past.But there was the more serious business of the scrimmage andit was during that time that two players showed a little something: BrandonRush and Jeremy Tyler.Rush, who was mostly a spot-up shooter a year ago, hit acouple of jumpers off the dribble and also found a way to knock down a shot ortwo on his own, when he elevated over Klay Thompson.That wasnt Rushs game last season, but Jackson said fanswill see more of that this year.He came with the reputation of not being able to put it onthe floor and make plays, Jackson said. And we knew right away that wasntthe case. Actually, last year we put him in position. There were times when wewere a cold-shooting team from the perimeter and wed say Somebodys got toput the ball on the floor and make a play.He was the one guy who did it and did it well. So theresno surprise with him doing that. One thing I challenged him with in theoffseason was being able to put the ball on the floor better and being able toplay in pick-and-roll situations. Hes very good at it and hes going to haveplenty of opportunity to do that quite a bit this year.Tyler has kind of been the forgotten man on the Warriors. Hedidnt play much as a rookie in 2011-12, and this season seems to be behindDavid Lee, Carl Landry, Andrew Bogut (when he gets healthy) and Festus Ezeli.But Tyler played well at times during the Blue-Whitescrimmage. He was on the White team, which was made up what appeared to be thesubstitutes.Tyler had effective stretches on the interior against a teammade up of mostly first-team players.He is developing, Jackson said of Tyler, in his secondseason. Hes a much better basketball player now than when we first got him. Ithink this summer has been big for him as far as working with our young guys,being in the summer league. Battling against Festus Ezeli every day. It makesyou better. Hes got a more professional attitude and hes improving. Hesstronger and he has a better understanding of the game.The scrimmage: The Blue team was leadingthe White after three quarters, when Jackson called off the fourth quarter.Jackson said he didnt want to overwork his players and felt like theyd had agood enough workout. The Blue team was up by approximately six points.The Blue team consisted of: Harrison Barnes, Kent Bazemore,Andrew Bogut, Carlon Brown, Stephen Curry, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green,Charles Jenkins, David Lee and Klay Thompson.The White team consisted of: Andris Biedrins, LanceGoulbourne, Stefhon Hannah, Jarrett Jack, Rick Jackson, Richard Jefferson,Tarence Kinsey, Carl Landry, Brandon Rush and Jeremy Tyler.
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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.
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the ailing Cleveland Cavaliers 103-74 on Monday night in a showdown that turned into a major letdown for the defending NBA champions.
Cleveland (47-26) dropped its second in a row, set a season low for points and fell a half-game behind Boston (48-26) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Cavaliers star LeBron James was injured late in the third quarter after taking an elbow to the base of his neck. He remained on the bench for a while receiving medical attention, then headed toward the locker room and didn't return to the game.
His status was not immediately known.
Cleveland has been out of sync recently, losing three of five, and those struggles only got worse against San Antonio. The Spurs led by as many as 33 points to the delight of the sold-out crowd.
San Antonio (57-16) is two games behind Golden State (59-14) for the league's best record entering a home showdown with the Warriors on Wednesday.
James exited with 25 seconds remaining in the third after taking an elbow to his neck from David Lee on a rebound. James continually rubbed the area before collapsing after he crossed midcourt and remained on the floor for about a minute before walking unassisted to the bench. He left for the locker room early in the fourth quarter during a timeout.
James finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes.
The Spurs held the Cavaliers scoreless for three minutes after San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was issued a technical foul during a timeout with 6:38 remaining in the first half.
Leonard hit a right-handed runner as the second quarter closed to give the Spurs a 64-40 lead.
Cavaliers: Cleveland completed its schedule against the West, finishing 16-14. In addition to losing to the Spurs by 29 points, the Cavaliers lost by 35 to Golden State and 30 to the Los Angeles Clippers. . Cleveland F Kyle Korver missed his third straight game with a sore left foot, and the team plans to sit him for several games to see if rest and treatment helps. Korver will sit out Thursday in Chicago and Friday at home against Philadelphia before being re-evaluated, a team spokesman said. The shooting specialist missed seven games earlier this month with an inflamed tendon in his foot. . G Iman Shumpert missed his second consecutive game with a sore right knee. . James needs 24 points to pass Shaquille O'Neal for seventh overall in career scoring. O'Neal has 28,596 career points. . The Cavaliers averaged 116.3 points in their previous four games.
Spurs: San Antonio is holding its opponents to an average of less than 100 points for the 22nd straight season. . Danny Green tied his season high with four blocked shots. . Leonard has scored in double figures in 100 straight games.
Cavaliers: At the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.
Spurs: Host the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.