Suns-Warriors: What to watch for

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Suns-Warriors: What to watch for

Programming note: Coverage begins at 7 p.m. today with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area with host Greg Papa, Garry St. Jean and NBA Insider Matt Steinmetz.

The Phoenix Suns are currently the 12th-best teamin the Western Conference, and the Warriors are the No. 13 team in the West.Still, both teams have been playing better of late.After a 6-12 start, the Suns have won six of their past nine.The Warriors have won two in a row against Denver and Houston.Here are some things to watch for during the Suns-Warriorsgame on Monday night at Oracle:Play uptempo: These are not the Suns that you might beaccustomed to. They no longer score a lot of points and they no longer look torun at every opportunity even after made baskets.Steve Nash is averaging just 30 minutes per game, and theSuns leading scorer is plodding center Marcin Gortat. In addition to Gortat,the Suns rely heavily on Nash, Grant Hill, Jared Dudley and MichaelRedd.In other words, the faster the pace, the more it willbenefit the Warriors. After all, theyre younger and more athletic than theSuns.Rebound: Rebounding has been an area ofinconsistency for the Warriors, and the Suns are the kind of team that couldmake them pay for that. Among Gortat, Channing Frye, Robin Lopez and MarkieffMorris, the Suns have the ability to dominate the boards.Its up to the Warriors to not allow that to happen.Keep knocking down 3s: Over the past fourgames, the Warriors are shooting 52 percent from beyond the arc (51-for-99). Afair chunk of those makes have been provided by rookie shooting guard KlayThompson, who has made 12 of his past 16 3-pointers.If the Warriors are getting 3-point shots off ofdraw-and-kicks or in transition, thats good news. If the Warriors are getting3-point shots off of the dribble on their own thats not goodnews.Defend Frye: In many ways, Frye cansometimes hold the key to Warriors-Suns games. Hes a 3-point threat so thatmeans that whoever is guarding Frye cannot leave him alone beyond thearc.Early in the game, David Lee will likely get thatassignment. But its difficult to see Warriors coach Mark Jackson settling forthat matchup for an extended period of time.Look for the Warriors to go small playing Lee at center and therefore allow a player like Dominic McGuire (assuming hes healthy) todefend Frye. In other words, it could be a very abbreviated night for Warriorscenter Andris Biedrins, whose minutes are decreasing anyway.

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

OAKLAND -- For the first time since he joined the coaching staff last summer, Mike Brown on Wednesday morning arrived at the Warriors facility a man in charge.

As acting head coach, he would decide when practice started and when it ended, and conduct proceedings in between.

The general activity was not much different for anyone else, though, as it continues to become evident that everything the Warriors do for the foreseeable future will be a Brown-Kerr, or Kerr-Brown, production.

“Steve is going to be a part of this process the whole time,” Brown said after practice. “Almost before I do anything, I’m going to consult with him. The only time I won’t consult with him is probably during a game.”

Since Kerr’s announcement last Sunday that he was taking an indefinite leave to attend to personal health issues, Brown has been wielding the clipboard. He actually coached Game 3 against Portland last Saturday, in Kerr’s absence, before knowing in advance he’d also coach Game 4 Monday night.

Brown is 2-0, with the Game 4 win clinching a Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers. Yet Brown is quick to remind anyone that he is following the plan laid out by Kerr. The two exchanged texts Tuesday and, according to Brown, “spoke at length” after the game between the Jazz and the Clippers -- one of which will face the Warriors in the next round.

Though the Warriors are operating under a different head coach, all indications are the atmosphere around the team remains stable and relatively unchanged.

“Obviously it’s different personalities, but when you make it about the players, when you make it about winning, all that other stuff really doesn’t matter,” Kevin Durant said. “He coaches us. He coaches the game of basketball and he does it very well. Our whole coaching staff does the same thing.

“When it’s about basketball, it’s not about trying to have authority over us. He’s just coaching us. He’s just coaching us up. He’s just telling us the proper way to do things on the basketball court. It’s pretty simple when you try to do that. Then it’s on us to try to execute.”

Execution has gone well, particularly over the last six quarters of the series against Portland. The Warriors wiped out a 16-point deficit in the second half to win Game 3, and then rolled to a 35-9 start in Game 4 before coasting to the closeout victory.

Brown was on the sideline in Game 4, with Kerr watching the game from the locker room.

It’s fairly apparent, though, that everyone involved feels a heightened sense of accountability and ownership.

“Mike has had a pretty big voice throughout the whole season,” Durant said. “He’s been a head coach before, understands what it takes to be a head coach. And the coaching staff is just so smart, and they empower each other.

“Anybody, if you’re around us on a day-to-day basis, anybody can tell that they work well as a group. Coach Kerr does a great job. He spearheads it all by empowering everybody, from the coaches to the players.”

After sweeping Blazers, Warriors relishing some needed down time

After sweeping Blazers, Warriors relishing some needed down time

OAKLAND -- After arriving in Oakland in the wee hours Tuesday morning, the Warriors took the day off, went through a light practice Wednesday and will take another day off Thursday.

Slackers, eh?

Not really, when the next game is at least four days away.

The semi-lax scheduling isn’t the decision of acting head coach Mike Brown. It’s not even the decision of head coach Steve Kerr, who was not at practice Wednesday and remains out indefinitely. It’s a common sense call that was made between the two men, with players and staffers on board.

“If you can sweep every series,” Kevin Durant said after practice, “then that’ll be perfect.”

This is one of the perks of sweeping a first-round opponent. By eliminating the Trail Blazers in four games and with their next opponent undetermined, the Warriors are able to balance work and rest.

“With this group here,” Brown said, “the continuity that the nucleus has and how intelligent the guys are, with the big-time veterans we’ve brought in, we feel that rest for their bodies and mentally (are) more important than coming in here and having practice on a daily basis.”

They also have a couple guys recovering from injuries. Forward Matt Barnes (right foot/ankle bone bruise) has been out two weeks, and guard Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain/hand contusion) has missed the past nine days. Both, however, are expected to be available for the next series.

The soonest that would be is Sunday against Utah, which owns a 3-2 series lead over the Clippers and can close it out Friday in Salt Lake City. If the Clippers win and push the series to seven games, the Warriors would then open against the Clippers-Jazz winner on May 2.

Meanwhile, the Warriors have no choice but to prepare for both, with plenty of time to do so.