OAKLAND Warriors coach Mark Jackson has shown in recentgames hes not afraid to use his second unit to finish out games. In two of thepast three games both against Sacramento Jackson played his substitutes incrunch time.On Monday, Jackson spent the majority of his post-practiceinterview talking about that approach. Heres the interview:Question: Is it possible to get moreintegration between the first team and second team. In other words, is itpossible not to go with either all the starters or all the subs at the end ofgames?Mark Jackson: Not really. The idealsituation is youre giving your starters a breather and youre expecting to goback to them. Towards the end of the third, make a substitution, a couple ofsubstitutions with Ekpe (Udoh) going in and Brandon (Rush) going in (for twostarters). Thats integration as far as Im concerned. Bottom line, once youve got the other three guys out Ultimately, that second unit duplicated what they did in the previous matchup(in a win over Sacramento on Tuesday). They were the better unit.Question: Why couldnt Dorell Wright getback into the game in the fourth quarter and overtime. He looked like he wasplaying well (24 points in 28 minutes)?Mark Jackson: I guess there are differentinterpretations of extremely well. (The Kings) had 34 points in the thirdquarter. I would argue the case that nobody played well. You give up 34 pointsin the third quarter and they dominate on the offensive board, you may besatisfied. It may look good to somebody else, but to me, we lost the gamebecause of turning the ball over, not rebounding the basketball and not gettingback in transition. And giving up 34 points was a huge part of it.Question: Is it possible for your team togive up 34 points in a quarter and one or two players not be on the hook forthat?Mark Jackson: Yes, yes its verypossible. Dorell played extremely well offensively and looked like his oldself so its nothing against him. That second unit -- it would be awfully foolish of me to take any of them outand look to get anything. I knew what I was getting from them. Sacramentoscored 15 points in the fourth quarter.We got back in the ballgame. To me it wouldnt be a smartmove at all putting anybody in the game whether theyre playing great or not.That unit was in sync on both sides. We were scoring and getting stops. Wefound ourselves with the ball, in control down the stretch. So to me that wasthe right way to go.Question: Do you feel it might bebeneficial in the future to get a mixture of starters and bench players?Mark Jackson: That unit has played greatand theyve forced me to stay with them. In an ideal world, Id go back to mystarters. I look forward to the day where my starters are getting it done. I can say to my bench: Youvedone your job, now starters finish them off. My hand has not been forced thusfar.Question: What Im getting at more is acombination of Mark Jackson: I know what youre gettingat. When five guys play to the level that we expect on both sides of thebasketball, then that day will come. But Im not going to throw guys on thecourt because its time for them to go in.No, its time for you to get stops, run back on transition,compete on a level that we talk about competing at. And thats where Im at asa coach. Question: Whats the message you want tosend to the starters?Mark Jackson: Its really not a message.The message is watching. The same team that just scored 34 on you, somehowcant score against the five guys on the floor. I dont have to send a message.And were sugarcoating it if we believe its anything else. Those five guysthat finished the ballgame somehow limited the guys who were dominating us onthe glass, limited the transition points and took care of the basketball andfound a way to score.It would be foolish of me to try to put somebody else in oranother group in to create what I just stumbled into and found.Question: Could there be a message evenif you didnt want to send a message a message to the starters that you dontbelieve in them?Mark Jackson: No. The proof is in thepudding. I believe the game before that I stuck with them. I have confidence inwhoever does what we practice and preach about doing, that the results willcome. Thats where my confidence is. Not the names on the jerseys, not whos,but whoever is doing what we talk about doing. I have confidence that theresults will come and those guys will be on the floor.Question: But isnt the second unit justa better defensive unit than the first unit?Mark Jackson: Heres my question: Are youwatching? And Im not insulting you. Are you watching the energy, the effort,the focus, the attention to detail, the commitment? Are you saying they both goabout it the same way? Therefore I have no choice. Theyre committed (secondunit) and they find a way to play like their lives depended on itQuestion: If both the first unit andsecond unit reach their defensive potentials, I would say the second unit is going to be a better defensiveunit.Mark Jackson: I wouldnt say that. Iunderstand youve got a defensivestopper in Dom (Dominic McGuire). I think hes the lone defensive stopper onthat second unit. If youre talking about Ekpe (Udoh), he was part of the groupthat was dominated by Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. Somehow those guysunderstand their flaws and they tie into together and buy in as a unit.Question: So, thats what the first unithas to do find a way to be better defensively as a group?Mark Jackson: I think they do it attimes, no question. But weve got to find a way to do it consistently in orderto have the results we want.Question: How can they learn how to do itconsistently if they dont get back into games to get to do it?Mark Jackson: The good news is they havea chance to do it. I dont start the game with the team that ended the game. Sothey have every opportunity to get it done and Ill ride with them forever.Whoever it is. To me, as a coach, the bottom line is getting wins and gettingthe job done. I dont care who does it. Ive got nothing but love for each andevery one of my guys. I love both units. But in fairness to this team, thisorganization and this fan base Ive got to put the guys that are getting afterit on the floor.No matter how it is perceived in terms of talent notmatching up. I know what it takes to win. Somehow going with that group, got usback in the ballgame, put us in a position to win it and sent the game intoovertime with everything go against them to start.Question: Is that battle worth losing thewar over?Mark Jackson: What war?Question: That if youre going to makethe playoffs the starting five is going have to do it. Conventional wisdom isthe five off the bench cant get you to the playoffs.Mark Jackson: Let me tell you something,Im not that guy. Im not going to sit and watch guys go through the motions,guys not execute, guys not battle and just score points and ha-ha,hee-hee.No, the fact of the matter is Im here to win. I know whatwinning basketball looks like and Im not going to have guys out there notdoing what we talked about doing.The proof is in the pudding. We watch film, we talk aboutit. This isnt an individual thing, this is a collective thing. That first unitwasnt getting it done, and theyll be the first to tell you that. And Id be afool as a coach to put them out there just so we can score 105 points and loseand say Yippee, they ended the game. Not going to happen.
OAKLAND – Like all elite athletes, Kevin Durant brings a fierce pride to his work. He takes the court each night to make a statement, and some nights are reserved for a very special statement.
Such is the case Monday night.
That’s when Durant and the Warriors face Indiana at Oracle Arena. Though Pacers All-Star Paul George is one of Durant’s good friends, that relationship turns salty when they share the court on opposite sides.
“He’s my favorite player in the league. I’ve been saying that for a while,” Durant said after shootaround Monday morning. “He’s just so smooth, man, and can do it all: can pass, can rebound, can defend, can shoot the J, can post up, handle the ball. He’s my favorite player.
“Just getting to know him over the last few years, it makes the competition even better when we play against each other. I‘ve got nothing but respect for Paul. It’s a mutual respect. We always have battles when we play against each other, so I’m looking forward to it tonight.”
The players, longtime USA teammates in international competition, are similar in some regards. Both are listed at 6-foot-9, though Durant is closer to 7 feet. Both play “small forward,” but also can slide to power forward. Both are excellent scorers but also very capable defenders. And both seem to have found the perfect symmetry between confidence and humility.
“We want the same things on the basketball court,” Durant said. “He’s low-maintenance. He’s a superstar, but he’s a low-maintenance guy, doesn’t need much. It’s the same type of attitude that I bring. Just loves to play the game. Loves to work, too, so we kind of clicked.”
Durant, 28, is averaging 27.3 points per game, which leads the Warriors and ranks seventh in the NBA. He’s also averaging 8.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
George, 26, is averaging 20.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He has missed seven games due to injuries but played 34 minutes Sunday night in a win over the Clippers in Los Angeles.
Durant recalled practicing with George, and also with Rockets star James Harden, during offseason sessions in LA. Three of the NBA’s best, on different teams, coming together to get better.
Which helps explain why Durant is happy for George, and pleased to see his friend back in action – not that it will be visible Monday night.
“When you’re on the court, you act like you don’t really know those guys,” Durant said. “And then, after the game is over, it’s all love. It brings a different level of competition to the game of basketball, and it’s been fun.”
OAKLAND – The Warriors will seek a successful conclusion to their five-game homestand Monday night, when they face the Indiana Pacers at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors have won three of four over the past nine days at home and 13 of their last 14 overall. They also own the NBA’s best record (17-3) and rank No. 1 in scoring (119.1 points per game).
The Pacers (10-10), however, will be a very different team than that which the Warriors pasted 120-83 two weeks ago in Indianapolis. All-Star forward Paul George, terrific young center Myles Turner and guard C.J. Miles all missed that game with injuries.
Indiana is coming off a 111-102 victory Sunday night over the Clippers in Los Angeles. The Pacers wiped out a 13-point second-half deficit to take the win.
Warriors by 13.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Kevin Durant vs. Paul George. Both are oversized “small” forwards with high-end athleticism. Durant is having an MVP-level season, while George has been a tick below his usual lofty standard, partly because he has been fighting injuries. He’s healthy now. This battle of elite players is deserving of a spotlight.
Warriors: No injuries listed.
Pacers: No injuries listed.
Warriors: C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the D-League.
The Warriors won the first meeting, 120-83, on Nov. 21 in Indianapolis, and have won three straight and five of the last six. The Warriors have won seven of the last nine at Oracle Arena.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Ball security. The Warriors can get sloppy at times, often against mediocre opponents, but Indy’s active defense is good enough to make them pay. The Pacers are tops in the league in forcing turnovers (16 per game) and second in steals.
Pound the glass. Though the Warriors are not a particularly strong rebounding team, ranking 19th in rebounding percentage, they’ll need to be good enough to take advantage of a Pacers team that ranks dead list in that category.
Contain Myles. Pacers center Myles Turner came to Oakland as a 19-year-old rookie last season and spent the evening punishing the Warriors, ringing up 31 points – his career-high. The Warriors had no answer for the 6-foot-11, 280-pound specimen, who happens to be a spectacular athlete.