From Steph episode to Strength in Numbers scrimmage — the Warriors are playing loose and having fun

Golden State just 3 wins from a 5th consecutive trip to the NBA Finals

Karl Buscheck
May 14, 2019 - 10:36 pm

The Blazers were already streaming off the floor by the time the yellow confetti began fluttering down from the Oracle Arena rafters on Tuesday night.

The Warriors, sans the sidelined Kevin Durant (and DeMarcus Cousins) had just cruised to a 116-94 win, in resounding fashion. Head coach Steve Kerr had just played all 13 of his healthy bodies. He closed out the win with the anti-death lineup: Alfonzo McKinnie, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, Jacob Evans and Damian Jones. Yes, Damian Jones.

That Jones was playing was a surprise to everyone in the building, including Kerr. The coach only learned that Jones, out since Dec. 1 with a torn left pectoral muscle, was available when he arrived at the arena.

"As of shoot around today, we had declared him out because we sort of were in that routine over the last several months," Kerr said. "And when we got to the stadium, the training staff said he can go tonight."

Draymond Green, who finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks, did a double take when he saw the young center in the layup line before the game.

Standing on the floor, after the Warriors had warmed up and the national anthem was playing, the flamethrowers — perched atop each stanchion — burned hot, hot enough to burn your phone.

It was sampling of what Varys must have felt, two nights prior, when he felt the wrath of Daenerys and Drogon in the penultimate installment of “Game of Thrones.”

Game 1 began as a Steph episode.

Four days after raining down 33 points in the second half of the Warriors’ Game 6 win over the Rockets — which sent Houston into the offseason — Curry was locked in from the jump.

“Steph got free and had a big night and carried us at times and obviously that was a big part of the game,” Kerr said.

So was the bench.

“I also thought the key stretch for us was the first five minutes of the fourth quarter," Kerr explained. "You know, they made it a six or seven-point game to start the fourth. Portland made a really good run at the end of the third and our bench came in, did a fantastic job getting us the lead back up to 12 or so before we went back to our starters. So, great job by out bench.”

In the final 39 seconds of the opening half, Curry hit triples on back-to-back possessions. The first was a 27-footer after Damian Lillard was bulldozed by a Kevon Looney screen. The second was a 28-foot fadeaway that Curry knocked down as he tumbled backwards, sliding into the feet of the fans seated in the front row.

Curry had 19 at the break, 33 at the end of third and 36 at the end of the night — on nine triples.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was in no mood to discuss the defensive game plan, which Curry tore asunder.

Reporter: Houston had some success trapping Steph and really getting out on him. Is it sustainable for you to keep dropping the big so far off?

Stotts: Did they... I can't remember. When he had 33 in the second half, were they trapping then?

Reporter: Yes.

Stotts: They were? And he scored 33 in the second half?

Reporter: Yeah.

Stotts: Okay. Yeah, we'll look at that.

The coach capped the exchange with a smug smile.

It was vintage Curry, an unfamiliar sight in the age of KD. It’s easy to forget just how entertaining and electric these shows are.

“I mean, it’s fun,” Curry said after the win.

The Warriors were playing loose. The ball was flying around.

“It’s when we’re at our best in terms of everybody feeling like they are a threat on the floor," Curry added. "I mean, honestly even when K’s out there, he’s our safety valve in terms of we can end a possession that way. But we try to get to those looks and patterns as much as we can. It just puts so much pressure on the defense. You can’t key in on one guy and even if you try to, somebody else is going to be open.”

The Warriors are alive.

The Blazers aren’t dead.

The defeat came just one day after an emotional Game 7 win over the Nuggets in Denver. They flew right to San Francisco.

“Obviously, they broke loose in the fourth quarter, but down six going into the fourth, there were some things to be encouraged about,” Stotts said. “So, you know, we’ll bounce back and see what we can do better.”

Dame, Oakland’s native son, will be better than his 4-for-12 shooting line in the games to come. This is his home. He’s not going out like that.

“I can walk home from here if I wanted to,” said Lillard, who entered the arena — and conducted his post-game press conference — wearing a crisp white Oakland A’s jersey.

“That tells you how close it is..."

Dame’s a killer — just ask Russ. But the Warriors are having fun — just ask Steph.

“You see like the morale, like everybody’s shoulders are up and the smiles, and just aggressiveness all over the floor — whether that’s setting a screen or a swing or cutting hard, all that type of stuff. When you create shots that way, it’s fun for everybody.”

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