Cory Joseph, Stephen Curry

Preview: Warriors need to call on their round 1 experience to beat the Spurs

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We always think of the Spurs as the team with experience. They have championship core and all those playoff wins, after all.

But the Warriors have some experience too, especially when it comes to the situation they’re facing heading into game 2 in San Antonio Wednesday night. In their 1st round upset of the Nuggets, the Warriors also entered game 2 trailing 1-0. In that series they also lost game 1 on a last second shot after mostly controlling the action that night. The Warriors went on to win game 2 in Denver, getting the split they needed to take control of the series.

Tonight, then, the biggest thing the Warriors can do is recall on their experiences from the first round and understand that their goals are still attainable. They mustn’t get hung up on how they lost game 1. They lost a big lead. It happens. Their focus instead should be on everything they did to get that lead while understanding they have the ingredients needed to win this game.

This isn’t to say there aren’t adjustments to be made on there end. The Warriors must find a way to get Jarrett Jack going. One of the reasons Stephen Curry wore down by the end of the game was due to the enormous load he had to carry as lead guard with Jack struggling from the floor, shooting only 5-15. Getting Jack free to create going to the rim — especially when Tim Duncan is on the bench — will help generate offense, lightening Curry’s burden in the process.

Golden State must also find a way to find more minutes for Andrew Bogut. While Klay Thompson has turned into the Warriors’ perimeter stopper, Bogut is still the key to their entire defense. It’s no coincidence that the Spurs’ 4th quarter run came with Bogut mostly on the bench. It’s understandable that in a high pace, heavy pick and roll game that Bogut can be somewhat out of place, but he’s too important to keep on the bench for extended stretches, especially when defense and rebounding will be such big keys in beating San Antonio.

On the Spurs’ side, they must also start to make some adjustments. Tony Parker had a difficult time dealing with the length and quickness Thompson offered defensively, only breaking and showing that typical Parker spark after Thompson fouled out. Parker needs to be more aggressive earlier in the clock and find scoring chances before the defense is set, potentially even getting possessions started before that cross-match with Thompson can take place. Parker was at his best when he abandoned setting up in the half court and instead hunted fast break chances — even when he didn’t have a man advantage. He can do that more and should look to.

And even though Duncan had 19 points, they must also find ways to get him easier baskets. Using quick screen actions to free him up going to the post or looking for him more in early offense rather than as an outlet at the top of the key after running drag pick and rolls are a couple of ways to make this happen. Duncan is facing two quality big man defenders in Bogut and Festus Ezili and that showed in his 6-15 shooting line in game 1. But he’s still as crafty as ever in the post with an ability to not only score but to draw fouls.

Defensively the Spurs must also decide what their match ups are going to be. Tony Parker really struggled guarding Curry and Thompson, while Kawhi Leonard did  the best job of all San Antonio defenders on Curry. Don’t be surprised if we see a switch where Curry moves onto Harrison Barnes while Leonard defends Curry full time. Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich typically isn’t fond of switching or tilting his defense too far in any one direction, but in this case Curry is simply too important a player to the Warriors’ success to not do everything possible to limit his effectiveness.

For both teams, it’s all about calling on your experiences to get you this all important win. For San Antonio, they’ve been around the block enough times to know that going up 2-0 puts them in great position to win this series. While the Warriors know that all they need to do is steal this game and they’re suddenly the team with home court and momentum.

Game 1 offered fans the best show of the playoffs to date and we’d all love nothing more than to get a repeat effort from both teams.

Coach Steve Clifford: Poor defense has led to Hornets’ losing streak

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 04:  Teammates Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 and Marvin Williams #2 of the Charlotte Hornets react at the bench as head coach Steve Clifford reacts during their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Spectrum Center on January 4, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Hornets coach Steve Clifford points to one factor when explaining his team’s five-game losing streak – a lack of defense.

Charlotte went 0-5 on its recent road trip, surrendering an uncharacteristic 109.6 points per game during that span. The Hornets return home Wednesday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers, part of a stretch of five-game home stand which Clifford hopes will help turn things around.

But Charlotte’s fourth-year coach said nothing will get better until the Hornets start playing better man-to-man defense.

“It starts with our ability to guard our guy,” Clifford said. “When you get blown by a lot on the perimeter where you are constantly in need of help, then you are going to give up 3s – and that’s what is happening.”

The Hornets raced to a 14-9 start this season and were third-best in the league in points allowed through 23 games.

Since then, things have steadily fallen apart, culminating with Charlotte giving up at least 100 points in eight straight games. The Hornets have since dropped to 12th overall in points allowed.

The Hornets have fallen to 20-21 on the season and are on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture. It hasn’t helped that Nic Batum and Cody Zeller have been in and out of the lineup with injury problems, but Charlotte’s struggles on the road – where it has lost 11 of its last 13 – is concerning.

Zeller said the Hornets spent Wednesday morning watching cutups of defensive miscues over the last five road games.

“All four years I have been here it starts with defense,” Zeller said. “That is what coach Clifford preaches.”

The 7-foot center said it is mostly simple things that can be corrected.

“There are sets that we know are coming – and we just aren’t defending them right,” Zelller said. “We are making too many mistakes.”

Added guard Marco Belinelli: “We need to speak a lot more on the court and help each other.”

Getting the defensive mistakes fix won’t be easy.

After Portland, the Hornets host Toronto, Brooklyn, Washington and Golden State. All five teams rank in the top 14 in the league in scoring offense, with the Warriors being No. 1 overall and Raptors No. 3.

A year ago, Hornets general manager Rich Cho pulled off a quality late-season trade, landing “three and D” guard Courtney Lee. He proved to be the driving force on the team’s playoff run and played well in the postseason.

The problem was Lee did so well it made it impossible for the Hornets to re-sign him. Charlotte re-signed Batum and Marvin Williams, and let Lee walk in free agency. He signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the New York Knicks.

The Hornets figured with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returning this year from a shoulder injury they would be fine defensively, but the struggles are mounting.

Clifford wouldn’t discuss whether the team needs to make a similar trade before the NBA deadline.

As for the offense, Clifford likes what he sees.

Kemba Walker, a first-time All-Star candidate, is in the midst of the most productive season of his career, averaging 23 points per game while shooting 41.3 percent from 3-point range.

“I mean he’s having a great year,” Clifford said. “He’s worked really hard and it’s paying off for him.”

Chris Paul to have surgery on torn ligament in left thumb, out 6-8 weeks

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When the Clippers last were without Chris Paul (then due to a hamstring injury), they dropped six games in a row. Granted, that was without Blake Griffin, too, but this team struggles on offense without the Point God running the show.

He’s not going to be running the show again for them until March.

Paul will miss 6-8 weeks due to a torn ligament in his left thumb that will require surgery, the team announced Tuesday. He is set to have surgery on Wednesday.

Raymond Felton and Austin Rivers will get a lot more run with CP3 sidelined.

The injury happened in the second quarter of Monday night’s game against the Thunder. Paul was trying to get over the top of a Joffrey Lauvergne screen when he ran into Russell Westbrook, who had pulled up to take a three. Paul’s hand was on Westbrook’s hip and got caught in his shorts and Westbrook elevated for the shot.

It looked serious as Paul walked off the court — he kicked a chair and was cursing, a sign that he knew something was very wrong. He went straight to the locker room, where X-rays were taken that found nothing broken. It was an MRI on Tuesday that found the damage.

The Clippers are the four seed in the West but are likely about to lose ground, being without Paul until March and with Griffin still sidelined from knee surgery (but should be back in the next few weeks, according to his timetable). Starting Saturday The Clippers have 10-of-11 games on the road — and the one home game is the Warriors. That’s a brutal stretch of games under the best of circumstances, and now the clouds over this team got much darker.

PBT Podcast: Debating NBA midseason awards with Dan Feldman

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 14: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Western Conference and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets and the Western Conference warm up before the NBA All-Star Game 2016 at the Air Canada Centre on February 14, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for MVP?

Is Mike D’Antoni the runaway Coach of the Year?

Can anyone catch Giannis Antetokounmpo for Most Improved Player?

The PBT staff gave their picks for midseason awards already. Now Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports debate all of that, plus Sixth Man, Defensive Player of Year, and even takeaways​ from the Warriors win over the Cavaliers Monday.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

LeBron James reminds heckling Warriors fans he has three rings (VINE)

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 13:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands on the court during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on January 13, 2017 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Monday night was not exactly the best game of the season for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They looked like a team on the final night of a six-game, 12-day road trip and they were mailing it in. Then they ran into a rested Warriors team looking to gain a little confidence. The result was a Red Wedding-level blood bath.

LeBron James was none too bothered. He was downplaying the rivalry and the importance of the game before it tipped-off, and after the game he rightly said this was not going to have any impact in June.

And when Warriors fans heckled him, he reminded them of the hardware — he’s got rings. Three of them. The last one at the expense of the Warriors.

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I’m going to miss Vine when it goes away.

Hat tip Matt Moore Eye on Basketball.