Kurt Helin

Warriors’ season returns to normal now, with focus on real prize

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There was nothing normal about the start of the season for the Golden State Warriors.

Gregg Popovich worried about human nature last season with San Antonio for good reason — it’s normal for teams that just won a title to come out flat to start the next regular season. They go from the high of playing under intense pressure and winning in games where every possession is crucial to the first steps of what can feel like a tedious marathon, and they aren’t as sharp.

Not Golden State. Fueled by the perceived slight that the world saw them as “lucky” — you can thank Doc Rivers for stoking that flame — the Warriors came out playing at a high level with a chip on their shoulder. They steamrolled teams, caught a few breaks, watched Stephen Curry play like the runaway MVP, and raced out to a 24-0 start to the season.

Until Saturday night in Milwaukee, when normalcy returned.

Now the Warriors can start to focus on the real prize.

The buildup for this loss started last Tuesday when the Warriors’ bench was handed a 28 point lead against the Pacers and could not hold it — the starters had to come back in to close out the game, and that is when Klay Thompson rolled his ankle and got hurt. With Thompson sidelined, the Celtics softened the Warriors up Friday night with a double overtime game that felt like a series of body blows. The Warriors were ripe for the picking.

Saturday night Warriors defense was not sharp, particularly their rotations. On offense Golden State always seems to do the smart thing, but against Milwaukee that didn’t happen — for example, the Warriors didn’t draw the slow-footed Gregg Monroe into pick-and-roll situations. In fact, Monroe completely outplayed Draymond Green when the Warriors went small. And for reasons hard to understand, Luke Walton tried to play two big man lineups a lot.

The Warriors had an off night, and a motivated Bucks team played their best game of the young season and Milwaukee ended the Warriors record-setting start 108-95.

So now what for Warriors? Green said it best, as reported by Ethan Strauss of ESPN.

“I told the guys postgame, now we can have a regular season,” Green said. “It’s been kind of a playoff feel to this, just with the streak and all the media around, all the attention around.”

Things will be normal. And maybe a little bit dull.

But the Warriors have the work of the regular season still to do. That means developing good habits that can be relied on in the pressure cooker of the playoffs. That means staying healthy — Harrison Barnes is out injured still, and you can bet other key Warriors players will start getting rested soon. The Warriors know they can trust their starters, they know they can win with small ball, but they need to find other lineups that they can use and trust situationally to win. They need to get those defensive rotations sharpened.

When the book on these Warriors is written, and we start discussing their legacy, this record-setting streak to begin the season will be part of it. But not the biggest part. Look at it this way, when LeBron James was in Miami the Heat won 27 in a row mid-season once — how often do we discuss that compared to the four trips to the Finals and those results? The streak is a nice side note, something that punched up what can be a long, grinding slog of a regular season. But true legacies are decided in June. Not December.

Warriors talk about losing first game: “It’s definitely weird”

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It had been long time since the Warriors players had the taste of losing in their mouth — there were a couple of losses to the Cavaliers last June in the Finals, and before that you need to go back to April to find one. They were not used to it.

So how did they feel Saturday night after the Milwaukee Bucks became the first team to hand the Warriors a loss this season? They were a little dumbfounded by it. Check out their quotes, via Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

“It’s definitely weird,” Stephen Curry said of losing. “You forget what the feeling is like. But I like how we’re handling it.”

From interim coach Luke Walton: “We didn’t have it tonight. That’s why it’s so hard to do what these guys have done so far. Tonight it caught up to us. We didn’t have our shots falling. We were a little slow on our defensive rotations. It happens. But it takes nothing away from what they did to start the season.”

“It’s disappointing because I thought we beat ourselves,” (Klay Thompson said. “(Losing) was bound to happen,” he added. “It’s unfortunate it happened tonight. But we’re going to see them again on Friday and have a nice stretch at home.”

The Warriors looked flat from the opening tip, the double overtime win over the Celtics clearly impacting them. This was the kind of off night we knew the Warriors would have eventually, and it cost them.

What matters is how they bounce back, how they play going forward. Do they have the same energy and passion? Do they keep building toward another title, or do they take their foot off the gas now and coast a little.

Cartier Martin out “several months” with wrist injury

Cartier Martin, Lance Stephenson
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Cartier Martin is the definition of a fringe NBA player — he’s been with six teams in seven seasons. He’s known as a shooter who plays the three, except last season he hit just 28 percent from the field and 18 percent from three. That’s not going to get it done (especially since he’s a mediocre defender). He had a fully guaranteed contract for this season but the Pistons cut him anyway.

Martin had gone to the D-League to find his way back to the NBA, but that road just got a lot longer, via Chris Reichert of Upside and Motor.

Bill Belichick would be proud of how vague the injury description and timeline is, but this is not good for Martin, who had a long road back in the first place.

Utah’s Derrick Favors slams, Andre Roberson can’t get out of way (VIDEO)

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Derrick Favors is quietly having a tremendous season in Utah, averaging 17.2 points a night on 54 percent shooting, plus grabbing 8.9 boards a game. He has matured into one of the better big men in the NBA.

You don’t need to tell Oklahoma City’s Andre Roberson that, he saw it first hand.

Favors set the pick for Trey Burke then rolled down the lane, got the pass and went straight to the rim for the dunk. Everyone was late, but Roberson was under the basket and got the worst of it.

OKC went on to win a tight game 94-90 behind 24 points from Russell Westbrook.

Draymond Green joins 5×5 club in win over Boston

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Boston gave Golden State everything they could handle on Friday night, taking the game to double overtime before the Warriors survived with a 124-119 win to improve to 24-0 on the season. With good reason, a lot of the postgame attention went to Stephen Curry and his 38 points (on 9-of-27 shooting, Boston did a good job on him).

But Draymond Green‘s line was huge: 25 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and five blocks — a rare 5×5 game. The last person to have a 5×5 was Nicolas Batum in 2012. Green becomes only the third player in the last 40 years to have at least 20-10-5-5-5 in a game, joining Hakeem Olajuwon and Derrick Coleman.

Green knew what he had done, speaking to Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today.

“Never been part of that club,” he said, smiling that big Draymond Green smile shortly after the Golden State Warriors outlasted the Boston Celtics 124-119 in double overtime Friday as Golden State remained unbeaten at 24-0 and extended the best start to a season in NBA history.