HOUSTON -- The last time the Warriors dropped in on the Spurs, that’s about all they did.
Kevin Durant was already injured and after the long NBA season had them ping-ponging from coast-to-coast, coach Steve Kerr also chose to keep Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala on the bench for the anticipated prime-time showdown in San Antonio.
The Spurs won by 22, the Warriors’ fifth loss in a span of seven games.
Now 2 1/2 weeks later, the Warriors return with an eight-game winning streak following a 113-106 win in Houston on Tuesday night. (Warriors vs. Spurs, 9:30 ET Wed. on ESPN)
“Yeah, that was the idea,” said Kerr, who became the fastest American professional coach to 200 wins in his career. “We were exhausted. We had a brutal schedule. We lost K.D. Guys were playing extra minutes and we were spent. I could feel that and our staff could feel that, so it made sense to rest them. I don’t like to do it.
“But I’m trying to get us ready for the playoffs, keep our guys fresh. So if they need a rest, I’ll do it. It doesn’t happen often. But the schedule called for it. This time it’s a short flight. We don’t anticipate resting anybody. Guys are good to go. The schedule’s been fine and we’ll go in there and see what we can do.”
Green tweaked his left knee in the third quarter, limped to the locker room to get it wrapped and was back on the court in a matter of minutes. He doesn’t expect to sit out against the Spurs.
“I’ll play,” he said. “Oh yeah, I’m playing.”
Now they’re the Warriors again, feeling hopeful that Durant will be back in the lineup soon. Recharged, refreshed, recommitted to doing the things that make them who they are.
For one, Golden State once again kept the Rockets' James Harden from scoring efficiently. In three games against the Warriors this season, the MVP candidate has shot just 19-for-56 from the field, 3-for-25 on 3-pointers and has turned the ball over 20 times. As a team, the bombs-away Rockets are shooting just 23 percent from behind the arc against the Warriors.
“Defensively we’ve upped our game,” Curry said. “Over the course of the year our numbers are great -- field goal percentage, defense, rebounding the basketball and getting teams off the 3-point line -- and during that tough stretch we kinda lost track of that. During this last eight games, we’ve upped our defensive pressure, intensity and focus. When we do that, whether the shots fall or not, we give ourselves a great chance to win.”
The Warriors figure they’ll have a better chance just because they won’t be jet-lagged out of their minds. The last time they went into San Antonio was at the end of an 11,000-mile travel odyssey that had an East Coast trip followed by a home game in Oakland, then a game at Minnesota and then arriving in Texas in the middle of the night. This will be the sixth straight time that Golden State has played at San Antonio on the tail end of a back-to-back.
“We’re very aware,” Green said. “We talk about a lot of things. This is a unique team. But it doesn’t seem like that’s on accident…It just don’t happen. But we’ll try to go in there and get a win. Everybody plays back to backs in the NBA. Then you also got to look at the TV schedule. It’s always a prime time game. Look from that perspective. Nobody’s complaining or making excuses. Just go in there and try to win.
“It don’t matter to get a W against them. None of that ever matters. But at the same time we just want to win. It’s a big game for us and big game for them. We want to win every time we step on the floor. It’s not about not being swept or whatever the situation is. Just trying to win every time we step on floor.”
They are back in that mode again, moving the ball, swarming on defense, closing out on 3-point shooters, alive, alert, attentive to details.
Durant was out on the court Tuesday night going through a pregame shooting routine that looked like he was getting very close to a return to the court. An official update on his status will come Wednesday. Meanwhile his teammates have been waiting and sharpening their claws and looking ahead to the postseason that’s just ahead.
Curry said he watched about six minutes of Monday night’s game when the Spurs took apart the defending champion Cavaliers.
“It did not take that game for San Antonio to get on my radar,” Curry said. “We know exactly what the challenge is and we’re ready to go.
“Yeah, it matters. Just showing up to play, ready to go. The things it’s gonna take to get that win are things that will help us in the playoffs. They’re a team doesn’t beat themselves. You have to go in and beat them. You can’t let go of the rope at any point in the game. So it will challenge to have that focus, whether the legs are there or not.”
The week started at home against Memphis, runs through the back-to-back in Texas and then winds up back at home against the Rockets and Wizards. That’s five games against playoff teams eight nights.
“I think this comes at a great time for us,” Green said. “I think we got eight games left. Playing great teams like we are -- Houston, then San Antonio, then Houston and Washington -- that’s a great tuneup for the playoffs. It’s the type of intensity it takes, the type of focus it takes to win games like that. It’s great for us and comes at a great time. We’ve got to accept the challenge.”
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