HOUSTON — The Warriors have absorbed countless dents in their championship armor. Yet, the Warriors still insist they have enough protection to withstand their latest adversity.
The Warriors lost two consecutive road playoff games to the Houston Rockets. The series is tied at 2. And the Warriors enter Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday at Oracle Arena with a litany of unanswered questions.
Yet, the Warriors did not react to those issues with concern. They appeared to embrace the moment with excitement.
“We love it,” Stephen Curry said. “We obviously would love to be up, 3-1, or have the series be over. But there’s no panic.”
And why would the Warriors panic? They have won three NBA championships in the past four years. They still have home-court advantage. Ever since Steve Kerr coached the Warriors in 2015, they have overcome all four of the playoff series they initially trailed. That includes when the Warriors beat the Rockets in seven games of the 2018 Western Conference Finals after facing a 3-2 deficit.
“There were so many questions that needed to be answered. Those questions aren’t there this year,” Draymond Green said. “We know the answer to our problems. That’s pretty exciting. That’s my department to lead in. I know I will lead in that department. If I do, I have no doubt that everyone else will follow. We’ll win. It’s exciting for me.”
And yet, the Warriors might actually be facing some of those similar questions.
The Warriors lost Andre Iguodala toward the end of Game 3 in last year’s West Finals because of a left knee injury that kept him sidelined for the remainder of the series and the first two games of the NBA Finals. The Warriors do not have any official update on Iguodala, but he appeared to suffer a left knee injury on Monday after Rockets guard Chris Paul bumped into it late in Game 4. Meanwhile, the Warriors have other injuries to monitor in Kevin Durant’s right elbow and Curry’s dislocated left middle finger.
Unlike last year when he missed the final three games against the Warriors because of a strained right hamstring, Paul so far has stayed healthy. That partly explained why Kerr said last year he felt “extremely confident that we’re going to take care of business” after the Warriors faced a 3-2 deficit. Kerr sounded just as upbeat following Game 4 under different circumstances.
“I love this. I do,” Kerr said. “Are you kidding me? To be able to coach basketball in the NBA and the greatest players in the world and to be part of this competition? It’s amazing. So much fun.”
Despite that fun, the Warriors have plenty of work to do.
Can Thompson rectify his Game 4 performance in which he scored 11 points while shooting only 5-of-15 from the field and 1-of-6 from 3 along with five fouls?
“I rushed three or four (shots),” Thompson said. “I’ll play much better on Wednesday.”
Can the Warriors match the Rockets’ small-ball lineup that spreads the floor, ensures more 3’s and makes it difficult to deny second-chance points? Can the Warriors match the Rockets’ increased physicality that enabled them to win the rebounding battle both in Game 3 (55-35) and Game 4 (50-43)?
“That’s an easy correction,” Green said. “We’ll be in good shape.”
Can the Warriors take advantage of the supportive home crowd at Oracle Arena? The Warriors have won 22 of their last 25 home playoff games. Though the Warriors went 30-11 at home this year, they admittedly lacked the same intensity than in a tough road environment. In related news, the Warriors lost marquee games against Boston, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Portland and Houston. The Warriors also lost Game 2 and 5 of their first-round series against the Clippers at home.
“Very similar to last series where whatever the expectations were going in, we’re just rolling with the punches and getting the job done any way that we can,” Curry said.
“Wednesday is going to be fun. We have a right opportunity to get control of the series, do it at home and take it from there.”
And if not? Then, the Warriors will be one game away from missing the NBA Finals, a place they’ve been the last four seasons. After the Warriors’ latest loss, though, they maintained they do not feel worried. Instead, they said they feel inspired.
“It’s great basketball out there, man,” Durant said. “As a player being tied up in the series, 2-2, you feel a little different. But the way teams are playing with such aggression and intensity, it’s fun to be out there. We’re looking forward to Game 5.”