Champ Warriors eager to get sharp, return to dominant ways
By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry realizes there’s plenty of chatter about the defending champions and their lack of sheer domination during the season’s first half.
Steve Kerr has a list of things he’d like to clean up as his Warriors push toward another playoff berth — and, they hope, a winning Finals run — this spring.
“You’ve just got to have a certain level of care about what you’re doing,” Curry said.
Even with some early bumps, everybody still knows how great this Golden State group is: the best in the NBA to date, to be precise.
That hardly means this perfectionist group is close to content in early February with the playoffs still two months away.
“I’d like to see us come back from the All-Star break and really turn it up,” Kerr said. “But for now we’re going to continue to talk about the issues, not grind them to death but keep them mindful of what we’re trying to accomplish and take advantage of these next four games at home and try to get back on track.”
It’s quite a stretch before the break.
Golden State hosts Oklahoma City on Tuesday night in its first game since losing at Denver on Saturday to end a road trip that also included a surprising 30-point defeat in Utah last week. The Warriors are 11-0 after losses this season.
The Mavericks visit Oracle Arena on Thursday, San Antonio on Saturday and Phoenix on Monday before a trip to Portland next Wednesday.
“Five games to finish off on a strong note,” Curry said. “Our energy needs to be great, our attention to detail and boxing out and taking care of the basketball, stuff we talk about all the time, but those two in particular. If we can kind of focus in and hone in on those two things and put together a nice little stretch of games and wins, we want to go into the break with a good vibe.”
The Warriors are working to “reinforce fundamentals,” according to Kerr, even if that sounds a little far-fetched for a superstar roster again featuring four All-Stars.
Even the best get back to basics sometimes.
Curry talks about returning to the snappy ball movement that makes this team so tough to stop — “it’s a beautiful style of basketball,” he explained. “The things that go into having an edge are just a level of care and intensity and mental focus, being physical, being smart, not giving the other team any kind of life when it comes to mental lapses.”
Kerr isn’t overly concerned about his determined players responding.
“We’re trying to get back to building habits. We’ve gotten into some bad habits of late,” said Kerr, who will coach his 300th regular season game Tuesday. “Just general film reminders. I don’t need to yell and scream. We’re doing fine, but we’ve just got to mix in some drill work, film work and prod them a little bit and our guys are great. They turn it around quickly.”
And the Warriors are still tops in basketball at 41-12.
“Look, every team in the league goes through this stretch in January where you’re just kind of tired and you need a break, you need some rejuvenation,” Kerr said. “The All-Star break absolutely provides that, so you’ve got to get to that point. We’ve got a unique set of circumstances, too, going to the Finals the last three years and every game that we play on the road is circled on the calendar by our opponent. Teams come after us. So we’re right now a little bit on our heels in a lot of games instead of being the aggressor. It feels like we’re responding to the other team’s first blow. So even though our record’s great and we’re doing fine, we’ve had some slippage and we’ve just got to address that. It’ll come.”
Notes: Kevon Looney underwent a root canal Sunday and had part of his right front tooth reattached after it came out Saturday against the Nuggets when he was hit in the face. “It’s my birthday tomorrow so I didn’t want to go on my birthday without a tooth,” said Looney, who turns 22 on Tuesday.
Looney said he will have the second part of the procedure later once the swelling has subsided. The worst part about the ordeal meant his Super Bowl feast was affected: “I couldn’t eat wings.”
Observed Kerr, “He looks as handsome as ever.”
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball