Warriors stars bounce back to blast Mavericks

For all the noise the NBA trade deadline brings, the Warriors remained eerily quiet. While other teams were scrambling, it was business as usual around Golden State Thursday.

And it looked like the usual — at least recently for this Warriors team — as they came out flat once again.

But a second half spark finally jolted Golden State (42-13) of their recent malaise and into the win column, 121-103 against the cellar-dwelling Dallas Mavericks (17-38).

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

Kevin Durant said it’s all a mental thing for the team:

“Once we start struggling we can’t get in our own way, we just got to keep playing. Tonight we did a good job of just playing off our instincts and not worrying about if we make a mistake. If we make one or two mistakes we try to not make a mistake the next play, instead of just playing.”

The Mavs came into the game with a very specific defensive strategy: Switch everything, and put a guard on Draymond Green. And it worked, as Green actually led the team in shots while shooting just 4-of-17. A good number of them, though, came on tips at the rim that he just couldn’t get to fall.

Steve Kerr said he liked Green’s game, despite the numbers:

“I liked the way Draymond fought. It was one of those games where nothing was going his way, but he was competing… The numbers make it look like he was jacking up shots, but he really wasn’t. He was just competing and nothing was going down for him.”

That, coupled with the Warriors philosophy on attacking mismatches —  continue to move the ball around and not seek them out — hurt the Warriors’ efficiency.

Durant would lead the team with 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting, while Stephen Curry poured in 20 of his own on 7-of-12 field goals, pretty low attempts for both superstars.

Numerous times the height-challenged J.J. Barea or the slow-footed Salah Mejri switched out onto the perimeter on Durant, only for Durant to swing the ball to someone else. That changed in the second half, when Durant and Curry not only attacked and picked apart the Mavericks’ mismatches but actively sought them out.

And that’s exactly what the Warriors need to do against these switch-heavy teams, because that’s exactly what other teams do to their switching defense: Attack the mismatches.

Durant said they might have to pivot in their style of play during a game or stretch:

“We might have to slow it down a bit, we might have to shoot less 3’s, or throw it in the post to D West or Dray or me or Dot. It’s just about figuring out different ways to play and we got such a talented group we can play in different ways… Be prepared for that as fans and media that sometimes it might not be the fast paced game that we want, but that’s what makes us a great team. We can play either way.”

That’s how they outscored Dallas 28-18 in the fourth quarter.

Well that and finally locking in defensively, especially from the old-man lineup featuring Shaun Livingston, David West and Andre Iguodala.

Green who was apart of the lineup along with Klay Thompson, said the defense was a lot better than before:

“Guys rotating, but more importantly just taking it more serious for on-ball defense. When you guard the ball better it gives help a better chance of getting there. And then you fly around and you get them kind of messed up and that’s when you start getting out in transition.”

West had one of his best all-around games of his Warriors career putting up 10 points, seven boards, seven assists, one steal and one block in just 17 minutes.

The Warriors offense made marginal steps in shaking off its recent turnover struggles, which is pretty easy when you average 21 turnovers over the last three games. So when they turned it over just eight times in the first half, it looked like they may have figured things out.

But then carelessness returned and saw the Dubs throw the ball away three times in two minutes. And that’s literal, as they threw the ball directly to the other team in a quick succession.

They would right the ship again though, and finish with just 16 giveaways, a number the coaching staff and especially Kerr would take every game.

Up next

Another strong test awaits the Warriors, as the San Antonio Spurs roll into Oakland Saturday. Though the Spurs are still without injured star Kawhi Leonard, they still hold down the third seed in the West.

Notes

Draymond Green was fined $50,000 before the game for inappropriate language directed at an official, after Green got into it with official Lauren Holtkamp after his mouth was bloodied at the end of the first half Tuesday night. Green would draw a technical and then a second later in the game. He picked up his 14th Thursday, which adds another $4,000 fine and brings his season fine total up to $153,000, and puts him just two away from drawing a one-game suspension. …Klay Thompson celebrated his 28th birthday Thursday. He even had a special cake at Oracle.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.