Warriors’ toughest opponent_ the nba grind – yahoo sports

MINNEAPOLIS – The crowd gathered by the hundreds, blue-clad fans filling the lower bowl, 10- to 15-rows deep. They were there for Stephen Curry, a rabid throng pressing toward the floor in an effort to inch closer to the NBA’s reigning MVP. They held up signs ( Steph Curry Lover, read one, with an arrow pointing down), chanted his name and gasped in disbelief as he effortlessly tossed in 30-footers.

Such is life for Curry and his Golden State Warriors. Not only do they get opponents’ best efforts – and they did again Monday, escaping Minnesota with a 109-104 win over the Timberwolves – but the fans’ best, too. More than 19,000 packed the Target Center, a sellout crowd roaring for its young team, a playoff atmosphere for a relatively meaningless regular-season game.

The Warriors have grown used to it, but make no mistake: It’s draining. “When you are getting a team’s best shot every night,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said, “it kind of takes a toll.” The intensity can be overwhelming; opponents exceeding expectations has become routine. “We looked at the stats and Minnesota is not a good 3-point shooting team, and they came out and started knocking down 3’s right at the beginning,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s what we expect. Everyone is revved up when they play us, trying to knock us off. “

For Curry, every night is a battle. Teams have focused more and more on the slender star lately, roughing him up on screens, switching pick-and-rolls, daring someone else to beat them. A 4-of-18 shooting night against San Antonio on Saturday was followed by a 6-of-17 performance in Minnesota 48 hours later. The NBA’s most dangerous shooter is a woeful 3-of-21 from 3-point range in his last two games.

Curry won’t ask for a break, and Kerr bluntly says he doesn’t need one. Golden State’s recent stretch (10 games in 16 days) has been grueling, but the Warriors home-heavy schedule to close the season offers an opportunity to recuperate organically. “Any rest [for Curry] would be more of a mental rest,” Kerr said. “His legs are good; he’s healthy. I think the grind of the season is tough. It’s not just the running and the flying; it’s getting yourself emotionally revved up for 10 straight days. It’s a lot.”

Said Curry: “It’s the NBA. It’s 82 games. It’s the same way every year. If we can’t handle the challenge coming at us at this point in the season, we have to do something about it.”

Here’s the thing: The Warriors can’t afford to rest Curry. Not yet, anyway. Golden State caught a break on Monday, escaping Minnesota with a win while San Antonio absorbed a defeat in Charlotte. The gap between the Warriors and Spurs has swelled back to four games now, a comfortable gap but one Golden State knows is far from insurmountable. Indeed, when told San Antonio had lost, Green sniffed and said, “That means nothing.”

No Warrior wants a night off, either. Curry shrugs at the suggestion, and Green is often offended by it. For so much of the season Golden State has downplayed the pursuit of the 1995-96 Bulls’ regular-season victory record and has dismissed 73 wins as too far out to be concerned with. No more. The margin for error tightened after the loss to San Antonio, but there isn’t anyone in the Warriors’ locker room who doubts this team will pull off a 10-2 finish, who isn’t consumed by doing it. The Warriors have become more vocal about eclipsing Chicago’s mark – “It’s more realistic,” Curry said – and have harnessed it as motivation to help push through the inevitable fatigue.

“It can help you focus,” Green said. “You have to win. I think getting the one seed in the playoffs can be important. It’s not the end-all, be-all, it can be good. That’s something that we want to get. The way the Spurs are playing, we may need to get the record to get it.”

The Warriors head home, back to Oracle Arena, back to a normal routine. Curry’s mortality has shown the last two games, but those around him scoff at the notion it’s anything more than an aberration. Standing in front of a smattering of reporters on Monday, Curry was less resigned than defiant, unflinching – justifiably in the belief that the next game would yield better results.

“We have a lot to play for still,” Curry said. “I’m not going to worry. I pride myself on being the most consistent guy out there. Obviously I have to play better. You can pretty much count on that.”

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