Programming note: Spurs-Warriors coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
OAKLAND – Steve Kerr believes the Warriors respond best when they sense a legitimate threat. He refers to it as “appropriate fear," and it most certainly will be the case Thursday night.
If any opponent can snap the Warriors out of their recent malaise, it is the Spurs.
“It’s always big when you play the Spurs,” guard Shaun Livingston said, “just because of what they’ve accomplished, who they are as a franchise and the caliber of talent that they have.”
When the teams step on the floor at Oracle Arena, it will be the most impressive April matchup in NBA history (by win percentage) and the first time two 65-win teams have played in the regular season.
The Warriors (69-9, .885) have lost two of their last three games and are trying to avoid their first back-to-back losses of the season. They hold a 3.5 game lead over San Antonio (65-12, .844) in the Western Conference.
“This game is easier to get up for, just because this is a team we might see in May,” Klay Thompson said. “They’re right behind us as far as seeding, too. I would expect the energy to be there tonight.
“We’ve been kind of in a fog these last two weeks. But it’s not the end of the world. It’s a long, 82-game regular season. You’ve just got to look at these last four as tune-up time to get ready for the real thing.”
Both teams are acutely aware that the Spurs hold a distinct historical advantage. They own the Warriors in Texas, winning the last 33 games there, and have won 24 of the last 28 meetings.
“They’re a well-oiled machine,” center Andrew Bogut said of the Spurs. “Every year, you think they’re going to get older and slower, and they do. But you can’t teach basketball IQ and ball movement on what they do.
“If you’re not committed against the Spurs for 48 minutes, they’ll punish you.”
With the teams facing off twice in four days – they meet again Sunday in San Antonio – there is curiosity over how the coaches will treat the games. Though it’s not likely they’ll go all out to secure victory, there may be a psychological advantage to coming out on top.
“I’m just focused on what we’re doing and trying to clean up our game, trying to clean up the mistakes that we’ve been making,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Obviously, San Antonio will force you do that because they’re rock-solid and they’re playing well.
“So we’ll go into (Thursday) thinking about our own game and what we’ll have to do to win and see what happens from there.”