OAKLAND, Calif. — As their quest for a third straight NBA championship begins on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are confident that after several weeks of contentious disagreements with officials, they will be able to focus more and not let whistles affect them as much.
“The biggest thing for us, and it’s been a topic of conversation the last month or two, referees are going to ref the way they see it and that can’t affect or distract us from what we’re trying to do,” Curry said after Friday’s practice. “We’re still going to get heated, we’re still going to be competitive and we might see some reactions and stuff like that, but at the end of the day we can’t let good calls, bad calls, game to game, series to series, affect how we play, our intensity and our focus. So I think you’ll see that switch flipped for us.”
Curry and his teammates understand the games are going to get more physical in the playoffs, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes his team is ready for the shift in how games are called.
“It wouldn’t be possible to officiate the game the exact same way in the playoffs as you do in the regular season,” Kerr said. “If you did, games would take four hours, there’d be a foul on every play, honestly. So let’s get that out of the way first of all. So when one of our fans is screaming at the TV [Saturday] like ‘There was a foul in the regular season! You got to call it now!’ No, that’s not how it works. The officials’ job is to keep the flow going and so it’s a much more difficult job in playoff time because you’re dealing with defenses that are prepared and physical.”
The Warriors drew national attention following a March 29 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in which Kerr and his players disagreed with several calls late in overtime — as Curry and Warriors star forward Kevin Durant called out referee Marat Kogut by name. Warriors forward Draymond Green tweeted after the game the initials TD, which many took as a reference to disgraced official Tim Donaghy, and MK, which many took as a reference to Kogut. The tweets earned Green a $35,000 fine while Curry was docked $25,000 and Durant $15,000.
“The refs can’t possibly call everything,” Kerr said, referencing the difference in how playoff games are called compared with regular-season games. “They’ve got to find the way to make it fair but keep the flow of the game going and reward the teams that are playing better and doing a better job. It’s almost impossible. I don’t know how they do it. But that’s why they only have the best guys, their top [officials] reffing these games, it’s a really brutal job.”
One of the players looking forward to the heightened intensity is Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, who will be participating in his first career playoff game on Saturday.
“Obviously, it’s higher stakes,” Cousins said. “Every possession matters. The intensity increases, just more intense basketball. Which I’m OK with.”