Warriors Have Gained Mental Edge as Rockets' Focus Drifts to Officiating

OAKLAND – Despite 24-hour dialogue and debate about officials, the Warriors actually claim to have spent most of Monday morning and early afternoon diagnosing their basketball performance and seeking ways to improve it.

It's a quaint notion, but entirely logical if their only immediate goal is to win their Western Conference semifinal series against the Houston Rockets.

If the Warriors are talking hoops and the Rockets talking (or thinking) refs, that would seem to benefit to the defending champs going into Game 2 on Tuesday and maybe beyond.

"The energy is good, the effort is amazing, the execution was lacking – and our guys know that," coach Steve Kerr said after coaches and players spent a couple hours reviewing Game 1 and preparing for Game 2. "They knew it last night. We reinforced it in the film session.

"And that's where we've got to clean up: 20 turnovers, a lot of them unforced. When you're playing a great team, you can't live with that. You can't get away with that too often."

The Warriors got away with it in Game 1 because Kevin Durant scored 35 points, Draymond Green orchestrated tempo and temperature, they played superior defense and, perhaps most of all, they posted a decisive victory in the composure game.

The Warriors did their share of howling at the officials. Draymond Green yakked his way into another technical foul. Even Klay Thompson, who normally conveys the emotion of a cyborg, threw up his hands in disagreement. So it wasn't only the Rockets.

"Our guys and me too, we complain an awful lot," Kerr said. "There's a lot at stake. And Draymond's already got three technicals. I think Kevin (Durant) has a couple. We've got to find a way to compete and walk that line without crossing the line and being too demonstrative and too emotional on the sidelines and on the court."

The Warriors accept, however, that they have to be better at the game. The 20 turnovers, for example, played a significant role in keeping the Rockets close in Game 1.

"We talked about that for a long time," Stephen Curry said. "In this five-year run, like, the way we play and how loose we are, fast pace, how we move the ball, turnovers are going to happen. We always talk about the type of turnovers that you have to avoid, especially in a playoff game where possessions are valuable."

The Warriors committed 10 turnovers in the first 16 minutes, giving Houston 10 points. Even with so many empty possessions, they had a three-point lead.

"We were trying to thread the needle with a pass or the read was just the wrong read or we were rushing and not letting the floor get spaced before we drove and knew where the lanes were," Curry said. "So those ones we need to correct.

"There's going to be turnovers just, again, the way that we play. But keeping them around that 10 number and just getting shots up at the end of the day for us works to our advantage."

If there is a singular concern, it is the one that has nagged the Warriors all season. Can they bring energy at the start and maintain it throughout?

That it's the Rockets should ensure that. The Warriors are more likely to find another level when they're inspired to summon productive hostility. Houston's claim that the officials are biased against them is bound to feed into that. If – and it's an economy-size "if" – the Warriors stay on task, the indicators point to another victory.

"They're going to make shots, but we've got to be able to push back in transition, continue to just stay solid," Curry said. "We'll do better, myself included, especially with dumb fouls in terms of reaching and things like that.

[RELATED: Game 1 was best case scenario for Warriors]

"But the intensity and energy were great, and it allowed us to pretty much have control of the game the entire way and want to try to repeat that."

Gaining a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series provides a slight advantage. Keeping the focus narrow and gaining a psychological edge, however, can be even more powerful.

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