MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — First-year coach Steve Kerr knows a crucial moment in the playoffs, so he understands exactly the test his Golden State Warriors face trailing Memphis 2-1 in their Western Conference semifinal.
If his Warriors adapt and correct their mistakes mid-series, then the team that posted the NBA’s best record in the regular season can continue its dream season. Keep rushing while turning the ball over and missing too many 3s, and those growing pains will hurt until this time next year.
“This is that moment for us, so we’ll see how we respond,” Kerr said Sunday, a day after the Warriors dropped their second straight with a 99-89 loss in Game 3.
The Atlanta Hawks find themselves in the same spot as the Warriors, and these No. 1 seeds have become the first to trail 2-1 in a conference semifinal since the NBA went to the current playoff format in 1984. The Hawks couldn’t take advantage of Washington playing without All-Star guard John Wall and fell behind by 21 points before a 103-101 loss Saturday.
“They had their way with us for three quarters,” Hawks guard Kyle Korver said. “They were more physical and just kind of pushed us around. We didn’t respond well. … The bottom line is we’ve got to play with more fire in a playoff game.”
Golden State won 67 games, while Atlanta dominated the East with 60 victories. Now both No. 1 seeds risk falling behind even further tonight in Game 4 of each of their best-of-7 series.
A look at the two games:
Warriors at Grizzlies, Grizzlies lead 2-1, 9:30 p.m. EDT, TNT
The Warriors didn’t change their schedule and didn’t practice Sunday, instead watching all of Saturday night’s loss together to see exactly where they kept rushing. They now have shot 6 of 26 outside the arc for a second straight game, a measly 23.1 percent.
League MVP Stephen Curry missed the only shot he took in the fourth quarter, and he was 4 of 21 on 3-poitners the past two games combined after knocking down 20 in four games against New Orleans in the first round.
That leaves a team that won 45 games by double digits is trying to avoid its first three-game skid this season.
“It’s unfamiliar territory, so it’s something that we’re looking forward to and looking forward to respond to adversity,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said.
The Grizzlies did practice and spent Sunday trying to recover from a second straight emotional game. Mike Conley’s first game back Tuesday from surgery to repair facial fractures was thrilling, and they turned in another defensive show Saturday night.
Coach Dave Joerger gave them a history lesson on past playoffs like last year when the Grizzlies lost their first-round series to Oklahoma City after leading 2-1.
“We’ve been on the other end of it we’ve been on the other end of it, so we know no lead is safe,” Conley said. “You’re playing against the best team in the world and anything can happen.”
Hawks at Wizards, Wizards lead 2-1, 7 p.m. EDT, TNT
The Hawks expect to get forward Paul Millsap back in the starting lineup Monday night after flu-like symptoms limited him to eight points and two rebounds off the bench Saturday. But the Hawks have more issues with Jeff Teague shooting only 5 of 15 from the floor, and Korver took just five shots as he finished with six points.
Only a rally by the bench that tied it up late, setting up Paul Pierce’s winning shot, kept Atlanta from being routed as the Hawks looked lethargic and disjointed for three quarters.
“We’ve got our backs against the wall, it’s do or die,” Atlanta guard Kent Bazemore said.
The Wizards are 3-0 at home and 6-1 this postseason. More importantly, they now are 1-1 without Wall.
“We were able to show, especially for the first three and half quarters, what we was capable of even without John if we play the right way,” Wizards guard Garrett Temple said. “We’ve just got to play that way for the whole game.
The swelling in Wall’s broken left wrist and hand had eased Sunday, though not enough for him to test dribbling a ball yet.
“It’s heading to a situation where hopefully he can get a ball in his hands (again), see how that feels,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “There’s still some (swelling) in there. There’s no sense doing anything with a ball while it’s swollen.”
AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich and freelance writer David Elfin in Washington contributed to this report.
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