TORONTO, Canada (AFP) – Confident despite losing their NBA Finals opener, the defending champion Golden State Warriors say they must hustle faster defensively and reduce mistakes to defeat the Toronto Raptors.
Seeking their third consecutive title and fourth crown in five years, the Warriors had won 12 consecutive playoff series openers before falling 118-109 Thursday, gaining hard-earned wisdom for Sunday's Game Two.
“We're down 0-1 but it's not the end of the world,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “We've proven our resiliency and ability to win games we need to, answer the bell and learn.”
“They obviously played well but our confidence remains the same.
It's just come out, play hard, get game two and take it from there. I like the vibe that we have in the locker room in terms of everybody focusing on what they need to do differently and the overall energy bump we need to have to go steal Game 2.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has stressed fast-moving defensive work because he sees familiar challenges in how the Raptors play.
“Transition defense is where it starts. We were just careless getting back,” Kerr said. “When you've got a team that can push the ball from a lot of different positions and plays fast, you've got to be vigilant every possession.
''If anything, they remind me of us.”
Meanwhile, Warriors star forward Kevin Durant will miss Sunday's second game with the strained right calf that has sidelined him for the past six games.
Durant is the leading scorer in the playoffs for the Warriors, averaging 34.2 points with 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists a contest.
''Kevin is not going to play Sunday,'' Steve Kerr said. ''We've been sort of holding out hope, but I might as well just say it now. It's near impossible for him to play on Sunday.''
The 30-year-old superstar, Most Valuable Player of the past two NBA Finals, will become a free agent at the end of the playoffs but hopes to return and help Golden State to a third consecutive NBA crown before deciding his future.
Warriors forward Draymond Green, who took the blame for Pascal Siakam's 32-point performance for Toronto in the opener, vows a more aggressive style Sunday.
“We can do a lot better in executing and there are some adjustments we can make,” Green said. “I have to be more aggressive. Aggressiveness starts with me and everybody else will follow. If I'm on my heels, everyone else is on their heels.
“All five guys got to do a better job of just being physical, being alert, and we'll be all right. 'We're champions. We understand what it takes. People hold us to a higher standard, but we hold ourselves to an even higher standard.”
Curry, who has sparked Golden State's attack with forward Kevin Durant out with a calf injury, said a 10-day break between games and being unfamiliar with the Raptors contributed to the Warriors' loss.
“The first half after that 10-day break it was a little bit sloppier than we might have thought and a little bit more rust that we had to shake off,” Curry said.
''I don't think it's that complicated what we need to do differently -- it's just play better, take away easy buckets for them and control momentum a little bit better.''
Green agrees the Warriors will be able to better compete against a team that has the speed and quick-strike ability of their reptilian namesakes.
''We got our conditioning back,'' Green said. ''It was a bit rough after 10 days off. Now we've got a feel for them. We know what we can do better. I like where we're at.’’