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2018 NBA Playoffs

Warriors’ Shaun Livingston: ‘They will forget about this game if we win the next game and win Game 7’

Golden State is taking a positive spin on 98-94 loss to Rockets

HOUSTON — A frustrated Draymond Green slapped the top of an equipment bag just before being the first to enter the visiting locker room after the Golden State Warriors’ 98-94 loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. Now, one loss away from ending a shot at a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance, the rest of the Warriors players followed Green through the door quietly at the Toyota Center on Thursday night.

Sensing some words of encouragement were needed, Warriors veteran guard Shaun Livingston immediately gave a motivational speech that lightened the mood of the shocked locker room and restored confidence that reigning champions should have.

“It was as soon as I walked in. It wasn’t anything profound or anything to write a movie on,” Livingston told The Undefeated. “It was like, ‘Look, this is the time right here. Notice this moment. This is the time where we have to come together. Be tight. This is where we have to be tight.’

“It’s easy to disband. It’s easy for Kevin [Durant] to say, ‘Man, I got to get 50 [points] now.’ We got to trust each other. Trust each other. We will be all right. We need more of that positive [energy].”

Give James Harden, Chris Paul and the Rockets credit. The NBA’s best team from the regular season has found ways to win close games against a three-time reigning West champ, twice in a row, and are now a win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1995. But there has also been a lot for the Warriors to kick themselves about during the rare two-game losing streak that Livingston broke down.

Livingston said the Warriors were not disciplined defensively and sent the Rockets to the free throw line “at key times” in Game 5. The 14-year NBA veteran noted that those fouls that sent the Rockets to the charity stripe allowed them to get rest and earn energy to get back on Warriors fast breaks. Livingston added that the Warriors can’t “go rogue” offensively. Moreover, the Peoria, Illinois, native said the Warriors must force the Rockets to take tough shots and not enjoy the benefits of free throws that come from being in the penalty early.

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“We’ve got to have amnesia, but it’s hard because these nights haunt you. They do.”

Not having 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala for two straight games because of a knee injury has also been detrimental for Golden State. Yet, Livingston expects the Warriors to get a boost from their fans in Game 6 on Saturday playing at an Oracle Arena that “better be live.” But before returning to the Bay Area on Friday, the likely restless Warriors spent one more night thinking about it all, here in Houston.

“They will remember this when we’re back [in Houston] and win,” Livingston said. “We’ve got to have amnesia, but it’s hard because these nights haunt you. They do. [Makes you] think about what you could do better.”

The playoff gods don’t care that these are the renowned, mighty Warriors, one of the greatest teams in NBA history, a budding dynasty. The Warriors will need a win against the hot Rockets in Game 6 on Saturday and Game 7 back in Houston on May 28 to advance to the NBA Finals and keep title hopes alive.

Such a scenario would appear to have the Grim Reaper standing right in the middle of the Warriors’ locker room, making his presence known. But the Warriors’ locker room doors were left open, and there was confidence and optimism — not the smell of pending death. Warriors guard Stephen Curry credited Livingston for getting his teammates back in the right and needed mindset with his speech.

“We haven’t had this chapter in our story yet,” Curry told The Undefeated. “It’s going to be fun. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

James Harden (left) of the Houston Rockets drives against Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in the first half of Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at Toyota Center in Houston on May 24.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Actually, the Warriors were in a more dire situation during the 2016 Western Conference finals against Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder were up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and a win away from the NBA Finals. The Warriors, however, stormed back to win the next three games to return to the Finals. A month later, Durant ended up joining the Warriors after they lost the Finals to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now, Durant and the Warriors are down 3-2 to the Rockets with no more wiggle room after two mind-boggling losses.

On the Warriors’ situation, Green smiled and told The Undefeated: “Great. We’ve been here before.”

Livingston said Warriors coach Steve Kerr preached a similar positive message to his players after his own. Kerr then sang a similar tune to the media, saying that while it might sound “crazy,” he likes the position the Warriors are in.

“He had a great speech for us,” Livingston said about Kerr. “He told us what we were going to do. ‘Two games slipped away from us, but we’re going to come back and win the next two games. We have some good stuff to build on from this game. We know what the recipe and formula is.’ ”

There could be a potential asterisk on the West finals if Paul, seeking his first appearance in the NBA Finals, is sidelined for the remainder of series after he suffered a right hamstring injury in the fourth quarter.

The 33-year-old spearheaded the Rockets’ triumph with 20 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 made 3-pointers in Game 5. The nine-time NBA All-Star received medical treatment long after the game and will probably be back getting more treatment as soon as he can Friday. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni revealed that Paul was “worried” about his injury and reserve sharpshooter Eric Gordon would take over as the lead playmaker, if needed, in Game 6 and beyond.

As Paul departed from the Toyota Center to cross LaBranch and Clay streets for an awaiting Mercedes-Maybach, he told The Undefeated: “I will be all right.” Before the sweats-wearing Rockets veteran gingerly got into the sedan, he also said, “Oh, yeah” when asked about playing in Game 6.

Whether Paul is there or not, the Warriors will need much better focus, sense of urgency and team play if they are to survive against Harden and the Rockets. Livingston is confident that the champs will band together to figure out their latest puzzle.

“We’re staying together,” Livingston said. “I’ve been down this road a couple of times. Those guys took the last two games away from us. That’s the hard part. I’d rather get beat by 23 than let it slip away like that. We’ll be all right …

“You have that regret. We all have it. It’s hard to sleep at night. We’ve just got to push past that and have more positive reinforcement to know that it’s going to be OK. They will forget about this game if we win the next game and win Game 7. They’re going to forget.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.