Extra minutes taking toll on Warriors

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr has never ridden his front line like he has so far in their intense series with the Houston Rockets, stretching stars to the limits. His starters are all averaging more than 35 minutes, with Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green each averaging over 40. Stephen Curry probably would be there, too, but foul trouble in all three games has sent him to the bench frequently.

Granted, overtime in Game 3 forced everyone’s hand and has skewed the numbers a little. But Durant has spent only 12 total minutes on the bench in the first three games, averaging a stunning 45.6 minutes thus far.

Andre Iguodala, promoted into the starting lineup this series for matchup purposes, is averaging nearly 36 minutes. He played more than 30 minutes only three times during the entire regular season. In Game 3, the overtime pushed him to 40 minutes on the floor, the first time he has reached that mark since December 2016.

Those extra minutes are taxing. Iguodala has often been the primary defender on James Harden and his energy-zapping isolation plays.7

Cousins is out because of a thigh injury. And with Iguodala — who has become so used to being a bench player that his memoir due out in a few weeks is titled “Sixth Man” — in the starting lineup, it has fallen to Shaun Livingston and Kevon Looney to be the first players off the bench. Looney is minus-10 for the series and Livingston is minus-15 over the past two games.

It’s not hard to figure why Kerr has had to rely so heavily on his starters.

“We’re not going to be playing a lot of guys,” Kerr said. “This is a tough series to go deep into your bench because they’ve got three guards that can get to the rim and they put a lot of pressure on you.”

The Rockets feel the same pressure. For example, even with the constant concern about protecting Chris Paul from overwork because he tends to be susceptible to hamstring injuries, coach Mike D’Antoni is playing Paul an average of 40 minutes a night in the series. That’s a big jump from his season average of 32. nike

In terms of depth, though, the Warriors lag behind the Rockets, and it has shown in the bench production. It’s true that bench players tend to perform better at home than on the road, but the Rockets’ reserves outscored the Warriors 21-7 in Game 3.

It’s only getting tougher. For the rest of the series, there are no more extended breaks — the teams will play every other day until someone gets to four wins. And the travel is about to ramp up, as the teams will fly after every game the rest of the way.