Russian coach says USA not cheated out of gold in 1972 Olympics

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David_blatt.jpgIt remains one of the most controversial basketball games ever.

The ending of the 1972 Olympic gold medal game in Munich featured a Russian team getting three chances to inbound the ball late in the game and down one point, and it was on the third they were able to execute a length of the court pass and layup that gave Russia the gold medal (the first time the USA hadn’t won the gold since 1936).

The USA team considered it unfair and never picked up their silver medals, not showing up to the ceremony in protest.

But Russian coach David Blatt — who grew up a Celtics fan in Massachusetts — says it was the right call, as reported at TrueHoop.

“By the way, there’s a wonderful film about that, and I hate to say it as an American, but it looks like the Russians were right,” Blatt said. “The American team was not cheated. Funny things happened, but in reality it was fair. It was fair.”

The USA and Russia will play each other Thursday in the FIBA World Championship quarterfinals, 38 years to the day after that infamous game.

The USA team now is filled with NBA players — young ones primarily this time around, but guys still seasoned by NBA-level play. Back in 1972 we sent our top college kids, that year led by Doug Collins (yes, Sixers coach Doug Collins) and Paul Westphaul (now the Kings coach). The team was coached by the legendary Henry Iba, who demanded a slow-paced offense and a focus on defense. Bill Walton was the notable absence, having been advised by doctors to take the summer off due to knee issues he was already having (although other factors about coaching and his USA experience in 1970 played into his decision).

The Russians had what was essentially a professional team, part of the Russian military technically the team was older and had played 400 games together ad were much older.

The USA had rolled almost untested to the gold medal game, but in the Russians found the most talented foe they had faced. And a team that like the slow pace the Americans were forced to play at by Iba.

Russia controlled this game. The USA was down by five points at halftime and at the start of the fourth quarter were down 10.

The USA’s Kevin Joyce sparked a comeback that had the USA down one with 30 seconds remaining. The Russians tried to protect that lead by running out the clock (there was no three point line at the time so today’s strategy of fouling was far less effective). Then Collins intercepted a Russian cross-court pass and went racing for a breakaway layup only to be fouled in the act of shooting.

Two pressure free throws, and he drained both. The USA was up one with three seconds on the clock.

The Russians inbounded the ball then with one second left the referees stopped the game. They gave in to complaints from the Russian coach that he had called a time out between Collins free throws that was never granted. Three seconds were put back on the clock and after the timeout given late the Russians got another chance.

The Russians inbounded the ball again, didn’t score and the USA players celebrated… until the referees said the Russians got to inbound the ball again. They said the clock had not been reset to three seconds and the play had to be done over. Again.

The third time a Russia’s Alexander Belov caught a length-of-the-court pass and laid in the game winner.

It was a game — played in then Soviet bloc East Germany — that was filled with Cold War implications and politics. Whether what happened or not was fair has divided the international basketball community ever sense. (Even some American writers, such as the Los Angeles Times Randy Harvey, weren’t convinced the USA was cheated.)

Thursday the teams and stakes will be completely different. But the ghost of the 1972 game will be haunting the game in Turkey, a shadow over the latest matchup in this rivalry.

Andrew Bogut comes up big for Warriors, who so often shun him to go small

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The Warriors’ Nuclear Lineup propelled them to the 2015 NBA championship. It has drawn praise from the President of the United States. It has been credited with revolutionizing basketball.

And it has marginalized Andrew Bogut.

Golden State has been at its best the last two years when benching Bogut for Andre Iguodala and shifting Draymond Green to center. That small-ball unit has defended well, pushed the pace and found quality shots.

But with the death lineup looking more vulnerable than ever – and, really, vulnerable at all for the first time – the Warriors turned to the starter who had sat and cheered his teammates in the biggest moments.

Bogut scored 15 points (his career playoff high) and grabbed 14 rebounds (his 2016 postseason high) in the Warriors’ Game 5 win over the the Thunder.

The biggest number: Bogut’s 30 minutes.

He played just 17, 16, 12 and 11 minutes in the series’ first four games. Foul trouble contributed, but so did Golden State’s sloppiness – turnovers and quick shots – that turned games into track meets. At 7 feet and age 31, Bogut isn’t built to keep up. But the Warriors slowed the game just enough to let Bogut shine.

Protecting the paint has two major components:

1. Preventing shots at the rim. Even the worst finishing teams score at point-blank range more efficiently than the best mid-range teams do between the paint and 3-point arc.

2. Forcing misses at the rim when the opponent gets off a shot. Obviously.

Golden State improved tremendously in both areas tonight.

The Warriors allowed a series-low 18 attempts in the restricted area:

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And they held Oklahoma City to a series-low 44% shooting in the restricted area:

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Add it up, and that means the Thunder made just eight shots in the restricted area – a third as many as Game 3 and half as many as any other game:

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Bogut was central to the interior defense. Oklahoma City shot just 3-for-10 (30%) in the restricted area with him on the floor and 5-for-8 (63%) with him off.

“Bogues is our best defender,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, providing news to the voters who picked Golden State forward Draymond Green second in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Green defended well tonight. But Bogut – who had two blocks and two steals – really drove the turnaround.

“It’s probably the key if you want to look for one thing – Bogues’ play leading to better defense,” Kerr said.

Add his quality finishing (7-for-9 from the field) and plus passing from the post (which generated two assists), and this was a real gem from Bogut – at a time the Warriors needed it most.

But can Bogut help them in Game 6 Saturday in Oklahoma City? He hasn’t played 30 minutes twice in three days in more than a year.

“I believe in Bogues,” Kerr said. “I think he can play that way in Game 6.”

Golden State will need him – or another way to defend the paint. Given the results of this series so far, including Green uncharacteristically struggling to protect the rim as the small-ball center, I’d turn to Bogut again.

Stephen Curry attacks rim, makes defensive plays, lifts Warriors to 120-111 win

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Stephen Curry wasn’t hitting threes like the video-game version of himself (the one we have come to expect), so he attacked the rim and made plays in the paint. The result was 31 points on 20 shots — and he set the tone for the Warriors all night.

Not just on offense, Curry had a key steal plus blocked a Kevin Durant shot late — highlighting an improved Warriors defense.

“I thought he looked like 91 percent,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr joked about Curry after the game (referencing the report Curry is just 70 percent healthy).

Curry played better than he had since Game 2 — so did Draymond Green, who had some offensive struggles but played the defense we know. The Warriors also got 27 points from Klay Thompson, and 15 points plus a lot great play in the paint from Andrew Bogut allowing the Warriors to stay with bigger lineups. Also, with Golden State attacking the rim, they got to the free throw line 34 times.

The result of all of it was a 120-111 Golden State win at home in Game 5, making the series 3-2.

Now the biggest test of the season comes for the Warriors — they will need to play better than this Saturday on the road in Oklahoma City to force a Game 7.

“We played with great energy, we played with great desperation, that’s the way you have to play in the playoffs,” Kerr said. “We were out of sorts the last two games, and we looked more like ourselves.”

The best way to describe Curry’s night was “good enough.” Credit to him attacking when his threes were not falling, look at his shot chart on the night.

Curry Game 5 shot chart

The Warriors also took the Thunder out of what had been successful for them the past couple games — OKC had just 15 fast break points (compared to 28 for the Warriors), the Warriors were +18 on points in the paint, and the Warriors outrebounded the Thunder on the night. The Warriors didn’t overthink thier defense on the Thunder in this one, they just did a better job of executing switches and, thanks to Bogut, taking away easy buckets inside.

Russell Westbrook and OKC struggled out of the gate — as a team, they shot 8-of-28 in the first quarter and at one point Westbrook missed 10 shots in a row. The Warriors were not hot with their typical shots — 2-of-10 from three — but they were getting to the rim and finishing better inside, which got them a lead in a game where Oracle Arena is rocking.

Steve Kerr did not dramatically change what had worked so well for Golden State all season, counting on his team to just be better — and it was, they outscored the Thunder small-ball lineup 20-15 in the first half (after being destroyed by it in the previous two games). The Thunder hung around in the second thanks to mid-range jumpers (5-of-7 in the second, plus 3-of-5 from three). But the Thunder did not get the same lift from their stars, Kevin Durant had 15 first half points on 15 shots, Westbrook had 13 on 14 shots (but still had six assists). Golden State led 58-50 at the half.

The Thunder opened the second half on a 9-2 run and things yo-yoed between tied and a small Warrior lead for much of the second half, until the Golden State’s bench pushed the lead into double digits again late in the third and early in the fourth. That lead held until the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter, when the Thunder went on an 8-0 run fueled by some sloppy Warriors turnovers.

But the Warriors showed more poise than they have in the past few games, holding on for the win, making plays at the end when they needed to.

Now, can they do that and better on the road?

Draymond Green banks in shot from logo after whistle (video)

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 26:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors warms up prior to Game Five of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Draymond Green missed both his 3-pointers prior, but he made this.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, it didn’t count because it came after a whistle (that few heard over the loud Golden State fans).

Stephen Curry sunk a 3-pointer later in the possession. That one counted.

Report: Khloe Kardashian files for divorce from Lamar Odom

Khloe Kardashian Odom, Lamar Odom
AP Photo/Evan Agostini
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1. Khloe Kardashian filed for divorce from Lamar Odom.

2. With Odom facing health problems after a drug overdose, they rescinded the filing.

3. Odom reportedly continued drinking, frustrating Kardashian.

Associated Press:

Court records in Los Angeles show Kardashian filed for divorce Thursday, citing irreconcilable differences.