Warriors coach Jackson defends playing small, David Lee

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It wasn’t coach Mark Jackson’s plan to play a lot of small ball at Golden State — he wanted Andrew Bogut to be the guy in the middle. But with Bogut out for much of the young season, Jackson has gone small, playing David Lee and Carl Landry as the Warriors front line a lot.

And that has run into the issue that David Lee is struggling this season — he is scoring 6 fewer points per game and is shooting 8.2 percent worse than last season. Through seven games he has a career low PER (13.4, below the league average). And he’s never been a defensive stopper.

Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com asked Jackson the big question following a surrendered lead and loss to Denver the night before: Is David Lee hurting the team defensively?

”I wouldn’t think that he’s hurting us defensively at all. Has he played his best basketball? No. He’s played well in spurts. There have been nights when he’s been very good. He’s got to rebound better. We need him to rebound better. There’s no question about that.

“And I’m going to put pressure on him to be that go-to guy, finishing out possessions by rebounding the basketball. I would definitely say he’s not playing his best basketball. But I’m not concerned. Because I know how hard he works, he’s not pointing the finger at anybody else and he will respond.”

Actually, Lee is grabbing about the same percentage of rebounds now as he did last season.

The Warriors defense is actually about the middle of the pack in the league overall, but they are going to struggle on the boards with a Landry/Lee front line if they have to play a team like Denver with JaVale McGee.

Jackson also defended his decisions to play small, but it’s his best move — Golden State has had some good success with the Landry/Lee front line when it is paired with Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson (via 82games.com). Shooters, shot creators and guys that hustle along the front line can have success in the league.

If that and some small lineups can keep the Warriors hanging around .500 their playoff dream stays alive. But in a deep West they can’t dig a hole.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.