Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson (11)

Breaking down last three minutes of Warriors 106-105 win over Nuggets.


This game was crazy. And fun. Both teams had and gave up double-digit leads. The end involved missed shots, replay and about as close to a game going the other way as it can.

For something a little different, rather than a traditional recap, let’s just recap in some detail the final three minutes of this game and how that showed the trends of the entire night:

102-102 tie, 2:56 left (Warriors ball): David Lee is working at the elbow extended draws and the defense out then makes a nifty pass to Klay Thompson who had cut from the weakside along the baseline to get the ball on the strong side low post. His problem is Kenneth Faried switches onto him quickly and now lords over him. Thompson tries to swing into the middle for a shot but Faried rejects it. This is what Faried did all night — he seemed to be everywhere grabbing rebounds, playing good defense and just working harder than everyone. Like Manimal always does. He is just fun to watch and this was a good game from him.

Denver takes the ball off the blocked shot and pushes the pace in transition, and while the defense is focused on not giving Ty Lawson a lane to drive — something they struggled to do all night, he carved them up — Andre Iguodala runs to the arc on the right side and after a pass steps into a wide-open three that rims out. Golden State gets the rebound.

After taking some time off the clock, Jarrett Jack and Lee run a side pick-and-roll, both defenders go with Jack and he hits the rolling Lee feet from he rim. Faried is a split-second late on the rotation and Lee both makes the bucket and gets an and-1 chance (he missed the free throw). Lee was on top of his offensive game all night — he played smart on offense and just scored, putting up 31 points. He made shots isolated in the post, off the pick-and-roll, in transition, he was 13-of-15 shooting and had a fantastic offensive game. (If we knock Lee’s defense we would have to knock everyone’s in this game. The fans got their money’s worth of offense but no D.)

104-102 Golden State, 2:07: Lawson brings it up off the missed free throw and the Warriors defense isn’t set, so Lawson finds a wide-open Corey Brewer in the left corner corner but Brewer misses the shot.

Warriors don’t run much of an offensive set, Curry just hangs out up high and eventually fires up and misses a three, but Jack gets and offensive rebound. Curry tried to pass inside this time but Denver deflects it out of bounds. Then on the inbounds pass Jack just throws it to nobody and it is a turnover.

Denver takes the turnover and it is off to the races. In transition Lawson passes to Brewer who is fouled going to the rim. But Brewer only hits one of two free throws.

104-103 Golden State, 1:26 left: Jack runs a high pick-and-roll with Lee and Denver handles it about as poorly as you can — Lawson can’t fight over the top but Danilo Gallinari doesn’t show out, or really do much of anything but stand there like a marble Italian statue, so Jack drives into the wide open lane. Faried is the help but he is late and Jack hits a layup high off the glass. With that Jack had 18 points on the night.

106-103 Golden State, 1:12 left: Early in the clock Lawson decides to just drive on Stephen Curry, Lawson tried to initiate contact he didn’t get the foul call and the ball just goes off him out of bounds. That would be Denver’s fifth turnover of the quarter

Jack is in control of the offensive set for Golden State and he keeps going off picks until he can find a little daylight in the lane, but not much. The result is him driving the right side then trying an awkward looking 11-foot fadeaway that airballs.

Denver works it around but the ball eventually goes to Gallinari who tries to take Carl Landry off the dribble and he almost does, but his three-foot runner rims out.

Again, it’s Jarrett Jack with the ball. Not Stephen Curry. Jack uses up some clock then again drives and this time uses some hesitation moves to get himself a nice 15-foot look, but that won’t go down either, it is off the back rim.

Gallinari gets the rebound and pushes it up (I love that George Karl didn’t call a timeout here, he told his team to play) and Gallinari passes to Iguodala. The Warriors have a foul to give and Jack tries to use it while Iguodala tries to go into the shooting motion. The referees called it a shooting foul and while they reviewed this all they can review is if it is a three or not. Which is good for Denver because the replay showed it was not a shooting foul, but the refs can’t reverse that.

So Iguodala has three free throws to tie the game with just 3.4 seconds left. He drains the first. He drains the second. But the third clangs off the rim, however it goes out of bounds of Lee. And Denver gets a last chance.

106-105, 2.1 seconds left, Denver ball side out of bounds. Andre Miller is making the pass and while the rest of the Nuggets try to come to the ball Lawson runs basically a football curl route on the weakside and Miller tries to hit him with a pass so he is isolated but the entire thing never comes together or looks like it had a chance to. But the ball is off Golden with 0.5 seconds left.

Denver gets one last chance and somehow the Warriors and their spotty defense all night lose track of Iguodala who gets the pass catches and shoots and drains the three — but replay shows it still on his finger tips as the red lights go on and time expires. It was as close as can be but it was the right call.

The Warriors got lucky, and they got the win.

LeBron James says he can still win MVP with reduced workload, cites Stephen Curry

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 02:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers with the ball against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 2, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The door is open for LeBron James to win a legacy-altering fifth MVP.

But his Cavaliers could also win another championship, leaving Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue planning to limit LeBron’s minutes in preparation of a long playoff run.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN

“No,” James said Saturday when asked if he was concerned that planned rest could affect his MVP case. “Because Steph played 31 minutes a game and he won the MVP.”

“Well, I’ve never set into a season saying I want to win MVP,” he said. “I’ve always thought of the season saying I want to be MVP for my team and it’s resulted in me getting four of them. So I’ve been available, for the most part, every night and I’ve been available on both sides of the floor. I’ve been healthy.

Curry won 2015 MVP while playing 32.7 minutes per game, the fewest by any MVP. He played 34.2 minutes per game last season, third-fewest by an MVP – ahead of just himself and 1978 Bill Walton, who played 33.3 minutes per game.

To contrast, LeBron has set career lows the last two seasons with 36.1 and 35.6 minutes per game. So, LeBron could get a reduced workload and still play more than Curry did.

But Curry, to some degree is an anomaly. He often sat late in games with his Warriors on the right side of blowouts. The Cavs aren’t good enough regularly rest LeBron as much in those situations.

It’s not that voters care directly about minutes. But the less LeBron plays, the lower his per-game averages will be and the less Cleveland will win. Those factors matter significantly.

LeBron can overcome that. He’s darned good, and there could be a push to reward him after the last two Finals have shown he’s still better than Curry when it matters most.

Playing fewer minutes per game won’t eliminate LeBron from the MVP race, not even close. But it will – and should – hurt his case. After all, MVP should reward the player who does the most to help his team win. MVP-caliber players don’t significantly help while sitting on the bench.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder prepare for life without Kevin Durant

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a preseason game at American Airlines Center on October 11, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Maybe life after Kevin Durant won’t be so bad for the Thunder.

After the longtime face of the franchise left for Golden State, crestfallen Oklahoma City fans were worried it was just a matter of time before the team’s co-star, Russell Westbrook, would follow suit. In a move that shocked many, Westbrook re-signed with Oklahoma City. The former scoring champion and two-time All-Star MVP’s return gives the team hope.

New faces such as shooting guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domantas Sabonis, both acquired in the deal that sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando, might take some time to fit in. Westbrook believes the team is talented enough to succeed if it is focused and the new pieces blend with the old ones who helped the Thunder reach the Western Conference Finals last season.

“Just play hard, man,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know, win or lose. The only thing I know is that as long as we play hard, we give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

Westbrook could post historic numbers. He averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds last season and had 18 triple-doubles, the most since Magic Johnson had 18 during the 1981-82 season. Without Durant, more of that could be on the way.

Sabonis, a rookie out of Gonzaga who played for Lithuania’s Olympic team, played with the starters throughout the preseason. Oladipo averaged 15.9 points and 4.0 assists in three years with Orlando. He joins Westbrook to form arguably the most athletic backcourt tandem in the NBA.

“Defensively, I think we can be the best defensive backcourt in the league because we can do different things with our size and using our length and our speed,” Westbrook said.

Here are some things to watch for the Thunder:

Steven Adams

The 7-footer from New Zealand was already a top-notch defender and rebounder before stepping up his offense and averaging 10.1 points during the playoffs last season. In his final two preseason games, he scored 20 points against Minnesota and 17 points against Denver. He could be a breakout star.

“I think we’ve had an opportunity these last two nights (against Minnesota and Denver) how good he is around the basket, how smart he has become and how much of a presence he is in the middle,” Westbrook said.

Enes Kanter

The natural expectation was that Ibaka’s departure would prompt coach Billy Donovan to move Kanter, who finished third in balloting for the league’s sixth-man award last season, into the starting lineup. Instead, Donovan started Sabonis throughout the preseason. Perhaps Donovan knows best – Sabonis showed he can hang with the starters, and Kanter averaged 17.8 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 61.7 percent in the preseason.


Oklahoma City’s defense could slip with Ibaka in Orlando. Sabonis has great potential, but he’s young, and NBA defense takes some time to learn. Donovan said Sabonis has caught on quickly, but there still could be a dip early because Ibaka’s level of play is difficult to replace – he was a three-time first-team All-NBA defender and a two-time blocks leader.


The Thunder added several foreign players to the roster who will add depth – Spain’s Alex Abrines, France’s Joffrey Lauvergne and Turkey’s Ersan Ilyasova. Donovan said he likes the maturity foreign players add to a team. Abrines played for Spain’s national team that earned bronze medals at the Olympics. Lauvergne played for France in Rio.


Andre Roberson has shifted from the starting shooting guard to starting small forward. That means the Thunder still have Roberson’s dynamic athletic ability, defensive prowess and nose for the ball on the boards in the lineup. He was a liability on offense in the past, but he started becoming more of a factor on offense during the playoffs last season.

“I think he feels more comfortable and confident offensively,” Donovan said. “He’s put forth effort in that area. It’s just him continuing to grow offensively and trying to put him in situations where he slashes to the basket and he can cut and he can get out in transition and he can take his open corner threes.”

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP

Raptors’ Jared Sullinger to have foot surgery, miss “extended time”

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 19:  Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics looks on from the bench against the Atlanta Hawks in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 19, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors are counting on Jared Sullinger to cover for the loss of Bismack Biyombo by crashing the boards, helping them space the floor on offense, and just being solid.

But they are going to have to get by without him for a while, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports, and confirmed by the team.

There is no timeline for Sullinger’s return, but it’s going to be a while. Sullinger had battled a stress reaction in his foot a year ago, this is likely an extension of that problem.

This certainly hurts the Raptors’ depth up front, but it’s also not a massive setback for a team with lofty aspirations this season. Patrick Patterson will get more minutes, which is a good thing, plus the Raptors need to play DeMarre Carroll more at the four. They can wait for Sullinger (who they signed this summer after Boston let him walk in the wake of signing Al Horford.

Heat waive Beno Udrih, Briante Webber, two others to keep Rodney McGruder

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  Beno Udrih #19 of the Miami Heat drives on Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs during a game  at American Airlines Arena on February 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice:  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Beno Udrih sacrificed $90,000 last season to get the Heat an additional $2.7 million last season.

They repaid him with more than $1.5 million this season (though less than $1 million of it from their own pockets).

And that’s all they gave him.

Miami won’t even give Udrih a regular-season roster spot, waiving him to allow Rodney McGruder to make the team.

Heat release:

The Miami HEAT announced today that they have waived Vashil Fernandez, Luis Montero, Beno Udrih, Brianté Weber and Okaro White.

To recap: Out for the rest of the final season of his guaranteed contract due to injury, Udrih took a buyout that lowered his compensation by $90,000 last season. That brought the Heat under the luxury-tax line, preventing them from paying the repeater rate and allowing them to receive about $2.5 million given to non-tax-paying teams. Miami then re-signed Udrih this offseason, giving him a one-year, $1,551,659 fully guaranteed contract. Most players with guaranteed salaries stick into the regular season, but it seems the Heat paid Udrih for a reason other than their faith in him as a backup point guard.

Here’s the kicker: Because Udrih was a 12-year veteran on a one-year minimum contract, the league – funded by the very teams that rightfully protested Miami’s arrangement – has to fund $571,228 of his salary.

The Heat seemed high on Briante Weber, but he’s young and needs polish. McGruder, who went undrafted out of Kansas State in 2013, is probably more capable of helping now.

This leaves Miami without a clear backup point guard behind Goran Dragic, but combo guards Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson can handle the role.