Klay Thompson shoots the Warriors past the Spurs to win Game 2, even the series

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In many ways, Game 2 between the Warriors and the Spurs was similar to Game 1. Golden State got out to a large lead behind one of its guards shooting the lights out, and San Antonio was stuck playing from behind the rest of the way.

The first game of the series saw the Spurs go on an incredible late run to erase their opponent’s early success, and they were able to pull it out after more than one overtime session. There would be no such heroics on this night, as the Warriors held off San Antonio 100-91 to steal home court advantage and even the series at a game apiece.

In Game 1, Stephen Curry was the one doing the damage for the Warriors. But after a decent first half in Game 2, he was largely held in check the rest of the night.

Klay Thompson was the killer for Golden State from the very start, pouring in 29 first half points while knocking down seven of his eight attempts from three-point distance. The Warriors built a lead of 19 points by halftime on the strength of Thompson’s hot hand, and unlike the first game of the series, were able to get just enough in the second half to keep the Spurs at bay.

Thompson finished with a game high 34 points and 14 rebounds, on 13-of-26 shooting, including 8-of-9 from beyond the three-point arc. He also did an excellent job defensively in helping to limit Tony Parker, who finished just 7-of-17 from the field with 20 points. Thompson fouled out near the end of regulation in Game 1 just before the Spurs embarked on their huge comeback, and his defense was sorely missed.

The Warriors cooled considerably in the second half, as Thompson and Curry combined to shoot 5-of-19 from the field over the game’s final two periods. The Spurs once again made a run, and twice cut the lead to six in the fourth quarter. But despite the overall low shooting percentage that Golden State suffered through in the second half, the team managed to find an answer offensively each time — first with a three from Draymond Green, and later with an incredible scoop shot finger roll from Curry with under four minutes to play that extended his team’s lead back to eight.

San Antonio tried to shoot their way back into it quickly from distance, yet managed to connect on just five of its 14 second half attempts from three-point range.

There are a lot of positives the Warriors will take with them back home to Oracle Arena for the next two games. They were able to get both of their guards going separately in each of the first two games, and they showed maturity in Game 2 by not collapsing again as they had in Game 1 of the series.

For the Spurs, the lesson is clear. If you let Curry or Thompson get loose early, they’ll torch you for a big performance that will be extremely difficult to stop. Both Mark Jackson and Gregg Popovich had their own take on the Warriors’ stellar shooters after this one.

“I thought it was polite of them to at least take turns and not both be on fire on the same night,” Popovich joked.

Jackson, however, was much more proud in praise of his guys.

“I’ve said, I’ve got the greatest shooting backcourt that’s ever played the game,” Jackson said. “Call my bluff.”

The Spurs would be wise not to do that for the remainder of this series.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr. planned to have J. Cole dunk in dunk-contest routine

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Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. seemed pretty steamed about getting eliminated in the first round of the dunk contest:

The dunk-contest scoring system – five judges ranking dunks on a scale of 6-10 – is plenty flawed. There should have been a larger difference between the Smith and Victor Oladipo dunks the Dallas point guard mentioned. But Oladipo didn’t advance, either. Personally, I thought the right two players – eventual-winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. – advanced.

Maybe Smith was more upset about the missed opportunity – dunks (plural!) involving rapper J. Cole.

Amin El-Hassan of ESPN on Black Opinions Matter:

If Dennis had made it to the finals, Cole was going to throw him the alley-oop. But then the plan was, he was going to throw him the oop, Dennis would dunk it, and then Cole would catch the ball, and then he’d dunk it too. That was going to be the ill, craziest dunk-contest use of a prop or a person ever. But we never got to saw it, because they were holding out until the final round. They didn’t want to bring it out in the first round.

This certainly would have been unprecedented and cool. But unless Smith had something amazing planned for the alley-oop, the best element would have been Cole dunking. That would have upstaged Smith, who’s presumably the one being judged.

For what it’s worth, Cole can dunk. We’ve seen it in the celebrity game:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard returns this season

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When announcing last month Kawhi Leonard was out indefinitely due to a lingering quad injury, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dismissed the idea his star forward would miss the rest of the season:

Apparently, Popovich’s expectation has changed.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

The Spurs (35-24) are third in the West despite Leonard playing just nine games. Popovich has done a great job (maybe Coach of the Year-worthy). LaMarcus Aldridge is having a bounce-back season in a leading role. Pau Gasol leads a supporting cast of players good in their roles.

But San Antonio’s ceiling is so much lower without Leonard.

He’s an elite defender who shuts down opposing scorers on the perimeter and can comfortably switch inside. He can isolate offensively to score efficiently, and he spaces the floor off the ball with strong 3-point shooting. Those are all skills that translate to the playoffs.

Without him, the Spurs rely too heavily on older, slower defenders. That’s ripe to be exploited in the postseason.

Teams might even jockey to match up with San Antonio – the most vulnerable-appearing Western Conference team in line to get home-court advantage in the first round.

Of course, this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of Leonard returning. Popovich could just be trying to shut down speculation. He clearly doesn’t like discussing this issue.

But the Spurs are the most cautious team on injuries. If Leonard risks further injury, they’ll keep him sidelined.

This injury has already caused tension. This won’t help.

Mark Cuban’s fine third-largest known fine in NBA history

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While explaining how he told his players the team was better off losing this season, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said “I’m probably not supposed to say this” and “Adam would hate hearing that.”

Cuban was right.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver fined Cuban $600,000 for “public statements detrimental to the NBA.” The league doesn’t announce all its fines, but that’s the third-largest known fine in NBA history.

The leaderboard:

1. Timberwolves, $3.5 million in 2000 (signing under-the-table agreement with Joe Smith)

2. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, $2.5 million in 2014 (making racist comments)

3. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $600,000 in 2018 (saying he told his players the team is better off losing)

4. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $500,000 in 2002 (criticizing officiating)

4. Knicks, $500,000 in 2006 (fighting Nuggets)

4. Nuggets, $500,000 2006 (fighting Knicks)

4. Vladimir Radmanovic, $500,000 in 2007 (injuring his shoulder while snowboarding)

4. Pistons general manager Joe Dumars, $500,000 in 2010 (leaking confidential league memos)

4. Heat owner Micky Arison, $500,000 in 2011 (tweets during the lockout breaking rank with other owners)

I’d be on Cuban (and/or the Mavericks) getting yet another spot on this list following the investigation of the franchise for a culture tolerant of sexual harassment and domestic abuse. That one will probably be deserved – not just the league trying to preserve the illusion of pure competition amid a system that incentivizes losing.

Mark Cuban fined $600,000 for telling team “losing is our best option”

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Of all the hot water Mark Cuban is in right now with the Mavericks and the NBA league office, this is probably the smallest tub. And the least expensive fine.

Cuban recently went on Julius Erving’s podcast, House Call with Dr. J, and said:

“I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night. And here we are, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, “Look, losing is our best option.” Adam would hate hearing that, but at least I sat down, and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again.”

You were not supposed to say that — the NBA Wednesday fined Cuban $600,000 for “for public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Cuban’s not wrong, it’s just a matter of perception. The NBA has worked very hard to lessen the image that teams are tanking for draft position (why do you think there was pressure on the Sixers to replace Sam Hinkie?), they don’t need an owner saying it’s the smart thing to do. Even though it is. Teams tank — it is still the only way for a small or medium market team to get a superstar, get high in the draft and hopefully pick one (it’s not that simple, ask the Magic) — but the league wants at least the facade that all of its teams are competitive. All the way through the end of the season.

As you read this, the bottom eight teams in the NBA are within three games of each other for the worst record — and a higher lottery slot. Does anyone think any of them are not going to roll out young, less-talented rosters in the name of development when the real goal is to lose as many games as they can the rest of the way? Most scouts think there is some real talent at the top of this draft, and teams are going to try to get up there and get it.

Just nobody can talk about it.