A closeout game is always the hardest win to get in a series. This is especially true when battling on the road and even more so when that road environment is one of the most raucous in the league. The Spurs, then, have their hands full when they visit Oracle Arena in Oakland and try to end the Warriors’ season in game 6.
But this isn’t as much about what the Spurs need to do in order to win, but what the Warriors need to do in order to avoid going down on their home floor. They can expect their fans to give them that extra boost, but in the end they’ll need their core players to step up and provide the production on the floor to extend this series to a 7th game.
What this really means is getting more production from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Both have had one huge game in this series, but have faltered in recent contests. In game 5 the duo combined for only 13 points on 6-22 shooting, struggling to escape the pressure defense the Spurs threw at them all night. The question, though, is whether the Warriors have the ability to crack San Antonio’s defensive code and get them that space they need to hit shots.
Curry is still clearly affected by his sprained left ankle and hasn’t shown his normal burst or ability to change directions to get separation to shoot his jumper. When the Warriors run pick and rolls, he is being crowded by the hedging big man while also being chased over the top of picks by his own defender. Meanwhile Thompson is being hounded all over the floor by Kawhi Leonard, getting chased off the three point line and challenged when he pulls up for his mid-range jumper or when he tries to drive all the way to the rim.
I don’t see the Spurs changing their approach with either player and that puts the onus on head coach Mark Jackson and the players themselves to make the proper adjustments this game. Continuing to try and push the pace in order to attack before the Spurs get set defensively will help. As will running more off ball screen sets for both in order to free them up. But if Curry and Thompson can’t get it going, even if Jarrett Jack and Harrison Barnes continue to play well, it will be too difficult for Golden State to get the win.
For the Spurs, they simply must continue to refine what they’re doing on both sides and make the Warriors work on every possession. If they can continue to execute and play with the discipline they’ve had for most of the series, I see them making it very hard on the Warriors in this game.
The Warriors aren’t going to give up and their home crowd will prop them up when things go poorly and elevate them higher if they play well. But the Spurs look to be the better team at this point and if they stick to the plan they’ve deployed over the last couple of games, I don’t see that changing.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.
Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.
Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.
Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.
Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.
It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:
I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.
Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.
Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).
Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.
Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.
There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:
He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.
We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.
With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.
“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”
The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.
But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.
They Cavaliers have had a frustratingly lousy offseason.
They ousted trusted general manager David Griffin. Since, they’ve watched Golden State load up while their roster stagnates, as stars like Paul George and Jimmy Butler have landed elsewhere. Now, Kyrie Irving is requesting a trade and reportedly blaming LeBron James for that leaking.
LeBron has practically thrown up his hands and left ownership and management to figure out everything.
But LeBron – with rumors swirling about him leaving in 2018 free agency – won’t take an earlier exit.
Chris Haynes of ESPN:
LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause for any teams at any point during the 2017-18 season, league sources tell ESPN.
Cleveland essentially has two options with Irving:
1. Trade him for better, older players
2. Trade him for worse, younger players
No. 2 becomes much more palatable if the Cavs can also flip LeBron (and Kevin Love) and launch into a full rebuild. But as long as LeBron is around, it’s hard not to contend for a title.
But if they trade Irving for immediate help and LeBron leaves next summer, the Cavaliers could be left with a ghastly roster. That might be the risk they’re forced to take now.
It’s hard to believe the Cavs would trade beloved LeBron, even if he didn’t hold veto power. It would turn owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman into Cleveland villains, co-conspirators in LeBron leaving again. If Gilbert and Altman dare LeBron to leave in free agency, LeBron would have to own the decision himself.
Still, if LeBron and Irving would return incredible hauls of younger players and draft picks – I can’t even imagine what LeBron would draw in a trade – Gilbert and Altman should at least consider it. It just doesn’t seem the Cavs will have that option.