Gregg Popovich

Spurs coach Popovich believes Warriors are ‘for real’

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When San Antonio made their run to the Finals last year, they swept the depleted Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, and did the same to a very good Grizzlies team in the Western Conference Finals.

The only team to give the Spurs any modicum of postseason trouble besides the eventual champion Heat was the Golden State Warriors, who were able to cause enough problems to push that second round series to six games.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t believe that was a fluke, either. Speaking after beating a Warriors team playing without Stephen Curry by just two points on Friday, the tenured leader of basketball men gave his opponent the highest of praise.

From Sam Amick of USA Today:

“Well they’re for real,” Popovich said of the Warriors. “They’re really good offensively, (and) obviously they’re very talented. They’ve got an inside and outside game, and they’re really capable of scoring. If that was just it, then you’d call them a dangerous team where on any given night they can do you in. But they’re beyond that, because (Warriors coach) Mark (Jackson) has done a hell of a job in giving them a mentality, an aggressive, physical mentality defensively.

“He’s been demanding in that regard, and fortunately he’s got a group of character guys who want to do it right and get to the next level, and that’s what it takes. He initiated that last year. That takes them from a dangerous team to a solid, competitive team that can play with anybody. That’s who they are. Now it’s just a matter of being persistent and consistent about that, and reducing mistakes and understanding that it’s a long season. They’re definitely on the right path.”

Popovich has a history of being brutally honest, and isn’t ever in the business of giving out compliments when they’re not deserved.

Considering the success of the Spurs under Popovich as the league’s model franchise over the past 17 seasons, Golden State fans should be extremely optimistic about the future given his positive assessment.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. 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.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: