Bulls start fast but can’t stop Stephen Curry, hot shooting Warriors comeback

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This was a meeting of two of the four best defenses in the NBA (yes, Golden State is one of the top four defenses in the NBA, it’s why they are a playoff threat).

The difference between the teams is Golden State has a player in Stephen Curry who is an elite scorer and can just flat out light up the scoreboard. Chicago’s guy who can do that is out injured (Derrick Rose did take a couple standing jumpers before the game, by the way). Chicago will scrap, they will not make it easy, but they don’t have the game changing offensive force on their team anymore.

Behind Curry, who finished with 34 points on 19 shots, the Warriors came from behind for a 102-87 win.

At the start of the game Golden State just did not seem prepared for the hustle, the aggressive defense of the Bulls — Chicago went on a 21-6 run as Golden State scored just 16 first quarter points on 36 percent shooting. For Chicago it was Kirk Hinrich who came out hot and had nine first quarter points. All night long the Bulls seemed able to get into the paint and make plays, guys like D.J. Augustin could get to the hole as the Warriors were without Andrew Bogut for the night (not to mention David Lee).

But Golden State found their groove and went on a 32-12 run to close out first half, which put the Warriors up 50-46 at the break. That run was sparked by Curry, who had 16 of his points in the second quarter — once he got going the Bulls had no answers on how to stop him.

It wasn’t just Curry, all the Warriors got hot — remove the first quarter from the game and Golden State shot 52.5 percent and hit 11-of-19 from three, outscoring the Bulls 86-58.

While Chicago would make runs— many sparked by Taj Gibson, who had a career-high 26 points — and they even grabbed a brief lead in the third quarter, they could not sustain the scoring like the Warriors. Chicago stayed within striking distance but an 11-2 Warriors run to close the game made it look like an easier Golden State win than it really was.

For Golden State, a defensive minded team, a win without Bogut is a quality win. Especially one where they had to come from behind against a feisty Bulls team. And they can thank Curry for it.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.