Clippers survive everything, come from behind to beat Warriors in Game 7

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It was a week more emotional, more intense than any in Clipper history.

Yet through it all they found a way. They found a way to score 70 points in the second half of Game 7. They found a way a way to have balance and four guys scoring more than 20 points in Game 7. They found a way to dominate up front with their big men just enough.

They found a way to win and advance.

The Clippers beat Golden State 126-121 in an all-offense Game 7, giving the Clippers the series win. Los Angeles now advances to face Oklahoma City in round two starting Tuesday night in OKC.

Golden State heads into a summer with a lot of questions, among those at the top is whether coach Mark Jackson will be retained.

Going into this series the consensus was that without Andrew Bogut the Warriors were not going to be able to slow the high-flying Clippers, they would just have to outscore them. That’s basically how Game 7 went down.

The Warriors got 33 points from Stephen Curry on 7-of-17 shooting — he got to the line 16 times and made al 16 shots. The surprise was that Draymond Green became their most reliable second scorer, putting up 24 points in another start as the Warriors went small to battle the Clippers. Green was 9-of-13 shooting on the night. The Warriors didn’t play small much during the regular season but they adapted in this series and played well.

Golden State started out hot in this one, shooting 4-of-5 from three in the first quarter and finishing the first 12 minutes on a 9-1 run to lead 32-22 after one. The Warriors did that despite having 7 turnovers (they had more turnovers than missed shots, 5), part of the 18 they had for the game.

The Golden State role players kept coming up big. There was Green, there was Marreese Speights, there was Jordan Crawford who hit ridicuouls shots and had a dozen.

All of that had the Warriors up 64-56 at the half. Golden State had a true shooting percentage of 70 for the first half.

In the third quarter the Clippers guards led the comeback — J.J. Redick had 10, Chris Paul 8 in the frame and the Clippers owned the third 31-20.

The fourth quarter was entertaining because neither side could get a stop. The Clippers would get into the lane and had several alley-oops and putback dunks as their athleticism up front overwhelmed Golden State — the Clippers had 62 points in the paint on the night (38 for the Warriors). The Warriors though would just keep making shots, making plays. The Warriors role players were better but the Clippers did get 22 points out of Joran Crawford.

It wasn’t a dominant performance, it wasn’t the kind of game where when it was over you thought, “these Clippers can beat anybody.” Then again nobody in the West has played like that in the first round, all the potential contenders had their stumbles.

No team in the league faced what the Clippers did.

And if what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the Clippers should be hard as diamonds going into round two.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.

 

Kenyon Martin: I once played high

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Former NBA commissioner David Stern said the league began testing for marijuana because players complained of other players playing high. Chauncey Billups said he knew teammates who played better high.

But Stephen Jackson is the rare former NBA player who admitted to playing high.

Now, he has company.

Kenyon Martin – who played for the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks in a 15-year career – via Bleacher Report:

We were playing in Indiana one day. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hamstring, a hip or something. So, I smoked. I wasn’t going to play originally. So, we got to the arena, and I’m like, “I feel good.” I went and told the trainer, “I’m going to go today.” I went out there and had a great game.

If you want to guess which game this was, here are the possibilities.

This was part of a great feature on marijuana in the NBA and NFL. Matt Barnes, Al Harrington and Gary Paton also participate. I highly recommend (pun intended) watching it in full.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly: Next season playoffs or bust

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The Nuggets have steadily improved over the last four years – 30-52 to 33-49 to 40-42 to 46-36.

But even 46 wins weren’t enough to get Denver into the playoff this season, extending the postseason drought to five years.

Nuggets president Connelly, via Gina Mizell of The Denver Post:

On if next season is “playoffs or bust”:

“I think we’re there. How many times can you be the bridesmaid? Our young core, three of our best players are 23 (Gary Harris), 22 (Jokic) and 21 (Jamal Murray), and they’ve proven they’re capable of doing it at the highest level. I think all of us are, quite frankly, sick of this time of the year having a press conference.”

There’s certainly something to be said for injecting urgency. The Nuggets are already good enough to make the playoffs. They just happened to play in a historically deep Western Conference. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take more responsibility.

Denver lost to the Hawks (twice), Grizzlies (twice without Mikey Conley), Mavericks, Kings and Nets this season. Flip any of those games, and the Nuggets would have made the playoffs.

But I’m not sure what “or bust” means.

Connelly said Michael Malone would return as coach next season. If Denver misses the playoffs, would he get fired? Would Connelly come on the hot seat? What if the Nuggets again produce a record that typically qualifies for the postseason?

Even if Denver misses the playoffs next year, the 2019-20 team would have a 22-year-old Jamal Murray, 25-year-old Gary Harris and probably a 24-year-old Nikola Jokic under contract. That’s still a pretty good place to be.

Because of Jokic’s rapid ascent, the Nuggets are trying to accelerate the timeline. They most notably signed Paul Millsap last summer. (Injury cost him most of the season and contributed to Denver falling short.) They could also emphasize the present by re-signing Will Barton this offseason.

But playoffs or not next year, the Nuggets have a bright future. Connelly just doesn’t want them leaning on that excuse, though following through on his edict could create complications if Denver again narrowly misses the postseason with a good record.