In coronation of modern NBA offense, Warriors shoot Cavaliers down to win NBA title

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It ended up being a coronation for the modern NBA offense. Hopefully dispelling once and for all the idea that a jump-shooting team can’t win an NBA title.

Golden State was the best team in the NBA all season long. They were elite on offense, knocking down ridiculous threes, but they were elite on defense as well. They were te best team through the playoffs and into the NBA Finals.

Tuesday night Cleveland tried again to counter the small ball, up-tempo, ball movement offense of Golden State by going big. And the Cavs put up some points, center Timofey Mozgov finished with 17 points and the Cavaliers had 46 points in the paint.

But Cleveland could not get stops with that lineup. Then again, every team had trouble getting stops against the Warriors all season long. Stephen Curry had 25 points, Andre Iguodala chipped in 25 himself on the way to winning the Finals MVP.

Golden State beat the Cavaliers 105-97 to take the NBA Finals four games to two. This was the Warriors first title since 1975.

source: Getty Images
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Golden State capped off one of the statistically best seasons in NBA history with an NBA title. One they had to earn on the road against the best player in the world — LeBron James did all he could finishing with 32 points (on 33 shots), 18 rebounds and nine assists.

“There’s been all this talk this year about the three point shot, can you win shooting it,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “There’s a lot of different styles that can work, you have to base it on your own personnel. But what was overlooked all year long is what really wins is the combination of great offense and great defense. We had the No. 1 defense in the league, we had the highest scoring team in the league. We were number one in assists, we were number one in field goal percentage defense. When you get that combination you’re going to be pretty good.”

Cleveland fans, desperate for a title that the city has not seen since 1964, can try to console themselves with how well this team played despite the loss of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to injuries in the playoffs. This team will be back to the Finals in the coming years.

“This is a process,” Warriors coach David Blatt said. “You don’t wake up one morning and fall out of bed and expect to win the NBA Championship.  You hope that you can, but it doesn’t always work that way, and our guys did more than anyone could expect to put themselves and put our organization in this situation.”

But as it had been all season, the best was in the West.

“We were fortunate in a lot of ways this year, but maybe number one was health,” Kerr said. “To win a title there is obviously a lot of work, but a lot of luck as well. And we had a lot of luck on our side this year and our guys took advantage of that.”

Golden State expected a storm from a desperate Cleveland team to open the game. That happened. The Warriors started 1-of-4 for shooting, while the Cavaliers got points in the paint, jumping out to a 7-2 lead. That didn’t last long; the Warriors came back on a 9-1 run to take the lead on a Curry corner three. Golden State was back to playing its game — they assisted on 11 of first 12 buckets, shot 54.5 percent in the first quarter and led 28-15 after one.

But Golden State struggled to keep up the scoring pace in the second quarter, going 1-of-10 shooting. They attacked the rim but  Mozgov had three blocks and was owning the paint. Cleveland got the lead down to two as they held Golden State to 27 percent shooting in the second quarter while LeBron had 11 of his 15 first-half points in the second.

It was 45-43 Warriors at the half, but it felt like LeBron was pacing himself, holding something back so they would not fade in the fourth quarter again. That or he was too gassed to take over. It may ultimately have been more of the latter, despite his once again impressive numbers.

Early in the third, the Warriors kept driving at Mozgov, and it still didn’t work, allowing the Cavaliers take a brief lead. Then the Warriors decided to kick out and shoot the three again, and the the Warriors went on a 16-4 run stretching the lead back out to 10. It felt like LeBron was going to take charge for a few moments, but he continued to play more facilitator.

The Warriors continued to get production from their bench, for example 10 points in 11 minutes from Festus Ezeli. That bench allowed them to rest their key starters for stretches and not fall apart, so their players were ready to make a push in the fourth. The Cavaliers could not do that with LeBron.

After three quarters, the Warriors led bench scoring 19-9 and the game 73-61.

Everyone kept waiting for the Cavaliers run in the fourth quarter, and it didn’t come until the final couple minutes, after the game seemed out of hand. They closed the gap all the way down to four in the last minute, but the Cavs had to foul and the Warriors hit just enough free throws to survive.

And win the first title for Bay Area hoop fans in 40 years.

Jimmy Butler leaves game with apparently serious right knee injury

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The Basketball Gods have not been appeased, and apparently have dealt the NBA another serious injury to a star player.

Jimmy Butler — Minnesota’s leader, an All-Star, and a guy having a fringe of the MVP ballot NBA season — went down grabbing his knee on this play against the Rockets Friday night.

Butler reportedly said “it’s torn” while being helped off the court.

After the game, Tom Thibodeau said it was a right knee injury that would be re-evaluated with an MRI tomorrow.

This is a non-contact injury that has the appearance of an ACL tear (hope that is not the case). Butler had ripped an offensive rebound away from Nene and was making a move to go back up when he went to the ground grabbing his knee.

Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game. He was selected an All-Star but chose to sit out that game because he said he needed rest for the rest of the season. His coach, Tom Thibodeau, has a reputation for running players into exhaustion with heavy use (ask Joakim Noah) and does not subscribe to the kind of rest we see in Golden State, San Antonio, and other elite programs trying to keep players fresh.

This is troubling for a Timberwolves team looking to end an 11-year playoff drought — Minnesota is -8.3 points per 100 possessions when Butler is not on the court this season. While tied for the three seed going into Friday night, Minnesota is just four games from falling out of the playoffs in a competitive West.

Jimmy Butler to Lou Williams on All-Star snub: put up $100K for 1-on-1 game

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Jimmy Butler earned his spot on the All-Star team — he’s had an All-NBA, bottom of the MVP ballot level season. He deserved the trip to Los Angeles.

But when he got there, Butler didn’t play in the All-Star Game itself, saying he needed to rest. That frustrated a few All-Star snubs, and Lou Williams called him out on it.

Butler fired back before the Timberwolves took on the Houston Rockets.

“My thing is this, to Lou or anyone else who thinks they’re an All-Star, with all due respect, LeBron and them got $100,000 for winning, so if you got $100k to put up, you guard me I guard you, I’ gonna show you why. All this talk, put $100,000 up and I’ll show you why and where I’m at.” (That may have been paraphrased)

Butler earned his spot, he deserved to be there. He can do as he sees fit.

But if you’re not going to roll out there for even five minutes (LaMarcus Aldridge played four and nobody is saying anything to him), then give the spot up to someone else. You don’t need the $100K that badly.

Kevin Durant no fan of one-and-done, says he would have come straight to NBA

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With the money funneled to future NBA players through agents in the spotlight thanks to a FBI investigation (one that doesn’t even get into the money from boosters and shoe companies), the one-and-done rule the NBA has for players sending them to college for a semester of cakewalk classes one year has come back in the spotlight.

The league and players’ union are discussing changing the rule — with some input from the NCAA. If they want Kevin Durant‘s advice, scrap the whole thing — he would have come straight to the NBA if he could have.

“You want these players to go out there and play on the biggest stage. The Final Four is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, in sports, and they don’t get a dime for it. I don’t think it’s right

“If they want to come out of high school, it should be on them. You know what I mean? You can’t control everything. So if they feel as though they’re ready, that’s on them. They want to make a decision on their life, that’s on them. If they don’t get drafted, it’s on them. You can try to control it, but you’re still not really doing anything.”

Would Durant have come out from high school rather than spend a season at Texas?

“Yeah, probably. I needed the money.”

The NBA is discussing changes, and they want to see the recommendations from Condoleezza Rice’s NCAA commission. But the league’s owners are not all on the same page.

“In terms of the NBA, we’re conflicted, to be honest…” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said All-Star weekend. “And from a league standpoint, on one hand, we think we have a better draft when we’ve had an opportunity to see these young players play an elite level before they come into the NBA.

“On the other hand, I think the question for the league is, in terms of their ultimate success, are we better off intersecting with them a little bit younger? Are we better off bringing them into the league when they’re 18 using our G League as it was designed to be as a Development League and getting them minutes on the court there? And there is also recognition that for some of these elite players, there is no question that they can perform in the NBA at 18 years old.”

There seems to be some momentum toward a “baseball rule” compromise — players can come to the NBA straight out of high school, but if they go to college they have to stay for at least two years. Unlike the last time high schoolers were rushing into the NBA, most teams are far better prepared to develop young players and be patient with them. There will still be busts — there are even with guys who spent years in college — but teams are in better positions to make it work.

The other thing I would want to see: If a player signs with an agent out of high school, does not get drafted, give him the chance to go to college still. Some young men are going to get terrible advice (from family, AAU coaches, friends, a whole lot of people) and they deserve a chance to choose a better path.

Report: Hawks near buyout with Ersan Ilyasova; Bucks, Raptors interested

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This is about as big a surprise as my wife crying during “This Is Us,” but it sounds like it’s about to go down.

The Hawks and Ersan Ilyasova are close to a buyout, reports Michael Cunningham at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Hawks and forward Ersan Ilyasova tentatively agreed to a buyout of the remainder of his contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. Once Ilyasova accepts a buyout and clears waivers, as expected, he will be free to sign with any other team for the rest of the season.

Ilyasova’s contract expires at the end of the season and he is eligible to become a free agent in the summer. Earlier this month, Ilyasova invoked his right to reject the trade offers the Hawks presented to him.

Where might he land on the buyout market?

A lot of teams could use a 6’10” guy who can space the floor as a shooter. Ilyasova signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Hawks this season. He’s averaged 10.9 points per game, shooting 35.9 percent from three this season, and missed some time with a shoulder injury.

Ilyasova is solid as a spot-up guy but is more dangerous as a screen setter where he can pop out and space the floor, or roll and use his size inside. He’s also good at cutting and working off the ball, plus will get a team a few offensive rebounds. He’s not a game changer, but in certain matchups, he could help teams a lot.