Getty Images

Struggling Warriors, Iguodala show signs of frustration

6 Comments

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Off-color jokes. Criticizing officiating. Lamenting a tough portion of the schedule.

The Golden State Warriors have rarely dealt with adversity over the last three regular seasons. Now that it has arrived, there are signs of tension and frustration with a team trying to find a groove without Kevin Durant while in pursuit of a third straight trip to the NBA Finals.

After a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night – Golden State’s fourth defeat in six games – forward Andre Iguodala made several racially tinged comments during his postgame remarks to the media. The comments came after coach Steve Kerr announced that Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson would sit out a showdown with the second-seeded Spurs in San Antonio on Saturday night.

“No clue,” Iguodala said when asked if he was aware of Kerr’s plan before the game. “I do what master say.”

Iguodala also was asked what was at the root of the issues for a Warriors team that was dominant with Durant, but has looked tired and vulnerable since he went down with a knee injury on Feb. 28.

Iguodala, who is black, used a racial slur to imply that was what the media was looking for, then said “Just play harder. Figure it out. Change gonna come. You know what we used to say. Change gonna come.”

He later clarified to ESPN that he has no issue with Kerr or his decision to rest players in a nationally televised game on Saturday night.

The Warriors also expressed significant frustration with the officiating from Ken Mauer’s crew in the 103-102 loss to the Wolves. Kerr said Andrew Wiggins “did not get fouled” on a play late in the game that put him on the free throw line for the winning foul shots.

Green didn’t speak to the media until about 45 minutes after the game ended, a very long time for a player who normally likes to address things quickly and move on. He said he spent most of that time contemplating whether he wanted to risk a $25,000 fine from the NBA for criticizing the officials. He joked that he was going to buy himself a watch for deciding to use restraint, even after questioning a technical foul he received for getting tangled up with Karl-Anthony Towns.

“How do I get a technical for trying to stop continuation?” Green said. “I don’t know. I guess I got to play by different rules than the rest of the NBA. That one really sticks with me.”

It was Green’s 13th technical foul this season. If he gets three more, he will be suspended for a game.

“How many do I really got is the question?” Green said. “I don’t know. Different set of rules.”

The road weary team is at the tail end of a tough stretch of eight games in eight different cities in 13 days. With Durant not expected back for another month or so, the minutes are piling up and the heavy favorites to come out of the Western Conference for a chance at a second championship in three years are just 1+ games up on the Spurs for the No. 1 seed.

Curry is struggling with his shooting. He was 1 for 8 from 3-point range against the Wolves and is 18 for 76 from long distance in March.

But a reprieve is right around the corner. After the Spurs game, the Warriors finish the season with 11 of their final 16 at home, and Green, Curry, Iguodala and Thompson will get three full days of rest before they have to play again.

After being down 17 points in the first half and 14 points to start the fourth quarter against the improving Wolves, the Warriors started to show signs of their old selves with a furious fourth quarter rally that came up just short.

“A couple tough calls, but that’s the way it goes,” Kerr said after the game. “The main thing is I’m really pleased with just our fight and our defensive effort in the fourth quarter. We gave ourselves a great chance to win. It just didn’t happen.”

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

5 Comments

Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

Getty Images
4 Comments

It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

1 Comment

We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

Associated Press
Leave a comment

James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.