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Can Jazz slow down Warriors’ juggernaut in Game 3?

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP)– So far, the Golden State Warriors have lived up to expectations that they would be a postseason juggernaut.

The two-time defending Western Conference champions have not yet tasted defeat in the NBA playoffs. They also have not faced much of a challenge offensively or defensively in their first six games.

Golden State took a 2-0 lead over the Utah Jazz in their Western Conference semifinal series after leading wire-to-wire yet again in a 115-104 victory on Thursday night. Utah will try to get itself back into the series in Game 3 on Saturday in Salt Lake City.

The Warriors have displayed a knack for pouncing on Utah early and quickly digging a hole too deep for the Jazz to climb out of.

Utah endured slow first-quarter starts in Game 1 and Game 2. A second straight slow start on Thursday crippled efforts by the Jazz to rally. They fell behind 33-15 at the end of the first quarter and managed to cut the deficit to six in the fourth quarter before running out of gas.

The Warriors never lost the lead, but Utah forced them to sweat for a while late in the game.

“It wasn’t easy,” Warriors acting head coach Mike Brown said. “We felt it. We know we can play better. We broke down in a lot of areas where we should have been better. But in the same breath too, we did some nice things. We had 33 assists. We held them to five offensive rebounds. And at the end of the day we got the (win).”

Even while falling short, the Jazz feel they learned a formula for solving the first quarter jinx in Game 3.

Utah came out strong after halftime. The Jazz attacked the rim more frequently instead of settling for contested jumpers on each possession. They forced turnovers and turned a potential blowout into a tighter affair.

“After we got blitzed there in the first quarter — once we settled in — we kind of figured it out a little bit,” forward Gordon Hayward said. “We figured out how to get into the paint and get some shots for ourselves and some better looks. Our spacing was a lot better. We’re going to have to try to take that and move forward with it.”

Hayward played the biggest role in bringing Utah back. He scored 33 points on 11-of-21 shooting after going 4 of 15 from the field in the series opener.

His contributions provided added value with starting point guard George Hill sidelined because of a sore toe. Hill is still day-to-day heading into Saturday.

“You’re not going to have big windows,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “You got to take advantage of them. I thought he was more aggressive as the game went on, taking his shot and making quick decisions.”

Golden State has excelled at playing efficient offense in both games against Utah. The Warriors dished out 33 assists on 42 field goals on Thursday after notching 32 assists on 40 baskets in the series opener. They have shot 49.1 percent from the field through two games.

Four different players are averaging in double figures for the Warriors in the series. Stephen Curry is leading the way with 22.5 points per game.

Defensively, Golden State has forced 14.5 turnovers per game and is averaging 22 points off of turnovers.

The only time the Warriors looked vulnerable on Thursday was when they got away from the formula that works well for them. Lapses on a few possessions on both ends of the court caused some tense moments, something Golden State wants to shore up heading into Game 3.

“We kind of lost our focus there a little bit,” forward Draymond Green said. “We turned the ball over, had defensive breakdowns. Just didn’t stay locked in. We got to do a better job of that, especially on the road. If you’re able to get a lead, you got to try to put the game away.”

Green tweaked his left knee in Game 2 and left for a short time before returning in the fourth quarter. He is listed as probable for Saturday.

Utah was 29-12 at home during the regular season but lost two of its three home games in the first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Report: Grizzlies starting power forward JaMychal Green out several weeks

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The Grizzlies are undefeated, having topped another playoff hopeful (Pelicans) in their season-opener.

But things seem tenuous in Memphis.

Not only is Chandler Parsons feuding with Grizzlies fans, JaMychal Green is hurt.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The supporting cast looks rickety around Mike Conley and Marc Gasol unless second-rounder Dillon Brooks (19 points on 7-of-13 shooting +17 against New Orleans) keeps humming. And maybe even still then.

Green’s injury opens the door for bigger roles for Jarell Martin and maybe Parsons (gulp).

At least Green locked in his guaranteed money. This shows why he couldn’t afford to risk taking the qualifying offer.

Booed by Grizzlies fans, Chandler Parsons says he’ll treat home games like road games

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Chandler Parsons‘ great sin? Signing a four-year, $94 million contract and failing to justify it due to injuries. He missed 48 games last season and struggled mightily while on the court.

His more recent transgression? Missing a couple free throws.

The Grizzlies forward missed a pair from the line in yesterday’s season-opening win over the Pelicans, and Memphis fans booed him:

Later, Parsons drew a three-shot foul, and Marc Gasol tried to rally the crowd behind Parsons:

Plenty of fans cheered, but as Parsons went 1-for-3, others still booed.

Parsons, via Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal:

“I’ll just go into every game with the mentality that it’s a road game, if that’s how it’s going to be,” he said.

Finally, Parsons stuck up for himself, saying, “They can boo me, they can sarcastically cheer me, they can do whatever they want. … It’s tasteless , man, it makes no sense. We’re athletes, we’re human beings. I don’t know them personally, so, it’s just a little strange to me, but that’s sports.”

If Parsons didn’t understand Mavericks fans booing him after he left Dallas, he sure isn’t going to understand Grizzlies fans booing him while he’s still in Memphis.

Fans largely see Parsons as a character in the drama that is the Grizzlies – something removed from their everyday reality. Of course, Parsons is taking it personally. He’s a person, and it’s his everyday reality.

It’s unclear what portion of Memphis fans booed him. Grizzlies fans probably aren’t excited about cheering him right now, but many did – as a direct response to the boos. Even if they would’ve preferred no reaction a vacuum, those cheering fans didn’t want the boo birds speaking for them.

Parsons ought to remember those supportive fans before painting the entire home crowd as the enemy, or else he’ll turn everyone against him. None of this is fair to Parsons, who has surely been frustrated with his injuries, but he can control how he reacts to the fans.

Magic rookie Jonathan Isaac forgot to put on jersey for debut

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In the above video, Magic rookie Jonathan Isaac can be seen sitting on Orlando’s bench wearing his warmups midway through the first quarter. After a timeout, his seat was empty.

Where did he go?

Isaac, via Chris Barnewall of CBS Sports:

“I didn’t even put my jersey on. I was on the bench and I completely forgot my jersey. I didn’t even put it on,” Isaac said.

When asked when he retrieved his white, pinstriped Magic jersey, he said: “five minutes left in the first quarter. [I left it] sitting right there.”

Isaac checked in a few minutes later – with his jersey on – and quickly scored.

Good thing the Magic’s rotation didn’t call for him to enter the game sooner. And this was obviously easier to laugh off after Orlando beat the Heat.

Nets’ Jeremy Lin out for season

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The fears for Nets point guard Jeremy Lin have been realized.

Nets release:

Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin has been diagnosed with a ruptured patella tendon of the right knee.  The injury occurred during the fourth quarter of last night’s game at Indiana. Lin is expected to miss the entire 2017-18 season.

This is obviously a devastating setback for Lin, who missed 46 games last season in his first year with Brooklyn. The Nets’ already-slim playoff chances fade further with the loss of arguably their best player, though fellow point guard D'Angelo Russell shined in his Brooklyn debut with 30 points.

The trickle-down effects of this injury are perhaps more intriguing.

This makes the Nets’ first-round pick – owned by the Cavaliers – more valuable. Does that make LeBron James more likely to re-sign with Cleveland next summer (either because the Cavs add a top-flight rookie or trade the selection for a valuable veteran)? Does that alter long-term plans in Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia and elsewhere?

Lin’s injury doesn’t just sting in Brooklyn. It could alter the entire landscape of the NBA.