Warriors expect Game 2 to get physical as Cavaliers try to take away easy baskets


OAKLAND — If a team gives Golden State a lot of easy buckets — say six dunks to Kevin Durant in the first half alone — they are doomed. Throw in a bunch of turnovers so the Warriors get out in transition, and the opposition is going to get routed.

Which is exactly what happened to Cleveland in Game 1.

It’s also why the Cavaliers think what went wrong in Game 1 is fixable.

“We need to focus on the things we can do better..,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “We have to limit their easy baskets. We can’t turn the ball over 20 times as that gives them easy transition buckets. We have to take care of the basketball.”

How many of those Cavaliers mistakes were forced, and how many unforced? Lue thinks the majority are unforced, which is why he says they will not change their lineups for Game 2.

“I thought a lot of (what went wrong) can be corrected,” Lue said. “It’s a different dynamic when Kevin Durant is pushing the ball in transition and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on the wings, we got spread out in transition. We have to do better….

“They only shot 42 percent from the field. You take away those transition buckets and them having 20 more shots than us, take those away and it’s a different game.”

The transition was part of the problem, but Cleveland did not do a good job protecting the rim in the halfcourt either. Do they pack the paint? What should the Warriors expect?

“I expect the Cavs to be more physical to combat this,” Klay Thompson said.

“I don’t know if they’ll pack the paint… but I’ll expect they’ll make adjustments and do better in that department next game,” Warriors interim coach Mike Brown said.

It was part of a theme — Golden State knows it has not taken Cleveland’s best shot.

“I do expect them to play better,” Brown said. “I understand they didn’t feel they played their best game, and they can go to the film room and have a better plan…

“LeBron said in his press conference that it’s hard to simulate what we do, now they have a game under their belt and they can watch film.”

Cleveland’s coaches can come up with a good game plan, the question is do the Warriors have the players to execute it. Whatever that plan is, it has to start with taking better care of the ball.

“You can credit some of their defense, but some of them were unforced turnovers which led to transition baskets,” Lue said of all the turnovers. “We can’t play in between, that’s when the turnovers happened, we have to be more decisive.”

It’s foolish to brush aside the Cavaliers after one game — this team was down 3-1 last season and came back to win the series. LeBron has a long history of bouncing back from Game 1 losses.

However, the Cavaliers have a lot of work to do. And it needs to start Friday with a more focused effort. And fewer turnovers.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.