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Warriors not worried about Klay Thompson’s shooting slump as long as he keeps defending

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OAKLAND — The Finals did not shake Klay Thompson out of his shooting slump. In Game 1 he was 3-of-13 from the field for six points and he missed all five of his attempts from beyond the arc.

Nobody on the Warriors much cares — and not just because they won Game 1 in a rout anyway. It’s because Thompson is doing what every coach from YMCA youth leagues up through the NBA preaches — if you’re not scoring points, contribute in other ways. For Thompson, that is defense: Cleveland players guarded by Thompson shot 1-of-12 in Game 1, according to ESPN.

Thompson himself will take that tradeoff.

“If I score six points a game and it gets us four wins and an NBA championship, I can do that every year,” Thompson said.

His shooting slump goes back to the San Antonio series, and even beyond. Thompson is shooting 29 percent over his last five games. The best way to understand it is to look at his shot chart from the last five games.

A lot of fans want to attribute the struggles to the fact Kevin Durant is now on the team, so Thompson has slid down the offensive pecking order in Golden State. Nobody with the team is buying that.

“He averaged more points this year than last year, he averaged more shots, so I think we always look at the last game or the last week, but I don’t feel the need to overreact to any of it,” Warriors GM Bob Myers said. “I told him to have fun, it’s the NBA Finals…

“He’s a great shooter. It’s like a hitter with a great swing, they’re gonna start hitting. I’d tell him don’t change anything, just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Thompson is doing just that. He was asked how his approach to Game 2 will differ from Game 1.

“Same one I had Game 1 — just be aggressive, don’t settle for good shots but hunt for great shots,” Thompson said. “Try to get a few quick ones early; that always helps. That’s about it. Just play hard and I’ll be fine.”

When Thompson missed a couple he would normally make to start a game, he starts to hunt twos at times and takes more difficult ones than he needs. He’s a shooter, trying to shoot his way out of the slump. But the Warriors can live with that because of everything else he brings to the court.

“Well, if he’s not making shots, he’s still a respected shooter and nobody’s going to give him open shots if he starts to miss,” Kevin Durant said. “So we know the gravity he pulls when he’s out there, and his movement off of the ball is one of the main reasons why we’re a good team. And his defense is the reason why we’re one of the best defensive teams in the league as well.”

“The most important thing is the way he’s defending,” Draymond Green said. “We have enough guys who can score on this team that if one guy can’t get it going, we can go other places. Then our ball movement and our flow allows everyone else to get baskets as well. We’re not just going to say, `Oh, man, we really need to get Klay going.”‘

The Cavaliers should be worried if Thompson gets going — on a team loaded with some of the greatest shooters in the game, nobody gets as white hot for a quarter or a half as Thompson. He is capable of insane numbers.

“He’s very competitive, but he doesn’t show it like Draymond shows it,” Myers said. “His personality is to hold himself to a high standard, he’s kind of a perfectionist, but at the same time his perfection is he wants to play well for his teammates… his demeanor is he just wants to win, but he wants to do well, everyobody does.

“I think he’s focused more on our record than his own statistics. I know he wants to do better, but we’re not really worried about it.”

“Well, it is easy to overlook my shooting woes when we have been winning like this,” Thompson said. “So if we keep this up, it’s great, I can live with this all day. But I’m such a perfectionist, I try to hold myself to such a high standard that, as a competitor, sometimes it does drive you a little to the edge to be better. But you just have to keep everything in front of you.”

LeBron James has tepid response when asked about Tyronn Lue’s job safty

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LeBron James was no fan of David Blatt, so he was let go around the All-Star break with the Cavaliers a couple of years ago when the team had the best record in the East.

Now the Cavaliers have fallen to third in the East and have lost 8-of-11, were blown out by the Thunder on national television on Saturday, have one of the worst defenses in the NBA, and have a brutal stretch of games against good teams ahead.

Is Tyronn Lue’s job in danger? That question has been asked around Cleveland, and when LeBron was asked about it after the OKC loss his response was tepid (via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com)

Is a coaching change really the answer? I’m not Lue’s biggest fan as a coach, I think Cleveland’s offense has too much isolation and can get simplistic, but he’s got an older team that lost Kyrie Irving (and replaced him with Isaiah Thomas, who just returned to the rotation a couple of weeks ago and is still getting his legs under him).

Maybe that wakes the team up, but the more likely change is a trade or two at the deadline. If Cleveland isn’t willing to put the Brooklyn pick in the mix (reportedly they will only do that for an elite superstar) it’s hard to see them getting a player that really makes a difference. However, get one who wakes the team up out of its malaise and plays a little defense, and the Cavaliers become more likely to out of the East.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks in Cleveland.

Thunder drop 148 points on defenseless Cavaliers, win in rout

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If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.

The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):

• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.

• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.

• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.

• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.

• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.

• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.

• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.

To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.

For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.

It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.

Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.

This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.

Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo out a couple of games to manage sore knee

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It’s not discussed much, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chronically sore knee that has been an issue since last summer. It’s not debilitating, it doesn’t require surgery, but it’s something Antetokounmpo and the Bucks need to actively manage.

Hence, Antetokounmpo is sitting out the next couple of games. From Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo will sit out Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Monday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns as the team actively manages the health of Antetokounmpo’s sore right knee….

Antetokounmpo’s injury, which is not considered to be tendinitis, is regarded as something that is always going to bother him to some extent, according to a league source. There will be days where the discomfort is higher and some when it’s lower, and the team’s goal is to manage that on a daily basis to keep the injury from becoming severe or significant — something it is not considered to be at this point.

Antetokounmpo is going to get eight days of rest this way, which is the smart long-term move for the Bucks.

The challenge is the Bucks may be sixth in the East as you read this, but they are just one game up on the nine seed Pistons. They need to get wins without Antetokounmpo, which is hard because they have been outscored by 10.6 points per 100 possessions. However, they could be without him a lot longer if Antetokounmpo’s knee isn’t managed now.

Kristaps Porzingis: “Players know” he’s All-Star starter

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When picking the East All-Star starters, two of the three frontcourt choices were obvious: LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the third slot there were a few players who could make a case. The fans chose Joel Embiid third, Kristaps Porzingis fourth, and Kevin Love fifth. The media also had Embiid third and Porzingis fourth, but Al Horford fifth. That was enough to earn Embiid the starting nod.

The players voted Porzingis third, Embiid fourth, and Andre Drummond fifth. Needless to say, Porzingis thinks the players got it right, as he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“Players know,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

If one were cynical, one would note the players also voted for Tyler Cavanaugh and Tyler Zeller, so how much do we trust their vote? Fortunately, we’re above such crass things.

Porzingis is a lock to make his first All-Star Game this year as a reserve (picked by the coaches).

What separated the two? Embiid has been a little more efficient this season, he’s stronger on the boards and had been a bigger defensive presence. Also, the Sixers have a better record than the Knicks, who have stumbled of late. Or, maybe the fans just like Embiid’s big personality more — he’s blowing off Rihanna.

Both of these guys should have a lot of All-Star starts in their future. This year it goes to Embiid.