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Warriors seem capable of anything – except another collapse

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CLEVELAND (AP) The possibilities seem endless for the Golden State Warriors when they are rolling.

A 150-point game isn’t even out of reach.

“I mean, we could have gotten at least 140 the other night if we only had about 10 to 15 turnovers,” All-Star guard Klay Thompson said.

Dominating like no team ever has in the postseason, the Warriors look capable of anything – except another NBA Finals collapse.

They take a 2-0 lead over Cleveland into Wednesday’s Game 3, just as they did last year. The Warriors actually had a higher victory margin through two games in the 2016 Finals, but they didn’t have Kevin Durant or a fully healthy Stephen Curry then.

They do now and are playing much better basketball than this time last year.

“As a team, I think so,” Thompson said. “I think we’re moving the ball great, we’re shooting the ball at a high clip and our defense has been unbelievable.”

Somehow, the Cavaliers have to change all that.

They did last year, coming home after losing the first two by a combined 48 points and beginning the turnaround with a 120-90 rout in Game 3. The opponent and the situation are the same, yet things feel different.

“That’s last year and I don’t even know the feeling anymore,” LeBron James said. “So I’m just mentally strengthening my mind and getting my mind ready and focused on what tomorrow’s going to bring, and so I look forward to it.”

The Warriors committed 20 turnovers in Game 2 but simply shook that off with an NBA Finals-record 18 3-pointers in a 132-113 romp. It was the second time in the postseason they committed at least 20 turnovers, and yet they scored at least 120 points in both games.

They are averaging nearly 119 points and winning by a record 16.9 per game in the postseason, and they’ve really picked it up lately. Golden State has scored 126 per game on nearly 52 percent shooting over the last five games.

“We played against good teams, and we came to the Finals undefeated, and here we are up 2-0, so we’re playing amazing basketball right now. The best we probably played throughout the year,” center Zaza Pachulia said.

With a loaded lineup and enough hot hands to fill an octopus, the Warriors don’t need to rely on any one player to take a lot of shots. If somebody is struggling, they can just find someone else with their precision ball movement.

The Cavaliers don’t have that luxury. They need big nights from James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – and even then a roster of struggling role players has to pick it up.

“We just need our supporting group to be themselves as much as possible,” Irving said. “Understand that they have a unique opportunity to make us that much better, and for a majority of this season it’s been on myself, Bron and K-Love’s shoulders. And we have done a great job of getting everyone involved and making sure that everyone feels comfortable, but now we need everything and everybody.”

The Cavaliers said they won’t change their lineup or their schemes, insisting they want to play fast even though that’s exactly the way the Warriors like it. Golden State has been punishing Cleveland in transition, and the way the Warriors have blown open the first two games by scoring in bunches hasn’t just taken a physical toll.

Both Durant and Thompson said they noticed the mental effect their lightning-quick scoring bursts have on opponents.

“Teams have great nights in this league, and it’s the NBA, so that can happen a lot,” Durant said. “But when you’re the one making the run, you could definitely feel the other team looking for answers and being deflated as the game goes on.”

A year after winning 73 games to set the NBA’s regular-season record, the Warriors can make more history if they sweep the Cavs to complete the league’s first undefeated postseason.

They embraced the chase last year but said Tuesday that they’re not thinking at all about 16-0.

“Game 3 has been rough for us historically, and especially in this building,” Curry said. “So to give ourselves a chance at even coming close to thinking about that. We need to really, really just lock in and give every effort we have on tomorrow and how hard this 48 minutes is going to be to really seize control of this series.”

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How Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza complicate Rockets’ pursuit of third star

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After pairing Chris Paul and James Harden, the Rockets are reportedly chasing a third starPaul George, Carmelo Anthony or someone else.

But Houston parted with significant assets to land Paul from the Clippers. And the Rockets will have a tricky time dealing two remaining players, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Unloading Ryan Anderson to sign Paul outright would have helped Houston keep one of their outgoing guards, but the market for the three years and $60 million left on Anderson’s deal was frigid. Not even the Kings wanted him for free. At least two teams would have demanded two Houston first-round picks in exchange for absorbing Anderson, according to several league sources.

The salary filler probably can’t be Trevor Ariza, by the way. Ariza and Paul are close after years together in New Orleans, and playing with Ariza factored at least a little into Paul’s decision, per league sources. The Clippers had tried to trade for him in prior seasons, sources say. Ariza is also still good at a coveted position, and his Bird Rights will be valuable to a capped-out Rockets team next summer.

Anderson would be dangerous as a stretch four in pick-and-pops with Paul and Harden. Even if he’s overpaid, might be better to keep him than surrender more assets to dump him.

Likewise, Ariza is a nice two-way player and can play small-ball four. There’s a use for him on this team.

But beyond them, Houston is left with Eric Gordon and Clint Capela as movable players. Gordon, with a higher salary and less obvious fit with Paul and Harden, would almost certainly be a key cog in a trade for another star. Capela is younger and more valuable, though the Rockets would probably want to keep him as a defensive anchor.

That might not be possible while trading for a third star, though. Houston can’t even guarantee sending out another first-round pick in a trade after sending a protected first-rounder to the Clippers. (The Rockets could agree to convey a first-rounder two years after sending one to L.A., which would is highly likely to convey next year.) Including Capela in a trade might be the only way to assemble a suitable package.

Even then, Houston would be hard-pressed to surpass an offer from the Lakers or Celtics for George. Plus, if Indiana is rebuilding around Myles Turner, Capela is an awkward fit. That trade might require a third team – causing further complications.

Hoping Anthony gets bought out by the Knicks then signs for the mid-level exception is much simpler – though that route returns the lesser third star.

But Daryl Morey just brought Chris Paul to Houston before free agency even began. Now is not the time to underestimate the Rockets general manager.

Report: Knicks won’t consider Isiah Thomas to run front office

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A couple years ago, Knicks owner James Dolan said there was no scenario Isiah Thomas would return to the Knicks.

But Dolan also said a few months ago he’d keep Phil Jackson for the duration of Jackson’s five-year contract.

With Dolan effectively firing Jackson today, could Thomas become the Knicks’ next president?

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

The Post also learned Liberty president Isiah Thomas would not be considered for Jackson’s successor.

It’s sad that this needs to be reported. It’s even sadder that, even if this the Knicks’ plans right now, there are no assurances Dolan holds steady.

Dumping Jackson is a reason to celebrate. But as long as Dolan owns the team, it must be a reserved celebration.

At least the Knicks’ next step won’t include Thomas. Probably.

Raptors promote Bobby Webster to general manager

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TORONTO (AP) — With rumors swirling about the Knicks chasing Raptors president Masai Ujiri, the Raptors have promoted Bobby Webster to general manager.

Webster, 32 years old assistant the youngest GM in the NBA, replaces Jeff Weltman, who left Toronto in May to become president of the Orlando Magic.

A former staffer at the NBA league office in New York, Webster joined the Raptors in 2013 and was named assistant GM in 2016.

He’ll help decide what to offer All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who opted out of the final year of his contract last month after Cleveland swept Toronto in the second round of the playoffs.

Forwards Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson are all unrestricted free agents.

Also Wednesday, Toronto promoted Dan Tolzman to assistant general manager.

The Raptors have posted consecutive 50-win seasons and made four straight playoff appearances.

Jason Williams out 6-8 months after injury in Big3 debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Former NBA point guard Jason Williams will miss six to eight months after suffering a knee injury in the opening game of the Big3.

Corey Maggette, also injured in the opening week of Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 league of former NBA players, had surgery for a leg injury. There is no timetable for his return.

The injuries were announced Wednesday during a conference call with Cube and Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz, who also detailed a couple rules changes starting with this weekend’s game in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Games will be played to 50 points, instead of 60, with halftime coming when the first team reaches 25 points. Cube said that would help the four games per day move more quickly.