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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.”

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

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Thunder pick up Paul George in his return to Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left, but George got a steal then hit a couple free throws.

The Pacers’ winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer’s blockbuster trade, didn’t go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn’t have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists.

The result: Both teams struggled.

Indiana led 27-22 after one but gave the lead right back by allowing Oklahoma City to start the second quarter on a 9-0 spurt.

After the Pacers answered with a 9-0 run, the Thunder closed the half on a 9-3 spurt to make it 51-46.

The trend continued in the second half.

Indiana charged back to take a 63-59 lead before the Thunder used an 11-2 run to pull out to a 73-69 lead going into the fourth.

Oklahoma City extended the lead to 92-81 with 5:16 to go but only scored six points the rest of the way. That was just enough to hold on.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Oklahoma City is 4-10 on the road. … Oklahoma City got its first series split with the Pacers since 2012-13. … Oklahoma City had 17 offensive rebounds and was 13 of 29 on 3-pointers.

Pacers: Thaddeus Young had 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals. … Made 11 3s but fell to 14-3 when making 10 or more 3-pointers in a game this season. … Center Myles Turner had three blocks, his 12th game this season with three or more. … Former Colts coach Tony Dungy attended the game. He’s in town for Thursday night’s NFL game between the Colts and Broncos.

ALL-STAR DAY

The Pacers got a win before they even took the floor.

A little less than three hours before tip, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Indiana would host the 2021 All-Star Game. It will be the first time the Pacers have hosted the marquee event since 1985.

The move comes seven months after Larry Bird hand-delivered the formal proposal at the league’s New York headquarters in an IndyCar.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Faces Philadelphia on Friday, trying to improve to 17-1 in the series since moving to Oklahoma City.

Pacers: Host Detroit on Friday, seeking a seventh straight home win in the series.

 

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.