Kerr saves best for last, Warriors’ small ball “death lineup” closes game with 11-0 run

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It is the Warriors’ best lineup. The most feared five-man lineup in the NBA. Golden State’s “Death Lineup” of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green strikes fear into the heart of opposing coaches.

Yet Steve Kerr (and Mike Brown) has been slow to go to it this series. In part because Green has seen some foul trouble, but also because it hadn’t mattered. The Warriors won the first two games in blowouts barely using the rotation, just 4.5 total minutes in two games.

But down with 6:30 left in a tight game, Kerr put in Green and unleashed the fully armed and operational Death Lineup.

That lineup ended the game on an 11-0 run and earned the Warriors a Game 3 win that has them on the doorstep of another title. And history.

Kerr tried to go to a similar lineup last year in the last three games of the Finals (with Harrison Barnes in place of Durant), but it didn’t work, most notably they got smoked at the start of Game 6.

This year, it’s a different Warriors team, one with more talent, but also much calmer and more focused.

“I think we just kept our poise,” Iguodala said of the late run. “In the past, we kind of got haywire and hectic. We’d try to get it all back in one play. We settled down. We got really good looks. We weren’t just firing it up. Two or three years ago, we’d just fire it up. It shows growth. Kevin Durant makes a huge pull-up three with so much confidence. He lives for those moments.”

Kerr credited that poise to the experience of losing last year in the Finals.

“I think we’re a better team partly because, obvious reasons, we have Kevin Durant on our team, but I think we’re better from our experiences,” Kerr said. “You win a championship, then you lose one in heartbreaking fashion, you’ve pretty much seen everything at that point.

“So you get down in the fourth quarter, it’s a five-point game with six minutes left, you don’t say, oh, man, we’re down five, you just say there’s a ton of time left and let’s execute.”

The Warriors did execute, at both ends. Yes, Durant hit big shots, but the run was largely fueled by stops — Thompson on Kyrie Irving was a key one.

“We obviously have two of the best shot makers in the world in Steph and K.D., and those guys did a great job willing us back into it, and our defense,” Thompson said. “I think our defense was really sound. We didn’t let them get really open looks from three that they were the whole game and tried to make them beat us one-on-one, which they were, but over 48 minutes I think we can live with someone beating us one-on-one.”

The difference between this year’s “death lineup” and last year’s is the same thing that is the difference in these Finals — Durant.

“He was their closer tonight, for sure,” Kyrie Irving said. “Doing what he is supposed to be doing. He got to a spot, got a switch out on Tristan, hits a big-time shot baseline and then, I mean, just hits an unbelievable game winner, just comes down in transition, that only Kevin Durant can hit.”

Will Kerr go to his biggest weapon of a lineup in Game 4? Maybe not unless he has to.

But he’s got it in his back pocket, and Cleveland may not have an answer for it.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

Associated Press
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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR

In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.

Report: Clippers hiring ex-Cavaliers executive Trent Redden

AP Photo/Mark Duncan
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The power dynamics within the Clippers are shifting, and the ground apparently hasn’t settled yet.

Doc Rivers has been stripped of his presidency. Jerry West became a consultant. Lawrence Frank now holds the most prestigious title in the front office, and newly hired Michael Winger will report to him. Also falling under Frank in the organizational chart? Trent Redden.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

Longtime Cleveland Cavaliers executive Trent Redden will join the LA Clippers’ front-office staff as assistant general manager, league sources said on Monday.

Redden was ousted in Cleveland with David Griffin. He’ll help the Clippers simply by providing another capable executive. They’ve long needed to add front-office employees (and pay for them).

But Redden also exacerbates the issue of Frank’s underlings having far more front-office experience than him. As the Clippers try to establish their new setup, we’ll see whether that creates complications.

Warriors’ Steve Kerr: I expect to coach all season and for many years ahead

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Warriors coach Steve Kerr has missed significant time the last two seasons due to complications from back surgery.

Could those issues derail his career?

Kerr, via Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I fully expect to coach all year,” Kerr says in a no-nonsense tone. “That’s my expectation. And for many years to come.”

On the most basic level, it’d be good if Kerr feels well enough to coach. The headaches sound miserable, regardless of his job.

But it’d also be ideal if the NBA didn’t lose one of its best coaches just as he’s getting started. The 51-year-old Kerr might wind up the greatest coach of all time. Obviously that’s a long way off, but he has that potential – health permitting.