Kurt Helin

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Three things we learned Sunday: Draymond Green knows teams trying to “punk” Warriors


It’s still very early in the NBA season — we’re still watching small sample size theater — but we are starting to learn some things. Here is what we learned on Sunday while wondering why the United Nations has not looked into the UFO phenomenon…. 

1) Teams are being physical, trying to punk Warriors, and Draymond Green has taken notice. For the past couple of seasons, the Golden State Warriors have punked teams. The Warriors were chippy, they tried to push buttons, they played with arrogance — they acted like the bully. But just three games into the new season the book on how to beat the Warriors is out — be physical. San Antonio did it in the opener and pushed Golden State around, New Orleans tried to do it, and the Phoenix Suns followed the pattern Sunday behind Tyson Chandler and Eric Bledsoe. Teams are playing to get a measure of revenge. Golden State still picked up the victory over Phoenix behind 37 from Kevin Durant on Sunday, but the Warriors struggles on defense continued, and teams are trying to push them around. Draymond Green has taken notice, as he told Monty Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

“Definitely. Definitely, he said Sunday, after a 106-100 win over the Suns. “Teams are trying to punk us. It’s fine. We’re not going to get punked.”

Being physical with them is something teams have tried for a couple of years, but the Warriors could push and bang with anyone inside in seasons past. However, with Andrew Bogut gone in the paint and other long, athletic players also shipped out — Festus Ezeli and Harrison Barnes, for example — the strategy has taken on a new urgency. Sunday, Stephen Curry pushed back, shoving Brandon Knight to the floor after the play.

So far this physical strategy has worked best when the elite Spurs used it, but it’s going to continue until the Warriors prove it doesn’t work — and the way the Suns hung around and was in Sunday’s game until the end, it clearly still works.

2) Utah desperately misses Gordon Hayward. There are a couple of things I took away from attending the Clippers home win over the Jazz Sunday. One is that the Clippers are playing incredibly well to open the season — their bench has a real comfort level we haven’t seen in recent years, they are very physical on defense, and Blake Griffin is playing at an elite level.

But the other is that the Jazz desperately miss Gordon Hayward — they need his shot creation to make their offense work. Utah’s defense was as advertised — their length had the Clippers missing shots they normally make — but Utah can’t generate enough good looks of its own. George Hill gives them some of that, Joe Johnson can for spurts, but Hayward is a borderline All-NBA kind of player, and without him their shot making is not the same. Ask coach Quin Snyder about that and he almost shrugs. “I think the biggest thing for us now is just to keep getting better… part of it for us is getting better, and part of it is getting healthy and hopefully we can do both.” Hayward is out a couple more weeks at least after breaking his finger.

3) Angry Russell Westbrook is putting on a show — and putting up numbers. Big numbers. These are historic numbers to start a season: Through three games, Russell Westbrook has 116 points, 37 rebounds, and 35 assists. Sunday, in a 113-96 victory over the Lakers, Westbrook had 33 points, 16 assists, and 12 rebounds. That’s two triple-doubles in three games. It is amazing to watch.

My only question: Will this load at some point wear Westbrook down? How long can he shoulder this?

James Harden hits late free throw, Rockets beat Mavericks 93-92

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden made a free throw with 0.1 seconds left, lifting the Houston Rockets over the Dallas Mavericks 93-92 in their home opener Sunday night.

Harden had 28 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. He was fouled by Wesley Matthews on a driving layup at the buzzer with the game tied, then made the second of two free-throw attempts.

After trailing by 10 entering the fourth quarter, Dallas tied it at 92 with a 3-pointer by Matthews with 4.1 seconds remaining.

Matthews led Dallas with 25 points, and J.J. Barea scored 18 points off the bench. In falling to the Rockets for the second time in three days, the Mavericks fell to 0-3 for the first time since 2011-12, the lockout-shortened season following their title.

Dallas was without Dirk Nowitzki (illness, sore Achilles tendon) for a second straight game. Nowitzki participated in pregame warmups but was a late scratch.

Houston got strong performances from offseason additions Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Nene in their home debuts. Gordon had 14 points, Anderson had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Nene had 11 points.

The Rockets capped the first and second quarters with points at the buzzer. To end the first, Corey Brewer hit a 3-pointer from 30 feet out. Harden ended the second quarter on a driving layup to put the Rockets up 63-53.

Late in the third quarter, Houston’s Trevor Ariza and Dallas’ Salah Mejri received double-technical fouls after both players fell to the floor and were tangled for a few seconds. Ariza clinched his fists before he was restrained by players.


Mavericks: Without Nowitzki, Dallas was frequently undersized but managed to hold their own in the rebounding category, with Houston edging the Mavericks 46-42. … Starting in Nowitzki’s place, Seth Curry played 23 minutes and scored no points on 0-for-3 shooting. … Deron Williams had 12 points but struggled with his shot in the second half after colliding with Brewer on a hard foul in the third quarter that left Williams limping and holding his thigh.

Rockets: Houston was plagued by 17 turnovers compared to just nine turnovers from Dallas. … Sam Dekker scored nine points on 3-of-3 shooting from 3-point range. … Houston outscored Dallas 15-4 in fast-break points, fueled heavily by timely steals and forced turnovers in transition. … Clint Capela had 10 rebounds.


Kevin Durant’s 37 leads Warriors past pesky Suns 106-100

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PHOENIX (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 37 points, Stephen Curry added 28 and the Golden State Warriors held off the pesky Phoenix Suns 106-100 on Sunday.

The Warriors didn’t seal the victory until Curry’s two free throws with 12.9 seconds to play. Durant added a pair of free throws with seven seconds left to provide the final margin.

T.J. Warren scored 26 points and Eric Bledsoe had 21 for the winless Suns, who took the Thunder into overtime in Oklahoma City on Friday night. Tyson Chandler grabbed 18 rebounds for Phoenix.

The Suns led by as many as 13 in the first half. The Warriors finally took somewhat shaky control midway through the final quarter.

The game looked well in hand for the reigning Western Conference champs when Durant took a lob pass from Andre Iguodala, dunked and was fouled. The three-point play put the Warriors up 102-94 – their biggest lead of the day – with 1:19 to play.

But Phoenix got consecutive driving layups from Bledsoe, Warren and Jared Dudley to cut it to 102-100 with 14.8 seconds remaining. The Suns had to foul Curry, and arguably the best free throw shooter in the game made them both to put away Golden State’s second victory after a loss in its home opener.

The Suns used a 22-2 run to take the big early lead. Durant scored five points in the final 30 seconds of the first half to cut Phoenix’s lead to 57-55 at the break.

Phoenix’s last lead was 84-83 on Alex Len‘s inside basket with 10:15 to play


Phoenix scored 16 straight points in what became that 22-2 run to lead 30-17 when Alex Len sank a pair of free throws with 38.4 seconds left in the first quarter. Six Suns scored in the run.


The Suns’ Devin Booker had a rough day on the court on his 20th birthday, but he did some serious damage in the NBA as a teenager.

Booker scored 1,078 points in 78 games as a teen. The only teens to score more are LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmello Anthony, Durant and Dwight Howard. Booker had six 30-point games as a teenager, one fewer than Durant.

He missed six of his first seven shots Sunday and wound up 3-for-12 for seven points.


Warriors: Curry drew his fourth foul with 7:51 left in the third quarter but didn’t get his fifth until there was 3:22 to play. … Golden State beat the Suns for the eighth straight time. … Golden State swept the four-game series with the Suns two of the last three years.

Suns: Warren has 56 points in his last two games. … Rookie Marquese Chriss drew his third technical foul of the season. He had two and was tossed from the previous game at Oklahoma City. … Booker was 0 for 6 from the field before sinking a 3 at the shot clock buzzer to tie it at 62.


Watch Russell Westbrook drop another triple-double in win over Lakers.

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The raw numbers are stunning:

Through three games, Russell Westbrook has 116 points, 37 rebounds, and 35 assists. The man is on a mission.

More than numbers, that mission is wins, and he got that with a 113-96 victory over the Lakers Sunday. But in doing so Westbrook had 33 points, 16 assists, and 12 rebounds. That’s two triple-doubles in three games.

No player is playing with the anger, the fire of Westbrook every night. The only question is will this load weigh on him over the course of the season.

Kevin Durant scoring buckets, with or without his shoes

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Golden State had a rough time with Phoenix — the Warriors defense remains awful — but Kevin Durant is still getting buckets.

Even without one of his shoes, as you can see above.

And if you let him get ahead of everyone in transition, the rim pays the price.