Kurt Helin

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Cavaliers see reasons for optimism in Game 1 loss

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OAKLAND — Here is the conventional wisdom after Game 1 of the NBA Finals: “If the Cavaliers can’t win on a night Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are both off, when can they win?”

The Cavaliers don’t see it that way.

They saw a game where they did some good things — like keeping the Splash Brothers in check, attacking the rim, and getting some offensive rebounds. The things that got them a brief lead in the third quarter. They believe just need to finish better in the paint and take better care of the ball. Oh, and slow that Warriors bench a little.

“We missed 28 shots in the paint,” Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue. “We didn’t finish around the basket, so we’ve just got to keep playing the same way we were playing. I thought we were fine. I feel good about how we played. The outcome wasn’t great for us, the score, but to get to the basket missing 28 shots in the paint, that’s not us. So we’ll be better next game.”

“But don’t matter what you do with Steph and Klay, don’t matter what you do with Draymond. Give up 45 points off the bench and 25 points off turnovers on the road, it’s not a good ingredient to win,” LeBron James said.

While the Warriors shot better than 50 percent for much of the game (they finished at 49.4 percent) and carved the Cavaliers up at times with back cuts and dives to the basket, Cleveland seemed fairly happy with their defense. They saw the other end as the big issue.

“I think defensively we had a game plan and we followed it as much as possible,”  LeBron said. “Well, as great as we could for 48 minutes. We had some breakdowns, which we know we can get better with. Offensively, we’ve got to be much better. We’ve got to be much better moving the ball, moving bodies.”

The Warriors switching — particularly with the “death lineup” and other smaller rotations — threw the Cavaliers off their game plan. They saw that and slowed down trying to find mismatches, and in doing so settled for too many isolation plays. Which were defendable.

That and some transition defense lapses — plus just making their shots — are things the Cavaliers see as correctable.

We stayed aggressive no matter what, kept attacking the paint,” J.R. Smith said. “Even though we had some missed shots, some missed threes, we didn’t let that discourage us. We did a pretty good job in transition. We’ve got to do a better job at finding the bigs and guys at the basket. I think we overcompensated for those guys at the three-point line, which is to be expected. We just got to be smarter Game 2.”

It sounds good on paper.

Executing it against a Warriors team that is likely to have their stars hitting more shots — and cleaning up some execution flaws of their own — is going to be the real test.

On night Splash Brothers are cold Warriors still win by 15, take 1-0 Finals lead

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OAKLAND — It was a night where the Splash Brothers barely made a ripple in the water.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 20 points on 8-of-27 shooting, including 4-of-13 from three — and those numbers are inflated by a couple of late dagger threes.

And yet, the Warriors won. Convincingly.

Shaun Livingston had 20 points and three assists, Harrison Barnes started hot and finished with 13, Andre Iguodala had 12, and Draymond Green had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists. The Warriors were balanced — and were the team playing vastly better defense.

Because of all that, Golden State now leads the NBA Finals 1-0, with Game 2 Sunday in Oakland.

“The one thing we’ve talked about all year is if we defend and take care of the ball, then we’re always going to have somebody score enough points for us, whether it’s the starters or the bench,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

“I missed some shots, and didn’t get a rhythm, but the way they defended I’ll be able to find some adjustments for Game 2,” Curry said.

This felt like a game the Cavaliers needed to win.

“I just thought in the second half we came back in that third quarter, really got physical, really got aggressive, and we were able to take a three-point lead,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. “Like you said, their bench came in and did a great job. We took LeBron out towards the end of that third quarter, and a couple minutes in the fourth quarter, and the game kind of got away from us.”

With the Warriors’ best shooters cold, the Cavs were able to erase an eight-point halftime deficit, and take a lead couple times in the second half of the third quarter. They were attacking the paint (all night), getting to the free throw line, and getting offensive rebounds. This looked like a game Cleveland could win with that formula.

Then the Warriors bench came in.

Starting with a 15-0 run that went from late in the third through the middle of the fourth, the Warriors’ bench (with Green and Barnes) stretched the lead out to 20 at one point. They got stops, got buckets by moving the ball and moving off the ball, and generally played the way Golden State has through their last championship and 73-win season.

“We’ve talked about our depth for the last two years,” Kerr said. “We rely on a lot of people. We play a lot of people, and we feel like we have a lot of talent on the bench that can come in and score when we need it. So it’s a great sign, obviously, that we can win in The Finals without those two guys having big games, but it’s not really that surprising to us. This has been our team the last couple of years.”

The Warriors are not going to win a series with their best shooters unable to throw a pea in the ocean, but that’s not going to happen. The Cavs did everything they could to take the Warriors starting backcourt out of the game, but at some point those guys will get hot. Just ask Oklahoma City

Through three quarters the Splash Brothers had 14 points on 6-of-21 shooting, just 2-of-10 from three, and the Cavaliers were controlling the glass plus getting to the line more. Cleveland did a lot of things well, and still trailed 74-68.

“We missed 28 shots in the paint,” Lue said. “We didn’t finish around the basket, so we’ve just got to keep playing the same way we were playing. I thought we were fine. I feel good about how we played. The outcome wasn’t great for us, the score, but to get to the basket missing 28 shots in the paint, that’s not us. So we’ll be better next game.”

The key reason the Cavaliers’ trailed most of the game was their defense struggled — they lacked the focus not to lose Warriors with their constant motion and crisp passing. Kevin Love got burned three times on Bogut back cuts, and Kyrie Irving lost track of his man off the ball numerous times. Also, as a team they did not help the helper enough — they made the first defensive rotation, but not the second. For most of the game the Warriors were shooting better than 50 percent (they finished at 49.4 percent), but even still the Warriors only hit 33.3 percent from three on the night.

In the first half Cleveland showed their game plan — switch nearly every pick, and show way out on Curry and Thompson, do not let those two get hot and beat them. It’s a good strategy — Curry and Thompson combined for just 10 first half points.

However, that strategy requires the Cavs to stop the Warriors ball movement and other players cutting to the rim and getting looks. They didn’t do that nearly as well, either in the first half or for the game. The result was balance — Harrison Barnes with nine first half points, Green and Bogut with eight each, and Leandro Barbosa with some highlight plays on his way to seven.

Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving was 3-of-12 in the first 24 minutes on his way to 13 points. For the game, Irving had 26 points on 7-of-22 shooting, while LeBron had 23 points on 21 shots, and Kevin Love had 17 points on 17 shots.
Propelled by their bench the Warriors led by as many as 14 in the second quarter, but they couldn’t put Cavaliers away. The Cavs grabbed the offensive rebound on a third of their missed shots in the first half, plus they got to the free throw line 11 times (compared to twice for the Warriors). That kept it relatively close, 52-43 at the half.

It got closer in the third. But inconsistent defense and the Warriors depth eventually changed everything.

Andre Iguodala with the put-back slam (VIDEO)

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OAKLAND — Andre Iguodala didn’t get the start Thursday night in Game 1 of the Finals, but you knew he would have an impact on the game when he did enter.

And he did, mostly with his defense on LeBron James and other Cavs — there’s a reason he was +8 at the half. But he also had this putback dunk that was one of the highlights of the 24 minutes, which helped put the Warriors up 52-43 at the break.

Adam Silver: “Summer” deadline to modify North Carolina bathroom law or NBA may move 2017 Charlotte All-Star Game

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OAKLAND — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made it clear: He doesn’t want to move the 2017 NBA All-Star Game out of Charlotte. He was optimistic that efforts were taking place behind the scenes to modify North Carolina’s much discussed “bathroom law.”

But if it’s not done by sometime this summer, the NBA is looking at its its options to move the game to another city.

“We are looking at alternatives,” on where to host the 2017 All-Star Game, Silver said in his press conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. “So the critical date for us is are we in a position, if for some reason we don’t move forward in Charlotte, to play our All-Star Game somewhere else? We are in the process of looking at other options. At the same time, I don’t think it would be productive to draw a line in the sand, and we’d be moving on if I didn’t think there were constructive discussions going on in North Carolina right now.”

It makes complete political sense for Silver not to draw a hard-and-fast line in the sand. However, logistically, there needs to be a drop-dead date, even if the league does not make it public.

“Realistically, this summer,” Silver said. “I don’t see we would get past this summer without knowing definitively where we stand.”

In question is the “bathroom law” that has become a national focal point on the topic of transgendered — as well as gay and lesbian — rights.

North Carolina’s legislature called a special session earlier this year approve HB2, which restricts transgender bathroom use (you have to use the bathroom for the gender with which you were born) and preempted anti-discrimination ordinances put in by Charlotte and other North Carolina cities that tried to block discrimination against gays and lesbians. The law led to a business backlash — PayPal, Deutsche Bank, and others have pulled plans for expansion in the state off the table — as well as a social one, including things such as Bruce Springsteen canceling a concert in the state.

Silver said the law is not going to be changed because of what the NBA does or does not do. However, the law does not fit with the ethos of the NBA.

“But one of the core principles, underlying principles of this league is diversity and inclusion,” Silver said. “I think people understand that’s one of our values. It was a value built from the ground floor up in this league long before I ever got involved in it, and I’m sort of carrying the mantle now. But I know I speak on behalf of our owners, our teams and our players. I think they all feel very strongly that this is a core principle of our league, and that where we choose to celebrate something like an All-Star Game, that those values should be honored.”

What Silver wants to see is North Carolina modify the law, saving the NBA the trouble of moving the All-Star Game. Or, explaining why it’s not okay to play the All-Star Game in the state but it is okay to play 41 other regular season Charlotte Hornets games there.

“I was in North Carolina about two and a half weeks ago, spoke to a lot of business leaders in Charlotte who are working behind the scenes, frankly, to craft some sort of compromise with the governmental leaders both in the city and the state,” Silver said. “I’d say there is absolutely strong interest in trying to work something out. I think both sides of the issue recognize, however heartfelt their views are, that the current state of being is causing enormous economic damage to the state.”

The NBA’s vague summer deadline creates an interesting dynamic. This law was passed with the overwhelming support of Republicans in the North Carolina legislature, and not coincidentally they did this in an election year when trying to motivate their base. Even if those Republicans are willing to modify the law, would they be willing to do so before the November elections? If not, what decision will Adam Silver and the NBA make?

Harrison Barnes to start for Warriors, Iguodala to come off the bench

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OAKLAND — Last season, for the final three games of the NBA Finals, Steve Kerr started Andre Iguodala and brought Harrison Barnes off the bench, a switch made because of Iguodala’s defense on LeBron. Kerr did the same thing for Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals this year against Oklahoma City.

But not in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Harrison Barnes will start for the Warriors in Game 1, the team announced just before the start of Game 1.

That puts the Warriors back in the team’s regular rotation, the one they used all season long. It also puts a more dangerous offensive player in Barnes on the court in a game where the Cavaliers are going to want to play fast and go more at the Warriors speed (although Barnes has struggled at points these playoffs). Barnes will get a chance to show how he can defend LeBron (1-on-1 in the post he may be able to hold his own, but that’s going to be a tough match up on the perimeter).

Kerr said pregame this was a decision he made “about 48 hours ago,” and one he seemed very comfortable with.