Kurt Helin

Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Kerr uses lessons from Popovich to help Warriors dismantle Spurs

3 Comments

It was as wild a night in the NBA — so busy that Jeff Green‘s three for Memphis to force overtime (they eventually won in the extra frame) doesn’t even make the cut. And I thought this was going to be an all Warriors-Spurs recap of the night, but we will, at least, start there and follow with four other things you should know from an NBA Monday.

1) Steve Kerr used lesson he learned from playing for Gregg Popovich to help Golden State throttle Spurs by 30. All game Monday night it seemed amazing how many back-door cuts — and nifty passes to those cutters — the Warriors were able to get on the Spurs. Golden State’s ball movement was otherworldly, and Draymond Green, in particular, seemed to keep finding cutters going to the rim for good looks. It’s one of many reasons the Warriors ran the Spurs out of the building Monday, winning by 30.

Fear of those Warriors cuts threw the Spurs defense off and led to THE highlight of the night when Stephen Curry shaked and baked the best defender in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard and turned him into a Vine highlight flying around the Web.

After the game, Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr credited playing for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich for all those cuts. Via Ethan Sherwood Straus of ESPN:

“If anybody overplays you, our guys are taught, just cut, cut back door, the next guy will fill the spot. Keep the ball moving. That was something that really was a point of emphasis when I played in San Antonio for Pop. That’s what they do.”

There was more to this win than that. The Warriors pressure defense led to 15 steals and 25 Spurs turnovers (nearly one in four Spurs possessions was a turnover), which allowed Golden State to get out and run, where it is most dangerous. Matchups between these two teams — including in the playoffs — will come down to who controls the tempo and style of play, and Monday night at 106 possessions for the game it was all Warriors. Plus, Curry dropped 37 and whichever defender the Spurs threw at him struggled. There was more, such as Green’s defense on LaMarcus Aldridge, holding the Spurs’ star to five points on 2-of-9 shooting (plus Aldridge was exploited on defense, getting switched onto Curry at times). Everything went the Warriors’ way.

This game does not dictate what would happen in a seven-game series between these teams four months from now, or even what will happen the three other times they meet this regular season. But right now, today, the Warriors are asking questions the Spurs have to figure out how to answer. Right now the Warriors have established themselves as the clear best team in the NBA.

2) DeMarcus Cousins scores franchise-record 56, still not enough as Troy Daniels‘ three lifts Hornets over Kings in double OT. This was the most thrilling game of the night. Charlotte simply had no answer for the physicality of Sacramento’s big man Cousins. He is enough of a threat as a jump shooter that defenders have to respect it, so he put the ball on the floor and drove the basket against Charlotte — Cousins scored 56 points, tying Oscar Robertson for the franchise record for most points in a game.

Well, there was one thing the Hornets could do — keep pace by scoring a lot. Which they did. They were led by Daniels, who filled it up off the bench with 28 points, including the eventual game-winner in double overtime.

On that play, Daniels popped out up high and got separation from Darren Collison thanks to a moving, illegal screen from Frank Kaminsky that was not called. That space was all Daniels needed, he turned and shot from 27 feet out and hit nothing but the bottom of the net. The Hornets were up 129-128, and that proved to be the ballgame.

3) Anthony Davis suffers concussion and by the hand… er, elbow of teammate. The good news for the Pelicans is that they are off until Thursday, so there is time for Davis to go through the NBA’s concussion protocol and still play in their next game. But this was nasty. Both Davis and Tyreke Evans were going for a rebound, trying to keep it away from James Harden, when Evans inadvertently elbowed Davis in the head.

Davis went to the ground, then went to the locker room not to return, the Pelicans announcing he had suffered a concussion. Harden and Trevor Ariza sparked an 18-0 Rockets run to start the second half with Davis out, and from there the Rockets held on for a 112-111 win. Harden finished with 35 points.

4) Tyronn Lue gets his first win as Cavaliers’ head coach. Cleveland gave Tyronn Lue the game ball for his first win as an NBA coach — and unlike his predecessor Lue accepted it gracefully. (David Blatt had used the moment to remind his players he had won more than 700 games in Europe.) That said, it wasn’t pretty. Lue has pushed the Cavaliers to play faster, and they did (99 possessions Monday, four more than their season average) but with that came guys clearly not being comfortable at times and being sporadic with their aggression. However, the bench got it and made a late third-quarter run that was enough to lift Cleveland past Minnesota 114-107. LeBron James had 21 points to lead the Cavaliers, but Kyrie Irving (17 points) had the highlight of the night.

5) Blake Griffin breaks hand, likely out weeks (at least). It’s another setback for a Clippers’ team trying to establish itself as elite. Blake Griffin has missed the Clippers last 15 games with a partial quadricep tear, but as Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times told us in a PBT Podcast, he was expected to return Tuesday night when the Clippers visited the Pacers.

Nope, he’s going to be out for a few weeks (at least) with a broken right hand. Yes, that is his shooting hand, so this could be a while.

How did that happen? An “undisclosed team-related incident,” ESPN reported. We know he didn’t punch Josh Smith — the Clippers had already traded him. I’m not going to speculate as to what happened, but clearly he was not “in the zone.” Details will leak out soon enough. But you can go ahead and start speculating amongst your friends.

Stephen Curry scores 37, Warriors turn showdown with Spurs into 120-90 laugher

15 Comments

The Spurs got to find out what it’s like to be one of the other 28 teams in the NBA for a night.

San Antonio and its league-best defense had no answers for Stephen Curry, who scored 37 points and abused both Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills with highlight-reel moves. The Warriors gambling defense forced Spurs turnovers on nearly one in four trips down the court (22.2 percent of Spurs possessions), which let the Warriors get out and play the game at their pace (103 possessions). As the other 28 teams could have told the Spurs, let the Warriors run and they put up points in waves, before a team can set their defense. The Warriors relentless pace overwhelmed the Spurs and turned the most anticipated game of the season into a blowout.

The Warriors dismantled the Spurs 120-90. What had been billed as a showdown between the two best teams in the NBA into another Golden State tour de force.

Manu Ginobili put it well (via Jabari Young of the Express-News): Right now the Warriors are the better team.

The Spurs vaunted defense — clear and away the best in the NBA this season — was undone in part by a sloppy offense. San Antonio turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter and 25 times for the game — 15 of those on Golden State steals, live ball turnovers that allow the Warriors to get out and run.

Five of those steals were by Curry, who was leading the relentless assault and had 15 first-quarter points as Golden State shot 55 percent in that first frame. Even when Golden State put their best defender — reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard — on Curry it didn’t matter.

It also didn’t matter when the Warriors did defend Curry well and get a hand in his face — Curry hit 7-of-12 contested shots (according to the NBA.com Sports VU camera data).

But it wasn’t just Curry. Klay Thompson both got loose and made some smart passes, and the Warriors posted up 6’7″ point guard Shaun Livingston on both Tony Parker and Patty Mills when they tried to defend him (Livingston had 13 points on the night). The Warriors killed the Spurs on back-door cuts. Golden State gave the Spurs a lot to think about.

The Spurs were without Tim Duncan, but he would not have changed the outcome. Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 16 points.

The outcome of this game doesn’t impact a potential playoff meeting between these teams, or even the next three regular season meetings these teams have before the playoffs even start. But it did show that the Warriors have another gear that the Spurs (and Cavaliers, as evidenced by a game last week) can’t match. At least not yet. But anyone who counts the Spurs out does so at their own risk.

Report: Blake Griffin suffers broken hand, could miss considerable time

3 Comments

Blake Griffin has missed the Clippers last 15 games with a partial quad tear, but as Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times told us in a PBT Podcast, he was expected to return Tuesday night when the Clippers visited the Pacers.

But he’s going to be out a while longer, according to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin returned home early from the team’s five-game road trip after suffering a suspected broken right hand in an undisclosed team-related incident, ESPN.com has learned.

Sources told ESPN.com that the hand injury — unrelated to the torn quadriceps muscle that has sidelined Griffin since Dec. 26 — is expected to keep him out “a matter of weeks as opposed to days.”

“Undisclosed team-related incident” is an interesting phrasing. I’ll leave it to you to speculate on what that means.

While the Clippers are 12-3 without Griffin, the team’s bench has struggled of late (in Toronto Sunday it cost Los Angeles the game) and the return of Griffin would have helped stabilize the rotations again.

There is no word on how long he will be out, but this is his right — shooting — hand so it has to fully heal.

Griffin is averaging 23.2 points and 8.7 rebounds a game, he can knock down threes and finish at the rim with authority. He’s one of the game’s best power forwards, and the Clippers need him back. They are going to have to learn to be patient for a while.

Stephen Curry shakes, bakes Kawhi Leonard for bucket (VIDEO)

1 Comment

Kawhi Leonard is the best on-ball defender in the NBA and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

Stephen Curry shook him like he was on the playground.

That play pretty much summed up a night where the Warriors offense toyed with the best defense in the NBA, eventually winning 120-90. Leonard did better than most on Curry, but even he is made to look bad at points. There is nothing a mere mortal can do against Curry at this point.

Just ask Patty Mills.

Elbow from Tyreke Evans gives Anthony Davis concussion, leaves game

2 Comments

Because the basketball injury gods are not done with New Orleans…

With just less than two minutes remaining in the first half of the Rockets visiting the Pelicans, Houston’s Josh Smith missed a jumper (shocking, I know) and as Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis both went for the rebound, Evans elbows Davis in the head.

Davis went to the ground, stayed there for a while, went back to the locker room, where he was diagnosed with a concussion.

Davis now has to clear the NBA’s concussion protocol before he can return to the Pelican’s rotation. New Orleans is off until Thursday when they host Sacramento.