Kurt Helin

Stephen Curry

Confident, improved Warriors close out Clippers to remain undefeated

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If the Warriors and Clippers do not face each other in the playoffs next spring it doesn’t mean that Golden State is lucky, it means all basketball fans are unlucky. These two teams need to play each other in a best of seven.

We got just a taste of what that could be like on Wednesday, and it was delicious. In an atmosphere that felt far more like May 4 than November 4 inside Oracle, the Warriors were the team more sure of itself under pressure. They played with the confidence not only of a proven champion, but also a team that knows it’s better than the one that won that ring.

The Warriors made the plays while the Clippers missed their chances, and Los Angeles still has rotation questions to answer (such as, you’re not going to close games with Paul Pierce but you are going to play Austin Rivers?).

The Warriors came from 10 back in the fourth quarter to close out the Clippers behind 31 from Stephen Curry, winning 112-108.

Golden State starts the season 5-0, the first defending champion to do that since the 2010-11 Lakers.

“We’re better than we were last year,” Curry said in his postgame interview.

That’s both spot on and frightening for the rest of the league.

This game was not all Curry, however. Especially early on because he picked up two quick fouls as the referees called it tight trying to set a tone and keep a game between heated rivals under control (without Matt Barnes to escalate it, things remained in check). Those fouls also were function of an attacking, aggressive Chris Paul who clearly wanted to establish himself early — both in this game and in the “best point guard in the game” conversation. CP3 is not giving up crown easily, and he put up 20 in the first half.

However, Paul sat out the final play of regulation with what Doc Rivers called a strained groin after the game. He will be re-evaluated on Thursday.

Back to the game itself, when Curry re-entered in the second quarter the Warriors went on a run to stretch the lead out to 15. But nobody thought the Clippers were going to roll over like other teams the Warriors have faced, and they came back and were down seven at the half.

This game was just filled with big, entertaining plays, although maybe none moreso than Festus Ezeli blocking a Blake Griffin dunk attempt.

Paul finished with 24 points and nine assists, Griffin had 23 points and 10 rebounds. Harrison Barnes had a strong game for the Warriors with 17 points on eight shots.

This game was close to the very end, when the Warriors confidence in who they are and execution in their system won them the game.

It was the little things. Like Stephen Curry coming off a high pick and DeAndre Jordan — who has been playing farther back this season on the P&R and not blitzing the ball handler by design — treated Curry like any other ball handler and paid the price with a three. It was Chris Paul not seeing a wide-open Blake Griffin under the basket on a bad defensive switch (credit to Draymond Green who was on CP3 and whose size limited his field of vision) and missing a chance for a game-tying layup.

The Clippers are the second best team in the West right now, but they are a team still trying to figure some things out, such as who should be the fifth guy, the “3&D” wing on the floor in crunch time? Doc Rivers has very good 4-1 team, and he is rightfully is committed to staying big to counter the Warriors small ball lineup, but the Clippers could not close it out Wednesday. They were not yet ready.

They have 77 more games to figure it out before the playoffs start.

Report: Sixers to add Phil Pressey with roster exemption spot

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The Sixers petitioned the league for a roster exemption — they have four injured players who have missed at least three straight games — and the league granted it, letting them add a 16th player due to injuries.

It looks like Phil Pressey will get the call, reports Bob Cooney of the Daily News.

That’s not a bad pickup, as point guards you can find available right now go. He’s a classic pass-first guy who played two seasons in Boston then started out in the Portland training camp this season but didn’t make the cut.

He’s lightning quick, but you don’t have to respect his outside shot and he struggles to finish in the paint over tall defenders (he shot 50 percent inside three feet last season, according to Basketball-reference.com). His quickness makes him a reasonable defender.

Pressey isn’t a long-term answer, but as a Band-Aid he will do the job.

Warriors’ owner Lacob, fiancée slept with Larry O’Brien trophy. Eww.

Joe Lacob
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Much like Lord Stanley’s Cup, if the Larry O’Brien trophy could talk it would tell some “most interesting man in the world” stories.

Then it would tell a few that we couldn’t unhear. This one is in the latter category.

Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob was interviewed by Haute Living and told a story about how he and his fiance celebrated with the NBA’s ultimate trophy.

“I had made a promise to myself [that] I would sleep with the trophy that night,” reveals Lacob, which rhymes with Jacob. “Nicole [Curran, his longtime fiancée] and I did sleep with it.”

On one hand, we want to ask more questions; on the other, we don’t really want to know any more than he’s already shared. (Not that this animated hoops nut is going to tell us anyway.)

“I’ll leave it to the imagination,” he says, grinning. “We had a lot of fun with it.”

Ewwww.

Not that a few things usually reserved for late-night Cinemax haven’t happened to and around the Larry O’Brien trophy before, but I didn’t want to think about an owner doing it. Do you really think Jerry Buss did stuff like this? Wait, don’t answer that.

Now next June when Adam Silver picks up the Larry O’Brien trophy to hand it to the next NBA champion, only one thing is going to pop into my head. Again, ewwww.

Heat’s Gerald Green admitted to hospital for undisclosed reason

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Gerald Green did not play for the Miami Heat Tuesday night against Atlanta for what was simply described as an illness.

Wednesday he was admitted to a Miami-area hospital, but the reason has yet to be disclosed.

According to Ira Winderman at the Sun-Sentinel he was transported by ambulance to the hospital Wednesday morning, and teammate Mario Chalmers was with him.

Green signed a one-year deal with Miami this summer and has fit in well with their up-tempo offense, averaging 10.3 points in 21.5 minutes a game.

We will update this story as information becomes available.

Sixers’ Robert Covington out another two weeks with knee setback

Robert Covington
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The Sixers’ Robert Covington missed the start of the season as he recovered from a sprained MCL in his right knee. Monday night he returned to the court and looked rusty (1-of-9 shooting) but played 22 minutes, looking like a guy ready to step back into the rotation.

Tuesday at practice he tweaked his knee again.

Now he’s out another two weeks, reports Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Covington missed the (current road) trip after aggravating his right MCL sprain during Tuesday’s practice. He’s expected to be sidelined around two weeks.

“What I learned is when you don’t have him, you appreciate really what he can do [for] us,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said, “because he does more than make threes. His ability to guard has improved. The ability to put him on [Bucks power forward] Jabari Parker or a small-ball four type has improved.”

Covington has been one of the good finds in the Sixers’ efforts to bring in a lot of players looking for a couple gets (read: future rotation players). He has good size and athleticism that lets him play and defend either the three or small fours. He can hit threes, and he’s been working on his ability to finish near the rim in traffic.

He’s a guy that can be part of the Sixers’ future — so you know they are going to be ultra cautious with bringing him back from injury. They’re willing to sacrifice some games to make sure he is right. Don’t pick him up on your fantasy team for a while.