Kurt Helin

Chris Paul, Stephen Curry

Five Takeaways from an NBA Wednesday: Golden State still owns the golden state

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It was a busy night on the NBA docket, but all eyes were in the Bay Area where there was a battle of the undefeated between the Warriors and Clippers. If you decided to watch Northern Illinois upset Toledo on the gridiron (and if you’re not an alum of one of those schools, why would you?), here is what you missed from an NBA Wednesday:

1) Warriors executed like champions, beat Clippers and remain undefeated. This was as good as it gets this early in the season — the players were focused, the crowd was loud, and it felt like a game that had meaning. These are the two best teams in the West right now (the Thunder have defensive issues, the Spurs’ offense is still settling in), but when it came down to crunch time Wednesday night one team was confident in its identity and system, and the other one is still figuring a few things out. It felt as close to a playoff game atmosphere as you can find in November, and just like in the playoffs the Warriors find ways to win, this time 112-108. That would be the 5-0, undefeated Warriors.

Stephen Curry dropped 31 and continues to have cheat codes for the NBA, but he alone was not why the Warriors won. They got 17 points from Harrison Barnes, 16 from Klay Thompson, and at the end of the game their defense was able to get stops. The Clippers missed their opportunities (Chris Paul not seeing an open Blake Griffin under the basket for a dunk to tie the game, plus just missing some decent looks) and Doc Rivers is still trying to settle on who will be the fifth player in crunch time (it was Austin Rivers and Lance Stephenson for defense, not Paul Pierce). Despite a strong game from CP3, Golden State won because it knew how to execute better under pressure, they know how to do the little things well.

And a few big things, like Festus Ezeli blocking a Blake Griffin dunk attempt.

I just hope we get to see these two teams go at each other in the playoffs. Basketball gods, be kind to us this year.

2) The Raptors are NBA’s only other undefeated team after beating the Thunder. Second night of a back-to-back on the road and you get Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Thunder? Before the season you chalk that up as a loss, and if you’re Gregg Popovich you rest half the team. Toronto didn’t see it that way. DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and the Raptors got the win. They were in attack mode all night and got to the line 39 times (compared to 14 for the Thunder) and that included a lot of free throws late during a 10-0 run that got them the 103-98 win. It’s early, but Toronto is 5-0, with a top 10 offense and defense, and the third best net rating in the league. Toronto looks legit.

3) Bradley Beal shakes LaMarcus Aldridge, drains game-winning three. The other East over West upset came in a game that started with a 19-2 Washington run, and yet you knew San Antonio was going to make a comeback. They did, of course, and this game was close much of the way. Tony Parker hit a shot to tie it with seven seconds left but Bradley Beal — 25 points on the night — shook LaMarcus Aldridge and drained a game winner. The Wizards are 3-1 on the young season thanks to Beal and John Wall leading them to a top-10 offense.

4) Jabari Parker is back. In his first game back following ACL surgery, Jabari Parker looked… rusty. And a bit tentative. All of which is to be expected for the Milwaukee Bucks’ scoring machine, this is going to take some time, both physically and mentally. He played just 16 minutes and was 1-6 from the floor. And none of that matters — it’s just good to see Parker back on the court. His game will come around. By the way, the Bucks beat the hapless 76ers 91-87.

5) You aren’t the only one who hates sleeves on jerseys, LeBron James is in your camp. A lot of fans just flat out hate short-sleeved jersey — you make that clear on twitter every chance you get. LeBron James agrees with you, he’s complained before about how the sleeves impact his shot, and even talked to Commissioner Adam Silver about it.

After a missed three Wednesday night, LeBron turned his tight-sleeve jersey into something a little less constricting — just using his bare hands.

That would be the ultimate rejection of the sleeved jersey concept.

Confident, improved Warriors close out Clippers to remain undefeated

Stephen Curry
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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.