Kurt Helin

2015 NBA Finals - Game Two

Klay Thompson to Andre Iguodala for the alley-oop throwdown (VIDEO)

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Klay Thompson was saving the Warriors’ bacon in the first half — he had 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while the rest of the Warriors were 8-of-25 for 25 points. If not for Thompson, the LeBron James and the Cavaliers would have been up by far more than 2 (47-45).

But Thompson was doing more than just shooting, he also had this sweet alley-oop in transition to Andre Iguodala.

It’s the kind of play the Cavs have masterfully limited so far in the Finals.

Stephen Curry with circus shot high off the glass, then behind-the-back pass (VINE)

2015 NBA Finals - Game Two
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OAKLAND — Stephen Curry started off the game cold, shooting 1-of-6 to open the game.

But his one make was impressive — over the outstretched arm of Tristan Thompson and high off the glass.

Curry also made a nice pass to set Leandro Barbosa up for a three.

The game was tied 20-20 at the end of one quarter.

Report: Mike Malone given second interview for Denver Nuggets coaching job

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Mike Malone was hired as the Sacramento head coach to help change the team culture. In the final years of the Maloof ownership things had spiraled out of control, Malone was brought in to right the ship.

He did that. He built a defensive identity for the team, connected with DeMarcus Cousins and created a structure, one that was just starting to result in wins on the court. Then Cousins got hurt, the Kings went on a losing streak, and the new Kings ownership decided what they really wanted was a running team. So Malone got axed.

Denver could use some culture shock after the Brian Shaw era. Malone could provide that, and he’s getting a second interview, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Melvin Hunt is considered the clear frontrunner here. Players like him and the team responded and played well for him — so well that it started to mess up their draft pick, so management forced Hunt to rest guys down the stretch.

The Nuggets still seem to be undecided on a direction — the defensive-minded Malone and the offensive-minded Mike D’Antoni are radically different in style and would require radically different rosters.

The Nuggets want to have their new coach in place before the draft. Then on draft night and into the summer expect Denver to be active trading partners as they try to reshape that roster and culture.

Rihanna’s cheering for LeBron pushed Warriors owner to switch seats in Game 1

2015 NBA Finals - Game One
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OAKLAND — I would tell you that pop star Rihanna was sitting courtside for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but you already knew that because the ABC broadcast made sure you knew that.

She was sitting next to Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob, who midway through the game moved a couple seats down away from her, putting his fiancee in between them.

Twitter loved that and speculation came up that it was the fiancee that didn’t want her man sitting next to Rihanna. But Lacob, at an event the next day, said he moved for a different reason — Rihanna wouldn’t stop cheering for LeBron.

“She bought seats, paid a lot of money for them and she can root for whoever she wants, right? But I thought I would be a nice guy and took my two kids, who go to a lot of games and booted them down to the end of the court and moved her next to me. I said hey sit next to the owner, it is a nice thing to do. I thought I was being friendly. She was rooting for LeBron the whole game so finally I was getting irritated and I said hey I’m the owner of the Warriors. She didn’t care, she just kept going. So finally I said that’s it and I moved a couple seats down. Everyone has it that I moved my finance next to her because she got upset that I was sitting next to Rihanna which is not true.”

The Warriors are not going to be making a lot of adjustments on the court for Game 2, but one thing may be different: If Rihanna is there no way Lacob moves his kids out of the prime seats for her again.

(Hat tip to Eye on Basketball for finding the video.)

NBA Finals Game 2 Preview: Five things to expect

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OAKLAND — The NBA Finals have a very different feel about them since Kyrie Irving went down in overtime of Game 1 with what was a fractured kneecap.

For 50 minutes Thursday night it looked like we were in for an excellent series, but now the Cavaliers will have to scramble to replace their second best player and the only guy they trusted to create shots outside LeBron James. On paper, it’s difficult to see how they do that in a way the Warriors don’t crush.

But as the cliche goes, the games are not played on paper. LeBron is the best player in the world and is on a mission to bring a title to Cleveland. J.R. Smith can get hot. A lot of things can happen that would again change the feel of this series.

Rather than what might be, here are five things I think will happen in Game 2.

1) Expect the Warriors to start the game on a run. The Warriors to a man do not think they played well at all in Game 1. They are not so much making adjustments for Game 2 as much as just trying to execute better what they wanted to do the first time around. That game saw them admittedly come out a little nervous and shoot 4-of-18 to open the contest, which will not happen this time. Look for the Warriors to start the game on a run, something even the Cavaliers’ Iman Shumpert said they expect. The Cavs just want to not turn the ball over to fuel the run, and withstand it, then climb back.

Also, expect the Warriors to try and play faster.

“I think we can still ramp it up a little bit more, get out in transition a little bit more,” Draymond Green said. “But LeBron, he controls the pace on offense, we’ve just got to make sure we’re ready to push the ball off a make or a miss. I still think we can get more into our pace.”

2) Matthew Dellavedova, it’s time for your closeup. With Irving out, Dellavedova will get put into the starting lineup for Cleveland. He was forced into a starting role against the Hawks and played well, particularly on defense where he had an average defender distance of 3.97 feet to his shooter — the best of any non-center in the Conference Finals (minimum of 50 shot attempts). But it’s one thing to do that against Jeff Teague, another to do it against Stephen Curry.

3) LeBron the distributor. LeBron attacked a lot in the last game in isolation, often trying to back different defenders down into the post. A few times the Warriors sent Andrew Bogut and others to double team and help out, but for the most part the Warriors defenders on the weak side stayed home and Golden State took their chances one-on-one with LeBron. He put up 44 points but didn’t get his teammates involved and going — the Warriors can live with that. The Cavs can’t.

“I’ve got to do a better job as well getting my other guys involved,” LeBron said. “I’m okay with getting big numbers and things of that nature, but I feel much better when I’m able to get my guys in rhythm and get them guys some more looks.

“So I think one of the things is trying to stay at home on a lot of my shooters. They didn’t give James Jones as much air space. J.R. got a couple good looks, it just didn’t go down.”

The Cavaliers on the weak side didn’t cut or flash into the lane in Game 1 but Cavs players said that was by design — they didn’t want to bring help defenders closer to LeBron, they wanted to space the floor. Expect that to change a little in Game 2.

“We’ve just got to continue to have movement on the back side, continue to add more cuts to make sure, one, that they can’t load up on LeBron and, two, that he has outlets just in case people are caught sleeping,” Shumpert said.

4) Be ready for some small ball. Golden State has had success all playoffs going small, playing Draymond Green at the five, but in Game 1 coach Steve Kerr sat on that lineup and didn’t break it out until overtime — when the Warriors went on a run and sealed the victory.

When Kyrie and Kevin Love have been out, the Cavaliers have had success going small with a lineup of Dellavedova, J.R. Smith, Shumpert, LeBron and Tristan Thompson — in 50 minutes this postseason that lineup has outscored opponents by 26.2 points per 100 possessions.

The Cavaliers are going to lean on this lineup some in Game 2. While it has worked against the Hawks and Bulls, the Warriors love it when teams try to play small and fast against them. Cavs GM David Griffin summed it up best, speaking about the good numbers they have had with Irving and Love out.

“From an analytics standpoint… it’s not a big sample size. I think you have to take a little bit of that with a grain of salt because it’s also about matchups and we were really fortunate the teams we played lent themselves to the style we were going to play. Golden State is a totally different animal. If you get to choose, you’ll always choose more talent. But I’m really grateful we’ve got the mentality we have.”

5) The Cavaliers don’t think this series is all but over. At their practice and team meeting Saturday the players were beat over the head with the numbers about how good the Cavaliers have been when Irving and Love are out. The players were reminded that a few years back Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City to the NBA Finals and the consensus was the Thunder would be back often after that and pick up multiple rings. Bottom line, they were told not to let up because Irving was out or they would pay a steep price. The players said they got the message.

“A lot of people are saying the series is over, but that’s not true,” Klay Thompson said. “This is a team that’s more than capable. They did beat the Atlanta Hawks twice without him, and that was the best team in the East. So you’ve got to respect what the other guys can do. Obviously, Kyrie’s a huge part of their team. He’s one of their best players. But you can’t let your guard down. They’ve still got guys who are more than capable of making plays.”

To a man the Cavaliers think they still can win, they have a history of success these playoffs without Irving in the lineup. They still have the best player on the planet, they still have an improved defense, and they could have won Game 1.

“You know, I said it’s going to be one of the most challenging seasons of my career from the beginning, and this just adds on to it,” LeBron said Saturday. “You know, we’re undermanned right now. But we’ve got guys in the locker room that are ready for the challenge, and we look forward to the challenge tomorrow night.”