Kurt Helin

Stephen Curry

Reports: Stephen Curry to be named MVP Monday

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It’s not official, but it’s also not a surprise.

Golden State’s Stephen Curry will be named the NBA’s MVP on Monday, reports Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry will be named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, according to multiple league sources in recent days.

Official announcement will come this week, sources said, likely on Monday between Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference semifinals series between the Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Multiple others have confirmed that this announcement is coming. James Harden will be second in the voting, according to the report.

This had been the most wide-open MVP race in recent memory, with players such as LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Chris Paul all having seasons that allowed supporters to make a good case for them. But as the season wound through it’s final weeks, it clearly became a Curry vs. Harden race for the top spot.

Curry was phenomenal from the very start of the season, leading the Warriors to a 67-win season. He averaged 23.8 points and 7.7 assists a game (both sixth in the NBA), shooting 44.3 percent from three, plus was fourth in the league with 2.04 steals a contest. He had a team-high 22 in the Warriors Game 1 playoff win over Memphis on Sunday.

Curry certainly got some media votes for being the best player on the best team, but his MVP case was much more nuanced than that old cliche. While what Harden did was amazing it was conventional — use the pick-and-roll to get into the lane, draw fouls and hit threes. What Curry did was anchor a far more modern offense. He put up more than his share of highlight plays, driving the lane or knocking down his three, but he meant more to that offense than just being a standard quarterback. Steve Kerr used the threat of Curry off the ball, his gravity to draw defenders — even off the ball you can’t give him an inch — to open up the shots that Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and others got.

It worked. Curry has transformed into one of the most dynamic and most entertaining players in the league, but he is efficient as well.

This is well deserved.

Hawks start hot, finish cold, Wizards take Game 1 on road 104-98.

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks - Game One
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The Atlanta Hawks scored 37 points on 64 percent shooting in the first quarter.

The Atlanta Hawks scored 35 points on 25 percent shooting in the second half.

Spin that as an improved Wizards defense or the Hawks just missing good looks (reality is it was a mix of both), it doesn’t matter. The Wizards seemed to shake off the rust from their one-week layoff in the second half, slow the pace and change the game.  The Wiz hit the shots the Hawks defense gave them — John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 46 points and 14 assists — and Washington stormed back.

The Wizards picked up a 104-98 win on the road, taking a 1-0 lead over the No. 1 seed in the East. Game 2 is Tuesday night in the ATL.

This is the fourth straight series the Wizards have won Game 1 on the road, an NBA record.

“Last year, like I think I told you guys, we were just happy to be in the playoffs, we were happy to move on, and we didn’t really have any high goals after the first round,” Beal said postgame. “But this year we expect more of ourselves, we expect to get past the second round, we have that same same desperation we had in the previous round.”

“I think they made more plays in the second half than we did,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said, putting it mildly. “I think defensively we just had a couple lags, a couple of lulls, that allowed them to get back in it and get a little separation. Offensively I think we’ve got to be more aggressive, we’ve got to get to the paint, attack more, and continue to move the ball, but I think that’s got to start with us being more aggressive getting to the paint.”

Atlanta was aggressive early. The Hawks of January — the team that went undefeated for a month and showed spectacular ball movement — had been largely absent through the end of the season and into the first round of the playoffs, but they showed up for the start of Game 1.

Atlanta came out moving the ball and hitting shots, going on a 9-0 run at one point and a 17-6 run in another both in the first quarter. The Wizards couldn’t keep up and trailed 37-26 after one. Then in the second quarter Dennis Schroeder used his speed to carve up the Wizards defense at the start while DeMare Carroll was knocking down threes and had 21 points in the first half.

Hawks lead comfortably 63-53 at the half, racking up an offensive rating of 131 points per 100 possessions in the first 24.

But this game was a tale of two halfs.

Washington tightened up its defense and cut off that penetration but even when the Hawks got the ball inside they didn’t finish. Plus the Wizards contested the arc better. Some of it was just the Hawks missing shots. In the first half, the Hawks were 13-of-18 inside eight feet and 9-of-17 from three. In the second half, the Hawks were 7-of-19 inside eight feet and 4-of-21 from three.

“I think the majority of the second half (we settled too much for jump shots)” Budenholzer said. “The thing you always have to be careful with, I thought we had some good looks, but I think we’ll get better looks, more consistent scoring if we’re more aggressive driving it.”

The Wizards played through injuries beautifully. John Wall injured his wrist on a hard fall in the second quarter but never left the game. Bradley Beal rolled his ankle and had to go back to the locker room in the second but returned to the game — noticeably hobbled and slower, but he returned.

Paul Pierce was his usual self in the playoffs, putting up 19 points and hitting 5-of-8 shots when contested (according to the Sports VU cameras). The Wizards also got strong bench play. Postgame Wizards coach Randy Whittman singled out Drew Gooden (12 points) and Otto Porter (10) for their contributions.

The Hawks did not — their starting lineup was +10 in 18 minutes of action, but that means when bench players were on the floor the Hawks were -16. Budenholzer got away with it against the Nets, but he might need to tighten his rotation now.

Rumor: Orlando taking time to start coaching search waiting on Thibodeau situation

Tom Thibodeau
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It is the conventional wisdom around the league that, short of the Bulls making it to the NBA Finals, once the season ends Chicago is going to part ways with coach Tom Thibodeau.

The Orlando Magic have a coaching vacancy right now.

While there are a few people expected to be interviewed for the job —interim coach James Borrego, Scott Skiles, and Scott Brooks among them — Orlando has not started the search process yet. Why? The theory is they are waiting on Thibodeau, reports Josh Robbins at the Orlando Sentinel.

The theory mentioned most often revolves around current Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. The league observers speculate that the Magic want to see whether the Bulls and Thibodeau will part ways after the Bulls conclude their playoff run….

League observers caution that Thibodeau’s hire by the Magic would not be a given even if Thibodeau becomes a coaching free agent.

It would be awkward to bring in someone like Brooks for an interview, and then have him stew and sit for a couple weeks (at least, maybe more than a month) while you wait on Thibodeau would be unprofessional. To put it kindly.

Thibodeau would bring a strong defensive focus and a great level of attention to detail to the organization. He’s not a guy whose name comes up first on the “best player development” coaches list, but young players like Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic have thrived under him.

Orlando is an attractive destination for a coach, but if Thibodeau is let go he’s going to have plenty of options.

Watch game clock misfire on final Game 7 play for Spurs, tipping hand

Jamal Crawford, Blake Griffin, Matt Barnes, DeAndre Jordan, Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw,
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The clock operator made an enormous mistake at the worst time at the end of Game 7 in what was a slugfest of a series between the Clippers and Spurs.

Chris Paul had just made his amazing shot to put the Clippers up two, but the Spurs had time left on the clock — one second. Gregg Popovich had Borris Diaw inbounding the ball on a play that sent several shooters out to the arc then had Kawhi Leonard roll to the rim for an alley-oop attempt. The referee hands the ball to Diaw, the players start moving and…

Buzzzzzz. The horn sounds to end the game.

Except the ball was still in Diaw’s hands — the clock operator messed up and started the clock when Diaw touched the ball, not a player on the court.

After the game, Popovich said that mistake allowed the Clippers to see what the final play was going to look like, it gave their defenders a heads up. You can see how hot he is in the video. As he should be.

When the actual play ran Matt Barnes read the alley-oop attempt and, playing free safety, came over and swatted the pass away, ending the game. Did he get there a step quicker because he saw the play start once before? Who knows. As Popovich admitted as well after the game, the odds of success on a one-second play at the end of a game are slim to start.

But that screw up certainly didn’t help.

What matters now is that the Clippers win and advance to the second round.

Chris Paul has biggest game with most on line, drops 27 (VIDEO)

Tim Duncan, Chris Paul
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There’s a rather silly theory some talking heads — usually not NBA guys — that Chris Paul lacked the internal fortitude and leadership to win big games. That was always crap, but it was out there.

Anyone who says that after Saturday night is a fool.

The Clippers and Spurs faced off in one of the greatest — if not the greatest — first round series ever and it took 27 points from Paul on a night he injured his hamstring to get the win over the Spurs. Paul was nothing short of brilliant, hitting 9-of-13 shots, including 5-of-6 from three. That includes the game winner.