Kurt Helin

LeBron James rejects Stephen Curry shot, and they exchange words. Again.


OAKLAND — We’ve seen this movie before.

Stephen Curry drove the lane in transition during the second quarter, and LeBron James was lurking. He rejected the ball into the first row. We’ve seen it before these Finals.

This time Curry talked a little to LeBron, Draymond Green stepped in just to play Switzerland, and there was a little jawing. Nothing more. But it sets the stage for the second half.

The Warriors lead 49-42 at the half behind a monster 22-point half from Green.

LeBron James with insane high-flying dunk (VIDEO)


OAKLAND — in case you thought LeBron James had lost a step, we bring you this.

Through what had been an at times sloppy first quarter (LeBron had three turnovers, as many as he had in each of the last two games) but he had a few big buckets, and none as impressive as this, which was set up by a poor gamble by Stephen Curry (who was up and down in the first 12 minutes).

Tell me again if you think he’s lost a step.

In surprise move, Warriors to start Festus Ezeli, bring Andre Iguodala off bench in Game 7

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OAKLAND — After he moved through the second half of Game 6 like an old man, Andre Iguodala has been receiving treatment on his back, which was racked with spasms during Thursday night’s contest. A game he started.

It seems to have kept him out of the start of Game 7.

Steve Kerr is starting Festus Ezeli at center and bringing Iguodala off the bench for Game 7 — no death lineup from the opening start. The rest of the starters remain the same: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green.

Kerr can argue that Ezeli brings some of the shot blocking and paint protection to open the game that they lack with Andrew Bogut out since his knee injury in Game 5. If Ezeli plays well, that is true, but he was repeatedly torched by the Cavaliers in Game 6. And something the Warriors don’t talk a lot about, Ezeli has plenty of bumps and bruises of his own right now.

This is likely about keeping Iguodala’s minutes in check early, so that he can play more late as needed. Iguodala is the best defender the Warriors have on LeBron James. If he can’t do it, the job falls to Green, with some Barnes, but that’s a step back and messes with other player rotations.

The Cavaliers starting five remains the same: Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson.

Nervous? Luke Walton did yoga, Tyronn Lue napped before Game 7

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OAKLAND — Professional athletes are creatures of routine. That even extends to Game 7 of the NBA Finals — the biggest stage in basketball. Guys don’t mess with their routine.

“I mean, it’s a special day, but you try to keep the same routine,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “So Luke (Walton) and I went to yoga like we always do every game day. You probably didn’t know that, did you? I’m guessing Bill Belichick and his staff don’t do that. Just throwing that out there.”

Sixty minutes of Bikram Yoga to answer your question.

“Pregame we have breakfast, and then we had a walkthrough in the ballroom, and I went back and took my nap like I always do,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said with a smile on his face.

The question is will routine and familiarity help the key players in Game 7 ward off nerves.

For Kerr, the specific question is can he get through to wingman Harrison Barnes, who has struggled with his shot the last two games and needs to find it quickly in Game 7 or he will be watching a lot of it from the bench (and Kerr’s options to replace him lack Barnes’ versatility).

“The biggest thing is to realize in the Playoffs and especially The Finals the spotlight is big and there are moments for everybody where things don’t go great and you have to fight through that. And just be solid,” Kerr said of his efforts to coach Barnes and provide advice the past 48 hours. “Go out there and play your game, be aggressive. And whatever happens, happens. But it’s very easy in The Finals, especially, to get caught up in all of that, when the reality is what’s important is to just move on to the next game and lock in and do your best.”

Lue just hopes the routine of the last two games — when LeBron James dominated and the Cavaliers’ won — continues one more day.

“I just think we’re ready and prepared,” Lue said. “I thought the last two games guys were really locked into what we’re trying to do defensively and offensively and executing at a high level. So Game 7 won’t be any different. We have to continue to do the same thing tonight, and they’re ready for this moment.”

Three keys to watch in Game 7 between Cavaliers, Warriors

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OAKLAND — Game 7s are unpredictable.

It’s one game and odd, random things can happen for a night as they often do in one basketball game. Leandro Barbosa or J.R. Smith could be the best player — or at least the most crucial player — for a night. Call it small sample size theater, call it a reaction to intense pressure, call it the will of God, call it whatever you want, the beauty of a Game 7 is that anything can happen.

However, after seven games of strategy, of ups and downs, we know the strategies both teams are trying to employ. We know what they want to do, and while there may be last-second tweaks, we largely know how the other side wants to counter them. It comes down to execution.

Here are three questions, and how they are answered will go a long way to determining who wins.

1) Is LeBron James‘ jumper falling? 
We have all rightfully marveled at LeBron’s brilliant back-to-back games, he has reasserted his claim for best player on the planet in lifting up the Cavaliers to force this Game 7. But the unsung part of this has been his jump shot — it was so bad the first four games that the Warriors were going under picks, playing off him and daring him to shoot jumpers. In the last two games, he is 7-of-14 from three. When his jump shot is falling and defenders have to come out and defend him, it opens up room to drive, it opens up passing lanes for one of the most gifted passers in the game. If LeBron hits a couple of threes in the first quarter, Warriors fans should be worried.

2) Is Harrison Barnes (or Shaun Livingston, or Leandro Barbosa, or anyone not named Curry or Thompson) hitting their jump shots? It can’t just be the Stephen Curry show. At one point during Game 6 he was 4-of-8 from three, the rest of the Warriors were 1-of-18. Eventually Klay Thompson hit a few, but by then the damage was done and the Warriors could not get out of the hole. Golden State needs Harrison Barnes, and he is in such a shooting slump that the Cavaliers are giving him the Tony Allen treatment — they are not even closing out on him anymore. Barnes is going to get chances early in Game 7, and he’s either going to hit them or be on the bench quickly.

“Shot felt good today,” Barnes said after practice Saturday. “Came in last night and did some work as well. I feel good coming into the game.”

If his jumper isn’t falling Steve Kerr will have a quick hook, then it will be up to Barnes’ replacement to hit those shots. The Warriors got 73 wins based on depth — that depth needs to show up Sunday night.

3) How do the Warriors handle the Cavaliers hunting out Curry and attacking defensive mismatches? Cleveland the last couple games has executed what coach Tyronn Lue has preached since the series tipped off — if the Warriors switch everything, find the mismatch and beat it. The goal the last couple games has been to get Curry switched defensively onto LeBron or Tristan Thompson, then go right at him. Curry is not a bad defender, but he is the guy teams most want to attack out of the Warriors starters — especially if they can get a bigger, stronger guy on him that can back Curry down and overpower him. The result is foul trouble for Curry, or he gets worn down a little physically. Does Kerr have one final adjustment to remedy this (like maybe not switching those picks)? What the Cavaliers have done the past couple of games has worked well, it’s up to the Warriors to find a counter.