Preview: With Stephen Curry and Tony Parker banged up, other Warriors and Spurs will have to step up in Game 4

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When the Spurs and Warriors face off today, they’ll do so with both their floor generals not 100% physically. And while Parker is sure he’ll play with his bruised calf, Curry is only “optimistic” he’ll be able to see the floor and sounds far from certain he’ll be near his best if he does play.

For the Warriors that’s not the best of news, obviously. Curry has been spectacular these playoffs and the focal point of his team’s high powered attack. These playoffs, when Curry is on the floor the Warriors boast an offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 110.8, but that number dips to an astonishingly low 83.0 when he goes to the bench, per NBA.com. If Curry isn’t able to approach his normal standards, the question then becomes if they can get enough production from the rest of their backcourt players to match a potent Spurs’ offense.

Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson will need to raise their respective games, especially relative to what they were able to provide in game 3. Today, Jack can’t be the turnover machine he was and will need to avoid playing with the tunnel vision that freezes out his teammates way too often. Thompson, meanwhile, must get into the flow of the game early and often, looking for his shot off pin downs and in transition to help boost the offense.

Beyond the guards, the Warriors will also need for Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green to be assertive when they have match up advantages. Both have the ability to create offense for themselves and for others and if Curry is hampered, they’ll need to provide that extra playmaking to help supplement what Curry can’t provide. If both can not only get some key basket for themselves but create a few easy ones for the Warriors’ big men when the Spurs help, it would go a long way towards a successful day on that end.

Where the Warriors really need to figure things out is defensively. The Spurs, like they did in the Lakers’ series, seem to be rounding into form after getting a good sense of what their opponent likes to do defensively.

Tony Parker seems to be sorting out where the gaps in the defense are and is attacking when given space while hitting his jumper when his man tries to deny those driving lanes. That said, if his bum calf hampers his ability to create off the dribble, other Spurs ball handlers will need to step in and provide those skills. In game 1, Manu Ginobili was able to provide playmaking, but his scoring has suffered in this series. If he can break out today, it would be a huge boost to San Antonio.

In his own way, Tim Duncan may also have fill some of the playmaking void should Parker not be up to his normal standards. Operating from the elbow and the low post, Duncan can not only score but can be a facilitator for teammates when his team goes into their motion heavy sets. If Duncan shots start to fall, it will only open up his passing angles further and that will spell trouble for a Golden State defense that didn’t bring their top effort in game 3.

But, ultimately, this game will come down which team can get more from their banged up guards. Because while others will need to chip in, both Curry and Parker are too important to what their teams want to do offensively. And if either is substantially hampered in this game, their team will struggle to make up the difference in production as the defense tightens up against everyone else.

Markelle Fultz returns to Philadelphia to do shoulder rehab with team

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Markelle Fultz is back with the 76ers.

Not in uniform for games, but he is back from Los Angeles and in Philadelphia working out with the team to recover from thoracic outlet syndrome, according to multiple reports. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story, then Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia confirmed it.

Fultz was in the arena for the Sixers game Saturday against the Thunder on national television (though not suited up to play).

There is no timetable for Fultz’s return, although his agent has said he expects Fultz to be back on the court this season. Whether that would be with the Sixers is another question, teams have called about the availability of the No. 1 pick from the 2017 NBA Draft, but the offers have been so lowball that none of them have been seriously considered by Philadelphia.

After consulting with a number of specialists just a few weeks into the season (and just after the Jimmy Butler trade), the 20-year-old Fultz was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a pinching of the nerve through the collarbone area. Since December he has been in Los Angeles is doing physical therapy to relieve the issue.

Fultz has returned to Philadelphia and is continuing that therapy.

 

Report: Rockets trying to trade Carmelo Anthony, likely to waive Nunnally to create roster spot

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To bring in some front line depth in the form of Kenneth Faried Monday, the Houston Rockets first have to clear a roster spot.

That led to a lot of speculation it could be Carmelo Anthony who is let go, he remains on the roster but not with the team, in a kind of limbo while the Rockets and ‘Melo’s agent look for a landing spot. (He reportedly has several options and will choose one before the trade deadline, but if he really liked any of those options he would have already taken them rather than waiting for a better offer.)

The Rockets are “aggressively” trying to trade Anthony and find him a new home before Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported. However, James Nunnally is the most likely guy out, he was just signed to a 10-day contract.

If the Rockets haven’t waived ‘Melo yet, they’re not going to do it now.

Houston GM Daryl Morey is also working the phone lines to find wing depth to add to the Rockets’ roster. While James Harden‘s historic streak has carried the Rockets back into the playoff picture in the West, this is not the same Houston team that was a threat to the Warriors a season ago. Morey’s off-season gambles — including Anthony — have not panned out, and he is now trying to correct them.

Pelicans’ Anthony Davis out 1-2 weeks with sprained finger

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This is bad.

The New Orleans Pelicans are 21-25 and four games back of the eight seed in the West having lost 3-of-4 on the current road trip. When Anthony Davis is not on the court, the Pelicans get outscored by 4.2 points per 100 possessions.

Davis is not going to be on the court for a week or two due to a sprained finger, the team announced Saturday morning.

Looking ahead at the schedule, Davis is likely to miss between three and seven games.

Davis has played at an MVP level this season, averaging 29.3 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting, plus grabs 13.3 rebounds and dishes out 4.4 assists a night. And that’s just on offense, defensively he is one of the best rim protecting bigs in the league, averaging 2.6 blocks per game. Davis leads the NBA in win shares (8.3) and PER at 30.9. He has been an absolute beast all season long.

Yet he hasn’t been able to lead the Pelicans to a winning record because of the roster around him (and injuries that have sapped what little depth New Orleans had to begin with).

Because of that, the intensely competitive Davis — who has talked about legacy mattering more to him than money — is expected to turn down a $239 million contract extension from the Pelicans next summer. At that point New Orleans will have to consider trading him and 29 teams will be lined up to talk deal (the Celtics and Lakers are expected to be at the front of that line).

Marc Gasol, Mike Conley reportedly meet with Grizzlies owner, what will that mean?

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This summer, Robert Pera maintained ownership of the Memphis Grizzlies and with that meant the status quo remained — the Grizzlies were going to try to ride the duo of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to the playoffs. There would be no rebuild.

After falling to the Celtics Friday night, Memphis is 19-26, has lost 10-of-11, and are 14th in the Western Conference. Around the league, there is a buzz that Memphis may have to look at trading Gasol, who has a player option this summer and could become a free agent.

With that slide as a backdrop, Gasol and Conley met with Pera recently, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Conley and Gasol, who has a player option for next season worth $25.5 million, sat down with Pera in Memphis this week to discuss the direction of the franchise, league sources said. Pera often meets with key team personnel when he visits Memphis over the course of a season.

Does that mean changes are coming? That’s not what Conley told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“That’s all there was to it,” Conley said after the Grizzlies’ loss in Boston on Friday night. “There was nothing special that came out of it that’s going to change the world or anything.

“We got to talk to him.”

Pera has resisted any kind of rebuild — and in a smaller market, with a community that has embraced the “grit ‘n grind” mantra, there are economic reasons that has been the smart move. While other teams are circling, so far there is no word out of Memphis that there are trades for stars to be had (Chandler Parsons on the other hand…).

Every GM will say of moving players “better too early than too late.” In Memphis, the franchise may have missed that window.