Warriors don’t live by 3, die by 3. They live by defense, live by defense

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The Warriors were supposed to be dying.

They shot just 4-of-15 (27 percent) on 3-pointers in the first half, purportedly a fatal blow for a live-by-the-3, die-by-the-3 team.

How was it actually goink?

Golden State led by 25 on its way to a 115-80 Game 3 win over the Rockets on Saturday.

The Warriors have been mislabeled a jump-shooting team. Sure, they’re perfectly willing to launch 3-pointers. But that doesn’t define their identity.

First and foremost, they’re a defensive team.

Golden State played the NBA’s best defense during the regular season, practically leading the league in points allowed per possession wire-to-wire.

Because they also played at the league’s fastest pace, they ranked just 15th in points allowed per game. So plenty of less-discerning observers didn’t fully appreciate their defensive dominance.

Sadly, Golden State’s best defensive performance of the playoffs also won’t get its just due. For one, Stephen Curry stole the show by scoring 40 points and breaking the record for 3-pointers in a single postseason. The game was also played faster than the Warriors’ league-leading pace.

So, though Golden State’s 80 points allowed seem low, its 77.9 defensive rating is even more telling. For perspective, the Warriors posted an excellent 98.2 defensive rating during the regular season.

Golden State wasn’t that dominant in Game 1 and Game 2 of this series, allowing 105.9 points per 100 possessions.

What changed?

Start with the Warriors’ defense of James Harden, the catalyst of of the Rockets’ offense.

  • First two games: 33 points on 24-of-41 shooting, including 4-of-9 on 3s, with nine assists per game
  • Game 3: 17 points on 3-of-16 shooting, including 1-of-5 on 3s, with four assists

After primarily using Klay Thompson on Harden, Golden State opened Game 3 with Harrison Barnes on the MVP runner-up. Thompson guarded Harden fine, but Harden destroys fine. Barnes provided more length to bother Harden’s step-back jumpers, which had been falling. Thompson and Andre Iguodala also got turn on Harden, and the Warriors aggressively sent help defense when Harden had the ball.

Keep in mind, Barnes guarded Zach Randolph in the last round. Not many players are versatile enough to go from the powerful Randolph in the post to the crafty Harden on the perimeter.

That’s par for the course with the Warriors, whose defensive success is built on the ability to switch and defend many styles. If there’s an offense they can’t handle, it hasn’t shown yet this season.

Game 3’s strategy definitely made Harden uncomfortable with the ball. Much of Harden’s limited success came cutting off the ball, and Golden State will try to shore that up before Monday’s Game 4.

But with the Warriors up 3-0 – a lead no team has ever blown – it’s time to look ahead. LeBron James is not Harden, but this might have been a sneak peak of how Golden State guards LeBron James in the Finals. The aspects of Golden State’s game plan that best limited Harden seem to fit relatively well against LeBron, who has the ball in an awful lot.

And if that doesn’t work, the Warriors will probably find something that does.

They have all season.

Watch Kobe Bryant memorial live stream (video)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Thousands of mourners will gather in Staples Center on Monday to say farewell to Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

The basketball superstar and his 13-year-old daughter will be honored in a public memorial at the arena where Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kobe and Gianna Bryant died along with seven others on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash.

The Celebration of Life will feature speakers reflecting on Kobe Bryant’s impact on his sport and the world, along with music and retrospectives on Bryant’s on-court achievements. Bryant became active in film, television and writing after he retired from basketball in 2016.

Bryant’s family, dozens of sports greats and many major figures in Bryant’s public life are expected to attend.

Staples Center is sold out for the memorial. The money made from ticket sales will be given to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which supports youth sports programs in underserved communities and teaches sports to girls and women.

Bryant played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, including the final 17 seasons at Staples Center, which opened in 1999. The five-time NBA champion’s two retired jersey numbers – 8 and 24 – hang high above the arena where he became the third-leading scorer in league history until Lakers star LeBron James passed him on the night before Bryant’s death.

Bryant’s death caused an outpouring of grief across Los Angeles, where he remained the city’s most popular athlete into retirement. Dozens of public memorials and murals have been installed around the sprawling metropolis, and thousands of fans gathered daily outside Staples Center to commiserate after the crash.

Symbolic meanings will run throughout the ceremony, which will be held on a 24-foot-by-24-foot stage. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother, chose Feb. 24 as the date in honor of the uniform numbers of Kobe and Gianna, who wore No. 2 on her youth basketball teams.

A private funeral was held for Kobe and Gianna Bryant in Orange County on Feb. 7.

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo throws dead ball into air, hits Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in head

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What an unfortunate encapsulation of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s time with the Lakers.

At least Rajon Rondo, beyond this gaffe, did plenty to help the Lakers beat the Celtics.

Bucks’ minor-league coach goes on epic rant, calls ref ‘f—ing clown’ (video)

Bucks' minor-league affiliate Wisconsin Herd vs. Pistons minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids Drive
Mike E. Roemer/NBAE via Getty Images
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After coaching the Wisconsin Herd (Bucks’ minor-league affiliate) to a loss to the Grand Rapids Drive (Pistons’ minor-league affiliate), Chase Buford – son of Spurs CEO R.C. Buford – had a normal one.

Ryan Rodig of WFRV-TV:

Buford:

The officiating definitely went right for Grand Rapids. That was as unprofessional as an officiating performance. I hope you tweet this out and tag the league, because that was embarrassing. Matt Rafferty is a f—ing clown. That being said, we have to be so much better at the end of games. We can’t blow a 21-point lead with 12 minutes to go. However bad and biased and unfair and illegal and cheating the referees are, we have to be better at closing games. And so that’s the way I feel.

Herd:

The words are amazing: “f—ing clown,” “illegal,” “cheating.”

But the hair really completes the whole unhinged motif.

Mavericks protesting loss to Hawks

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was irate after his team’s loss to the Hawks on Saturday.

He’s putting his money where his Twitter fingers are.

Dallas is protesting the game, according to the Last Two Minute Report. That requires posting a $10,000 fee to be refunded only if the challenge prevails.

The contentious play occurred in the final 10 seconds. Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith was called for goaltending Trae Young‘s shot. The play was reviewed and ruled a clean block. However, officials determined the whistle was therefore inadvertent and blew while John Collins was in his shooting motion on a successful putback attempt. So, Collins’ basket counted.

The Mavericks are claiming officials misapplied the rules – a key distinction for a protest. A simple missed call won’t get it done.

Protests rarely succeed. This one probably won’t.

But I think Dallas has a chance. The whistle wasn’t inadvertent. It was intentional. It was for a wrong call. But it was intentional.

Even if the challenge is successful and the Mavericks get their desired jump ball in a re-do, they’d still be trailing by two in the final seconds. They’d still be underdogs.

On the other hand, odds still strongly favor Cuban getting fined… eventually.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

The NBA plans to await commissioner Adam Silver’s ruling on a Dallas Mavericks game protest before leveling possible discipline on owner Mark Cuban for his behavior during and after the Mavericks’ loss to Atlanta on Saturday night.