Stephen Curry, Warriors think they found something to build on in fourth quarter

15 Comments

Through three quarters Tuesday night, Stephen Curry just could not get shots to fall. Credit the Cavaliers defense, or say his shot was just off, the fact of the matter is he was 4-of-11 through 36 minutes of Game 3. But it was more than just Curry, the Cavaliers are being physical with Warriors players off the ball, and that is leading to some stagnation. The Cavaliers are getting back and taking away easy transition looks. They have taken the Warriors out of their comfort zone.

Add it all together the second straight game the Warriors were held to fewer than 60 points through three quarters — something that didn’t happen all season.

Then in the fourth quarter Curry woke up — he hit 5-of-8 from three, knocking down shots. Contested or not, no matter the degree of difficulty, the shots were falling.

“I think I found something when it comes to how I’m going to be able to attack their pick-and-rolls and even certain iso situations,” Curry said post game. “I’ll keep that in the memory bank going into Game 4, and hopefully it has a trickle over effect into the first quarter of the next game.”

Curry dropped 17, and the Warriors hung up a 36 spot in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough. Matthew Dellavedova and LeBron James made key plays down the stretch, and the Cavaliers hung on for the win, giving them a 2-1 series lead.

But the Warriors said they found something to build on, something they can carry over to Game 4 Thursday night.

“We became the aggressors,” Curry said. “Just like the last three minutes of Game 2. For us to win this series, we have to play that way the whole game. We have the depth, we have the talent to do it, whether we’re at home or on the road.”

“You have to make every possession like it’s your last possession,” Andre Iguodala said. “I feel like that’s the energy Cleveland’s playing with.”

Players and coach often speak of energy more than tactics, but that fourth quarter feature something new — David Lee setting the picks for Curry. Lee is an offensive threat in a way the struggling Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut have not been this series. According to John Schuhmann of NBA.com (using SportsVU cameras), when Lee screened Curry the team scored 20 points on 13 possessions (1.54 per possession), compared to 25 points on 40 possessions when anyone else was the screener for Curry (0.63 points per possession).

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said you can count on seeing more of Lee in Game 4, but what he liked was that his team showed some passion.

“I mean, you want to show some fight,” Kerr said. “And I thought in the third quarter we were hanging our heads a little bit, and it was good to see us bring the fight to the game. And that’s how we have to play the whole way through. It’s not just making shots. Obviously, that helps, but it’s fighting and it’s competing, and we’ve got to do that for 48 minutes.”

Iguodala used a better word than fight — execution. That is what the Warriors have lacked in their offense. The Cavaliers have made it difficult at every step, but in the face of that the Warriors stopped executing.

“It’s up to us to do the things that we haven’t been able to do on both ends of the floor. Executing small things. Small things are really biting us in the ass a little bit,” Iguodala said. “So loose balls they’ve gotten to every one of them. Offensive boards, second chance points, they seem to have a knack for those things, and we’ve got to come up with them…

“When we don’t get enough passes, we seem to rush even more. So we’ve just got to take our time, settle in, make them work a little bit more defensively. I think we found something there with David Lee that’s working for us. So he’s going to get some more minutes, I would like to think, going forward, and then other guys will see how effective he is and they’ll do the same. So we’ll have a steady diet of something we found that can work throughout the rest of the series.”

The Warriors had better hope so — and they need to use it and be aggressive from the opening tip of Game 4. The Warriors will either head home with the series tied and feeling confident or down 3-1 in a hole that, like the one they were in Tuesday night, they probably can’t climb out of.

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss: “I have 100 percent confidence in Rob Pelinka”

Getty Images
2 Comments

Internally, the Lakers believe they are on the right track: They signed LeBron James as a free agent, they spent years acquiring assets then turned those assets into Anthony Davis, and they believe the roster that will take the court next season will bring vindication for the front office and ownership group. The Lakers believe they will be back on top, where they belong.

From the outside, um, let’s just say there are doubts around the league. Doubts about all the picks — particularly the pick swaps and deferments — that the Lakers gave up to get Davis and now that could hurt them in the future. There are doubts about the ability of Rob Pelinka to build out a roster around LeBron and Davis that is truly a threat.

Jeanie Buss has no such doubts. Speaking to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times (and other reporters) at the NBA Awards show Monday, Buss expressed nothing but confidence in Pelinka and the Lakers’ staff.

“I’ve always had confidence in Rob, whatever the speculation is out there,” Buss said. “We don’t need outside media to validate the things that we do. I’m very happy and I think we’re on the right path.”

“I have 100% confidence in him in running his basketball operations,” Buss said. “He’s brought us a great new head coach in Frank Vogel, whose teams have had a lot of success in the playoffs and who have played consistently ranking high in defense, which means not only does he emphasize defense but the players buy into his defensive schemes.”

The question isn’t Vogel’s credentials, although how a staff with Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and other veteran coaches with big egos will mesh together is going to be interesting.

The question is talent.

The Lakers have the high end of that with LeBron and Davis, but when you think about the Laker title teams of the past it wasn’t just Shaq and Kobe, it was also Derek Fisher and Robert Horry and Rick Fox and a host of others. The same thing was true in this past Finals — the deeper team won because the Raptors could adapt and handle their star not being 100 percent.

Are the Lakers going to chase another star and then complete the roster with minimum salary players? Or, get two or three quality role players with their cap space to have a deeper team? Has this all been planned out and thought through? Maybe Rob Pelinka builds this roster out beautifully, but we only have one year of experience to judge him on, and that did not go well.

Buss may have confidence, she should, the rest of us are in wait and see mode.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

Daniel/Getty Images
5 Comments

Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images
2 Comments

Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

Getty Images
1 Comment

Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.