Small ball works, Golden State handles Cleveland comfortably to even series

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CLEVELAND — They went small from the opening tip. The ball flew around the court. Three pointers fell at a 40 percent clip, led by the MVP hitting four. They pushed the ball off the other team’s makes and misses, then attacked the rim. They made the extra pass.

Put simply, the Golden State Warriors looked more like the 67-win Warriors from the regular season again.

And the result was a comfortable win 103-82 victory for Golden State, behind 22 points each from Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry.

With the win, the Warriors evened the NBA Finals at 2-2 and are heading home for Game 5 Sunday.

And now it’s David Blatt and the Warriors’ turn to come up with answers, because the first big adjustment of the Finals came from Steve Kerr — and it worked.

“We did it for pace and floor spacing and just to get the tempo going…” Kerr said of the switch to starting small. “We controlled the tempo and the rhythm of the game. But that I think had more to do with us competing and getting to long rebounds and loose balls. I thought the first three games they were the more competitive team. Maybe it’s our first trip to The Finals, we thought we can play hard. It’s not just about playing hard. It’s about playing every single possession like it’s your last. And I thought tonight our effort took a step up, and that’s why we were able to win.”

“It made sense when (Kerr) told us just because we’ve been getting off to such slow starts,” Curry said of being told about the switch. “When we have that lineup out there in parts of the game, we were able to turn defensive stops into transition and just pick the tempo and the pace of the game up.”

Kerr altered his starting lineup for Game 4, starting Andre Iguodala in place of big center Andrew Bogut. This small lineup had been +18.8 per 48 minutes in limited run (20 minutes in the Finals) but Steve Kerr was going to use it to pick up the pace and make this a more Warriors friendly pace. It worked.

Well, not for the first minute, the Cavaliers raced out to a 7-0 lead (including a no-look LeBron James feed to Timofey Mozgov). But then Stephen Curry hit a couple threes, the small lineup opened up the floor, the attacked the rim, and the Warriors started to look like themselves again.With balanced attack (Green and Barnes each had five early) and Warriors came back to lead 22-20 and never looked back from there.

The Warriors pulled away and were up 54-42 at the half. They shot 46.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-17 from three in the first half — not vintage numbers for the Warriors, but far better than we had seen through three games. Most importantly Curry got some help, from Draymond Green who had 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the first half, and Andrew Iguodala had 9 points (all in the first quarter). The energy of the Warriors was just different this game.

“I think if we played as hard as we were playing the last couple of games, it would have won us probably 67 regular season games, but it would have lost us the Finals 4-1, and that’s what we had to change,” Green said. “And we were able to do that tonight.  That’s what helped us out a lot.  That’s what helped me out.”

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers were 2-of-13 from three in the first half and 4-of-27 for the game — the new Warriors lineup gave them looks, couldn’t hit them. On the night, the Cavaliers were 6-of-29 on uncontested looks.

“We didn’t make shots,” Blatt said. “And that put a little bit more pressure on (LeBron), too, because he was passing the ball, and the normal shots that we make in that situation, we didn’t.”

On the other end, the Cavs defense in the paint wasn’t the same when Mozgov had to come much farther from the perimeter to protect the rim compared to how close he was with Bogut.

But the third quarter was far more the Cavaliers kind of game. The Cavaliers defended well and the Warriors were 5-of-15 from the floor, plus the Cavaliers out-rebounded Warriors 17-6 in third. All that led to a 12-2 run midway through the third cut the lead all the way down to three.

The Cavaliers tried to punish the small lineup by going inside, Timofey Mozgov led the Cavaliers with 28 points. He did an excellent job sealing off smaller guys and getting early, deep position all night long.

But at the start of the fourth, LeBron had to rest — he said he was “gassed” — and the Warriors got back in their flow and stretched the lead back up to double-digits. Fatigue was an issue.

“Tonight was the third game in five days, including the trip back from the West Coast, and it seemed to have an impact on us, yes,” Blatt said.

The Warriors’ best lineup had Shaun Livingston on the floor, and that made things happen. Plus the Warriors got good minutes from David Lee, who had 9 points on the night.

WNBA suspends Riquna Williams 10 games for domestic violence

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NEW YORK (AP) The WNBA has suspended Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquna Williams 10 games for a domestic violence incident.

The WNBA handed down the suspension Tuesday. Williams was arrested on April 29 and charged with two felony counts, one involving the assault of an individual with whom she was in a relationship and the other involving a threat to another person with a firearm. Her criminal case is ongoing.

The league conducted its own investigation and consulted with a panel of experts in the field of domestic violence. Among other factors, the WNBA said it took into account the nature and seriousness of the allegations, including the involvement of a gun.

The WNBA also will require Williams to participate in counseling.

Williams’ suspension will begin with Thursday’s game against the Dallas Wings.

Report: Bulls signing Luke Kornet for guaranteed $4.5M over two years

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Just three 7-footers have averaged 3.5 3-pointers per game and made 35% of them each of the last two seasons:

The Bulls will now have most of them.

Markkanen is Chicago’s top young player. Kornet will join him with the Bulls next season.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’m a little surprised Kornet got more than his minimum ($3,383,360 over two years). But it’s worth taking a flier on him.

In addition to his outside shooting, Kornet has shown good timing as a shot-blocker in two seasons with the Knicks. The 24-year-old must get stronger and improve as a rebounder to play major minutes.

But the Bulls won’t have to press him into action. They also have Thaddeus Young, Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Daniel Gafford and Cristiano Felicio as bigs.

Pistons claim Christian Wood off waivers

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The Bucks waived Christian Wood late last season to ensure avoiding the luxury tax. The Pelicans claimed him. Wood had played well in limited minutes with the 76ers, Hornets and Bucks and in the NBA’s minor league since going undrafted in 2015.

New Orleans gave him his biggest opportunity yet. In 24 minutes per game over eight games, he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds.

But the Pelicans filled their roster for next season and waived Wood.

Detroit will take advantage.

Pistons release:

The Detroit Pistons announced today that the team has claimed forward/center Christian Wood off waivers.

Wood’s $1,645,357 minimum salary is unguaranteed until the regular season. So, Detroit could still waive him before the season. But it seems he’ll at least go to training camp and get a shot at a regular-season roster spot.

The Pelicans also could’ve kept him through the preseason then waived him before the regular season. They seemingly did him a favor of allowing him to get somewhere he has a realistic chance of sticking.

Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond will start in the frontcourt for the Pistons. Markieff Morris and Thon Maker appear to be first in line is backups.

But don’t be surprised if Wood earns playing time. At minimum, the 23-year-old should provide nice depth at both power forward and center.

The Pistons have also now acquired four members of last year’s Bucks – Tony Snell, Thon Maker, Tim Frazier and now Wood.

Knicks: Reggie Bullock has spine injury

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Reggie Bullock had his agreed-upon salary cut by more than half with the Knicks. He’ll reportedly miss at least a month of the regular season.

All because of a mysterious health issue.

The Knicks have finally disclosed what’s happening.

Knicks release:

Reggie Bullock underwent successful surgery today at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York for a cervical disc herniation. The team will plan to provide an update on his rehab and progress around the start of training camp.

Bullock is a good shooter from the wing. New York could use him. Many teams could use him.

But Bullock must get healthy first.

At this point, we probably shouldn’t expect much from him any time soon. The best indication: how eagerly his agent praised the Knicks for their handling of this situation. Again, Bullock settled for less than half his initially agreed-upon salary.