Stephen Curry looks like the MVP — the Finals MVP — leading Warriors to brink of title

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OAKLAND — It was evident early on it would be Stephen Curry’s night.

“I thought from the very beginning when they went small, had their shooters out there, I thought this is Steph’s night,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “This is going to be a big one for him because he has all that room.  He took over the game down the stretch and was fantastic.”

Actually, you could tell even earlier than that.

More like the fourth quarter of Game 3. The Warriors lost that game, but after two-and-a-half rough games Curry dropped 17 in the final quarter that night. He had clearly put the puzzle together on the Cavs pick-and-roll defense, and what he had to do to beat it.

That knowledge peaked in the fourth quarter of Game 5 Sunday night, when Curry put on a dazzling set of moves and showed the ridiculous range of his shot dropping 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting (3-of-5 from three). He finished the night with 37 points, hit. 7-of-13 threes, and had taken the game over late.

Curry did what MVP’s do. Finals MVPs.

Like when he answered LeBron James’ ridiculous three with one of his own.

Curry had more where that came from. There was a wrong-footed layup, followed by a couple more ridiculous threes where he created just enough space to get off his shot. Call those shots lucky if you want, but then Curry has been lucky all season long.

“I mean, those are plays I’ve been making all year and the ones I feel confident in,” Curry said. “I think it helps to have gone through Game 2 where we were rushing a little bit in the same situation.  A one- or two-possession game in the fourth quarter, and we got, I call them better shots because they were more in rhythm than in Game 2…

source: Getty Images“And obviously when one goes in, it helps keep your confidence high.”

We expect Finals MVPs to give their all and Curry certainly did that. After the game, he came and spoke to the media but then told trainers he was starting to feel nauseous and was taken back to the training room where they diagnosed him as dehydrated. He got fluids (not through an IV) and will be on the plane to Cleveland Monday morning for Tuesday’s Game 6.

We also expect Finals MVPs to find motivation wherever they can — like the attention Matthew Dellavedova got as an alleged “Curry stopper.” There are no Curry stoppers.

“He made seven threes.  I don’t know, were any of them not contested, hand in his face, falling, step back off the dribble?” LeBron James asked. “I’m okay with that.  We’re okay with that.  I mean, you tip your hat to a guy who makes shots like that, and he’s the guy that can do it in our league.  He’s the best shooter in our league.”

A shooter who has wicked handles, can shoot off the bounce or catch, is a willing and quality passer knows how to lead a team, and has a high game IQ.

A shooter that the Cavaliers — like 28 other teams — have no answer for once he gets rolling.

Curry is rolling the Warriors to a title — just as he figured out how to attack the Cavs off the pick-and-roll, Golden State as a whole has figured out the Cavaliers.

And he may have figured out how to be series MVP.

Stephen Curry reportedly will return to Warriors lineup Sunday vs. Wizards

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After four months off, the Warriors were looking for a soft landing spot to ease Stephen Curry back into the rotation.

How about Sunday, vs. Washington and the worst defense in the NBA this season?

That’s the plan, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Curry has said for some time he was targeting March 1 for a return, this would be that exact date (to be fair to the Wizards, they have played better defense of late). After that, Golden State plays at Denver on the third, has a Finals rematch against Toronto at the Chase Center on March 5, then the 76ers visit the Warriors on the seventh.

Curry suffered a fractured hand just four games into the season when Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him. Recovery required two surgeries, one to put pins in to stabilize the bone through the healing process, then a second one to remove those pins once the recovery was far enough along.

While some fans had called for Curry to sit out the season and tank, Warriors coach Steve Kerr emphatically shot that idea down. As he should.

For one thing, Kerr wants to build some familiarity and chemistry between Curry and newly acquired Andrew Wiggins this season. Having Curry back may mean the Warriors don’t finish with the worst record in the league this season (which they have right now) but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not as big an issue. Besides, this is not a deep draft. This is not a situation where the Warriors will get instant help — in our podcast recently, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons. The Warriors may ultimately try to trade their pick for a player who can help more next season.

Ben Simmons has nerve impingement in lower back, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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The biggest concern with Ben Simmons back issue is not that it will have him out weeks, it’s that nobody is saying what exactly is causing it.

Simmons has a nerve impingement in his lower back that will have him getting treatment daily, and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks, something first reported  by Shams Charania of The Athletic and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided some context, but nothing that is very encouraging.

A nerve impingement — what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve — is exactly what it sounds like: Something is pressing on the nerve, “pinching” it and causing pain.

The big question: What is impinging on the nerve? That’s what Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes asked.

This does not sound like something that is going to be resolved in two weeks and Simmons will be back to normal.

Simmons injured his back last Wednesday in practice while grabbing a rebound, according to coach Brett Brown. Simmons sat out last Thursday’s Sixers game against the Nets, tried to play on Saturday vs. the Bucks but had to come out after one quarter, and has not set foot on the court since.

Simmons averages 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds a game, not to mention a league-best 2.2 steals a night. The All-Star is a core part of the Sixers rotation and will miss significant time they try to climb up into the top four in the East and get home court for the first round of the playoffs. Shake Milton started Monday in Simmons place.

Tilman Ferttita: Rockets don’t fear Lakers, Clippers like they did Warriors

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta likes to talk.

Volume 48.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“I think Milwaukee is head over heels above everybody else,” said Fertitta

“We just need to get home court for the first and second rounds and see what happens.”

“None of us fear L.A. or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State,” he said. “It’s not like how we were scared of them. We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round. Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot. Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”

The Rockets stood up to the Warriors far more than any other team. But that was most true before Fertitta put his imprint on the franchise. He’s somewhat culpable for Houston cowering to Golden State.

As far as this season, Fertitta is right all around: The Bucks are great, combining last year’s success with important playoff lessons. Houston could easily win the West or lose in the first round. The Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets shouldn’t be feared. (Nobody fears the Nuggets, though they are a real championship contender.)

But the Lakers and Clippers also look like darned good playoff teams. Even if not predicting victory, Fertitta’s comments could become bulletin-board material in Los Angeles.

Rumor: Warriors acquired first-rounder, Andrew Wiggins for Giannis Antetokounmpo trade

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Andrew Wiggins, who's now with Warriors
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The Warriors have the NBA shook.

Even in last place.

It was more understandablenot necessarily right, but understandable – when Golden State was dominating. The Warriors won a title, won 73 games, signed Kevin Durant then won two more titles. In the midst of the run, they were treated as invincible. A team that great had never signed an outside free agent that great. Golden State really did seem “light years ahead.”

So, when the Warriors traded D'Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins and picks, some people cowered about what Golden State had up its sleeve next. Speculation even turned to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who faces a super-max decision this offseason and looked quite chummy with Stephen Curry (similar to how Kevin Durant once did while still with the Thunder).

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

Some around the league believe the Golden State Warriors acquired a first-round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with Andrew Wiggins, with the notion of a potential future trade with the Bucks.

This is so silly.

Minnesota’s first-rounder (top-three-protected in 2021, unprotected in 2022) is a nice asset. The Warriors’ 2020 first-rounder will also land high in the draft. But Wiggins didn’t suddenly turn into a valuable player in Golden State. Owed $94,738,170 over the next three years, Wiggins still carries negative value. The Warriors aren’t now deftly positioned to land Antetokounmpo.

Golden State showed incredible vision by building an excellent team that appealed to Durant and clearing cap space to acquire him. But the Warriors got multiple fortunate breaks – Stephen Curry taking a smaller contract extension while injured in 2012, Golden State blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals, the salary cap spiking in 2016.

The Warriors can’t duplicate everything, swoop in and land Antetokounmpo.

Sure, it’s possible Wiggins improves in Golden State. Maybe Antetokounmpo will decline to sign a super-max extension, which should force Milwaukee to at least strongly consider trading him. It’s also conceivable Antetokounmpo threatens not to re-sign with anyone besides the Warriors, scaring off other teams and leaving Golden State’s offer the best that the Bucks’ get.

But it’s such a remote possibility of all that happening, it’s not worth worrying about.

This is paranoia about the Warriors at its worst.