Challenges of Memphis series primed Golden State for Finals comeback, win

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They had been there before.

They had been down 2-1 to a grinding team who had a defender  opposing fans thought was their “Curry stopper.” The Golden State Warriors had been pounded inside before in these playoffs. They had heard the “jump shooting teams can’t win in the playoffs” before.

Golden State had heard all of that against Memphis — and they made a key adjustment and rattled off three straight wins.

That helped prepare them for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA Finals — where the Warriors again made an adjustment and rattled off three convincing wins.

“Going into the playoffs and playing a Memphis, where that’s a tough team to beat.  All that stuff primed us for this moment,” Draymond Green said drenched in Champaign after the Warriors had completed their comeback against the Cleveland Cavaliers and won an NBA title. “It primed us for our non-shooters to make shots.  It primed us for somebody to think they can stop Steph Curry and then all of a sudden you see Steph Curry.  It primed us for we’re too small, we’re a jump shooting team, it will never work.  It primed us for all of that.

“So playing in the Western Conference on the daily, nightly basis, night to night, it gets you ready for everything.  That’s why I think it’s the best conference in the NBA because you see all brands of basketball.  So all of a sudden you run up against the Cavs and, I mean, LeBron James is great.  There is no one like him.  But you’re prepared for everything else because we’ve seen everything.”

Against Memphis in the second round, the adjustment was to ask big man Andrew Bogut to defend light-shooting guard Tony Allen. That allowed Bogut to hang back and protect the rim, helping out on Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and not pay a price.

Against Cleveland, there were a few adjustments but the key one was to sit Bogut and start Andre Iguodala — to go small. Bogut barely played the final few games, and more offensive bigs like David Lee got key minutes and run. The shorthanded Cavaliers could not adjust.

“Game 3 of The Finals we figured something out in the fourth quarter, and we decided to go small,” Lee said after the win. “On any other team, a guy like Andrew Bogut is angry and causes a fit.  Instead, he’s the first one up cheering off the bench.  So everybody has had their time to shine this year and that kind of sacrifice is how you win championships, and we were able to bring it home.”

The Warriors players to a man praised the chemistry on the team.

“That’s one thing you don’t see that often in the league,” Iguodala said in an interview on NBA TV. “You got stars and guys who want to be stars. Guys are ‘me, me, me, I want to get paid. I want to be a superstar. I want to have my own shoe.’ But we got just a great group of guys. Management did a great job, I don’t know if they knew personalities and how to match them, it’s crazy because we all really like each other. 

“Teams say that all the time but you know guys don’t really like each other that much. You have three or four cliques — they hang out, they hang out, they hang out. But we had like 10 guys go to dinner, eight guys go to the movies. We had like seven guys go to the movies last night. We all can joke with each other, we throw punches each other and nobody takes it personal.”

In the end, the roster that shot too many jump shots was able to make the adjustments and win the NBA title. Coach Steve Kerr said he knew they could because of what they did on the other end of the court.

“Everyone wanted to talk about how many threes we took.  We’re the number one defensive team in the league, and that’s what wins,” Kerr said. “You’ve got to be able to score points somehow, but you have to be good defensively.  You have to be great defensively to win a title. For whatever reason, that seemed to be overlooked this year.  But the combination of the offense and the defense, that matters, and I don’t think people pointed that out enough.”

They should now.

Kings’ Buddy Hield fined $25,000 for kicking ball into stands in celebration

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This was a $25,000 celebration by Buddy Hield.

Sacramento led by one in the final seconds against Boston Sunday, but the Celtics had a final shot and Marcus Smart‘s attempt at a game-winning floater hung on the rim seemingly forever… then fell off. The ball was tipped out to mid-court and — as you can see in this video — Heild kicks the ball into the stands as part of the celebration.

Kicking or throwing the ball into the stands is a standing $25,000 fine, and the league came down with that on Hield on Monday. It was not a surprise.

Hield was the reason Sacramento won the game, scoring 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three. He’d likely make that trade for the win again.

Kawhi Leonard out vs. Thunder Monday night, third straight game due to knee bruise

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This isn’t load management. This is a bruised knee.

The first Clipper game with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sharing the court will have to wait as Leonard is going to miss his third straight game with a knee contusion Monday night against the Thunder. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news.

The Clippers are going to be cautious with bringing Leonard back from this, thinking long term with his health, as they should. Los Angeles is playing for games in May and June, not games in November.

This means tonight the Clippers will be the Paul George show again — in two games he has scored 70 points in 44 minutes. This will be George’s first game against the Thunder since he demanded a trade out of the city last summer, landing him on the Clippers with Leonard.

Kevin Love tries to ignore trade rumors, ‘let the chips fall where they may’

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Cleveland Cavaliers GM said he has no interest in trading Kevin Love.

You can count the number of people around the league who believe him on one hand. There’s a good chance Love is still on the Cavaliers at the end of this season, but that’s more about him being in the first year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension than it is Cleveland’s willingness to trade him (or interest from other teams, if money was not an issue). The Cavaliers are rebuilding, and if they can get young players and picks for Love, they have to consider it.

With Portland off to a slow start, and Love growing up in the Pacific Northwest, that rumor has floated around. There are others. Love is just trying to ignore them and play ball, he told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times.

“I know there’s talk about me possibly being the missing piece somewhere,” Love said. “There’s been constant chatter since I signed that I could be traded. It’s one of those things where I’m going to keep doing right by the team, by Cleveland and by the organization. If my number is called, so be it, but I’m going to stay true to my commitment and let the chips fall where they may.”

Love, who has been open in recent years about his struggles with anxiety and mental health, said dealing with the trade rumors that constantly swirl around him can be a challenge on that front.

“A big aspect of mental health is just staying in the present but it’s so hard,” he said. “You have to try to not get too far ahead of yourself or get worked up. You can get that anxious feeling or fear for the future, but you have to try to stay focused on getting better and let things work out the way they should.”

Kevin Love has played well to start the season, averaging 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, shooting a respectable 34.7 percent from three. He could help a lot of teams, particularly ones in the West who want to be in the mix for a ring but who look at the Lakers and Clippers and think, “we have to get better fast.”

The rumors around Love are just going to get louder the closer and closer we get to the trade deadline. Love will have to do a lot of work to tune all that out.

 

Bulls big man Luke Kornet out following surgery on sinus obstruction

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Just before last Christmas, Luke Kornet broke his nose. Apparently, that never healed quite right.

Kornet underwent surgery to repair a sinus obstruction on Monday, the Chicago Bulls announced. There is no timetable for his return, although coach Jim Boylen suggested it could be less than two weeks.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen added this at practice, via NBC Sports Chicago.

“Kornet had sinus surgery this morning. He had blockage and some issues from a previous fracture from when he was in New York. We just felt it was time to go in there and clean that thing out. That happened this morning at 6 AM. He’s out. Surgery went well. We’ll have more to report as we go. Originally, it was a seven-ten-day thing where he’d be back. I think it’s one of those things they don’t know until they get in there how extreme it is. But he had blockage and it needed to be done.”

This does not impact the Bulls much on the court as Kornet has fallen out of the rotation in recent games (in part because of the sinus condition, in part because he just hasn’t played well). Kornet signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Bulls over the summer.