In coronation of modern NBA offense, Warriors shoot Cavaliers down to win NBA title

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It ended up being a coronation for the modern NBA offense. Hopefully dispelling once and for all the idea that a jump-shooting team can’t win an NBA title.

Golden State was the best team in the NBA all season long. They were elite on offense, knocking down ridiculous threes, but they were elite on defense as well. They were te best team through the playoffs and into the NBA Finals.

Tuesday night Cleveland tried again to counter the small ball, up-tempo, ball movement offense of Golden State by going big. And the Cavs put up some points, center Timofey Mozgov finished with 17 points and the Cavaliers had 46 points in the paint.

But Cleveland could not get stops with that lineup. Then again, every team had trouble getting stops against the Warriors all season long. Stephen Curry had 25 points, Andre Iguodala chipped in 25 himself on the way to winning the Finals MVP.

Golden State beat the Cavaliers 105-97 to take the NBA Finals four games to two. This was the Warriors first title since 1975.

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Golden State capped off one of the statistically best seasons in NBA history with an NBA title. One they had to earn on the road against the best player in the world — LeBron James did all he could finishing with 32 points (on 33 shots), 18 rebounds and nine assists.

“There’s been all this talk this year about the three point shot, can you win shooting it,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “There’s a lot of different styles that can work, you have to base it on your own personnel. But what was overlooked all year long is what really wins is the combination of great offense and great defense. We had the No. 1 defense in the league, we had the highest scoring team in the league. We were number one in assists, we were number one in field goal percentage defense. When you get that combination you’re going to be pretty good.”

Cleveland fans, desperate for a title that the city has not seen since 1964, can try to console themselves with how well this team played despite the loss of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to injuries in the playoffs. This team will be back to the Finals in the coming years.

“This is a process,” Warriors coach David Blatt said. “You don’t wake up one morning and fall out of bed and expect to win the NBA Championship.  You hope that you can, but it doesn’t always work that way, and our guys did more than anyone could expect to put themselves and put our organization in this situation.”

But as it had been all season, the best was in the West.

“We were fortunate in a lot of ways this year, but maybe number one was health,” Kerr said. “To win a title there is obviously a lot of work, but a lot of luck as well. And we had a lot of luck on our side this year and our guys took advantage of that.”

Golden State expected a storm from a desperate Cleveland team to open the game. That happened. The Warriors started 1-of-4 for shooting, while the Cavaliers got points in the paint, jumping out to a 7-2 lead. That didn’t last long; the Warriors came back on a 9-1 run to take the lead on a Curry corner three. Golden State was back to playing its game — they assisted on 11 of first 12 buckets, shot 54.5 percent in the first quarter and led 28-15 after one.

But Golden State struggled to keep up the scoring pace in the second quarter, going 1-of-10 shooting. They attacked the rim but  Mozgov had three blocks and was owning the paint. Cleveland got the lead down to two as they held Golden State to 27 percent shooting in the second quarter while LeBron had 11 of his 15 first-half points in the second.

It was 45-43 Warriors at the half, but it felt like LeBron was pacing himself, holding something back so they would not fade in the fourth quarter again. That or he was too gassed to take over. It may ultimately have been more of the latter, despite his once again impressive numbers.

Early in the third, the Warriors kept driving at Mozgov, and it still didn’t work, allowing the Cavaliers take a brief lead. Then the Warriors decided to kick out and shoot the three again, and the the Warriors went on a 16-4 run stretching the lead back out to 10. It felt like LeBron was going to take charge for a few moments, but he continued to play more facilitator.

The Warriors continued to get production from their bench, for example 10 points in 11 minutes from Festus Ezeli. That bench allowed them to rest their key starters for stretches and not fall apart, so their players were ready to make a push in the fourth. The Cavaliers could not do that with LeBron.

After three quarters, the Warriors led bench scoring 19-9 and the game 73-61.

Everyone kept waiting for the Cavaliers run in the fourth quarter, and it didn’t come until the final couple minutes, after the game seemed out of hand. They closed the gap all the way down to four in the last minute, but the Cavs had to foul and the Warriors hit just enough free throws to survive.

And win the first title for Bay Area hoop fans in 40 years.

Andrew Bogut appears to take shot at LeBron on Twitter

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The NBA wants it to, and it will eventually fade some (only to flare up again later), but the NBA/China relationship issue is not going away.

The latest spark comes from across the ocean, down in Australia, where former Warrior (and Buck and a couple other teams in the middle) Andrew Bogut takes what is a pretty clear a dig at LeBron James over the China issue.

Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Rockets GM Daryl Morey Tweeted support for the Hong Kong protesters just before the NBA was about to send the Lakers and Nets were about to head to China for a couple of exhibition games. China flexed its muscle to punish the NBA for touching a third-rail issue by having corporate sponsors pause their involvement with the league and preseason games were not shown in China. Adam Silver issued a milquetoast statement that seemed aimed to appease China, and when a backlash from the United States — still by far the largest NBA market — came swiftly Silver adjusted his position and came out more backing Morey’s right to free speech.

After all that, once back in the states, LeBron vented about the situation, saying Morey wasn’t “educated” on the topic, and seeming frustrated because the Tweet put the players in China on the front lines of an international trade dispute — remember, there is a trade war and tariffs. However, LeBron’s meandering comments came off as being more concerned about money than free speech. LeBron said he was saying Morey didn’t think through the consequences of his Tweet (true) and that he doesn’t have to take a public stand on every issue (also true) but it all came off as LeBron prioritizing protecting his brand,

Which leads to a lot of criticism. Some a lot more direct than what Andrew Bogut said.

Report: Grizzlies, Bulls have conversations with Iman Shumpert

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Iman Shumpert is just 29 years old, which seems crazy because it wasn’t that long ago he was making the All-Rookie team in New York or winning a title with LeBron James.

The point is he’s still young, was on the court for the Rockets during the postseason last year, and is the best free agent available. He turned down a contract offer from the Rockets before the preseason (which may have been incentive heavy, like Nene’s) and remains on the market.

Some team is going to snap him up. That team could end up being the Memphis. Or, maybe Chicago. That according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Free-agent guard Iman Shumpert has had conversations with teams, including Memphis and Chicago, league sources said. Shumpert, an eight-year NBA veteran, is one of the best players remaining on the market.

Chicago has Zach LaVine and Otto Porter starting on the wing, but they may want more veteran depth behind them. Memphis has the combination of Dillon Brooks and Grayson Allen at the two, they may want to add some veteran depth to that mix.

At this point, teams are just starting to accurately assess where they are and where they need help — players they thought would step up didn’t, or there are injuries creating gaps — and that will continue into the first weeks of the season. As that happens, a few of the veterans on the sideline will get picked up (no, probably not Carmelo Anthony, that’s another topic).

Shumpert should be at the front of that line. He’s already got interest.

 

Pacers reportedly testing trade market for Domantas Sabonis

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Two factors are in play here.

First, the Pacers and Domantas Sabonis‘ representatives are reportedly nowhere near an agreement on a contract extension.

Second, there are real questions about how Sabonis and Pacers’ center Myles Turner can play together. If they can’t, then the question becomes how much do the Pacers want to pay Sabonis to be a backup five (because Turner is the better player and a guy they can build their defense around).

That has led to the Pacers exploring possible Sabonis trades, reports Sam Amick of The Athletic.

…sources say the Pacers have engaged in active trade talks with several teams this week about the fourth-year forward. Sabonis, the 23-year-old who arrived with Victor Oladipo in late June 2017 in the Paul George trade with Oklahoma City, is clearly on the market.

There is no lack of interest in Sabonis, who averaged 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season as the Pacers — who lost Oladipo to a season-ending ruptured quad injury in a game against Toronto on Jan. 23 — pulled off such a surprising campaign (48-34; lost in the first round to Boston). Thus far, sources say the Pacers’ asking price in talks with several teams has been too high.

Sabonis is a skilled offensive big man who is versatile. That makes him a fantastic pick-and-roll or dribble hand-off guy who can help create space for the ball handler to find a lane, then he rolls into open space. He’s strong around the basket and plays a crafty, high IQ game. He can help a lot of teams. However, two things limit Sabonis: He is not good defensively and he does not space the floor (76.4 percent of his shots came within 10 feet of the basket last season, and he doesn’t make many beyond that range).

Sabonis is in the final year of his rookie contract and has a healthy pay raise coming next season, up from the $3.5 million he will make this time around. The Pacers, however, just forked out big cash for Myles Turner (four-years, $72 million) and Malcolm Brogdon (four years, $85 million). They may be a little gun shy about doing that now for Sabonis, and there are other teams interested. That doesn’t even count Victor Oladipo’s payday. All this for a team not likely to venture into the luxury tax.

How much the Pacers can get for Sabonis remains to be seen, but the Pacers may want picks because not much salary needs to be exchanged. Of course right now the Pacers are asking for everything but the GM’s firstborn son from other teams, and of course the other teams are lowballing the Pacers with their first offers. That’s how negotiations work. When things start to evolve to a middle ground, the Pacers may well find a deal because, as much as they like him, it’s hard to make everything fit with Sabonis on the team.

Draymond Green says teams deserve blame for draft picks not developing, Marquese Chriss agrees

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Marquese Chriss was a No. 8 pick in the NBA draft who has yet to pan out. He showed a little promise as a rookie in Phoenix, but by Summer League the next July issues already seemed to pop up. His shooting percentages dropped, mostly because of questionable shot selection — every season he has taken more threes and made a lower percentage (22.2 percent last season). He wasn’t strong on defense. He looked like a player who might not be long for the NBA.

Now he’s going to make the Warriors roster. Maybe injuries to other frontcourt players — Willie Cauley-Stein, rookie Alen Smailagic, and Kevon Looney are — made keeping the 6’10” forward a smart move, but Chriss’ play in the preseason helped earn him that spot.

After a preseason game against the Lakers Wednesday, Draymond Green stuck up for Chriss, saying it may be less about the player and more about the organization. Via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole.

“He’s been in some pretty tough situations,” Green told reporters… “No one ever blames the situation, though. It’s always the kid. No one ever blames these s***y franchises. They always want to blame the kid. It’s not always the kid’s fault.

“He’s getting older now, so he’s not a kid anymore. But he came into this league as a kid. But it’s never the organization’s fault. It’s always that guy. So I’m happy he’s got another opportunity to show what he can really do. Because he’s a prime example.”

Chriss was grateful for what Green said, as reported by Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“I appreciate him for having my back and I wholeheartedly believe what he said,” Chriss said. “Being a person to go through things like that. Having a lot of blame on you for stuff you can’t really control is tough and its growing pains with being in the NBA. I feel like it takes time to develop and learn.

“It bothers me when people try to come for my character,” he added. “I know what type of person I am and I know how my mom raised me and I know how I want to represent myself and my family so that’s the biggest thing for me is just showing that things that have been said are not true.”

Jared Dudley, who was with Chriss in Phoenix, said that it was a combination of an immature Chriss but also a Suns organization that did not create a good environment to develop players.

“He was immature,” former teammate Jared Dudley told NBC Sports Bay Area Friday afternoon. “But it’s not a bad immaturity, he just had to grow up and they threw him into the fire and sometimes kids aren’t ready for that…

“At the time Phoenix didn’t have the infrastructure to manage and control people and to develop people at that time,” Dudley added. “Three coaches in his year and a half. He was partially to blame, he was getting technical fouls, he was shooting bad shots but sometimes it’s on the organization and they failed him.”

The Warriors have a strong development program for young players, and a strong culture, on that Chriss seems to be thriving in.

Injuries helped open the door for Chriss in Golden State, but to his credit he has pushed it open wide with his play and it would not have been easy for the Warriors to let him go. He’s attacking the rim and scoring 9.5 points per game on 60.9 percent shooting (he’s still struggling from three, 20 percent, but he’s only taking 22 percent of his shots from there, down from nearly half last season). Chriss also has been a beast on the boards, grabbing 8.3 rebounds a game.

That’s impressive, but it’s also the preseason. If he can do it when things get serious starting next week, Chriss will have the redemption he wanted.