Five Takeaways from an NBA Sunday: I, for one, welcome our new Warriors overlords

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Sunday night the Golden State Warriors dared try to steal a couple of headlines away from the NFL by equalling the fastest start in NBA history. In case you missed it because your significant other had the remote control and put on the AMAs, here are five things you need to know from Sunday around the league (and consider breaking up with anyone who wanted to watch the AMAs).

1) I, for one, welcome our new Warriors overlords. I don’t see a likely end for this streak. It’s going to happen, but the when is not easy to spot. The Warriors are a relentless machine that is now 15-0 to start the season after beating Denver Nuggets on Sunday 118-105. That ties the all-time mark for the fastest start in NBA history — a record they will break Tuesday night when the Warriors host the Lakers (unless Kobe Bryant travels to that game in a DeLorean with a flux capacitor in the back, I’m not even sure that contest is interesting).

When do the Warriors lose? Here are their next dozen opponents after thrashing the Lakers Tuesday: Suns, Kings, Jazz, Hornets, Raptors, Nets, Pacers, Celtics, Bucks, Suns, Bucks, Jazz. A few teams in there are certainly playing well, but are you predicting a loss? Complete that little run and Golden State would be 28-0, having passed Miami for the second-longest win streak in NBA history. Sure, that’s jumping the gun, on any given night and all that — but these Warriors have come out with a real “call us lucky, will ya?” attitude. Their small-ball lineup is destroying teams by better than 60 points per 100 possessions. They have the best offense in the NBA, the fifth best defense, and are outscoring teams by 15 points per 100 possessions. I could nitpick and say I’d like to see a little less shooting and more running of the offense by Stephen Curry, but again 15-0 and flat-out destroying teams, so who am I to judge. They own the league at this moment.

2) Even if you’re 15-0, Draymond you cannot just hang on the rim. Nobody is above the law, or the rules of the game —and that includes you Draymond Green. You can be 15-0, you can have a new contract that makes you rich, you can be one of the game’s top defenders — you still can’t hang on the rim and do a little pull-up or you will get a technical.

3) Frustrated Clippers get in screaming match in locker room after game. The Clippers are below .500 at 6-7. They have lost seven of their last nine. They looked terrible in the first half Sunday in their loss to Toronto. I should not be writing those sentences about a team with a healthy Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but here we are.

All that spilled over into a loud post-game argument that the media could hear the next room over. Part of it was Josh Smith arguing with an assistant coach — that would be 4.7 points per game and shooting 35 percent Josh Smith. There are a lot of problems in L.A., and Doc Rivers’ the GM’s off-season moves have not had the desired impact. Lance Stephenson is falling out of the rotation because of his play. Paul Pierce has to come off the bench because he looks old and slow trying to guard starting threes in the league. The Clippers defense is 22nd in the league, allowing 104.3 points per 100 possessions. The offense is down 5.4 points per 100 possessions from a year ago. You get the idea, things are bad. The Clippers should be frustrated. The better question becomes, what are they going to do about it?

4) About those top contenders in the West…. Going into the season most of us forced to make predictions said any one of five teams could win the West. It hasn’t played out that well at all. Here are those five.

Golden State 15-0
San Antonio 10-3
Oklahoma City 8-6
LA Clippers 6-7
Houston 5-9

Meanwhile a number of us thought Dallas would fall out of the picture, they are 9-6 and the current three seed. It’s early for sure, but the West isn’t what we thought — and it’s not as good as it has been.

5) Russell Westbrook just doing what he does — putting up ridiculous numbers. The most entertaining game of the day by far was Oklahoma City beating Dallas 117-114. Kevin Durant is still out (although he could return early next week), so that meant more of the Russell Westbrook show — 31 points and 11 dimes. He is just fun to watch.

 

J.J. Redick says he hopes to play four more years in NBA

Pelicans guard J.J. Redick
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This past season in New Orleans, J.J. Redick averaged 15.3 points and shot 45.3% from three, played solid defense, and stayed healthy enough to get into 60 games. At age 36, he didn’t show signs of slowing down.

How much longer can he keep that up? Redick told Mark Medina of the USA Today he hopes to play four more years.

“I realized this year I want to keep playing as long as possible. My goal is to play four more years. Year 18. That’s my goal. I’ll play to 39. Then my offseason, I’ll turn 40 and then I can walk away at that point. That’s my goal. We’ll see. The body has to hold up. But we’ll see.”

Redick is meticulous and intense with his conditioning, with his routine to take care of his body, although as we all age sometimes that is not enough. Father time wins every race. Redick, however, is in a good spot to hold him off for a few more years.

His skills as a shooter and floor spacer undoubtedly will be in demand, plus he is the kind of player GMs want in the locker room of a younger team like New Orleans. Redick had to put in a ton of work to transform his body and his game to go from collegiate star at Duke to his current role in the NBA. He’s professional about preparation and taking care of himself — exactly the kind role model for young players that GMs want.

Which will get him paid for another four years, if he wants it.

Heat says they need faster start in Game 4 against Celtics

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The formula that the Miami Heat had backed themselves into using throughout this postseason wasn’t exactly ideal.

They were losing almost every first quarter, and winning almost every game anyway.

It’s not a sustainable plan, and the Boston Celtics finally showed that in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals when they pulled off a wire-to-wire win over Miami, not letting the Heat put together their typical comeback. Game 4 of the East title series — with Miami still leading 2-1 — is Wednesday, and the Heat are insisting that there will be more urgency at the beginning.

“I think we’ve just got to start off better,” Heat forward Jimmy Butler said. “I don’t think we started off anywhere near where we’re capable of. I think we dig ourselves a hole and try to fight back out of it. I think going into this next one, it’s up to the starting five to come out with a great start.”

Before Game 3, Miami was 8-0 in the playoffs when trailing after the first quarter — after going 10-16 when put in that position during the regular season. In the 36 minutes of first-period action against the Celtics, the Heat have led roughly one-sixth of the time.

Butler is 1 for 6 in 29 first-quarter minutes in the series. Duncan Robinson and Goran Dragic are a combined 10 for 19; the rest of the Heat in first quarters against the Celtics are 11 for 46. Boston has won the first quarters by a combined score of 88-68, shooting 54% to Miami’s 32%.

“Certainly, it would help to be able to get off to a good start,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But you have to play good basketball more consistently when you get to this point in the conference finals against a quality opponent.”

Another wild stat is this: Boston has outscored Miami 50-18 from 2-point range in first quarters so far in the series. And yet, somehow, the Celtics still need a win on Wednesday to even up matters — or fall into the dreaded 3-1 series hole.

“Obviously, you know that when a team lost its last one, you’re going to get a great shot,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “But you expect a great shot every time. We’re going to have to play our best game in Game 4, and then after Game 4 is over, we’re going to have to play better than that in Game 5. That’s kind of the way it works.”

The teams have had three full days off since Game 3, a quirk in the schedule to allow the Western Conference finals matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets to catch up; the Lakers and Nuggets were to play the third game in their series Tuesday night.

Not that this one needs explaining, but Miami’s chances go up considerably in this series if the Heat find a way to win Game 4. The Heat are 11-0 in series where they lead 3-1, and 9-9 in series where it’s tied 2-2 after four games. The Celtics haven’t successfully overcome a 3-1 deficit since the 1981 East finals.

LeBron James has “zero comment” on L.A. County Sheriff, speaks on violence

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been no stranger to outlandish acts and putting himself in headlines since taking office. Most recently, he and his department were sued by Vanessa Bryant over photos from the site of the plane crash that took Kobe’s life.

Last week, the controversial Villanueva decided to drag the most popular athlete in Los Angeles into his headlines, challenging LeBron James to double the reward for the person who shot two Sheriff deputies who were sitting in their car. It was a clear dig at LeBron’s stances against police violence around the nation, and Vanessa Bryant had slammed Villanueva for it on social media.

LeBron, after the Lakers’ loss to Denver Sunday night, refused to play Villanueva’s game, saying he has “zero comment” on the Sherrif. However, LeBron did speak on police violence.

“I’ve never in my 35 years ever condoned violence. Never have,” LeBron said. “But I also know what’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong… I’ve seen a lot of counts firsthand of a lot of Black people being racially profiled because of our color. And I’ve seen it throughout my whole life.

“And I’m not saying that all cops are bad because, I actually, throughout high school and things of that nature, and I’m around them all the time, and they’re not all bad. But when you see the videos that’s going on and you can see all over the — not only my hometown but all over America — you continue to see the acts of violence toward my kind, I can’t do nothing but to speak about it and see the common denominator.

“But not one time have I ever said, ‘Let’s act violent toward cops.’ I just said that what’s going on in our community is not OK, and we fear for that, and we fear for our lives. It’s something that we go on every single day as a Black man and a Black woman and a Black kid, a Black girl. We fear. We fear that moment when we’re pulled over…

“But I do not condone violence toward anyone — police, Black people, white people, anyone of color, anyone not of color — because that’s not going to ever make this world or America what we want it to be.”

LeBron’s too smart to be dragged into Villanueva’s game, which is more about the Sherrif trying to distract from issues around himself.

LeBron has put his money where his mouth is on social justice issues, forming an organization to work to register minority voters and work against voter suppression nationwide.

Attacking Jamal Murray sparks Nuggets, who hold off Lakers for Game 3 win

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Down 0-2 to a LeBron James team, the Denver Nuggets’ backs were against the wall.

The Los Angeles Lakers learned — like the Jazz and Clippers before them — that the Nuggets have a couple more gears when their season is threatened.

Jamal Murray attacked from the opening tip, set the tone for Denver, then when the Lakers made it interesting late, stuck the dagger in the Los Angeles.

“I didn’t have any doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said postgame. “The reason I didn’t have any doubt is we won six straight elimination games…

“For some reason, this team loves the bubble.”

Denver pulled away from the Lakers in the second quarter and held on at the end to take a 114-106 win in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers still lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 Thursday night.

Murray was the best player on the floor in Game 3, scoring 28 points, dishing 12 assists, grabbing eight rebounds, and forcing the Lakers’ defense to adjust to him.

“When you look at these three series we’ve played so far, he’s starting to get the respect from the other teams, and they’re game-planning, they’re blitzing him, they’re double-teaming.”

Both Denver and the Lakers came out attacking the paint early: The teams combined for 56 first-quarter points, and they scored 34 of them in the paint (60.7%)

In the second quarter, however, the Lakers started settling for jumpers while the Nuggets kept attacking. Denver went on a 15-2 run to start the quarter — with Nikola Jokic on the bench — and Denver went on to dominate the next two quarters, leading by as many as 20.

The Nuggets got a big night from Jerami Grant, who had career playoff hight 26 points. Jokic added 22 plus 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Lakers could not get jump shots to fall. Los Angeles was 6-of-26 from three (23.1%), and worse, they scored 12 points on 24 spot-up shot attempts (stat via Synergy Sports).

LeBron James did his part — a triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists — and Anthony Davis added 27, but the Lakers defensive energy, and with that transition buckets, were not there.

Until the fourth quarter.

The Lakers got much more physical and aggressive defensively, and the Lakers went on a 19-2 run, which included six straight Nuggets turnovers at one point. The Lakers went to a zone defense that flummoxed Denver.

Eventually, Murray and Jokic righted the ship. Denver stretched the lead back out and got the win. After the game, the Lakers to a man said they needed to bring that fourth-quarter energy all game on Thursday.

One thing talked about after the game was Murray’s elbow to LeBron.

“I don’t think it was blatant. I don’t know his mindset, but I don’t think he did it on purpose,” LeBron said postgame.

The other thing talked about postgame — now we have a series.