Klay Thompson’s three forces overtime, where Warriors beat Jazz to move to 68-7

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Maybe casual fans looked past this game, but NBA fans know that facing a hot and defensive-minded Jazz team on the second night of a back-to-back may have been the toughest game the Warriors have the rest of the season.

It was.

It took a second-chance three from Klay Thompson — set up by a hustling rebound from Shaun Livingston — to force overtime. Once there the Warriors did what the Warriors do and outscored the Jazz comfortably for a 103-96 win.

Make that a come-from-behind win — one that showed how much this Warriors team wants that record 73-wins and to unseat the Jordan Bulls from the best record ever. Starting with if they weren’t chasing the record Steve Kerr would have rested Stephen Curry in this one. The Warriors had a lot of chances to just shrug this game off, but they didn’t — you can see the desire for the record.

This was a motivated Jazz team playing to their strengths — finally, Rudy Gobert in clutch minutes — and getting strong nights from Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood (but they really missed Derrick Favors down the stretch (right knee soreness kept him out of the second half). The Jazz looked every bit the up-and-coming team they are, and they took advantage of what Golden State gave them, turning the Warriors sloppy turnovers into easy buckets before the defense got set (when the Warriors set their defense it was strong most of the night).

But the Warriors just win these kinds of games.

There was fantastic defense from Draymond Green down the stretch (including blocking Shelvin Mack‘s attempt at a game winner in regulation), some ridiculous Stephen Curry threes on his way to 31 points, and Thompson’s game-tying shot. More than just the talent, what the Warriors do down the stretch is execute — even on a night Curry looked tired, Harrison Barnes couldn’t buy a three (1-of-8) and the Marreese Speights/Anderson Varejao platoon at center reminded everyone that the Warriors can’t lean on that duo much when the playoffs start. Those two missed shots on offense, but more importantly were torched in pick-and-roll coverage all night (Utah had a lot of success with a basic “horns” pick-and-roll set). The Warriors miss Andre Iguodala and Festus Ezeli a lot, it’s games like this where it really shows.

Still, the Warriors get the win as the Jazz learn lessons of execution. The hardest lesson may go to Joe Ingles — he ran out to challenge the first of Thompson’s game-tying three attempts, but then he ran right past him as if he would get a baseball outlet pass for an easy bucket. But if you’re up three the only thing that can beat you there is an offensive rebound three, and Thompson got a clean look while Ingles was nowhere near him.

The victory has the Warriors at 68-7, they need to go 5-2 the rest of the way to beat the Bulls record. That’s going to happen. The Warriors do play the Spurs a couple more times but expect Gregg Popovich to rest virtually everyone on that team you can name in one if not both of those games — and he’s not going to show his hand on any matchups or strategies he loves. Nor will Steve Kerr.

But before the Warriors get to a conference finals showdown with the Spurs they will need to get through two rounds of the playoffs. That could mean facing Utah, who as of now are tied with Houston for the 7/8 seeds in the West. After going against the size and defense that Utah brings, the Warriors would be happy not to see them in the first round.

 

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
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The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

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Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.