Getty Images

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson find groove, Warriors win 108-97, within one win of title

21 Comments

CLEVELAND — This is how the Warriors won 73 games (not to mention a title last year).

You can only hold Stephen Curry‘s and Klay Thompson’s shooting down for so long — they hit 11 threes on their way to 63 combined points. As a team the Warriors hit 17 threes (an NBA Finals record). The Warriors aren’t fazed by loud and hostile crowds. Their depth keeps their core fresh while opponents wear down. They defend very well. And when the game gets physical, this “jump shooting team” is at its best.

All that happened in the fourth quarter of Game 4. Cleveland stumbled, Golden State thrived and is now within one win of back-to-back titles.

The Warriors won Game 4 108-97 and now lead the NBA Finals 3-1, heading back to the Bay Area for Game 5 Monday.

Stephen Curry finished with 38 points including hitting seven threes, Klay Thompson added 25 and had four threes. Harrison Barnes had a strong game with 14 points, and the Warriors’ bench added 22.

“I mean, sooner or later it’s going to happen. With guys like that, you can’t keep them down forever,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Curry and Thompson finally having one of their vintage games. “Sometimes our best offense is our defense, and we were making stops and we were able to get out and run and kind of flow into our offense.”

Kyrie Irving had 34 points for Cleveland, LeBron James added 25 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists. But by the end, they both reverted to bad habits — specifically too much isolation — and the Warriors capitalized.

“You’ve got a guy like that, physically gifted, high IQ, one of the best passers I’ve ever seen, he gets it going, there’s nothing you can do,” Andre Iguodala said of containing LeBron in the fourth. “It doesn’t take one guy to come in and cut off the water or shut him down. It takes five guys.”

This was the first close and entertaining game of the series. Cleveland opened the night with the fire we had seen from them in Game 3, and they got Kevin Love back (who played well off the bench), but this time Golden State matched that energy — and in the second half did it with better execution.

The referees swallowed their whistles more in the second half, and the Warriors won the game when it got physical. Remember that next time someone sells you on the “they’re just a jump shooting team” narrative.

Cleveland’s very short bench for the past two games has them looking tired by the end — and the Cavs’ game degenerated into  Irving isolations or LeBron jump shots or isolations, which the Warriors could defend.

“But our offense did stall a little bit in the fourth quarter,” LeBron said, although he denied any fatigue. “We played a little bit too much random, trying to dribble drive, get guys looks, and then we started settling a little bit for the three-point shot when we kind of got down.”

“We knew with LeBron and Kyrie playing the entire second half, if you continue to put bodies on them and battle eventually they’ll wear down,” Draymond Green said. “I think they wore down a bit tonight. Those shots you hit early are a lot harder to hit in the fourth when you have no rest.”

“(Fatigue) could have played a part in it,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “But going into the fourth quarter, being down 2-1, we’re down two points. They brought their bench in, so I thought if we could keep our starters in for a few minutes, we could kind of make a run and then get guys out slowly. But they were able to go on the run. So it hurt us. But I went with my best players in the fourth quarter, down 2-1, and it didn’t work.”

Meanwhile, the more rested Warriors getting to loose balls, getting offensive boards, hustling more on defense, and with all that taking control of the game. When you give a team that shoots the three the way the Warriors a second chance it costs you — in the second half the Warriors had 16 second chance points.

Early on, the Cavaliers tried to pull away again behind a boisterous crowd, but this time the Warriors matched that energy.

Golden State stayed big to start with Andrew Bogut at center, and with far crisper ball movement than Game 3 that lineup played the Cavs even (10-10) for more than four minutes, until the Warriors went small with the death lineup. That lineup didn’t change the dynamic, nor did Kevin Love getting action at the five starting at the 5:03 mark. Nor did the fact Kerr subbed in James Michael McAdoo late in the first instead of Festus Ezili, probably to avoid bad switches on defense. The result was a 29-28 Warriors lead after one, with the Kyrie Irving having nine and Stephen Curry with eight.

The second quarter remained tight, with Love getting run the final five minutes of the half after Jefferson picked up a third foul, and the Cavaliers were +8 in that time. The key for the Cavaliers in the first half was the 10 offensive boards — they pulled down the offensive rebound on 43.5 percent of their missed shots, and that led to 17 second chance points. It was enough to have Cleveland up 55-50 at the half (although it was really 56-50 because Luke Walton picked up a technical at the end of the half, which Irving made to add to the lead).

Warriors came out in the second half hitting threes and getting the stops and transition plays they needed, and took the lead at 72-69 on Stephen Curry three in transition where nobody found him — and on those 22 points to start the third the Splash Brothers scored or assisted. The Warriors stretched that lead out to six at one point, but it was 79-77 after three.

“I think (the Warriors’ momentum) started in the third quarter,” Kevin Love said. “They got some second-chance points that hurt us. Steph [Curry] got to the ball, Dray [Draymond Green] got to the ball, [Andre] Iguodala got to a couple and they converted. That’s what got them over the hump. We shot poorly from the three-point line, shot poorly from the free throw line as well. We missed 10 [free throws] and that was tough for us.”

Then in the fourth, the Warriors did what they do. Golden State went to its bench, while the Cavaliers stuck with mostly starters trying to make a push — and the Warriors went on 12-1 run. That is part of what led to the Cavaliers’ fatigue.

Watch Joel Embiid’s game-winning dunk lead 76ers past Cavaliers 98-97

Leave a comment

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The shots weren’t falling for the Philadelphia 76ers, so they clamped down on defense.

Joel Embiid scored 27 points, including the go-ahead dunk with 13.2 seconds remaining, and Philadelphia held Cleveland without a point for the final 3 1/2 minutes in a 98-97 win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Josh Richardson added 17 points and Ben Simmons had 15 for Philadelphia, which won despite missing 30 of 38 3-point attempts. Tobias Harris missed all 11 of his 3-point tries.

“You better guard if you’re not going to make shots,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “We knew if we were going to do anything, we had to play defense – and defense we played.”

Jordan Clarkson and Kevin Love each had 20 points to pace Cleveland. Collin Sexton added 18 points and Tristan Thompson had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers trailed for most of the contest, but took advantage of Philadelphia’s poor shooting in the fourth quarter, going up by as many as five points on three occasions.

“We gave them life and were in a fistfight,” Brown said. “You can just feel it. We had a chance to discourage them and we didn’t. Certainly a hard-fought game and we’re lucky to get away with it.”

Cleveland led 97-92 with 3:34 remaining after Sexton’s driving layup, but the Cavaliers wouldn’t score again. Harris pulled Philadelphia within 97-94 with a follow layup and then hit a 17-footer on the ensuing possession to make it a one-point game with 1:42 left.

Cleveland had chances to build the lead after that, but Love missed a close-range shot before a shot-clock violation on the Cavaliers’ next possession.

“I think our defense was pretty OK,” Embiid said. “We just didn’t make shots.”

The 76ers were having their own trouble scoring with Richardson and Embiid failing to convert on consecutive possessions.

After a timeout with 26.6 seconds left, Brown called a high-percentage play with Harris finding Embiid close to the basket. Embiid slammed it home to give the 76ers their first lead, 98-97, since early in the fourth quarter.

“It was a great play-call by coach and we did the rest,” Embiid said.

Cleveland had a chance to win it, but Love’s 3-point attempt from the top of the key rimmed out.

“Kevin is a great shooter, not a good shooter,” Cleveland coach John Beilein said. “He took his time but just didn’t nail it. It’s one of many looks I’ll take at that time.”

 

Warriors two-way guard Damion Lee breaks bone in right hand

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
1 Comment

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Yet another member of the Golden State Warriors is injured, with two-way guard Damion Lee now out because of a broken right hand.

The injury occurred during Golden State’s 122-108 home loss to the Jazz on Monday night. Lee underwent an MRI exam Tuesday morning that revealed a nondisplaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal. The team said he will be reevaluated in two weeks.

“Hopefully just a few weeks,” coach Steve Kerr said before the team flew to Los Angeles, where the Warriors play the Lakers on Wednesday night.

Lee joins a long list of injured players on the depleted Warriors, who are 2-9 following five straight trips to the NBA Finals.

Stephen Curry had surgery on his broken left hand, which he injured Oct. 30, and will need another procedure next month to have pins removed. He said Monday that he expects to be playing again come spring.

The two-time MVP joins Klay Thompson, who is recovering from a July 2 surgery on a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Thompson could miss the entire season.

Kevon Looney, who is dealing with a nerve issue that has kept him out since a brief appearance in the season opener, is going through more extensive workouts but is still not ready to return, while guard Jacob Evans III is still dealing with a strained inner thigh muscle and also will miss Wednesday’s game. Kerr said he is likely still at least a couple of weeks from playing again.

Backup center Omari Spellman was listed as doubtful to face the Lakers because of a sprained left ankle and already sat out Monday’s loss to the Jazz.

Kerr, who took over coaching the Warriors in 2014-15 and immediately won an NBA championship, has never had this short a bench with so few healthy bodies to mix and match rotations.

“We’ll just see how it plays out,” Kerr said. “We’ll figure out who’s ready to go and we’ll go from there. It’s challenging. It’s been kind of the theme so far. It’s not exactly ideal but it’s the reality. You don’t spend a whole lot of time lamenting anything. You just keep going.”

Bulls big man Cristiano Felicio out 4-8 weeks with broken wrist

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This is not going to impact the Bulls’ rotations — Cristiano Felicio has yet to touch the court for the Bulls this season — but it’s a setback for a player trying to prove he belongs in the NBA.

Felicio fractured his wrist during the Bulls practice Monday and will be out at least a month, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Cristiano Felicio, who has yet to land on the active roster this season, broke his right wrist after falling in Monday’s practice, according to coach Jim Boylen. The Bulls’ coach said Felicio will miss four to eight weeks with the injury.

“We had the X-ray. It did not show up on the X-ray. Then we had the CT scan and it showed up on the CT scan,” Boylen said. “We’re going to do an MRI (Wednesday) just to let them give us a little more certainty on maybe how much separation there is in there and how much time it will be.”

The Bulls gambled on Felicio a couple of years ago and signed him to a four-year, $32 million contract. That roll of the dice has come up snake eyes so far, with Felicio playing a limited role the first two seasons — and this season no role at all.

It is expected the Bulls will try to use Felicio’s salary in any trade packages they put together closer to the deadline, this injury would not impact that.

Asked about getting stabbed in back, Chris Paul says trade from Rockets

5 Comments

Chris Paul has gotten traded three times in his career.

New Orleans sent him to the Clippers – but only after David Stern nixed a deal with the Lakers – in 2011. In 2017, Paul engineered a trade to the Rockets by opting in. Then, in an unprecedented star swap, Houston dealt Paul to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook last summer.

Paul recently discussed trades with comedian Kevin Hart.

Hart:

Why is it always such a crazy time when it comes to these trades and whether they’re happening. You’ve been part of some big conversations. Is it at a point where it’s just business, or is it becoming personal?

Paul:

Every situation is different. But the team is going to do whatever they want to do. They’ll tell you one thing and do a smooth nother thing.

Hart:

That’s the business side.

Paul:

Exactly.

Hart:

Do you feel like there’s been times where, “Damn, that’s a little eye-opening. I got stabbed in the back”?

Paul:

Absolutely. This last situation was one of them. The GM there in Houston, he don’t owe me nothing. You know what I mean? He may tell me one thing but do another thing. But you just understand that that’s what it is.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is an easy target right now. Many people around the NBA resent him tweeting support for Hong Kong protesters (who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms) and costing the league significant revenue in China.

But, in this case, Morey brought it upon himself. He said in June he wouldn’t trade Paul then did so, anyway.

Maybe that was to protect Paul’s feelings if he stayed in Houston. In that case, Morey could tell Paul he believed in him all along. There’d be no way to know Morey was fibbing. Now that Paul is gone, Paul being upset is someone else’s problem. It’s a common tactic by executives.

Paul reportedly requested a trade from the Rockets, but he denied it. I don’t necessarily believe Paul. There was plenty of evidence of tension between him and Harden. It’d be pretty conniving to request a trade then throw Morey under the bus for making the trade.

But Paul’s denial of a trade request is on the record. So is Morey’s declaration that he wouldn’t trade Paul.

Morey must own that.