Associated Press

Warriors barely hold off Sixers 106-104 to snap three-game skid

5 Comments

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Even after a series of misses from deep where he makes his money, Stephen Curry kept letting it fly from long range.

Then, at last, the ball started falling.

Curry scored 29 points on his 29th birthday, Klay Thompson added 28 and the Golden State Warriors used a frenetic fourth-quarter rally to snap a three-game skid and beat the Philadelphia 76ers 106-104 on Tuesday night.

“That’s what I love about Steph is that he’s never going to stop shooting and he never loses confidence,” coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s the mark of a star, when it’s not your night and you still hit big shots to help your team win.”

Dario Saric intentionally missed his second free throw with 2.6 seconds remaining to try to give the Sixers one last shot, but Curry secured the ball.

Curry struggled to knock down open 3-pointers again but came through from deep with 5:38 left and again with a key baseline 3 at 3:42. Matt Barnes hit one a minute later from the opposite corner for a 104-99 lead.

“He found it at the right time and he came through for us when we needed it the most,” Draymond Green said of Curry.

Curry’s jumper with 9:55 to play pulled the Warriors within 90-86 after Golden State trailed 90-78 to begin the final quarter. Green’s 3 at 8:04 made it a one-point game, and Shaun Livingston gave Golden State the lead the next time down.

Green had 20 points with 11 free throws, eight assists, eight rebounds and six blocks for the Warriors, who trailed by as many as 16 in the third.

He reminded his teammates during one timeout it would take everything to pull out of this recent rut.

“The only way to change that is to grind your way out of it. It’s not going to be pretty,” Green said.

Saric had 25 points in the Sixers’ eighth straight loss to Golden State. The Warriors’ winning streak in the series matches their longest ever, along with a stretch from Dec. 16, 1971, to March 11, `73.

Curry shot just 8 for 23 and 5 of 13 from 3-point range, making him 26 for 89 from deep in his past eight games.

The Warriors aren’t worried. Thompson and others remind him of all his incredible feats.

“He’ll have a huge breakout game coming soon,” Thompson said. “He’s better missing now than come May or June.”

Earlier in the day, Curry refused to call his shooting of late a slump, and Kerr insists nobody can expect the two-time reigning MVP to match his NBA-record 402 3s last season.

“I never really use that word, because a slump to me almost (seems) like you’re losing confidence,” Curry said.

The Warriors returned to the Bay Area following a brutal road stretch – which included losing Kevin Durant to a sprained left knee – and barely bounced back to avoid their first four-game losing streak since Feb. 26, 2013, to March 2, `13.

Golden State moved a half-game ahead of the idle Spurs for the top spot in the Western Conference.

KD’S HEALTH

Durant took set shots and moved around the court earlier in the day without his knee brace and soon could add jumpers. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated late this month to determine whether he might return before the regular season concludes.

TIP-INS

76ers: The Sixers shot 56 percent in the first to stay within 35-34. … F Robert Covington started after he missed Sunday’s win at the Lakers with soreness in his right knee. … Philadelphia has lost five straight at Oracle Arena since its last win in Oakland, 104-97, on Dec. 31, 2011.

Warriors: Green became the 11th player in franchise history with 400 blocked shots. He moved past Andrew Bogut for 10th place on the franchise list. … The Warriors are 11-1 at home vs. the Eastern Conference with three in a row against the East at Oracle this week. … Curry, playing on his birthday for the fourth straight year, has scored at least 25 points on his past four birthdays. … Rookie Patrick McCaw made his first shot after going 0 for 12 and missing all six of his 3-point tries in Saturday’s loss at San Antonio.

 

Kevin Durant reverses course on championship: ‘Every day I woke up, I just felt so good about myself, so good about life’

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Following his first NBA title, Kevin Durant said, “After winning that championship (last season), I learned that much hadn’t changed. I thought it would fill a certain [void]. It didn’t.”

How does Durant now reflect on that time with the Warriors?

Durant, via J.R. Moehringer of the Wall Street Journal:

“It’s very rare in our lives when we envision and picture something and it comes together the perfect way you envision it. [Winning a title] was the only time in my life that happened, and that summer was the most exhilarating time. Every day I woke up I just felt so good about myself, so good about life.… That was a defining moment in my life—not just my basketball life.”

It’s difficult to reconcile those two quotes. I’d love to hear Durant eventually explain.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t relish the championship aftermath as much he initially expected but, looking back, now realizes how much he actually enjoyed it. The end of his time with Golden State wasn’t totally pleasant. That might have provided perspective on the better times. Or maybe the difference is simply his mood on the day of each interview.

Durant is continuing to try to find himself while in the public eye. That isn’t easy, and it’ll lead to contradictions like this along the way. I appreciate his openness, even when he’s still difficult to understand.

Jerry Colangelo: Team USA would’ve won FIBA World Cup if not for injuries

Yifan Ding/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Team USA finished seventh in the 2019 FIBA World Cup – the Americans’ worst-ever finish in a major tournament.

Why did the U.S. fare so poorly?

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo had sharp words for the many stars who withdrew. But that’s not his only explanation.

Kyle Kuzma suffered an ankle injury that kept him off the roster. Jayson Tatum missed the final six games with his own ankle injury. Marcus Smart was banged up and missed time throughout the event.

Colangelo, via Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

“I believe that if we didn’t have those injuries, we would have won,” said Colangelo. “The injuries were just too much to absorb.”

Maybe.

Those players – especially Tatum and Smart, who occupied a roster spots – would’ve helped. But even with those two, the Americans were vulnerable. Australia beat them in an exhibition, and Turkey nearly upset them in the first round. France and Serbia clearly outplayed them in the knockout phase. Team USA just lacked its usual talent.

Perhaps more top Americans will play in the 2020 Olympics. That will make the biggest difference.

If USA Basketball had attracted more stars for the World Cup, it likely could’ve withstood a few injuries. This roster allowed little margin for error.

Jarrett Culver enlivens Timberwolves’ otherwise-quiet offseason

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Timberwolves are the only team with two max-salary players under age 29. Heck, they’re the only team with two max-salary players under age 25.

But Minnesota isn’t set.

Far from it.

Though Karl-Anthony Towns (23) is already a star and sometimes looks like a budding superstar, Andrew Wiggins (24) has stagnated on his max extension. Add expensive contracts for Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, and the Timberwolves have limited cap flexibility. With veterans too good to allow deep tanking, Minnesota also has limited means to upgrade through the draft.

New Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was likely always bound to limit his impact this summer. Minnesota faced few clear pressing decisions. Any big moves would start the clock toward Rosas getting evaluated on his prestigious job. In one of his main decisions, Rosas retained head coach Ryan Saunders, an ownership favorite.

Yet, in this environment, Rosas still found a simple way to add a potential long-term difference maker.

The Timberwolves entered the draft with the No. 11 pick – right after a near-consensus top 10 would’ve been off the board. They left the draft with No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver.

All it took to trade up with the Suns was Dario Saric, who would’ve helped Minnesota this season but probably not enough to achieve meaningful success. He’ll become a free agent next summer and is in line for a raise the Timberwolves might not wanted to give.

Culver is not a lock to flourish in the NBA. But Minnesota had no business adding a prospect with so much potential. This was a coup.

Otherwise, the Timberwolves remained predictably quiet, tinkering on the fringe of the rotation. They added Jake Layman (three years, $11,283,255) in a sign-and-trade with the Trail Blazers. They took Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham off the hands of the hard-capped Warriors, getting cash for their trouble. They signed Noah Vonleh (one year, $2 million) and Jordan Bell (one year, minimum). They claimed Tyrone Wallace off waivers.

With their own free agents getting bigger offers, Minnesota didn’t match Tyus Jones‘ offer sheet with the Grizzlies (three years, $26,451,429) and watched Derrick Rose walk to the Pistons (two years, $15 million). For where the Timberwolves are, the far-cheaper Napier should handle backup point guard just fine.

Minnesota is methodically gaining flexibility. Teague’s contract expires next summer, Dieng’s the summer after that. The big question is how to handle Wiggins, but that will wait.

With Towns locked in the next five years, Rosas has plenty of runway before he must take off. Nabbing Culver was a heck of a way to accelerate from the gate.

Offseason grade: B-

Report: Iman Shumpert rejects offer from Rockets, who’ll have several familiar names in minicamp

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

Iman Shumpert is the best free agent available.

Why hasn’t he signed yet? Apparently because he spent the offseason negotiating with the Rockets, but those talks haven’t produced a deal.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kelly Iko of The Athletic:

Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic:

I wonder whether Houston tried to sign Shumpert to a contract similar to Nene’s, creating another trade chip. The Rockets are close to the luxury tax and probably wouldn’t guarantee Shumpert much. It doesn’t take months to negotiate a simple minimum contract.

Shumpert (29) is a credible wing in a league starving for them. He played well for the Kings last season before getting traded to Houston, where he struggled. Other teams should be interested.

The Rockets have just nine players with guaranteed salaries. There’s plenty of room for some of these past-their-prime veterans to make the regular-season roster. It might mostly depend on which of Terrence Jones (27), Nick Young (34), Luc Mbah a Moute (33), Corey Brewer (33), Raymond Felton (35) and Thabo Sefolosha (35) are in the best shape at this stage.