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Warriors’ Mike Brown blending his style into Steve Kerr’s foundation

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — They often hear him arrive at work from upstairs in the Warriors executive offices, the thundering vroom of his Harley Davidson a telltale sign.

Mike Brown rolled in on his Bay Area bike – he has another in Cleveland – one day last week, and since the practice he was leading between playoff games would be short, he never bothered to change out of his beige Harley-logo T-shirt and dark jeans.

Somehow, the veteran NBA coach filling in for the Warriors has found a way to beautifully blend being his distinctive self with carrying on the way reigning NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr would do it if he were here and healthy.

Brown still works out Draymond Green daily on a court in the far corner of Golden State’s practice facility, almost as if nothing has changed in his position.

“It’s a tough balance,” two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry said. “Obviously Coach Kerr has set up an atmosphere and a way of doing things here that’s worked and been successful. When he hired Coach Brown, Coach Brown aligned right with that kind of idea. Coach Brown’s done a great job so far just, respectful is a word, but taking ownership of the opportunity right now to get over this next challenge. He obviously has Coach in his ear all the time, and that’s how it should be, but he’s got to have confidence in himself and in his own mind and what he sees out there to make decisions on the fly and push the right buttons in games and make the right adjustments.

“He’s done a great job of that ever since Game 3 in Portland. I’m sure that will continue.”

The 2009 NBA Coach of the Year with the Cavaliers, Brown has embraced getting another shot on the bench with an uber-talented team like Golden State – and wow has he coached some of the game’s biggest stars along the way, from LeBron James to Kobe Bryant to now Curry and Kevin Durant.

As the unbeaten Warriors prepare for the Western Conference finals against either Houston or San Antonio, this is a moment Brown knows won’t last. Kerr, who had another procedure last Friday for a spinal fluid leak, could come back before the postseason ends. But he might not.

The 51-year-old Kerr missed the first 43 games during last season’s run to a record 73 victories, including an NBA-best 24-0 start as now-Lakers coach Luke Walton guided Golden State to a 39-4 record in his absence. Brown and Kerr talk and text regularly to plan practice or scout opponents.

“Steve has done a fantastic job laying a great foundation down culturally and X’s and O’s basketball-wise,” Brown said. “We have a great staff. The staff has helped out tremendously and (GM) Bob Myers and his group, the leaders on the team, the veterans that we have. Everybody has kind of pitched in to help us keep heading in the right direction during this time.”

Brown has learned not to get too high or too low. He has been through the ringer losing his job in Cleveland only to come back, being let go by the Lakers and even facing a frightening situation last May putting out a kitchen fire in his home that left him scarred from all the burns.

Brown could end up coaching against the Cavs in the NBA Finals after guiding them to the playoffs in all five seasons during his first stint there from 2005-10.

Each day at Golden State headquarters, there is Brown going about leading Green through his post-practice individual work.

“It’s extremely important. I still have a role to do,” Brown said Wednesday. “Steve’s the head coach. So I’m going to keep doing it. That’s not going to change for me.”

Everyone figures just anybody can coach this star-studded roster, right?

Not quite that simple. But to withstand the absence of a head coach in the heart of a championship chase, it sure doesn’t hurt to have an experienced group of coaches and veteran players. That has helped make this such a seamless transition for everybody involved, and allowed Kerr to take all the time he needs to seek answers and healing as he deals with debilitating symptoms that stem from complications following a pair of back surgeries nearly two years ago after the team’s 2015 title run.

“Mike has done a really great job of leading the team, being very mindful of who we are as a team, directing a team as he feels Steve would kind of direct the team,” assistant and defensive specialist Ron Adams said. “I’m not talking about necessarily the messaging but I am certainly talking about the everyday process, talking to the group. Mike is a really mindful person, a person who’s very comfortable in his own skin.”

Brown has been Kerr’s manager of minutes all season, offering insight on substitution patterns from the very start that has played a key role in how rotations go – such as keeping two starters on the court at all times.

“Mike has had a pretty big voice throughout the whole season,” Durant said. “He’s been a head coach before, understands what it takes to be a head coach and the coaching staff is just so smart. They empower each other. If you’re around us on a day-to-day basis I think anybody can tell they kind of work well as a group as far as a coaching staff. Coach Kerr does a great job. He spearheads it all just by empowering everybody, from the coaches to the players. It’s unfortunate that he’s not on the bench with us, but he trusts and we all trust in Coach Brown to keep leading us.”

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Miami injuries: Goran Dragic tears plantar fascia; Bam Adebayo tweaks shoulder

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The Lakers physically overwhelmed the Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals — and it led to some Miami injuries that could dramatically impact the rest of the series.

Heat starters Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo both had to leave the game with injuries, not to return.

Dragic left the game in the first half not to return with what multiple reports have said is a torn plantar fascia. There is nothing official from the team, but this is a bad sign.

As Jeff Stotts wrote at In Street Clothes, it is possible to play through a torn plantar fascia but it is both very painful and limiting.

If he plays again this series, the Dragic that returns would be a shell of the Dragic that used his quickness to tear apart the Boston defense in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dragic’s ability to blow by his man in isolation and get into the paint helped make Miami’s offense a threat, and without this penetration they floundered against the Lakers’ length. Rookie Tyler Herro got the start in the second half for Miami Wednesday, and for the game he was -35 (tying the All-time NBA record for worst +/- with Kobe Bryant from Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals).

Another of the Miami injuries was to starting center Adebayo, who tweaked the shoulder that had bothered him in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami.

There was no update from the team (as of this writing), but Tim Reynold of the Associated Press wrote Adebayo himself expects to play.

Adebayo is crucial for the Heat — he is their best defensive rebounder and the guy they will turn to in the crunch to cover Anthony Davis. He struggled against the length and physicality in

Having Dragic and/or Adebayo out will reduce the already-slim margin for error for Miami in this series to almost zero.

“We’re still expecting to win. We still know that we can,” Jimmy Butler said of the Heat mindset after the game. “Like I said earlier, we want [Dragic] out there with us. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, but until we can have him back, we got to go out there and we got to fight even harder. We got to try to cover up what he gives us and make up for it. We’re capable of it. We have to be capable of it. Moving forward with or without Goran we better hurry up and tie it up 1-1.”

The NBA continues its fast pace of games in the Bubbe: Game 2 of the NBA Finals is Friday night. Less than 48 hours away

 

Lakers crush Heat with Anthony Davis only center on floor

Lakers star Anthony Davis
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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Anthony Davis dislikes playing center.

The Heat let him get away with it.

The Lakers’ victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals turned on the six minutes where Davis was the only center on the floor. No Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris or JaVale McGee for Los Angeles. No Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk or Meyers Leonard for Miami.

The Lakers outscored the Heat by 18 points in those six minutes!

Davis dominated. He scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, blocked dunk-contest champion Derrick Jones Jr. at the rim and passed to a wide-open Alex Caruso for a 3-pointer during that first-half stretch.

Davis wasn’t too shabby the rest of the game, either. He finished with 34 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks and was a team-high +23.

Davis’ 34 points rank among the among the highest-scoring NBA Finals debuts since the NBA-ABA merger:

  • 48 points by Allen Iverson in 2001
  • 36 points by Michael Jordan in 1991
  • 36 points by Kevin Durant in 2012
  • 34 points by Adrian Dantley in 1988
  • 34 points by Anthony Davis in 2020

Especially deep in the playoffs, teams have mastered using small lineups to flummox lumbering centers. But that’s not Davis. He’s mobile and skilled like a wing. And he still has size advantages at 6-foot-10.

Some shorter players can at least bother Davis, who prefers to avoid banging inside against stronger opponents. See de facto Rockets center P.J. Tucker. But a frontcourt featuring three of Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, Jimmy Butler, Solomon Hill and Jones lacks the brute force to compensate for its height shortcomings against Davis.

Adebayo’s lingering shoulder injury hangs over Miami’s ability to match up. Though he has size, Olynyk is far from an ideal defender. Leonard, who got a DNP-CD tonight, might have to play in Game 2 Friday.

Lakers go on 75-30 run, blow out Heat in Game 1 of NBA Finals

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All-season long, one of the first things opposing coaches would say after facing the Lakers was, “it was so hard to adjust to their length and physicality.”

The Miami Heat learned that lesson the hard way Wednesday.

The Heat raced out to a 13-point lead early in Game 1 of the NBA Finals as they forced the Lakers to become jump shooters. Then those shots started falling, Miami started missing, the Lakers started running, and everything came apart for the Heat. The Lakers closed the first quarter on a 19-3 run.

That run became 75-30.

“It’s been that way all year long, whenever we start to miss a couple shots, we don’t do what we’re supposed to do on the other end,” Jimmy Butler said.

That was the ballgame.

The Lakers were physically dominant, shot 15-of-38 from three (39.5%), and blew the Heat out of the building in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, 116-98. LeBron James finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists. Anthony Davis added 34 points and added three blocked shots — Miami had no answer for him inside.

The Lakers led by as many as 32 before some good garbage time play from Miami — 18 points from Kendrick Nunn — made the final score look more respectable than the game itself was.

Game 2 of the Lakers vs. Heat Finals is Friday night.

“You know, from that moment when it was 23-10, we started to play to our capabilities,” LeBron said. “We started flying around. We started getting defensive stops. We started sharing the ball a lot better offensively and just got into a really good groove.”

“The Lakers set the tenor, the tone, the force, the physicality for the majority of the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward.

More disturbing for the Heat are the potential injuries to critical players.

Goran Dragic did not come out of the locker room for the second half and had X-rays on his foot. While there is nothing official, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports he tore his plantar fascia. He is officially TBD, but it will be a difficult injury to play through. It’s devastating blow for Miami.

With Dragic out Tyler Herro got the second-half start, and in Game 1 he tied an NBA Finals record being -35 for the game (Kobe Bryant, Game 6 of 2008 Finals against Boston).

In addition, Bam Adebayo went back to the locker room in the third quarter, appearing to have aggravated the shoulder issue he had against Boston. The team said X-rays were negative, but he did not return to the game.

This game turned on Adebayo. On media day Tuesday he said, “You got to be smart about ticky-tacky fouls.” He knew he couldn’t get in foul trouble, and yet he did, picking up a second foul in the first quarter, sending him to the bench. Up to that point the Heat were up three, but when he went to the bench the Laker run started.

“Our guys are just hustling their tails off, flying around on the defensive end, and then playing effort offense, as well,” Laker coach Frank Vogel said of the Lakers’ run through the second and third quarters. “Really pushing the tempo on the break, attacking the paint, and crashing the boards. Just the pace of the game really picked up in those two quarters, and obviously, they were the difference makers.”

The Lakers got 13 points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and 11 from Danny Green (who hit three from beyond the arc).

Miami’s defensive game plan was to double LeBron when he drove, make him pass out, and dare the other Lakers shooters to beat them. The Lakers role players did and that was a key difference.

Miami got 23 points on 13 shots from Jimmy Butler, but he also tweaked his ankle during the game. Herro had 14 points but on 6-of-18 shooting, and as a team the usually sharp-shooting Heat shot 31.4% from three.

Because of the rapid pace of games in the bubble, the Heat have just two days to regroup and try to make this look more like a series — Game 1 looked like the varsity vs. the JV.

“We talk about how damn near perfect that we have to play, and that was nowhere near it,” Butler said. “There’s nothing to be said. We can watch all the film in the world, we understand, we know what we did not do, what we talked about we were going to do, we didn’t do. We didn’t rebound, we didn’t make them miss any shots, we didn’t get back, all of those things led to the deficit that we put ourselves in.”

Miami guard Goran Dragic doubtful to return to game with foot injury

Goran Dragic injury
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Goran Dragic, like seemingly every member of the Miami Heat, couldn’t find his rhythm in the first half — 3-of-8 shooting, three assists, but some missed defensive assignments as the Heat started to fall behind.

Part of that may have been a foot injury — Dragic did not come out for the second half and his return is doubtful with a left foot injury, the Heat announced.

There are no other details on the injury as of yet.

Tyler Herro started the second half for Miami in his place.

The Heat has struggled with the Lakers length — and Los Angeles can’t miss from three — with that has the Heat down 26 early in the third quarter.