Now adding to Cleveland’s woes: Klay Thompson’s shot is back

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OAKLAND — Kevin Durant has been the best player on the court through two games of the NBA Finals. Stephen Curry has been fantastic for the Warriors as well.

Now adding to Cleveland’s woes: Klay Thompson’s shot is back.

His shooting slump felt like a distant memory as he dropped 22 points in Game 2, to go along with his stellar defense making life difficult for Kyrie Irving (primarily).

“For me, it did feel good to see the ball go in,” Thompson said. “More importantly, it felt good to get the win. I think tonight I was just in a good rhythm. It started with getting to the basket early and taking good shots. If I do that, it’ll all even out.”

Oracle Arena was never louder Sunday night than when Thompson hit shots, it felt like the entire Bay Area was hanging on the outcome of his attempts. (To be fair, the one thing that was as loud was the ovation for Steve Kerr’s return to the bench.) Thompson had averaged 29 percent shooting over the five games leading up to Sunday, but in Game 2 he was 8-of-12 and hitting from everywhere. Check out his shot chart.

His 22 points in Game 2 mattered, but still not as much as his defense — that has been his contribution this series. Irving has struggled through two games and not been efficient, and a lot of that is due to Thompson.

Thompson also just looked more comfortable Sunday night with the pace of the game.

“I think they were trying to play small with us and maybe trying to get the pace up with us,” Thompson said of the Cavaliers in Game 2 “I don’t think they made that many adjustments, though. They forced us to turn the ball over more, which we can’t do. That’s about it, I think.”

Not that he looked that uncomfortable through the slump. Thompson has the mindset of a shooter, that no matter what the next shot is going in. He may have forced some twos trying to get going, but he’s not worried about that. He has a focus learned from his father — Mychal, the former No. 1 pick and Showtime Laker — that if his shot’s not falling he has to contribute elsewhere. He has.

Thompson’s play is part of the Warriors’ versatility that the Cavaliers simply have not been able to match. He’s not just a catch-and-shoot guy from three, he can handle the ball and run the break, he can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, and he’s also key to a very stout defense.

Which is why the Cavaliers need to be worried, they don’t have players who can match up. And if Thompson’s shot is falling like it did in Game 2 there may be no answer.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.

Clippers’ Lou Williams won second-straight, third overall Sixth Man of Year Award

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The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.

However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.

Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.

“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.