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Warriors seem capable of anything – except another collapse

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CLEVELAND (AP) The possibilities seem endless for the Golden State Warriors when they are rolling.

A 150-point game isn’t even out of reach.

“I mean, we could have gotten at least 140 the other night if we only had about 10 to 15 turnovers,” All-Star guard Klay Thompson said.

Dominating like no team ever has in the postseason, the Warriors look capable of anything – except another NBA Finals collapse.

They take a 2-0 lead over Cleveland into Wednesday’s Game 3, just as they did last year. The Warriors actually had a higher victory margin through two games in the 2016 Finals, but they didn’t have Kevin Durant or a fully healthy Stephen Curry then.

They do now and are playing much better basketball than this time last year.

“As a team, I think so,” Thompson said. “I think we’re moving the ball great, we’re shooting the ball at a high clip and our defense has been unbelievable.”

Somehow, the Cavaliers have to change all that.

They did last year, coming home after losing the first two by a combined 48 points and beginning the turnaround with a 120-90 rout in Game 3. The opponent and the situation are the same, yet things feel different.

“That’s last year and I don’t even know the feeling anymore,” LeBron James said. “So I’m just mentally strengthening my mind and getting my mind ready and focused on what tomorrow’s going to bring, and so I look forward to it.”

The Warriors committed 20 turnovers in Game 2 but simply shook that off with an NBA Finals-record 18 3-pointers in a 132-113 romp. It was the second time in the postseason they committed at least 20 turnovers, and yet they scored at least 120 points in both games.

They are averaging nearly 119 points and winning by a record 16.9 per game in the postseason, and they’ve really picked it up lately. Golden State has scored 126 per game on nearly 52 percent shooting over the last five games.

“We played against good teams, and we came to the Finals undefeated, and here we are up 2-0, so we’re playing amazing basketball right now. The best we probably played throughout the year,” center Zaza Pachulia said.

With a loaded lineup and enough hot hands to fill an octopus, the Warriors don’t need to rely on any one player to take a lot of shots. If somebody is struggling, they can just find someone else with their precision ball movement.

The Cavaliers don’t have that luxury. They need big nights from James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – and even then a roster of struggling role players has to pick it up.

“We just need our supporting group to be themselves as much as possible,” Irving said. “Understand that they have a unique opportunity to make us that much better, and for a majority of this season it’s been on myself, Bron and K-Love’s shoulders. And we have done a great job of getting everyone involved and making sure that everyone feels comfortable, but now we need everything and everybody.”

The Cavaliers said they won’t change their lineup or their schemes, insisting they want to play fast even though that’s exactly the way the Warriors like it. Golden State has been punishing Cleveland in transition, and the way the Warriors have blown open the first two games by scoring in bunches hasn’t just taken a physical toll.

Both Durant and Thompson said they noticed the mental effect their lightning-quick scoring bursts have on opponents.

“Teams have great nights in this league, and it’s the NBA, so that can happen a lot,” Durant said. “But when you’re the one making the run, you could definitely feel the other team looking for answers and being deflated as the game goes on.”

A year after winning 73 games to set the NBA’s regular-season record, the Warriors can make more history if they sweep the Cavs to complete the league’s first undefeated postseason.

They embraced the chase last year but said Tuesday that they’re not thinking at all about 16-0.

“Game 3 has been rough for us historically, and especially in this building,” Curry said. “So to give ourselves a chance at even coming close to thinking about that. We need to really, really just lock in and give every effort we have on tomorrow and how hard this 48 minutes is going to be to really seize control of this series.”

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NBA world reacts to Anthony Davis’ game-winner for Lakers

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It might go down as the shot of the playoffs. The Denver Nuggets had battled back from 16 points down to take the lead behind a brilliant performance from Nikola Jokic, who had the team’s final 11 points. Throw in a Jamal Murray block and the Nuggets were up one with 2.1 seconds left.

Then Anthony Davis happened.

The Lakers won the game (going up 2-0 in the series) and the NBA world took to Twitter to react — including a lot of NBA players.

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Dates, times, matchups for all games

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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA has released an NBA Finals schedule to teams and their target is still a Sept. 30 Game 1. If either conference finals goes seven games that date will need to be pushed back.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106 (Miami leads series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 23, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 5: Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: TBD (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103 (Lakers lead series 2-0)
Game 3: Sept. 22, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 4: Sept. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. (TNT)*
Game 6: Sept. 28, TBD (TNT)*
Game 7: Sept. 30, TBD (TNT)*
*If necessary

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

Anthony Davis drains game-winner at buzzer to put Lakers up 2-0

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It looked like Nikola Jokic, the All-NBA Second Team center, was going to be the star of the game — he scored Denver’s last 11 points and had them up with 2.7 seconds to go.

Then Anthony Davis — the All-NBA First Team center — drained this game-winner, a three over Jokic at the buzzer to win the game.

This is why the Lakers got Anthony Davis (and gave up a lot to get him).

That shot gave the Lakers the 105-103 win to put them up 2-0 in the series. Game 3 is Tuesday night.

Davis carried the Lakers at the end of the game, hitting a couple of clutch threes, and finished with 31 points and nine rebounds. He has been the best Laker in this series, with 68 points and 19 rebounds through two games.

For the Lakers, it was a dramatic win in a game where they were sloppy with 23 turnovers, and where their defense came apart for stretches of the game. Good teams win ugly games, that’s how the Lakers have to view it.

Denver supporters may want to spin this as “look how much better we played” — and they did, slowing the pace down (97 possessions, via NBA.com) and getting inside more, taking advantage of switches — but the reality is the Lakers are only going to have bad outings once or twice a series and the Nuggets needed to take advantage. They didn’t, and this loss stings.

“This is the Western Conference Finals. No moral victories, no silver linings,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said postgame.

Davis’ good look to win the game came on the kind of defensive breakdown Denver has at times that other teams have not exploited these playoffs. Mason Plumlee was inserted for his size and defense, and he was on Davis, who simply runs across the top of the arc. Plumlee doesn’t stick with him, instead running over by LeBron James, who is just hanging out at the elbow (but Denver fears), and acts like there should be a switch. Torrey Craig can’t switch, if he does that LeBron has a free lane to the rim and an easy two. If it was an X-out style switch then Plumlee needed to trail Davis all the way to Jokic, he didn’t, leaving Jokic a ridiculously long closeout. Jokic read the play and got there to contest, but Davis had gotten a clean look.

Jokic had 30 points and nine rebounds for Denver, taking over the game when it mattered most and looking like an elite playoff performer. Jamal Murray had 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting and (as The Athletic’s John Hollinger noted on Twitter) was +16 in 44:14 minutes, meaning Denver was -18 in the 3:46 he was on the bench getting some rest. Denver got 15 points from Michael Porter Jr. and good minutes out of P.J. Dozier (although his five missed free throws in six attempts came back to bite the team).

Los Angeles got 26 points and 11 boards from LeBron and 11 points each from Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

The Lakers came out flat in this game except for LeBron, who had the team’s first 12 points. It looked like a close game until the Lakers went on an 18-3 run in the second quarter, with 8-0 of that coming with LeBron on the bench. The highlight of that was an Alex Caruso dunk that had the Lakers bench up and yelling.

Los Angeles stretched the lead out to as many as 16, but the Nuggets never quit.

Anthony Davis had to shut the door on them.

Watch Alex Caruso monster dunk, LeBron and Laker bench reaction

Alex Caruso dunk
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Alex Caruso has sneaky hops. Fans relate to him because he doesn’t look like an NBA player — he doesn’t really give off the vibe of one when you see him hanging out in the Lakers’ locker room either — but watch him on the court and he is more athletic than people realize. Alex Caruso can sky and throw down a dunk.

Just ask the Denver Nuggets.

The best part of this? The reaction of LeBron James and the Lakers bench.

The Alex Caruso dunk was part of an 8-0 Laker run right as LeBron went to get some rest. Denver had done a good job early being right with the Lakers by controlling the pace and limiting the Lakers in transition. That fell apart in the second quarter, fueled by Denver’s seven second-quarter turnovers (13 for the half), which allowed the Lakers to get out and run.

And Caruso to dunk, firing up the team.