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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Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.

Cavaliers reportedly extend Dean Wade for three years, $18.5 million

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This could be a steal for the Cavaliers — Dean Wade could be the starting three for the Cavaliers by the end of this season and he’s got a genuine upside.

The Cavaliers have extended Wade for three years, $18.5 million, a story where multiple sources were on top of it, including Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wade’s counting stats aren’t eye-popping — 5.3 points a game and shooting 35.7% from 3 — but he is a quality wing defender who has improved as a floor spacer (sometimes setting picks and popping out). He’s a two-way player who has put in the work and could pass Isaac Okoro on the depth chart this season.

The Cavaliers have four All-Stars who will undoubtedly be starting for them — Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front — and the looming question is at the three. Wade has a chance this season to step into that role.

Which makes extending him at a little over $6 million a season a potential steal for the Cavaliers.

 

Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

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Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

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After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.