Warriors, Rockets set for Game 7 in West finals

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HOUSTON (AP) When the Golden State Warriors lost Game 5 of the Western Conference finals to the Rockets on Thursday night to send them to the brink of elimination they vowed to be back in Houston for Game 7.

After a resounding win in Game 6 that’s exactly where the defending champions are, preparing for a winner-take-all game Monday night for a spot in the NBA Finals.

“It’s going to be fun,” Stephen Curry said. “It’s what you play for, to be in a situation where you’re one win away from going to the finals. Pressure both ways because of how big the moment is, and you’ve got to want it.”

The Warriors trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half Saturday night before using a splendid second half to roll to a 115-86 victory. Curry knows that if the Warriors hope to return to the finals for the fourth straight year they’ll have to get off to a better start in Game 7.

“I guarantee if we start the game out like we did (Saturday) and they jump out to the lead, it’s going to be 10 times harder to make it a game,” Curry said. “So for us that’s our challenge to have the same mentality we had for the last 36 minutes of (Game 6) and bring that from the jump in Game 7.”

Kevin Durant is excited about helping the Warriors return to the finals, but he got a little confused on when Game 7 was on Saturday night.

“I can’t wait `til Tuesday,” Durant said.

Curry quickly jumped in to correct his teammate.

“Monday,” he said. “Please don’t miss a game.”

The Rockets aren’t dwelling on their missed opportunity to close out the series as they get ready for Monday’s game where they’ll try to punch their ticket to finals for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 1995-95.

They might have to do it without star Chris Paul, who is dealing with a strained right hamstring that kept him out of Game 6. Coach Mike D’Antoni said Sunday that he’s continuing to receive treatment and his status for Game 7 will likely be a game-time decision.

James Harden, who had 22 points in the first half on Saturday night but just 10 the rest of the way, insists that the Rockets remain confident despite the blowout loss and are up to Monday’s challenge.

“There’s no pressure. It’s an opportunity, an opportunity that we all are excited to be a part of,” he said. “Game 7 at our house, that’s what we’ve worked the entire regular season for (is) to get home-court advantage. So we’re going to come out and be ready.”

The Rockets tied the Raptors for best home record in the NBA during the regular season by going 34-7. They’re 7-2 in Houston this postseason with one of their losses coming in Game 1 of this series.

After 10,000 people paid $10 each to watch Saturday night’s game at the Toyota Center in what was a fundraiser for victims of the Santa Fe school shooting, Harden has no doubt that the home fans will be ready to help them out in Game 7.

“They’re going to bring it,” he said. “We’ve got a whole city behind us, and they’re as loyal as they come.”

Golden State coach Steve Kerr is trying to figure out why his team has struggled to put together complete games in this series, but is proud that the Warriors have found ways to win despite their up and down play.

“Our guys have a ton of character and a ton of competitiveness, desire,” he said. “They’re champions. So our guys compete. That’s the main thing. They may not always focus, but they compete.”

The Warriors are also dealing with injuries as Kerr said Andre Iguodala, who has missed the last two games with a bruised left leg, is doubtful for Monday’s game.

Kevon Looney has filled in for him the last two games but is also listed as questionable for Game 7 with sore toe on his left foot. However Kerr said Looney is fine and will play in Game 7.

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

Report: Heat, Celtics, Mavericks, Grizzlies may show interest in Crowder trade

2022 NBA Playoffs - 	Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns
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The Phoenix Suns had media day on Monday, but veteran Jae Crowder was not there, part of a mutual agreement with the team to sit out until a trade could be found. It left players and GM James Jones addressing the issue.

What teams are interested in Crowder? Shams Charania of The Athletic says to watch for the Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Grizzlies among others.

Miami has been at the front of the line in terms of interest (and Crowder has suggested online he would welcome a return to Miami). The Heat have minutes to fill at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly and Crowder — who was on the Heat team that went to the bubble Finals against the Lakers — would be a solid fit. Putting together a trade is a little more tricky. The Heat would likely want Duncan Robinson at the core of the deal, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig — and that means the Heat have to throw in a pick (a protected first) or a minimum-contract player (Gabe Vincent?) to make the deal work. Not impossible, but not likely.

The Celtics need depth at the four but what they can offer is bench minutes, filling Danilo Gallinari‘s role (he is out for the season with a torn ACL) but putting together a trade is next to impossible financially considering who Boston would be willing to give up (not Robert Williams). Dallas could put together a deal if the Suns are interested in Dwight Powell (probably not, the Suns just paid Deandre Ayton a lot of money to be their center) or Reggie Bullock. Memphis could send out the dead money of the Danny Green contract (out for the season due to injury) and picks, or Ziaire Williamson and some minimum players (probably also with picks). Atlanta, Chicago and other destinations have come out in rumors.

As for why Crowder pushed for a trade, the man himself posted his own hype video on Instagram and Tweeted this.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the most heard speculation around the league as to the reason — the Suns were going to start Cameron Johnson at the four to have more shooting and Crowder wanted none of that — but the reason now is moot. Crowder will get traded.

The only questions are when and where.

Durant, Irving talk about Nets moving on from ‘very awkward’ summer, but drama continues

Brooklyn Nets Media Day
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Media Day — arguably the most boring and tedious day on the NBA calendar — was anything but in Brooklyn.

After a summer Kyrie Irving admitted was “very awkward” — where both he and Kevin Durant pushed to be traded, and Durant threw down an ultimatum saying it was him or coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks — everyone was back under one roof and trying to stay on message about just wanting to win.

But drama will follow this team like a dark cloud until they force the conversation to be about something else. Like how many games they are winning.

Until then, the awkward questions and moments will come. For example, why did Kevin Durant ask for a trade this summer? What did he want to see changed? He talked about the team feeling unstable last season. Which it was (for a variety of reasons).

“My whole thing was, I wanted everybody to be held accountable for their habits as a basketball player. I think a lot of stuff was getting swept under the rug because we’re injured or this guy’s not around or just the circumstances. I thought we could have fought through that a little bit more and focused on the guys that were here a little bit more.

“You know, when I went out with the injury, we lost 10 in a row. And I’m like, we shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor. So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of the stuff that I felt that held us back.”

Those are the best, drama-free answers he could give. But Durant still loves to stir the pot on Twitter and did so later in the day.

(That was the question asked boiled way down, but both the question and Durant’s answer had a lot more context, it was not a confrontational answer in the moment.)

Kyrie Irving said there were options for him this summer, although limited ones, because he is unvaccinated. He also talked about the reasons he wanted to return to the Nets.

Marks handled the inevitable “your star wanted you fired” questions as well as he could, saying at one point “that’s pro sports.”

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinions and I think from us, it’s not to hold a grudge against what Kevin said, but it’s a little bit of saying, ‘All right, if that’s the way he feels, what’s going on here?’ Like, what do we need to change?” Marks said.

In the end, everyone talked about moving on and the potential for this roster. Durant is not disappointed to be back.

“I wasn’t disappointed. I still love to play. I knew that wasn’t going to get affected regardless of what happened this summer,” Durant said.

The Nets have the talent on the roster to be title contenders, but have more questions than any other team at that level after the past couple of years: Can Durant stay healthy? Will Irving be focused and committed for an entire season? How does Ben Simmons fit in and what is his role? Can their thin frontcourt hold up? Will they play enough defense? Is Steve Nash up to the task? Does this team have the will and drive to be contenders?

Playing through the drama is the only way to answer all those questions, but if they do this team could be a powerhouse.

PBT Podcast: Golden State Warriors season preview

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
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The Golden State Warriors will enter the season hanging banner number four from this era and passing out their championship rings, but this is a team with more questions than most returning champs.

Otto Porter and Gary Payton II are gone and their minutes will go to a young core — Jordan Poole, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — who are going to be asked to carry a larger load. Particularly during the regular season.

Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area joins Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to break down this coming Warriors season, what to expect, and if the young core can get the older vets to the playoffs rested and ready to defend their title. There’s also talk of what comes next in Golden State, as some hard contract choices are coming in the next few years.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Khris Middleton says he will miss start of season following wrist surgery

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Two
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When Khris Middleton first went under the knife this summer to clean up issues with his left wrist, he expected to return in time for the start of the season.

At Bucks media day Sunday, Middleton said he’s not going to make that opening night goal but should be back early in the season, as reported by Jamal Collier of ESPN.

The Bucks open the season on the road Oct. 18 against the Celtics (who have their own set of issues heading into this year).

Middleton’s importance to the Bucks was evident in the playoffs, when not having him as a secondary shot creator was a key aspect of their seven-game loss to the Celtics.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds a game last season. A healthy Bucks team — with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Jrue Holiday as the core — enter the season as serious title contenders. But they need Middleton, so they will not rush him back.