Warriors red hot from two, Stephen Curry red hot from three, Warriors pull away in Game 2

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OAKLAND — The reports of the death of the midrange shot are greatly exaggerated.

It’s not the Golden State’s preferred shot — the Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter of Game 2 because Stephen Curry started doing ridiculous Stephen Curry things and finished with a Finals record nine-made threes (he wants your Finals MVP vote).

It was Curry’s brand of brilliance that built the blowout late, but it was the midrange shot that laid the foundation for that push. It’s the beauty of the Warriors — they can beat you a lot of ways. Give them good midrange looks and they will knock them down.

They did in Game 2 — the Warriors shot 71.1 percent from two in the game (and that was with Curry going 2-of-9 from two, apparently those shots are too close for him). Look at this shot chart.

The result was a 122-103 Golden State win that has the defending champs up 2-0 in the series. The Finals move on to Cleveland for Game 3 Wednesday.

This was an improved Warriors team from Game 1, and when Golden State brings its “A” game they will overwhelm any team, including Cleveland.

“We played really well tonight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the win. “There were a few things that bothered us in the second half, a few defensive breakdowns we’ll take a look at on film. But overall it was a really good, balanced game. Good defense. Good intense defense and excellent offense.”

Curry finished with 33 points and had the nine threes. Kevin Durant had 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting. As a team, the Warriors shot 57.3 percent for the game. Klay Thompson, who was questionable for the game with a high ankle sprain, played 34 minutes and scored 20 points — he was just fine.

LeBron James was nothing short of brilliant again — 29 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists. He is single-handily keeping games close. Kevin Love had 22 points but was once again a defensive liability. As a team, the Cavaliers shot 41.1 percent.

Golden State’s offense was far more crisp in Game 2 than in Game 1, and they attacked. The Cavaliers tried to chase them off the arc early, and the Warriors took that as an invitation to the paint.

The corollary to the Golden State offense is that Cleveland’s long-spotty defense has no answer for the Warriors starters, even if one of them is JaVale McGee.

The Warriors came out of the locker room on fire. McGee got the start (Kevon Looney came off the bench) and then got the first four points of the game, one slipping a screen for Curry, the other cutting to the rim when his man went to help on a Durant drive. The Warriors started the game shooting 7-of-7, and shot 65.2 percent in the first quarter. They raced out to a 15-6 lead.

“We watched the film, and obviously from Game 1 LeBron had an amazing night. But a lot of it was just a lack of kind of sense of urgency early in possessions to try to just be physical,” Curry said after the game. “Klay (Thompson), Draymond (Green) and K.D., especially, were huge in that transformation to Game 2 with just putting up a little bit of resistance, and just trying to make them work.”

The Cavaliers, as they have done throughout the start of this series, would not go away. The Cavaliers attacked the rim more on offense, defended better (once the Warriors got into their shallow bench) and kept it close. It was just a four-point game, 32-28, after one.

Then the Cavaliers started second quarter shooting 1-of-7 and it was a symptom of them not scoring inside — the Cavs were 12-of-27 (44.4 percent) in the paint in the first half. Kevin Love couldn’t buy a three, and the Warriors started to create a little space.

Curry was trying to throw haymakers from three and hit a couple, behind that the Warriors put up 59 points and were up 13 at the half.

Then the seemingly impossible happened — the Cavaliers won the third quarter. By three points, but still. There was no dominant Warriors’ run. Cleveland came out firing from three (4-of-6 in the first six minutes of the third) and Love found his range. The result was the game got pushed back down to a six-point lead.

Still, by the end of the quarter it was 90-80 Warriors. The Cavs just could not close the gap all the way.

Then Curry drained a three on a sweet stepback. Then another.

Curry set the record, and the Warriors are halfway to another title.

Rumor: Kevin Durant not happy with Warriors

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Kevin Durant‘s torn Achilles in the NBA Finals is the type of life-changing event that could significantly alter his thinking entering free agency.

But we don’t know how Durant was thinking before the injury. And we don’t know how he’s thinking now. He has yet to speak publicly.

That won’t stop rumors, though.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

the indication from several league sources is that Durant is not happy with the team, and the presumption is that it stems from whatever role Warriors officials played in his decision to suit up. Coach Steve Kerr says he was told Durant could not further injure himself by playing, which obviously proved not to be true. If Durant was told the same, it would give credence to the notion that, as one league executive claims, “He’s really pissed off at the Warriors.”

Jay Williams, who’s close with Durant, said the Warriors misdiagnosed Durant and mishandled public statements about him. Williams doesn’t necessarily speak for Durant, but that might be the best indicator so far of Durant’s mindset.

Do Bucher’s sources have other reason to believe Durant is upset with Golden State? Or are they just assuming Williams is representing Durant’s thoughts? The possibility of the former is what makes this intriguing. But I’m skeptical, especially of someone Bucher identifies as just “one league executive.” That’s light credentials for someone spewing rhetoric like “really pissed off.”

Still, Kendrick Perkins and Brian Windhorst reported on momentum building toward Durant to the Nets. There’s plenty of smoke behind the idea Durant will leave Golden State.

Re-signing with the Warriors might be the way for the injured 30-year-old to maximize his earnings, though. Their max offer projects to be worth $221 million over five years. Other teams’ max offers project to be worth about $164 million over four years. Durant could agree to a delayed sign-and-trade. Of course, he couldn’t actually guarantee Golden State would ever trade him.

So, if he’s that upset with the Warriors, he’ll just leave once free agency opens next week.

Adam Silver likes NBA teams moving away from term ‘owner,’ prefers ‘governor’

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Warriors star Draymond Green has objected to using the term “owner.” The 76ers use “managing partner,” not “owner,” as Josh Harris’ title.

Does NBA commissioner Adam Silver like teams moving away from the term owner?

Silver, via TMZ:

I do. I don’t want to overreact to the term because, as I’ve said earlier, people end up twisting themselves into knots avoiding the use of the word owner. But, we moved away from that term years ago in the league. We call our team owners governor of the team and alternate governors. So, I think it makes sense. As I’ve said, I don’t want to overreact, and you’ll find the word throughout memos over the past decade in the NBA. But I’m sensitive to it, and I think to the extent teams are moving away from the term, we’ll stick with using governor.

Players have gone both ways. I think a few players have actually spoken out and said the greatest thing that ever happened was when Michael Jordan was able to call himself an owner. But, of course, Draymond Green has been very public about the fact that we should be moving away from the term, and I completely respect that.

The elephant in the room: Slavery. The history of white people owning black people is the subtext to this entire discussion. Slavery looms over a league where most owners are white and most player are black.

However, the term “owner” here doesn’t refer to owning the players, but owning the team. “Ownership” has far wider historically usage than slavery. In most fields, “owning” companies – which NBA teams are – doesn’t generate backlash.

Are we too loose with the term “owner” in sports? Perhaps. It’s common to say something like, “Players should strongly consider their potential owners in free agency” rather than “players should strongly consider their potential team’s owners in free agency.”

But there are power differences between players and owners/managing partners/governors/whatever you want to call them. Unless addressing the actual underlying issues, changing terms will accomplish nothing.

Those power dynamics are why the Warriors referred to Mark Stevens as “Mr. Stevens” and Kyle Lowry as Kyle Lowry after Stevens pushed Lowry during the NBA Finals. Those power dynamics are why Donald Sterling took guests into the Clippers’ locker room to ogle players. Those power dynamics are why LeBron James is remembered as the bad guy from The Decision despite Dan Gilbert’s wild letter.

There will always be differences between players and owners. Owners have more money and staying power. But the NBA can create a better, fairer environment for its players.

It’ll just require deeper consideration than a simple word change.

Report: Knicks will roll over cap space if they don’t sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard

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The Knicks are chasing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. New York will reportedly get a meeting with Kawhi Leonard.

But Irving appears headed to the Nets, and Durant might follow. Leonard appears to favor the Raptors in a two-team race with the Clippers.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

New York still believes it’s in the hunt for Kawhi Leonard, Irving and Durant. But, according to a source, the Knicks will punt their $70 million-plus in cap space if they can’t land one of those Tier A free agents.

This plan would require patience Knicks owner James Dolan has rarely shown. The Knicks have missed the playoffs six straight years. Twice during that span – including last season – they posted their worst record in franchise history (17-65). Dolan publicly proclaimed confidence New York would sign major free agents this summer.

He’d really allow the Knicks to delay winning even further?

New York is positioned to wait until 2020 free agency (though Joakim Noah‘s cap hit will remain on the books after an avoidable error). R.J. Barrett and Kevin Knox will still be on relatively cheap rookie-scale contracts. As a second-round pick, Mitchell Robinson is even lower-paid. If they sign players to only one-year contracts this offseason, the Knicks will once again have massive cap room.

But good players generally want multi-year deals. So, New York would be choosing among a far more limited pool of free agents. Another gloomy season would likely await.

And then the 2020 free-agent class looks weak. Especially with Anthony Davis already on the Lakers, there probably won’t be an attainable superstar for the Knicks. There might not even be an attainable star.

Then what? Sacrifice the 2020-21 season to gear up for 2021 free agency? Maybe Barrett, Knox and Robinson develop and send New York on a different track, but that’s far from assured.

The genius of this plan is it allows Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry to keep their jobs while the team continues to stink. There would be no expectations of winning anytime soon – as long as Dolan abides.

Report: Kyrie Irving doesn’t like living in Boston

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Has Kyrie Irving been in contact with the Boston Celtics about his free agency? We have reports that say that Irving has “ghosted” the Celtics… and of course we have counter reports that say just the opposite.

It’s hard to believe anything that swirls around Irving, one of the more enigmatic and tiring personalities in the NBA. At the very least, Irving has appeared to send signals that he is looking to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Chief among them being that Irving recently fired his longtime representation and signed with Roc Nation, which has a close partnership with the Brooklyn front office.

Boston has had a hard time getting free agents to come to play for the franchise, and that’s before they had a standing beef with Klutch Sports. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, one of our Irving’s problems with the Celtics was that he simply didn’t like living in Boston.

Via ESPN:

“Kyrie Irving didn’t like Boston. I’ve been told this by many people. He didn’t like living in Boston — he just didn’t. By the end he had issues with Brad, by the end he had issues with Danny… by the end he had issues with pretty much all of us.”

We have heard rumors that things started to go wrong in the Celtics locker room when coach Brad Stevens seemed to openly favor injured star Gordon Hayward a bit too heavily (Hayward played for Stevens at Butler in college).

Meanwhile, Danny Ainge has the propensity to rub folks the wrong way. He makes whatever decision he thinks is the best from a basketball perspective, relationships be damned. We learned that with the Isaiah Thomas trade.

At this juncture it seems unlikely that Irving will return to the Celtics. Meanwhile, we will probably continue to get stories like this out of Boston.