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

7 Comments

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.

Celtics interim coach Mazzulla to coach Team Giannis in All-Star Game

New York Knicks (120) Vs. Boston Celtics (117) At TD Garden (OT)
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
0 Comments

One way to remove the “interim” tag from your coaching resume is to earn the right to coach in the All-Star Game.

Boston Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzula and his staff will coach Team Giannis in the All-Star Game this season. It became official when the 76ers fell to the Magic on Tuesday night, ensuring the Celtics would have the best record in the East by the cut-off date this Sunday.

The Celtics are 36-15 and in first place in the Eastern Conference, even though they have lost 3-of-4 (and needed overtime and a bad no-call on a LeBron James potential game-winner to get that victory). They have a top-five offense and defense in the league and have looked like the team to beat since the start of the season, even if they have had a few injuries and looked bored with the regular season of late.

Mazzulla deserves credit for helping the team move past former coach Ime Udoka was suspended due to an improper affair with a franchise employee. It could have been a distraction that blew up the Boston season, but he got them focused beyond that, and with that could get some Coach of the Year votes (in a crowded field).

First, however, he has to coach the All-Star Game.

Are Pistons going to hold on to Bojan Bodanovic into next season?

Milwaukee Bucks v Detroit Pistons
Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

For much of the run-up to the Feb. 9 trade deadline, Bojan Bogdanovic has been one of the best and most discussed players available. The 6’8″ wing who can knock down 3s and do some secondary shot creation could help a lot of teams.

One of those is the Pistons, who want to take a big step forward next season. Bogdanovic told Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype the front office spoke to him, and it doesn’t sound like he will get traded.

“Having conversations with the club, Troy [Weaver, general manager] and the owners, they assured me that we’re going to be great next year,” Bogdanovic said. “We have a lot of cap space to sign great players. We’re going to have a high pick again, so that’s going to help us a lot. We have a great young group of guys. When Cade [Cunningham] went down, that kind of hurt us big time. We were thinking that maybe we’d be fighting for the play-in tournament, but when he went down, he was our main guy. All of our offensive strategies were connected to him. When he went down, our season, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs without him.”

The Pistons reportedly have set the price for Bogdanovic at an unprotected first-round pick, which is very steep. This may simply be a case of Detroit being willing to keep Bogdanovic around if nobody wants to meet that price. They did just extend him for two years, $39.1 million and he would be the kind of professional veteran that is good to have in the locker room around a younger team.

Bogdanovic, for his part, would rather not hear the rumors.

“I heard the rumors, but I’m trying to stay away from those conversations,” Bogdanovic said. “I don’t even have any social media like Twitter. I don’t read much about that. It’s not in my control. It’s about the franchises. I’m just going to try and stay focused and play as best I can. Then, we’ll see what’s going to happen at the end of the trade deadline.”

The rumors are not going anywhere, they will stick around through the trade deadline. Bogdanovic may as well.

Report: Mavericks looking for another star at trade deadline. Good luck with that.

Toronto Raptors v Sacramento Kings
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Two things are true. First, the painted-over mural was right, the Dallas Mavericks desperately need a second star to go next to Luka Dončić. Second, they have backed themselves into a corner without the trade assets or cap space to easily make that happen.

It may be a longshot, but the Mavericks are open to trading anyone but Dončić to find that second star at the deadline, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reminds us.

It shouldn’t be a surprise Dallas is open to this, of course they are.

The challenges start with, what star is available? The best player maybe on the market right now is John Collins or Bojan Bogdanovic, and while both would help the Mavericks neither is changing the team’s fortunes the way they would hope.

If Toronto decides to become sellers things get interesting. However, as of the latest reports, they are on the fence and telling teams they are waiting to decide what they will do at the deadline (sell, stand pat, or become buyers). Fred VanVleet could be available, and would essentially be a Jalen Brunson replacement, certainly a step up from where the Mavericks are currently. However, the Clippers and others could drive up the asking price, plus the Mavericks would have to step up and pay him this summer, VanVleet is expected to opt out of his $22.8 million contract. O.G. Anunoby would be a great fit next to Dončić, but he is not a star, he is more of a high-level role player.

Pascal Siakam could be that second star next to Dončić, a 6’8″ wing who can finish at the rim, shoot 3s, and would be a great secondary shot creator. It’s a good fit. Siakam is not an elite defender — Dallas would want some 3&D guys added to the roster — but he would be the kind of addition Dallas needs.

Dallas can offer its three first-round picks starting in 2024, but is some combination of those picks and Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood and Dorian Finney-Smith going to entice the Raptors? They will look for a massive package for Siakam and likely see better offers than Dallas can construct.

It may not be easy to pull off, and likely will wait until the offseason (at the earliest), but know the Mavericks are serious about a second star.

Knicks reportedly very interested in Anunoby, if Raptors make him available

Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
0 Comments

The Toronto Raptors are the one team that could move this trade deadline from a dud to shaking up the playoff race. There are 29 other GMs waiting to see what Massai Ujiri will do, and when they called, they’ve been told “the franchise will make a decision about being a buyer or seller – or standing pat – near deadline day,” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

If Toronto does decide to trade a player beyond the expected Gary Trent Jr., then the Knicks want to be at the front of the line for defensive wing O.G. Anunoby, Charania reports.

The Knicks and Suns are among the interested suitors in Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby, sources say. New York has shown a willingness to offer multiple first-round picks for Anunoby, according to those sources. The Suns, meanwhile, have control of all of their first-round picks — eight in total —through 2030. SNY first reported the Knicks’ interest last week.

There would be a lot of teams in line for Anunoby, but he is a very Thibodeau-style player — an All-Defensive Team level wing stopper who can finish and is averaging 16.9 points per game — so you can see where the interest comes from. Anunoby also is just 25 and is locked in next season at $18.6 million. While the demand for wings in general is lower this trade season — point guards and centers are more in demand — a lot of teams could use a player the quality of Anunoby. Including the Knicks.

Getting him won’t be cheap — two unprotected first-round picks (or lightly protected) with matching salary would be the price range.

All of that is moot if the Raptors don’t make him available, which is what everyone is waiting to see.