Golden State is a dynasty, but how long can they keep it up?

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CLEVELAND — Dynasty.

That word gets thrown around too casually in sports. However, we can legitimately use it referencing these Golden State Warriors, especially after Friday night when they held the Larry O’Brien Trophy aloft for the third time in four years (and they won 73 games and went to a Game 7 of the Finals the one year they didn’t pick up a ring). The team has everything a dynasty needs. It has the banners — and now back-to-back titles. It has the legendary players that will help define a generation in the league — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. It has players who can put ego aside and do what is best for the team, who can handle a regular season filled with injuries and uneven play with their eye on the big prize at the end.

The Warriors are a dominant force that will enter next season — regardless of what happens this summer in free agency — as the team to beat. They have set the bar to clear — LeBron James may be on the move again because he needs a better situation to challenge these Warriors. The only question that seems left:

How many more years can they keep this up?

“We want to keep this thing going as long as we can,” Curry said, although understandably the Warriors’ players didn’t want to discuss the future as much as celebrate the present Friday night.

“Any question that kind of talks about the future and whatnot, you don’t want to cheat the moment,” Curry added. “So we’ll have plenty of time over the summer to talk about what next year’s going to look like and what it’s going to take for us to get back to this stage next year.”

What it’s going to take to keep these Warriors rolling is to keep their core four together.

Right now, none of them are pushing to get out the door and have a team of their own — Durant has said he’ll re-sign with the Warriors and Klay Thompson said he’d take a discount to stay. Those two were considered the most likely to want to step out on their own according to sources around the league. If they stay, the Warriors remain a force for years.

That’s because none of those core guys are old — Curry just turned 30 in March and Durant will do the same before next season starts, while Green and Thompson are 27. They are at their peak and will be for another four or five years. Andre Iguodala is 34, but aside that the heart of their rotation is not old — and GM Bob Myers keeps finding guys such as Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw who can help now while on their rookie contracts. There will be changes in the role players around the core — they likely lose Kevon Looney in free agency this summer and probably David West, but they will have the taxpayer midlevel exception to add someone — but so long as the core is together this team will contend.

The challenge is financial — all four of those core guys are max contract players. At what point do the Warriors’ owners balk at the cost?

Curry got his max last summer (after being on one of the most cap-friendly contracts in the league), but also last year Durant took nearly $10 million less than he could have to help the team keep Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Shooting down some odd speculation in the media (or maybe wishful thinking in some quarters), Durant said he will re-sign with Golden State this summer. However, he will not take that discount again, he will get his max starting at $35 million and the only question is how long the contract is for (four years, or does he take a one-plus-one so he is fully vested and can re-sign a five-year Bird rights deal with the Warriors next summer?).

Thompson is a free agent in 2019 and has talked about taking a discount to help keep the team together (probably not an extension, though, where he would leave as much as $80 million total on the table, he will just take less than the max in 2019). In 2020, Green will come up for a new deal that starts at $25 million.

The Warriors are in the luxury tax now ($32.7 million this season) and in the 2019-20 season will go into the repeater tax, jumping that bill up even higher — in 2020 they could pay $150 million or more in luxury tax, with a total team salary bill north of $320 million (that’s nearly double what they paid this season, already the highest salaried team in the NBA).

The Warriors owners have said they are willing to pay the tax for a winner (moving into a new building in San Francisco in a couple of years will help, that will open up revenue streams). Look at what Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob told the Athletic this week.

“I tell Bob (Myers, Warriors GM) every day, our job is not to let it end. It may change, just like we changed when we added Kevin and (let go of) some really good players that won the championship in ’15.

“So we have to recognize that and be willing to make some changes each year that are required. Some will be of our doing and some will sort of be handed to us….

“What I’d love for us to be able to do is have a Spurs-like 20-year run of being very consistently good and competing for championships, and that’s my job.”

A Spurs-like run of sustained excellence requires a lot of things to go right. It requires a little luck, too. The Warriors organization, however, is in as good a position as any team to do it.

Back to our original question: How many more years can they keep this up?

The Warriors aren’t going anywhere for the next three to five years at least — this dynasty has won three titles in four years, but it could be five-in-seven, six-in-nine, or more when all is said and done.

And if ownership gets its wish, the Warriors will not be done then.

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.

Spurs playoffs hopes remain alive with 123-105 win over Rockets

Spurs playoffs
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Spurs aren’t out of it yet.

Keldon Johnson had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and San Antonio kept alive its chances of becoming the first team in NBA history to make 23 consecutive playoff appearances with a 123-105 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

San Antonio has won three straight and five out of seven since arriving in the Florida bubble.

DeMar DeRozan added 23 points. Jakob Poeltl finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Johnson said his mindset since the season restarted has been to fill in whatever role is asked of him.

“Whether it’s hustling, running the floor – just doing whatever I need to do to help us win,” he said. “Help from my teammates has definitely helped the game slow down for me.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Johnson is playing with the confidence they saw when they drafted him 29th overall last year.

“That’s what he does,” Popovich said. “He’s a high-energy guy. He’s very physical. Very competitive. Very coachable. He’s just a winner.”

The Western Conference is guaranteed to have a play-in for its final playoff spot, with Memphis beginning the day with just a half-game over Portland and one game ahead of Phoenix and San Antonio.

The Spurs will need help to be one of the teams playing this weekend for the final spot in the Western Conference, but made sure they couldn’t be eliminated Tuesday with their win.

Russell Westbrook had 20 points and seven turnovers in his first game back in the lineup for Houston after missing two games with a bruised right quadriceps. Jeff Green had 17 points. Ben McLemore added 16.

The Rockets played without guards James Harden (rest) and Eric Gordon (ankle).

The Spurs took control in the second quarter, outscoring the Rockets 35-24. San Antonio led by as many as 29 points.

San Antonio built a 19-point lead in the first half. DeRozan set the tone with 15 points in the opening 24 minutes, with Lonnie Waker IV, Poeltl and Johnson each scoring 10.

Regardless of whether the Spurs make the playoffs or not, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is proud of how his young players have stepped up in during their time in the bubble.

“Part of it is you have to be realistic,” Popovich said. “I don’t think our chances of winning the championship were great at the beginning of this, nor are they now. If that’s a fact, then you need to do everything you can to develop and be prepared for next season.

“The development has been off the charts. We’re thrilled with it. So it’s a win-win no matter what.”

Popovich said it would be “thrilling” to get some help and have a chance to extend their season, but he’s not using it as a measuring stick for the season.

“We’ve already accomplished what we thought we were capable of accomplishing, that’s what’s important. If we got in now it would be icing on the cake.”