Seth Curry: Warriors harder to guard without Kevin Durant

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If Kevin Durant didn’t know any better, he might think the Curry brothers are dissing him.

I think Durant does know better. But the comments are coming one after another.

First, when Durant got hurt against the Rockets, Warriors teammate Stephen Curry said, “During the timeout, we all looked at each other, and there were a couple smiles in terms of what that meant for us as a team and the guys that were going to need to step up in those moments. Again, next-man-up mentality.”

Now, Trail Blazers guard Seth Curry, via Sam Amick of The Athletic:

“I think they are harder to guard (without Durant),” Seth said. “They move around faster when he’s not out there. They’re definitely not a better team, but they’re harder to guard. Obviously, they play a different style of basketball when Steph and Klay (Thompson) are the focal points offensively, and we haven’t played that team in a while. We’ve got to reshift our focus and make some adjustments coming into Game 2.”

We went through this a couple years ago, when Tyronn Lue said the Celtics’ sets were harder to defend than Golden State’s.

In a very narrow sense, Lue and Seth Curry are correct. It’s harder to get in position against the Durant-less Warriors, who have much more ball and player movement without him. There are a lot of actions to stay on top of.

But Golden State is not easier to defend without Durant when it comes to the primary purpose of defense – preventing scoring. The Warriors don’t pressure defenses to keep up in the same ways when Durant plays, but he’s still an elite scorer. He doesn’t need complex sets to get good shots. So, the defensive game plan can be simpler to execute. It’s just harder to defend effectively.

Seth Curry essentially acknowledged this. When he said the Warriors definitely aren’t a better team without Durant, Seth Curry didn’t mean because of Durant’s defense. Seth Curry meant they’re better offensively with him. Lue, whose Cavaliers were in the midst of a rivalry with Golden State, might have been at least partially trying to tweak the Warriors.

And it’s not as if Golden State completely stagnates with Durant. He, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala still play plenty of beautiful basketball. But there is a give-and-take between style preferred by Durant and the style preferred by his star teammates and Steve Kerr.

As for Stephen Curry’s comments about smiling, the phrasing was weird. I think the idea was the Warriors, as competitors, relished this opportunity to prove themselves. Durant might even respect that.

He also might feel, if they want to prove themselves without him, he can give them that opportunity by leaving in free agency.

As I’ve said all along, this postseason run will matter toward Durant’s decision. His injury adds a wrinkle. How will Golden State play without him? How will he feel about that?

Another question: How will he receive what people say about the Warriors’ play without him?

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.