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Klay Thompson says Warriors aren’t worried: ‘It’s first to four, not first to one’

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TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors are rugged and relentless, capable of punishing teams in transition any time they make a mistake.

The Golden State Warriors felt like they were seeing a version of themselves in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and now they have to stop it.

No problem, they figure.

“It’s first to four, not first to one,” Klay Thompson said. “So, still a lot of basketball to be played.”

The Warriors’ 1-0 deficit may be unusual, but they certainly don’t seem uncomfortable. Golden State had won 12 straight Game 1s before falling 118-109 on Thursday, and the two-time defending champions hadn’t been behind in the NBA Finals since Cleveland had a 2-1 lead in 2015.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr has pointed to his team’s poor transition defense in the opener after Toronto used its quickness to score 24 fast-break points and turn the Warriors’ 17 turnovers into 17 points.

“They were getting the ball off the rim and just pushing it. Instead of crashing as hard as we did, we’ll have to make the adjustment in Game 2 and try to send more guys back,” Thompson said Saturday. “But 10 days off as well, we might have had a little cobwebs. It was just a mixture of things. But I know this: I know we’ll be better tomorrow.”

Kerr said the Raptors reminded him of the Warriors, with Pascal Siakam pushing the ball in transition the way Draymond Green does. Siakam was the far more effective player in the opener, with 32 points while Green struggled to a 2-for-9 night.

But the Warriors aren’t worried, relying on the confidence from facing just about every possible situation while making it to five straight NBA Finals.

“They got rings and they can be confident,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “We can’t really necessarily worry about them. We have to continue to worry about us. They’re going to be them and they’re going to do their thing, but for us we have to concentrate on us and focus on what we have to do.”

Things to know going into Game 2:

BETTER LEONARD?

Kawhi Leonard scored 23 points in the opener but shot just 5 for 14 after averaging 31.2 points in the first three rounds. Coach Nick Nurse doesn’t think the All-Star forward was bothered by a leg injury that appeared to hamper him somewhat in the Eastern Conference finals.

“I don’t think the leg trouble is much of an issue,” Nurse said, “and I’m expecting him to play a lot better tomorrow.”

TALKING TRASH

If the Warriors want to rattle Leonard, it will require actions rather than words. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP always appears to be calm, and he was asked if he responds when players try to trash talk him.

“It really doesn’t happen too much,” Leonard said. “I really can’t say it happens.”

KD’s OK

Though Kevin Durant remains out at least one more game with a strained right calf, he traveled to Toronto with the Warriors to work with the training staff. Stephen Curry said his presence around the locker room is helpful until the two-time NBA Finals MVP can get back on the floor.

“Anybody who goes through an injury like that, you kind of feel alienated because your schedule is a little different. Most of the time you’re on kind of (isolation) with our athletic training staff, putting extra hours in. Stuff starts to feel monotonous, especially with the big stage of the finals here and now,” Curry said. “So I think he’s handled that well, understanding his time is coming sooner than later and he’s doing whatever he can on a daily basis to get healthy.”

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

The Warriors started Jordan Bell at center in Game 1 and Kerr thought he did well, but Golden State has other options. DeMarcus Cousins and Andrew Bogut are also in the center rotation along with Kevon Looney.

“Every game is going to be different,” Kerr said. “Pretty much every game this postseason has been different at the center position, based on what we have needed. The one constant is Looney, who is going to play his 28, 30 minutes one way or the other. What we’re always trying to do is mix and match, and find matchups and fill in those gaps with the right combinations that can help us win.”

WATCH YOUR MOUTH

The Los Angeles Clippers were fined $50,000 by the NBA on Friday for comments coach Doc Rivers made about Leonard during a TV appearance. Kerr won’t fall into the same predicament, having gotten in trouble before.

“I got fined when I was the GM of Phoenix for making a joke on `The Dan Patrick Show.”‘ Kerr said. “I think he asked me if we were interested in LeBron when LeBron was a free agent back in whatever it was that he went to Miami. I said if he’s willing to take the minimum, we would take him. Dan laughed. And I wrote a $10,000 check the next day. So I learned my lesson. I don’t comment about any other players”.

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Chris Paul playing cornhole. Luka Doncic trick shots. Welcome to life in the NBA bubble.

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Teams have emerged from quarantine in the Walt Disney World campus in Orlando, getting some run in on the court, and are starting to explore life in the NBA bubble.

Then they are documenting it on social media.

For example, Chris Paul and Darius Bazley played some cornhole.

Dallas’ Luka Doncic was hitting trick shots on the court.

Then Doncic and Boban Marjanovic were doing Disney Channel ads.

Complaints about the food by players have died down, in part because they are out of quarantine and get a choice of restaurants, in part because they saw the backlash and realized the complaints looked elitist. Or maybe it’s just the Mickey pancakes.

Everyone is out and exploring the campus and having fun…

Well, except for Robin Lopez, who sees no reason to leave his room.

Zion Williamson “just went back to square one” with quarantine workouts

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Zion Williamson looks cut — like he spent the entire quarantine doing workouts — and ready to be a force at the NBA restart in Orlando.

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Built for this 💪

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What workouts did Zion Williamson do during the break to get that look? He took everything back down to step one and built it up again working out with his stepfather Lee Anderson, Williamson told reporters on Friday (hat tip Andrew Lopez of ESPN):

“It just felt like I was 5 years old again,” Williamson said Friday. “Just went back to square one, tried to get my body where it needs to be, get my fundamentals back to square one and start from there. So yeah, it was just like starting over at 5 again. It was a great process to learn it all over.”

Williamson did a little more than that. He also had approval from the league to go to the Pelicans practice facility throughout the quarantine and get treatment on his knee, the one that kept him out the first 45 games of the season. So he stayed healthy.

He also worked on other aspects of this game, such as his jump shot. Williamson took 76.7% of his shot attempts at the rim this season, and while getting to the rim is critical to his game, he’s going to have confidence in his shot and knock down jumpers to reach higher levels in the league.

The Pelicans enter the bubble 3.5 games back of Memphis for the eighth seed in the West, and with the softest schedule of any team in Orlando (matching their schedule before the interruption), they have a legitimate chance of forcing a two-game play-in series. It’s not easy, but there is a path to the playoffs for New Orleans (setting up a Zion vs. LeBron James first-round showdown that league broadcast partners are drooling over).

A stronger, improved Zion could help get the Pelicans there.

Paul George: “I feel great again,” says Clippers finally fully healthy

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Paul George symbolized the Clippers’ health all season long. George missed the first 11 games of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, then all season long it was still a lingering issue — until the suspension of play gave him time to heal.

“The whole season, all the way up until maybe a month or two ago, I had to always do shoulder rehab stuff, warming the shoulder up,” George said Friday on a conference call with reporters. “Just so much went into stuff I had to do before I actually took a foot on the floor. Now I feel great again.”

It wasn’t just Paul George, the Clippers had Kawhi Leonard managing his knee/thigh issue and an assortment of other injuries that didn’t give Doc Rivers the full arsenal at his disposal. That was until around the All-Star break — after that break Los Angeles went 7-2 with a +11.5 net rating that was best in the league by far.

The season being shut down may have halted that momentum, but it also gave a banged-up Los Angeles roster a chance to get healthy.

“For this team, man, I think our aspirations, again, this time off has given us what we needed,” George said. “We had some guys that was banged up, nagging injuries. The more time gave us more time for us to aid those injuries and to get back to 100.”

Health matters — which is why Montrez Harrell brought his own personal, portable sauna, a secret Reggie Jackson let out of the bag.

Health matters to Rivers, too, but what he wants more is that team chemistry back — and the Clippers have a long way to go on that end in Rivers’ eyes.

“This is not a normal way of starting back,” Rivers said of the mini-training camp all 22 teams at the NBA restart will get in Orlando. “Usually going into training camp, guys have been scrimmaging for three and four weeks, they’ve been playing, shooting on hoops. That’s not happening. This is a group, some of the guys have not touched a basketball or seen a gym until two weeks ago. We got a lot of work to do on both ends.”

The Clippers are not alone, every team is going to take time to find its rhythm again. Pick-and-roll combos need to get used to reading each other (and the defense) again at full speed, defensive rotations will be a step slow, and a few passes are going to head into the bench rather than the player in the corner.

When the Clippers get that rhythm back, with a healthy roster — finally — they again become a legitimate threat to win it all.

First, they just need to navigate the bubble. And maybe borrow Harrell’s sauna.

Atlanta G League affiliate promotes Tori Miller, first female GM in league

Tori Miller
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The Atlanta Hawks aren’t just talking about progress and giving Black women a chance. They are acting.

The College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G-League affiliate, has promoted Tori Miller to general manager. She is the first female GM in the G-League.

Miller, who grew up in Decatur (a city next to Atlanta), had worked for the team in Erie (when they were the Bayhawks) and followed the team with its move closer to its parent franchise. Miller served as an assistant GM last season before being promoted.

G League front office positions can be a stepping stone into an NBA front office.

The Hawks progressive move comes just as the team’s WNBA franchise, the Dream, has players trying to oust co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican Georgia U.S. Senator, because she advocated against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler has said she will not sell. It’s a problem not going away anytime soon.