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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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Damian Lillard on leaving Trail Blazers for super team: ‘We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?’

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Kevin Durant left for the Warriors for many reasons. LeBron James left for the Heat for many reasons. Anthony Davis and Paul George forced their way to Los Angeles for many reasons.

Those are life-altering moves. Nobody does something so consequential for a single purpose.

But whether or not it intended, each of those stars took an easier route to a championship. That’s just the reality.

Damian Lillard, on the other hand, has done so much to elevate himself then pull up the Trail Blazers with him. Lillard has often touted his loyalty to Portland. He showed it by signing a super-max extension that locks him in through 2025.

Lillard, via Adam Caparell of Complex:

“To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?” he says. “If I go play with three other stars, I don’t think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?”

I disagree with Lillard’s certainty about winning a title if he teamed with other stars. Not every perceived super team has won. A championship still must be earned. It’s not easy.

But it would be easier.

It also probably wouldn’t be as rewarding.

Durant has admitted winning a championship with Golden State didn’t fill the void he thought it would. Maybe for other reasons, but it’s easy to see the Warriors’ talent advantage as a reason. He joined a title contender and made it even better. He didn’t build that team. Perhaps, a championship with the Nets would mean more to him.

Lillard is less likely to win a title by staying Portland. I think he knows that. He enjoys the city, and the $196 million he projects to earn on his four-year extension doesn’t hurt, either.

But if Lillard ever wins a championship with the Trail Blazers, it would be so gratifying. That’s what he’s chasing.

Lillard made clear he’s not criticizing stars who chose an alternate path. He’s doing what’s right for him, just as they did what was right for them.

His quest should earn him plenty of fans. For everyone who disliked Durant joining Golden State because it offended their sensibilities of how a title pursuit should work, Lillard is a great foil.

Andre Iguodala recalls Draymond Green doubling Kevin Durant in practice: ‘he was mad … We was tryna win’

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Devin Booker complained to his opponents for double-teaming him during a pick-up game.

That has sparked a Great National Debate: Is it right or wrong to double-team during pick-up games?

Kevin Durant:

That’s a reasonable conclusion. The primary defender is missing an opportunity to work on his defense by getting help. But I also think it fails to address the main point. Booker wasn’t complaining to help the defender. Booker wanted the ideal training environment for himself, the offensive player.

How should the offensive player feel about it?

It’s a reasonably interesting question that’s getting taken far too seriously because the NBA is in a dead period. But to give it more juice, let’s add the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green relationship to the equation.

Andre Iguodala:

Durant:

It seems Durant can laugh it off now, but this story feeds into what so many people think they know about these players – that Green is a relentless competitor (accurate) and that Durant is soft (inaccurate).

NBA players spend so much time playing basketball. Sometimes, it’s helpful to face game-like conditions, where double-teams can happen at any point. Other times, it’s helpful to have more-relaxed conditions.

I don’t know enough about Booker’s pick-up game or the Warriors’ practice to say what was appropriate in each.

Report: Executives expect Thunder to say they are not trading Chris Paul (but they are)

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It’s all about leverage.

Right now the vultures are circling the Oklahoma City Thunder, hoping to get a free meal. Everyone knows the Thunder are moving into a rebuilding mode and want to trade Chris Paul for picks/young players, so other general managers — the vultures — are throwing out lowball offers hoping to get a steal of a trade. And by steal we mean making the Thunder throw in a first-round pick as a sweetener to get CP3 and the three-years, $124 million left on his contract off their books.

Oklahoma City’s response? Say “we’re not trying to trade him” and be patient. Here is how Brian Windhorst phrased it on ESPN’s The Jump (hat tip Real GM):

“Here’s what executives expect to happen: they expect the Thunder to put out a message that we’re not looking to trade Chris Paul…We want him to work with our young guys. Because they don’t want anybody to think they’re panic-trying to trade him, and they want to hope that somebody has something happen where they need Chris Paul,” said Windhorst.

Royce Young, who covers the Thunder for ESPN, added that he believed the Thunder would hold on to Chris Paul rather than surrender a draft pick.

This is the smart play. CP3 is still a top-flight point guard in the NBA, even if he has taken half a step back, and there are at least eight NBA teams going into this season thinking they have a shot at a title, and a few more looking at deep playoff runs. Some team is either going to realize they are not as good as they thought they were, or are going to suffer an injury, and be looking for an All-Star level player and replacement. Enter the Thunder and Chris Paul.

What this ultimately means is expect this to drag out. Not just through the summer and through training camp, but maybe all the way to the trade deadline.

Not a ‘tattooed guy’: Larry Bird wants mural changed

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Larry Bird likes the mural but not the tatts.

A lawyer for the former NBA star has asked an artist to remove certain tattoos from a large painting of Bird on an Indianapolis multi-family residence. The tattoos include two rabbits mating on his right arm and a spider web on a shoulder.

Artist Jules Muck painted Bird in a blue basketball uniform. It’s a replica of a 1977 Sports Illustrated cover when he played for Indiana State.

Attorney Gary Sallee says Bird “needs to protect” his brand and “doesn’t want to be seen as a tattooed guy.” Muck says she adds things like tattoos to her art to avoid creating a complete copy of a photo.

She says she’s trying to reach an agreement with Bird’s representatives.