Danny Green excelling again on NBA Finals stage

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OAKLAND, Calif — Toronto’s Danny Green couldn’t make a shot for about two weeks going into these NBA Finals.

Seems like forever ago now.

The finals are a happy stage for Green, who has been in the title-deciding series three times now and has put up big numbers in each of those trips. The trend has continued in this series against Golden State, and Green’s six 3-pointers were a huge factor in the Raptors’ Game 3 win that put them up 2-1 in the series.

Game 4 is on Friday, and Green can expect to see a lot more defensive attention from the Warriors.

“Our defense was poor last night and in particular several times leaving Danny when we didn’t need to,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday. “He’s a shooter who commands attention and respect. And there were at least three of his shots where we just drifted away from him, and we have got to stay connected to him.”

Green was 6 for 10 from long range in the Raptors’ win Wednesday. He was just 6 for 32 from 3-point land in the six games it took Toronto to oust Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals.

“I don’t think it’s the stage,” Green said. “I think it’s just the life of a shooter. Sometimes you have ups and downs and I think luckily, during this time, I’ve had some ups.”

He’s had a lot of them in the finals.

There are 46 players in NBA history to have made at least 15 3-pointers in the finals. Of those 46, only two have done so while shooting at least 50% from beyond the arc.

No. 1 is former Miami standout Mike Miller, who went 26 for 49 – 53%.

The other is Green, who is 47 for 91 – 52%. And that percentage climbed in Game 3.

“Danny’s buckets, I think, boosted our whole team’s confidence,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We’re kind of used to most of the year relying on those.”

Ray Allen shot 43% from 3-point range in finals games. Golden State’s Kevin Durant is also at 43%. Larry Bird, 42%. Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, 41%. Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry, who has made more 3s than anyone in finals history, is just under 40% in those games from deep. Warriors guard Klay Thompson, 38%.

Even Kerr, who was as good a shooter as one could find in the NBA when he played, was a 28% guy from beyond the arc in his finals career.

But for Green, the big number in Game 3 was 100%.

That’s where he was at following his first attempt. And when a shooter sees the first shot of a game go down, the rim tends to get bigger.

“It helps,” Green said. “It helps a ton.”

Curry blamed himself for some of Green’s Game 3 success, saying that first shot was one he should have contested better.

“Early in the first quarter I gave up a 3 to him, or I let him get open for a 3 in the corner without really making him feel my presence at all,” Curry said. “And shots like that for a great shooter just build confidence, and he fed off of that the rest of the game.”

The Warriors know their defense has to get better, and with an elite defender like Thompson – who missed Wednesday with a strained hamstring – expected to be back on the floor for Game 4, they should be better on that end.

Thompson’s presence alone won’t be enough. If the Warriors pay too much attention to Green, he’s perfectly fine giving up the ball.

“I’m sure they’re going to do a better job, trying to make us feel them,” Green said. “But you do that, you’ve got to pick your poison. You’ve got to guard me or double-team Kawhi. Stay stuck to me, it’s going to leave open lanes … they’ll have to pick and choose. If we use our pace and move the ball like we know we can, we’ll have open lanes for everybody.”

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.