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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.”

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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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.