James Michael McAdoo

Associated Press

Three Things We Learned Thursday: Warriors still figuring out no Durant life, good teams like Celtics expose that

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It was a busy night around the NBA with 11 games, but if you were binging Luke Cage we understand, here are the big takeaways from Tuesday around the league. 

1) Golden State still has not figured out life without Kevin Durant, and good teams like Boston will make them pay.
The Celtics came into Oracle Arena and did what they do in the fourth quarter: Play disciplined defense, count on role players such as Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk to step up, and lean on Isaiah Thomas. It’s a model that works.

Golden State still hasn’t figured out what works with Kevin Durant sidelined. KD — who said he “got a boo-boo playing basketball” — watched the game from the locker room at Oracle and had to be itching to get back out there seeing the mess that unfolded.

The Warriors were up a bucket heading into the fourth quarter, then in the next 12 minutes they scored 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting with eight turnovers. Boston thoroughly outplayed Golden State in the fourth, went on a 15-0 run midway through the quarter, and pulled away for a 99-86 win. While there was still more than four minutes left, this Thomas three felt like the moment the Celtics closed the door on the game.

We need to give Boston credit here. They prioritized defending the arc and the Warriors shot 6-of-30 from deep. Thomas led the way with 25, but Olynyk’s 17 off the bench were huge (he was +29 on the night). They executed with the game on the line, as they have all season.

But the Warriors are just not right.

When Durant went down, I said that for the Warriors to hold on to the No. 1 seed they needed Stephen Curry to return to his MVP form of previous seasons. He has not been anywhere close to that. There were fourth-quarter “M-V-P” chants in Oracle Tuesday night, but they were for Boston’s Thomas. Maybe we can blame a harsh and packed stretch of the schedule for Curry’s 2-of-9 three-point shooting against Boston, or the fact Curry is shooting 29.5 percent from three in his last five games, but the Warriors can’t afford that now (although coach Steve Kerr postgame talked about resting key players coming up). With no Durant there is no safety net, no rotations where Curry can just coast and be fine, or where Warriors role players don’t have to step up.

It’s not just Curry struggling, and not just Klay Thompson either (2-of-8 from three Tuesday), you can throw coach Steve Kerr in the mix. He has not found rotations that work, particularly in the fourth. Kerr’s regular rotation this season was to rest Durant and Curry both to start the fourth, then bring them back midway through and at that time give a brief rest to Thompson and Draymond Green, then have them re-enter for the final three or four minutes as needed. Kerr hasn’t really varied from that, but most of the Celtics game-deciding 15-0 run had come before Curry got back on the court, and when he did he couldn’t begin to reverse it by himself. Having two of the Warriors three best players on the bench for three minutes in the second half of the fourth quarter is going to get them beat by good teams, such as Boston. Kerr can’t lean on James Michael McAdoo and Patrick McCaw in these moments without KD on the court.

When Durant first went down, I thought the idea of San Antonio catching the Warriors for the No. 1 seed was a crazy longshot (I didn’t think the Warriors would lose that many games). No more. As the Warriors stumble to reshape their identity, the Spurs are just 1.5 games back and poised for the run to the top.

2) Utah went into Houston and — thanks to Rudy Gobert and his hair — beat the Rockets. Utah is going to have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and if they play then against the Clippers (most likely the opponent) like they did against Houston on Tuesday, the Jazz could be in the second round. Do not sleep on this team.

Houston got 23 points each from Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert (the latter of whom has some interesting hair going on), they made James Harden work for his buckets (he was 0-of-8 from three), and the result was a 115-108 Jazz win. Also, of course, the Jazz were playing good defense and getting blocked shots — from Hayward.

With this win (and a Clipper loss to the Timberwolves) the Jazz are 2.5 games ahead of the Clippers for the four seed. That means Utah is going to be the four seed and have home-court in the first round, and that is going to be an interesting series (Gobert vs. DeAndre Jordan, how do the Jazz defend Chris Paul?). The Jazz could well win that series, which would be a massive boost to their efforts to retain Gordon Hayward this summer (and would lead to some real soul searching for the Clippers).

3) It’s just fun to watch Giannis Antetokounmpo play the game. Here he drops 32 on the Knicks. The Greek Freek’s line for the night — 32 points on 21 shots, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks — is far from out of the ordinary for him. Of course, he led the Bucks to a win over the Knicks, keeping their playoff dreams alive (both the Bucks and Heat are just half a game back of Detroit for the final playoff slot in the East).

However, we’re running these highlights just because it’s a joy to watch him play if you love the game of basketball.

Warriors beat Clippers 133-120 for 9th straight win over LA (VIDEO)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Stephen Curry scored 29 points despite making just three 3-pointers, Kevin Durant added 26 points and 10 assists, and the Golden State Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 133-120 for their fifth straight victory on Thursday night.

Blake Griffin had 31 points, making 11 of 13 free throws, for the Clippers. They have lost nine in a row to their Bay Area opponents, the franchise’s longest active skid against a single team.

The rematch wasn’t the debacle that occurred last weekend when the Clippers lost by 46 points at Golden State.

But they still never led and trailed by 21. The Clippers got beat in every category despite Griffin’s hard-charging effort. The Warriors were dominant in the paint, on second-chance points and fast break points.

Golden State has won 11 of its last 12.

The Clippers got within seven on a 3-pointer by Jamal Crawford with 1:55 remaining in the game. But Durant answered with a 3-pointer and Klay Thompson added another.

The Clippers’ defense was no match for Curry. He slipped through the lane for a fastbreak layup with Raymond Felton dogging him on the left and DeAndre Jordan on the right. Curry fell down scoring, drawing the foul and completing the three-point play that kept the Warriors ahead by 15 in the third quarter.

The Warriors toyed with the Clippers, who got within four points in the first quarter and then five in the second quarter, only to have Golden State immediately push the lead back to double digits.

Golden State barreled around the court, knocking down former Warrior Marreese Speights and J.J. Redick in one fell swoop after Durant pushed Austin Rivers on another possession. It was all part of a rollicking first half when the Warriors bobbed, weaved and whipped circus-like passes around before scoring.

The Clippers gave up three dunks and had four turnovers to start the game. Curry forced two steals, feeding Durant and JaVale McGee for consecutive dunks that stunned the Clippers.

Los Angeles outshot Golden State in the first quarter when the Warriors took nearly twice as many shots as the Clippers.

MAKING HISTORY

Curry hit his 200th 3-pointer of the season with 2 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter, making him the first player in NBA history to have 200 or more 3-pointers in five consecutive seasons. He missed his first four 3-pointers in the game. Curry came into the game 4 of 28 from 3-point range in three previous games at Staples Center this season.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

Griffin’s windmill dunk over Warriors forward Kevon Looney drew oohs from the crowd and merited multiple replays on the video board. He took one large step through the lane and pushed his left hand off the head of a ducking Looney as Griffin elevated before slamming the ball down with his right hand.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Curry had 11 assists. … McGee and James Michael McAdoo each finished 5 of 6 from the field. They were among seven Warriors in double figures. … Curry got a technical for smacking the ball out of bounds in the second quarter. … They have reached 100 points in each of the last 26 games. … They were missing starting forward Draymond Green, who has a left shoulder contusion.

Clippers: Griffin passed Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo to move into second on the franchise scoring list. … Los Angeles is 2-5 in its last seven without injured Chris Paul. … Jordan will participate in the slam dunk competition on Feb. 18 during All-Star weekend in New Orleans against Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, Phoenix’s Derrick Jones Jr. and Indiana’s Glenn Robinson III. Jordan leads the league with 152 dunks this season.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Visit Sacramento on Saturday, a team they beat by 11 points last month.

Clippers: Visit Boston on Sunday to start their annual five-game Grammy road trip.

Report: Kevin Durant signing 1+1 contract with Warriors

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Kevin Durant will sign with the Warriors, but they won’t have him locked up for long.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

To offer Durant more than $31,848,120 in 2017-18, Golden State will need cap space. Durant’s max starting salary projects to be about $36 million.

Will he take a discount? In the likely event the answer is no, the Warriors must preserve cap 2017 cap space.

They currently project to have enough room to re-sign Durant to the max and re-sign Stephen Curry through Bird Rights. But that’d leave just about $13 million for Andre Iguodala and any other free agents.

Plus, that also assumes Golden State doesn’t sign anyone to a multi-year contract this summer. That might be what it takes to retain Festus Ezeli, who could start at center with Andrew Bogut likely on the move.

Other free agents — including Brandon Rush, Leandro Barbosa, James Michael McAdoo and Ian Clark and even outsiders with the room exception or minimum deals — will be more tempted by multi-year contracts. The Warriors will have a hard enough time building depth this summer. Needing to maintain 2017 space makes the challenge even greater.

Durant can receive just 4.5% raises and a four-year contract if he re-signs next year, so he might even take another 1+1 deal to cash in later. He could receive 7.5% raises in 2017 (though that’d require signing for between two and four years, as LeBron James is dealing with now). In 2018, Durant could get 7.5% raises and a five-year contract.

And there’s the bigger question of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Either side can opt out this December, and a new deal could vastly change the outlook. Indicators are terms will be more favorable to superstars like Durant, but the possibilities are endless. There’s major risk on Durant’s end.

Golden State somewhat lucked into this situation — Curry signing a relatively low-paying extension due to injuries that subsided and the salary cap skyrocketing just as a former MVP interested in joining the Warriors hit the market. Don’t underestimate the Warriors’ ability to take advantage and sign Durant, but the greater circumstances that fostered this situation were out of their control.

Now, the challenge is totally up to them, and it’s a big one: Build a championship-caliber supporting cast around Curry, Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson immediately and save 2017 cap room to re-sign Durant. It won’t be easy.

Kevin Durant to sign with Warriors

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A 73-win team adding a former MVP in his prime.

The Warriors will be an experiment for the ages.

Kevin Durant in The Players Tribune:

I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.

I’m from Washington, D.C. originally, but Oklahoma City truly raised me. It taught me so much about family as well as what it means to be a man. There are no words to express what the organization and the community mean to me, and what they will represent in my life and in my heart forever. The memories and friendships are something that go far beyond the game. Those invaluable relationships are what made this deliberation so challenging.

It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice, but I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career.

Durant and Stephen Curry will give Golden State the last three MVPs, and Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are supporting stars other teams could only dream of. Not even the Heat’s vaunted big three — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — were this talented.

What an emphatic answer to LeBron leading the Cavaliers to a stunning upset of Golden State in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors instantly become favorites for 2017 (and 2018 and 2019 and…).

There will be an adjustment period as Golden State’s stars learn to play together. LeBron didn’t win a title his first season in Miami or back in Cleveland with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. But the Warriors will have more margin for error.

The ripple effects will be felt wide, starting in Oklahoma City, where this news must be just devastating. The Thunder are now Russell Westbrook‘s, and Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo start a decent supporting cast. Oklahoma City is no longer a legitimate championship contender, but the team can compete for the playoffs.

But do the Thunder want to go down that road? Without Durant, what chance do they have of re-signing Westbrook next summer? Westbrook instantly becomes the hottest name in trade talks.

The defending-champion Cavs aren’t going anywhere, and the Spurs are too far down the road of contending to stop now. Otherwise, teams might push back their timelines, fearing the NBA’s latest super team — though the Mavericks get a bump with Golden State no longer positioned to match Harrison Barnesoffer sheet.

That’s the first step in clearing cap space for Durant’s max contract. Dumping Andrew Bogut and renouncing all their major free agents would get the Warriors there. If Bogut is gone, Golden State might trade Shaun Livingston to keep Festus Ezeli‘s cap hold on the books. A starting center is more important than a backup point guard, even with Ezeli’s injury issues and Green seeing key minutes at center.

No matter how they handle the odds and ends, the Warriors won’t be deep next season. Cheap cap holds could allow them to retain some of their backend free agents: Brandon Rush, Leandro Barbosa, James Michael McAdoo, Ian Clark and Anderson Varejao. They’ll also have the $2,898,000 room exception. Otherwise, they’ll fill the roster with minimum deals — though ring-chasing veterans will be hungry to join this juggernaut.

Durant nearly upended the Warriors in the playoffs. Imagine what they can do with him.

Then, watch the electrifying reality unfold.

Andre Iguodala to start for Golden State; Kevin Love will start for Cleveland

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OAKLAND — Steve Kerr went with the head fake.

On the starting roster turned in and put up on the stats board in Oracle Arena, James Michael McAdoo was listed as the starter. But just a couple of minutes later, the Warriors PR department announced that in reality Andre Iguodala was going to get the start.

With Draymond Green suspended for an accumulation of technicals – capped by contact below the belt with LeBron James in Game 4 — Steve Kerr has been compelled to juggle lineups for Game 5. He’s been forced to do that right out of the gate and start the one guy on their bench that comes closest to approximating Green’s diverse skill set.

Expect Iguodala to be on LeBron James from the opening tip.

Also, expect some unusual lineup combinations from the Warriors, ones that saw little court time together the past couple seasons.

“Yeah, we looked at some of (those lightly used combinations),” Kerr said before Game 5. “Sammy Gelfand, our analytics guy, looked at some of the combinations. But we have a pretty good feel of which players work well with others and that sort of thing, which combinations work.

“So we have an idea of what we’ll do tonight, but that always changes depending on the flow of the game and foul trouble and all of that. So we’ll see how it goes.”

Expect to see a fair amount of McAdoo, Shaun Livingston, Festus Ezeli and others off the bench. If the starting lineup doesn’t work, expect a quick change by Kerr.

The rest of the Warriors starting lineup remains the same — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andrew Bogut.

With Green out, Cavaliers head coach is going back to his regular starting lineup with Kevin Love out at the opening tip. Love struggles when the Warriors go small, but there will be less of that in Game 5 with Green out.

The Warriors are up 3-1 in the series and are using the suspension of Green as motivation to close the series out Monday night.