Shaun Livingston

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Whatever is next for the Golden State Warriors, it’s going to be very different

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OAKLAND — It was more than 90 minutes after the NBA Finals had ended, after the Toronto Raptors had beaten the Golden State Warriors four times in six tries.

The fans had left. First, the dispirited Warriors fans who didn’t believe this is how the final game at Oracle Arena would end. Next, the Raptors fans, loud and celebrating like first-time champions should, taking their party out into the city. The stage where Adam Silver had handed Kawhi Leonard his latest Finals MVP trophy had been taken down and put away. The only people left in the building were media members, ushers taking one last look around the arena, and some champagne-drenched players.

Stephen Curry was there and joined his family and friends up in the seats behind one of the baskets for one last photo, some remembrances, one last chance to soak in Oracle Arena.

Because It’s never going to be the same for these Warriors.

Not just because of the new building that takes them out of Oakland and drops them in the heart of San Francisco.

Whatever the Warriors look like next season, it won’t be the same as the team they believed would win them an NBA championship this past season.

Next season may look a lot more like the lineup the Warriors had on the floor at the end of Game 6 — no Kevin Durant and no Klay Thompson, both recovering from injuries, and a group of inexperienced and/or inexpensive players around Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.

What the Warriors will look like in two years is anybody’s guess.

But it will not be the same.

Kevin Durant is a free agent this summer and all season long it has been assumed in league circles he was gone from the Bay Area. Maybe headed to New York, possibly to be a Clipper in Los Angeles, but he was going to bolt town. Now, however, with a torn Achilles that will sideline him most if not all of next season, did his mindset change? Will he want to sign a shorter contract and rehab with a franchise where he knows the staff, knows the trainers, knows the players and is comfortable? Or does he still want out? Durant himself, still trying to process the emotions of this career-changing injury, may not know the answer. That said, the buzz is that he still leaves.

If he leaves, the Warriors are still over the cap and can’t just replace him. Those new Warriors will look more like the 2015 edition, just older.

Klay Thompson is a free agent as well, and he also will likely miss all of next season recovering from a torn left ACL. While he will also have suitors from coast to coast, nobody around the NBA seriously thought Thompson was leaving as long as he got a max contract. He will still get that, and Thompson’s father Mychael said on Friday his son will stay in Golden State.

DeMarcus Cousins is a free agent and the most the Warriors can offer him under the terms of the CBA is $6.4 million. There’s a good chance another team will come in higher than that despite Cousins’ injury history (after said team strikes out with other free agents and gets a little desperate). Cousins will just have trouble getting the number of years he wants.

Kevon Looney free agent and while Steve Kerr called Looney a foundational part of their future, it will be very expensive to keep the young big man after his strong performance in these playoffs. Other teams are targeting him.

Shaun Livingston is mulling retirement. Andrew Bogut is headed back to Australia.

Draymond Green’s contract can be extended, although with the Warriors cap situation it is more likely he becomes a free agent in 2020 and re-signs with the team, an extension would be a paycut.

Around all that, the Warriors need to find a way to get younger, get more athletic, get role players who can eat up a lot of minutes and take some of the load off Curry, Green, Andre Iguodala and the rest.

It’s a lot on GM Bob Myers plate — and the price tag is high. Very high.

Golden State’s co-owner (or whatever term you wish) Joe Lacob has said he would offer both Thompson and Durant the max, and he was willing to pay the tax to keep the band together. That sounds good, but bring everyone back and this team’s combined payroll and luxury tax will push $350 million. An NBA record. Yes, the Warriors are in the black. Yes, their new Chase Center building (owned by Lacob and company) basically prints money. That’s still a massive tax bill, and how many billionaires do you know of happy to pay taxes?

And that tax bill is a team that might not make the playoffs next year and certainly will not be a title contender with Thompson and Durant out (if KD even stays).

That’s why there’s a lot of speculation around the league that if Durant stays the Warriors may try to trade Iguodala and even Green, just to save some money, both next season and down the line. Green will be up for a max in 2020 and do the Warriors want to give him five years and north of $195 million?

There are a lot of questions, ones we will learn the answers to in the coming weeks. The one thing we do know?

That doesn’t mean the Warriors should be counted out.

“But our DNA and who we are and the character that we have on this team, I wouldn’t bet against us being back on this stage next year and going forward,” Curry said.

“I think everybody thinks it’s kind of the end of us. But that’s just not smart,” Green said. “We’re not done yet. We lost this year. Clearly just wasn’t our year, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes. But, yeah, I hear a lot of that noise, it’s the end of a run and all that jazz. I don’t see it happening though. We’ll be back.”

They may well be back in 2020.

But it’s going to be the same.

Fred VanVleet gets bloodied, apparently leaves tooth on court (video)

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Raptors guard Fred VanVleet might have hit the dagger shot on the first possession of the fourth quarter in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. His 3-pointer put Toronto up 15 and left the Warriors in dire straights.

He got that big shot up just in time.

A few minutes later, VanVleet caught an elbow from Shaun Livingston. VanVleet lied on the court for a while, bleeding from around his eye. He also checked his his mouth, apparently for a loose tooth.

ABC’s cameras found it – while play continued! – as VanVleet headed to the locker room:

Warriors’ Klay Thompson ruled out of Game 3 with hamstring strain

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OAKLAND — Rather than risk him aggravating his hamstring injury in what the Warriors see as a long series, Klay Thompson will sit out Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

Thompson was listed as active but the team made it official less than 30 minutes before tip-off at Oracle Arena in a series tied 1-1.

Thompson joins Kevin Durant (calf strain) and Kevon Looney (fractured collar bone) on the bench, challenging the Warriors rotations and depth against an elite Toronto squad. Also, Andre Iguodala is playing through leg pain, Stephen Curry still has his fingered taped from a sprain suffered last round, and DaMarcus Cousins just returned from a torn quadriceps.

Thompson pushed to play, coach Steve Kerr said pregame, but he was eventually overruled.

“He’s making a very strong case. That’s who Klay is…” Kerr said before the game. “But he’s trying desperately to be out on the floor tonight, and we’ll have to weigh all the factors and make the decision. We probably won’t let him make the decision.”

The respect the Warriors have for the Raptors — and how long this series will be — plays into the decision, something Kerr emphasized.

“To cut right to the core of it, it’s still early in the series, so if there’s risk, then we won’t play him,” Kerr said.

“If there’s any pain, it will be a no-go just because of the position we’re in,” Thompson said the previous day. “This could be a longer series, so there’s no point in trying to go out there and re-aggravate it and potentially keep myself out of the whole entire Finals instead of just one game. So like I said, it will be a game-time decision. But I really want to be out there.”

Thompson will be missed on offense — he had 25 points before leaving Game 2 with 7:59 — but maybe more on defense, where he had been assigned Kawhi Leonard for the second half of Game 2, setting up rotations that worked for the Warriors.

“He’s one of the best two-way players in the league,” Kerr said of Thompson. “That’s true in the regular season, it’s especially true in the playoffs.”

Shaun Livingston will start in his place. No Thompson puts additional pressure on Draymond Green, Iguodala, and Cousins to do more shot creation.

It also puts some pressure on the Raptors — they can’t let opportunities like this slide by. Losing this game to a shorthanded Warriors would be disheartening.

Stephen Curry says Toronto disrespected Andre Iguodala; Raptors give other explanations

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TORONTO – Kevin Durant was out. Klay Thompson left the game. Andre Iguodala was hobbled.

So, the Raptors turned all their attention to Stephen Curry.

Toronto played a box-and-one defense late in Game 2 last night. The scheme is usually reserved for youth games, where one player can be highly talented and his teammates can lack fundamental skills. By high school, it often seems obsolete.

Yet, the Raptors turned to the defense in the NBA Finals.

And it kind of worked. Toronto mounted a late comeback as the Warriors offense faltered. It wasn’t totally because of the box-and-one. Golden State got decent looks that probably would have generated better efficiency over a larger sample. But the change of pace contributed to the Warriors getting out of rhythm.

That set the stage for Golden State’s final meaningful possession.

Though they were no longer playing a box-and-one, the Raptors left Iguodala wide open for the dagger 3-pointer in a 109-104 loss.

“They were playing some janky defense,” Curry said in his on-court TV interview, “just trying to send bodies to me everywhere. And our whole roster just took advantage of it. Over the course of the game, that’s kind of disrespectful to leave Andre Iguodala open like that with the game on the line. He’s made big shots like that before.”

Said Toronto coach Nick Nurse: “We weren’t disrespecting anybody.”

The Warriors got the ball up two with 26.9 seconds left.

“That’s a definite foul situation, right?” Nurse said. “They could hold it all the way to the end, throw it up there, hit the rim and the horn’s going to go off. I’ve been in that situation before. So usually under 28 – if there’s 28 or more you’re going to play solid defense. If it’s 27.9 or under, you’re not. We’re trying to foul.”

Nurse noted the Raptors missed opportunities to foul Draymond Green (69% on free throws this season), Shaun Livingston (78%) and Green again. When Curry (92%) got the ball, the plan shifted to trapping.

Curry floated a dangerous pass that Kawhi Leonard – who’s long, strong and blessed with huge hands – nearly snagged. But, in one of the game’s most unsung plays, Shaun Livingston beat Leonard to the ball.

“We all got to joke amongst us of bad receivers and good receivers,” Draymond Green said. “I always call Kevin a bad receiver. I always call Shaun a bad receiver. He turned into a Megatron tonight for that pass.”

Livingston kicked it to Iguodala, who had plenty of time to load up and sink the shot.

“If they’re going to take a shot and give you a chance there, I’m going to probably live with the one that ended up being taken,” Nurse said. “I’m going to probably roll with that.

“I would like to go back and try that again about ten times, and see if one of them doesn’t go our way.”

Was that disrespectful? Maybe – and maybe reasonably so. Iguodala shot 0-for-11 on 3-pointers in his previous four games, dating back to the start of the Western Conference finals. He converted just 33% during the regular season.

But don’t forget, Nurse didn’t want anyone to take that shot. He wanted to foul. The Raptors didn’t execute the coach’s preferred strategy.

Kawhi Leonard best explained what actually happened on the floor when asked whether he wanted the ball in Iguodala’s hands in that situation.

“No,” Leonard said. “We wanted to see it in our hands. No, we wanted to get a steal.”

Banged up Warriors rediscover their passing, defense, win Game 2 to even series

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For six quarters of these NBA Finals, the Toronto Raptors halfcourt defense had boxed the Warriors in, slowed the game down, and gave the Raptors one win and a good shot at another.

Six minutes changed all that.

The Warriors looked like the Warriors again.

Golden State took charge of Game 2 with an 18-0 run to start the third, however, this was not an avalanche of Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson threes, as we have come to expect. The Warriors got a lot of their buckets in the halfcourt with crisp passing and backcuts, layups, floaters or alley-oops off penetration. Curry and Thompson’s gravity pulled defenders to them and opened up lanes, Golden State finally started using that space as only they can. The Warriors assisted on every made basket they had in the second half, had 34 assists on 38 made buckets for the game, and assisted on 16 of their 17 layups/dunks. There was also an assist on the dagger three from Andre Iguodala that sealed the Warriors’ win.

The Warriors’ passing let them survive injuries to Thompson — a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter, after he had 25 points and had been the best player on the floor — and Kevon Looney, who left with a collar bone injury after a fall. Both left the game not to return, their status for Game 3 is not yet known (Thompson said he will play in Game 3, but the Warriors were more cautious).

That and improved defense got the Warriors a 109-104 win on the road in Game 2, tying the NBA Finals up 1-1 as they head to Oakland for Game 3 Wednesday.

Toronto had their chances, particularly getting open looks with the game on the line late, but just could not hit them. After Thompson left the game with 7:59 remaining, the Raptors went to the seen-in-high-school-but-not-the-NBA diamond-and-one defense to keep Fred Van Vleet hassling Stephen Curry — and it worked. The Warriors went scoreless on seven straight possessions.

However, in the face of a more energized Warriors defense than they saw in Game 1, the Raptors just did not take advantage of the opportunities.

“I said yesterday and today that 109 points is plenty to win the game, which is what we had in Game 1, but we gave up 118,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “So it was all about our defense and we held them to 37 percent and forced 15 turnovers and guarded the three-point line well. So it was championship defense and that’s what it’s going to take.”

The Warriors got huge games from Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins, which went a long way toward the win. Green finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, and completely outplayed Pascal Siakam (unlike Game 1). Cousins — who got the start and played nearly 28 minutes — had 11 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists in a gritty effort.

It was those assists from big men that the Raptors defense could not stop. The wings were cutting and guys were getting layups. Even Andrew Bogut had three alley-oops.

Toronto got 34 points from Kawhi Leonard on 8-of-20 shooting, and VanVleet had 17 points off the bench. But Toronto shot 11-of-38 from three, with a lot of those good looks, and that cost them.

The game started with a back-and-forth first quarter, with both teams struggling from three but Toronto still playing tremendous halfcourt defense and the Warriors still living at the three throw lines, just like Game 1.

However, the Raptors stretched the lead out to 12 in the second quarter going against a Warriors team that lacked offensive punch. The Raptors did a great job of taking away Curry’s penetration, leaving guys like Green and Andre Iguodala to create more (with no Kevin Durant for the Warriors to fall back on) and it wasn’t working.

But at halftime, it was just a five-point Toronto lead, 59-54, because of Klay Thompson.

Thompson had the first nine Warriors points while the rest of the team started 0-of-6 from the floor, and that trend continued through much of the first half. Toronto put Danny Green on Curry — who was battling an illness — and that left 6’1” Kyle Lowry on 6’7” Thompson and it let the Warriors sharpshooter get comfortable.

Thompson had 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the first half – and that was with every one of his shots contested. Thompson and Green had 20 of the Warriors 26 in the first quarter.

Late in the second, Curry started to find his rhythm. After starting 0-of-6 shooting he went 4-of-4 late, got to the line seven times, and had 16 points.

Golden State took over in the third quarter, starting the third on an 18-0 run, which was really a 24-1 run going back to the end of the first half. The Warriors never fully pulled away because of Leonard (he had 12 points in the third alone), but they had the lead.

One of the keys to that run was an improved Golden State defense. The Raptors started 0-of-8 shooting with five turnovers to start the third, the kind of run of stops the Warriors could not get in Game 1. Kerr adjusted and put Andre Iguodala on Pascal Siakam and left Thompson on Leonard, and it worked because Green and Iguodala could help more.

One other missed opportunity by the Raptors came late. They were down two with 26.9 seconds left in the game after a Danny Green made three, but rather than foul they let the game play out. That led to the Iguodala three.

“We’re trying to foul,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We had a couple chances there on Draymond, I think Livingston and then back to Draymond and then Curry got it. And we didn’t want to foul [Curry] but we put a good blitz on him. We almost made him throw it away. And I think if they’re going to take a shot and give you a chance there, I’m going to probably live with the one that ended up being taken. I’m going to probably roll with that.

“Probably we should have fouled before that.”

It wasn’t a pretty win for the Warriors, but not every victory is a work of art. The Warriors got the split they needed and now the series heads to the Bay Area. The question is, who will be healthy enough to suit up Wednesday for the Warriors?