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12:42AM

Curry gets 47, but there’s not much strength in Dubs’ numbers

 OAKLAND—We’ve heard it for years now: “Strength in Numbers.”  A slogan. An idea. That the Warriors were more than one or two men, that if somebody went down there would another player to make the shots go down or no less importantly to keep the other team from making its shots.

  But the promise is not being kept. Key players are missing, two of the best in basketball, Kevin Durant and, as the Dubs learned moments before game time Wednesday night, Klay Thompson—two fifths of a championship not on the floor. And Kevon Looney also out.

  They say there’s no crying in baseball, and similarly there’s no whining in basketball. You play the men you have, and if they’re not quite good enough, not quite the equal of the missing men, well, that’s life—and the NBA.

   That’s also a reason the Toronto Raptors beat the Dubs, 123-109, to take two games to one lead in this best-of-seven final. A reason but not the only reason.

 The Raptors are an excellent team, long—the pro basketball label for lanky, lean people who give you no space or no quarter—and skilled. Also tough.

   In Game 2, the Raptors couldn’t hold off the Warriors, who are in their fifth straight final. In Game 3, however, at Oakland’s home, Oracle Arena, the Raps were as resilient as they were adept, rebuffing one Warriors challenge after another.

 Sure Steph Curry was brilliant offensively for the Warriors, 47 points, a personal playoff high, but as Dubs coach Steve Kerr said, and to which most basketball people will agree, the playoffs are decided on defense.

  The Warriors didn’t have the defense they needed, the defense that has made them winners. Toronto scored 123 points. Toronto shot 52 percent. Those are numbers we often get from the Warriors. Not from the team they face. And perhaps it was because they didn’t have Klay.

The man can shoot and score. He’s half of the “Splash Brothers,” joining Curry as a long-range (and short range) bomber. He averages in the 20s. Yet his biggest contribution may be his defense. He takes on one and all.

  “I mean,” said Kerr, “Klay’s one of our best defenders, so we missed his defense. But that doesn’t matter. The guy’s hurt, doesn’t play. You play the next guy.”

  Who was Shaun Livingston. Or behind him Quinn Cook.

  When he coached the Oakland Raiders, John Madden would tell us, “Yes, we have a very good backup. But who backs up the backup? When the starter is gone each step along you’re not as good as you were.”

   The decision to not play Klay, who had a sore hamstring, was made just before game time. “The whole point,” said Kerr “is not to risk a bigger injury that would keep him out the rest of the series. Never would have forgiven myself if I played him tonight and he had gotten hurt. So you live with the decision you make . . . Hopefully Klay will be out there Friday night.”

   That’s when Game 4 will be held at Oracle, and to call it a must win is not overstating the case. A defeat would put the Dubs down, 3-1, with two of the possible four remaining games at Toronto.

 “Our offense could have done better, obviously,” said Kerr. Indeed. Besides Curry, who took 31 shots (out of the team’s total 91) and made 14, the only Warriors in double figures were Draymond Green with 17 points and Andre Iguodala with 11.

Conversely every Raptors starter was in double figures, with, of course, Kawhi Leonard leading with 30 points.

 “Everybody wants to see us lose,” said Green, aware so much of North America would like a different champion. “So I’m sure people are happy (the missing starters) are hurt.

  “Not having anyone makes a difference, because when you assemble a team everyone brings something different . . . We just got to continue to battle and win the next game, go back to Toronto, win Game 5, come back to Oracle, win Game 6 and then celebrate. Fun times ahead.”

  Do we hear anybody laughing?

10:01PM

Warriors hope to see Klay but no more box-and-ones

  OAKLAND—You play to win the game. Herman Edwards told us that in a rant.

   He’s now coaching Arizona State, but back then, 2002 to be exact, he was coaching the New York Jets. The game was football. The idea is the same in every sport: You play to win.

 If you need to use two men to cover Jerry Rice. If you have to walk Barry Bonds with the bases loaded. If you are forced to play an old-fashioned, high school defense against Steph Curry.

  If it’s legal, and you think it will work, well, who cares whether it’s unusual or if Curry described the tactic as “janky”?  Although his response is understood.

  Teams don’t employ the box-and-one defense in the NBA, where four defenders basically guard the four guys who can’t score and the fifth shadows the one who can score.

  In Game 2 of the finals, that would be Curry..

The Dubs were without Kevin Durant.  And because Klay Thompson  incurred a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter, without Klay. Two-fifths of the Hampton Five—both offensive threats, one Splash Brother, one  magnificent ball handler-shooter--were missing from the lineup down the stretch.

They did hang on for a 109-104 win over the Raptors at Toronto to even the best-of-seven league finals at a win apiece. Game 3 is Wednesday night at Oracle, and whether you’ll see Klay—“I’m very encouraged I’ll be able to go out there,” Thompson said—the probability is you won’t see that vexing box-and-one from Toronto.

   “It was very effective,” conceded Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “The key with the zone or any ‘janky’ defense for that matter, it just changes the rhythm. Watching the tape we had open looks we didn’t knock down, and so the rhythm changed.”

 And the lead was reduced, The Raptors were playing to win the game, and Kerr was not at all surprised.

  “In the ninth grade a team played (a box-and one) against me, remembered Kerr. Whether that was when he attended school in Lebanon where his father was a university president or Palisades High in West Los Angeles was not important.

 Kerr could shoot from the outside, and if not quite as spectacularly as Curry, was a starter at the University of Arizona and a sub on the Chicago Bulls teams of Michael Jordan.

  “It’s typically something you can’t rely on for big, long stretches of the game,” said Kerr. “It’s probably something you’ll see more of in high school, even college. But I don’t remember ever seeing it in the NBA.”

  He’ll remember now. So will Curry.

  As far as the term, janky, Steph said it’s a “little Southern, North Carolina slang that I just pulled out of my back pocket. It just sounds right. I don’t really know what the true definition is.”

   How about “poor or of unreliable quality,” which is one way it’s defined.

“But obviously it was innovative and unexpected in terns (of a) defense you haven’t seen for a while. But there are things we could have done differently to get the ball in my hands working around other guys.”

   Curry scored 23, two points fewer than Thompson, but none of those 23 came in final quarter when the Raptors closed from 11 to 2 before losing by 5 after Andre Iguodala hit a 3-pointer with 26 seconds to play.

  Iguodala, underestimated but not unappreciated, said he’s motivated by an inspiration to protect the legacy of a Warriors team trying to win its fourth NBA title in five seasons.

  Asked his perspective, Curry, a two-time league MVP, said, “I don’t need anybody’s validation or praise to hype me up as other people in the league know who I am.

   “I always stay confident in my abilities and appreciative of the stage that I get to play on alongside my teammates who understand, one, what it takes to win and just the fun we have playing the way we do.”

  Unless, out of nowhere, they’re facing a box-and-one

8:49PM

Warriors hope to see Klay but no more box-and-ones

  OAKLAND—You play to win the game. Herman Edwards told us that in a rant.

   He’s now coaching Arizona State, but back then, 2002 to be exact, he was coaching the New York Jets. The game was football. The idea is the same in every sport: You play to win.

 If you need to use two men to cover Jerry Rice. It you have to walk Barry Bonds with the bases loaded. It you are forced to play an old-fashioned, high school defense against Steph Curry.

  If it’s legal, and you think it will work, well, who cares whether it’s unusual or if Curry described the tactic as “janky”?  Although his response is understood.

  Teams don’t employ the box-and-one defense in the NBA, where four defenders basically guard the four guys who can’t score and the fifth shadows the one who can score.

  In Game 2 of the finals, that would be Curry..

The Dubs were without Kevin Durant.  And because Klay Thompson  incurred a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter, without Klay. Two-fifths of the Hampton Five—both offensive threats, one Splash Brother, one  magnificent ball handler-shooter--were missing from the lineup down the stretch.

They did hang on for a 109-104 win over the Raptors at Toronto to even the best-of-seven league finals at a win apiece. Game 3 is Wednesday night at Oracle, and whether you’ll see Klay—“I’m very encouraged I’ll be able to go out there,” Thompson said—the probability is you won’t see that vexing box-and-one from Toronto.

   “It was very effective,” conceded Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “The key with the zone or any ‘janky’ defense for that matter, it just changes the rhythm. Watching the tape we had open looks we didn’t knock down, and so the rhythm changed.”

 And the lead was reduced, The Raptors were playing to win the game, and Kerr was not at all surprised.

  “In the ninth grade a team played (a box-and one) against me, remembered Kerr. Whether that was when he attended school in Lebanon where his father was a university president or Palisades High in West Los Angeles was not important.

 Kerr could shoot from the outside, and if not quite as spectacularly as Curry, was a starter at the University of Arizona and a sub on the Chicago Bulls teams of Michael Jordan.

  “It’s typically something you can’t rely on for big, long stretches of the game,” said Kerr. “It’s probably something you’ll see more of in high school, even college. But I don’t remember ever seeing it in the NBA.”

  He’ll remember now. So will Curry.

  As far as the term, janky, Steph said it’s a “little Southern, North Carolina slang that I just pulled out of my back pocket. It just sounds right. I don’t really know what the true definition is.”

   How about “poor or of unreliable quality,” which is one way it’s defined.

“But obviously it was innovative and unexpected in terns (of a) defense you haven’t seen for a while. But there are things we could have done differently to get the ball in my hands working around other guys.”

   Curry scored 23, two points fewer than Thompson, but none of those 23 came in final quarter when the Raptors closed from 11 to 2 before losing by 5 after Andre Iguodala hit a 3-pointer with 26 seconds to play.

  Iguodala, underestimated but not unappreciated, said he’s motivated by an inspiration to protect the legacy of a Warriors team trying to win its fourth NBA title in five seasons.

  Asked his perspective, Curry, a two-time league MVP, said, “I don’t need anybody’s validation or praise to hype me up as other people in the league know who I am.

   “I always stay confident in my abilities and appreciative of the stage that I get to play on alongside my teammates who understand, one, what it takes to win and just the fun we have playing the way we do.”

  Unless, out of nowhere, they’re facing a box-and-one.

11:42PM

On the diamond A’s feel pressure; on the court Warriors apply it 

OAKLAND—Chris Bassitt was referring to the Astros. “They’re probably the best at keeping pressure on you, from pitch one to whatever.” Change sports, as do many of us did at game’s end, and he could have been talking basketball, and the Warriors.

  That’s an attribute of the best teams, the best individuals. They never allow you to relax, never allow you to believe; Tiger Woods in his day, Roger Federer to this day. The Patriots. The Warriors.

   No matter the situation, whether it’s in their favor or against them, they’re always hovering, always keeping the pressure on.

  Sunday, at the stadium renamed the Ring Central Coliseum, the Astros, World Series champions in 2017,  National League Championship Series competitors in 2018, never let up on the Athletics, and eventually, finally, perhaps inevitably, the ‘Stros won, 6-4 in 12 innings.

   Then, with the players gone, with the crowd of 23,144 gone, with the gulls swooping, squawking  and alighting as they do at major Bay Area sporting sites when the event is done, the Warriors-Raptors telecast went up on the big scoreboard screens, if only for the Coliseum grounds crew, repairing the field.

  The Warriors were down. Not to worry. As the Astros in baseball, the Dubs are the best in basketball at keeping the pressure on. That 18-0 start of the third quarter? Was anyone surprised? Make that was anyone surprised who knows the Warriors?

 And after getting swept in a three-game series to close a home stand that collapsed with five consecutive losses, is anyone surprised who knows the A’s?

  They are almost there but not quite, good enough to make one believe but not good enough to close the deal. As basketball people might advise that’s very much like the Raptors.

   “Frustrating, obviously,” That was the comment by A’s manager Bob Melvin. You presume Nick Nurse, the Raptors’ coach, was thinking the same.

   The team does so much right, but it’s not enough. The other team is just better.

  “We were on a nice little roll,” said Melvin, about a10-game stretch without a defeat. “We had momentum. Then we lose a couple. Then three more. We’ve got to find a way to be more consistent.”

  Basically a way to get runners on .So when the A’s hit home runs, and they had four Sunday, all solo shots, they need to score in bunches to   keep the pressure on.

   There’s a parallel between the Astros and the Warriors. Houston is so loaded, that even missing Jose Altuve, the 2017 American League MVP; Carlos Correa and George Springer, all injured, the ‘Stros have won six of seven and with the Twins (the Twins?) share the best record in the AL.

  Depth, or as they say around the Warriors, “Strength in Numbers.” No Kevin Durant? At times no Andre Iguodala? At times no DeMarcus Cousins.  Maybe after the hamstring injury, no Klay Thompson? Not  exactly no sweat, but rather no letdown. 

   Bassitt, the A’s starter, pitched six innings, allowed six hits and three runs. And only one walk, Tony Kemp in the fifth.  Then came two hits and a Marcus Semien error, and Houston had two runs,

  “You walk guys in this lineup,” Bassitt said about Houston, “and you’re screwed. Look at who they’re missing, and you still got to worry about the walks and the speed. You have to make them earn every single run. Unfortunately my walking Kemp started them running.”

  That’s what happens when you face a top team, a team with few weaknesses, a team that rarely makes mistakes, a team like the Astros. Or the Warriors.

  The A’s were scheduled to be in the air flying to southern California when the Warriors were finishing up against Toronto. Maybe they saw the end—the flight is only an hour, as you know; there’s TV on many planes. For sure soon enough they knew the result.

    The Warriors applied pressure. The A’s simply felt it. The Warriors won.  The A’s did not win.

8:43PM

After 11 innings and 4½ hours, Oakland’s faults overtake its virtues

By Art Spander
For Maven Sports

OAKLAND — A hit batsman, a wild throw, a few hits — not a lot in the great scheme of things, but more than enough in any single game, especially one that lasts four and a half hours and in which a star reliever fails to pitch like a star reliever.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2019, The Maven