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9:36AM

S.F. Examiner: Return of Kerr, Klay’s shooting are welcome sights for Warriors

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

OAKLAND — One of them hadn’t been seen. The other hadn’t been appreciated — except by those who understand what makes a basketball team a winner, a category that includes the guy who hadn’t been seen, Steve Kerr.

Yes, Kerr, with his one-liners and perception, was on the bench Sunday night coaching the Golden State Warriors in person. So, welcome back, coach. And in a way, the other Special K, Klay Thompson also was back, with his 2- and 3-pointers. Of course, hoops cognoscenti who look beyond points totals — Mr. Kerr, for one — know Klay never left.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner

8:23AM

And then there was Steph — who else?

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Steph. Who else? The game wasn’t supposed to be that close. But it was. The Trail Blazers wouldn’t fade, wouldn’t recognize they were beaten, even when they were. The Blazers just kept coming, like blazes, if you’ll accept the line.

There they were, within two points. And then there was Steph. Swish. We’ve seen it before. We’ll see it again.

A three-pointer. A step-back 26-footer with 24.9 seconds left. A dagger. “I mean, Steph is Steph,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “I think our fans are used to it. I’m used to it. He makes these incredibly difficult shots.”

Makes them when the team needs him to make them.

“He makes big-time shots,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “That last shot he made was well defended. He’s a special player who can do special things.”

He’s the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for a second straight year, a unanimous choice this time, for the first time in history. He got the trophy in ceremonies before the game, and then with that basket, which put the W’s ahead by three, he helped get a thrilling, nerve-wracking 125-121 victory Wednesday night at Oracle.

So the Warriors, the defending champions, take the Western Conference semifinals as they took the first round, four games to one, and now will face the winner of the San Antonio-Oklahoma City series for the right to get to the NBA finals once more.

It wasn’t just Steph Curry, however, on this night that started late — tipoff was just before 8 p.m. — and ended very late, around 10:45. It was also the man who had been carrying the Warriors when Curry was out with a bad knee, Klay Thompson, who was 13 of 17 from the field and had 33 points. And it was Draymond Green, hustling, rebounding (11), scoring (13) and screaming, as he so often does. And it was Shaun Livingston, a sub once more, with 10 points.

“Klay’s shooting was incredible tonight,” affirmed Kerr. “Then the way Steph finished the game, that step-back shot to put it to a five-point lead, was probably only a shot he can make.

“It was like we were running on fumes a bit at the end, between Draymond’s ankle (Green was limping late in the fourth quarter) and (Andrew) Bogut’s not playing in the second half (he had a strained adductor). But we talk about our depth all the time.”

And display it all the time. “Strength in Numbers” is more than a slogan on all those gold T-shirts given to the fans. Curry was out for three games. Livingston got bounced two games ago on two technicals. Green plays forward — and center. And guard. Andre Iguodala is indispensable. Marreese Speights hit a big three-pointer.

The way the Warriors came back from the huge deficit Monday in game four at Portland — that TV shot of Blazers billionaire owner Paul Allen, who looked like he swallowed a lemon, told it all — one might have figured the Blazers wouldn’t be competitive Wednesday. Wrong, so wrong.

For so long, Portland, with Damian Lillard scoring 28 and C.J. McCollum scoring 27 — add Klay and Steph, and what a foursome of guards — was in charge, going in front by 11 points and hanging tough against a hostile crowd and a favored Warriors team.

“That’s a terrific basketball team,” Kerr said of the Blazers, and he was absolutely right. Portland led at halftime of games two, three, four and five. “That’s a tough team to guard and a tough team to play against.”

So, of course, are the Warriors, with their three All-Stars (Curry, Thompson and Green) and their relentless style. It’s just that against the agile, mobile Blazers, the W’s weren’t always effective with the defense that forces missed shots and enables the W’s to flow.   

“It wasn’t our best stuff,” agreed Kerr, “but we got it done.”

Which is what the best teams do, the best individuals do. Overcome the mistakes, the questionable officiating, the frustration and win.

“We know what it takes to win in the playoffs,” said Thompson. “It’s extremely hard. Give (the Blazers) credit. They’re an offensive powerhouse. It wasn’t an individual thing when Steph went out (with the injury). We did it collectively ... I’m just proud of my focus on defense ... I’m just trying to get myself in the flow of the offense.

“I’m not going to go out there and try and take the ball from Steph when he’s in the zone.”

Which he almost always is.

5:46PM

Kerr on Klay: ‘He was awesome’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — If Steph were there ... Even Draymond Green, who had yet another triple-double, was moved to consider the impossible.

Yes, agreed Green, if Steph Curry had been in uniform, and not on the bench in that sharp, blue sport coat, the Warriors, Green’s Warriors, Steph’s Warriors, “could go toe-to-toe with anybody on offense and probably have the advantage.”

But it’s also understood that the NBA is a league in which success more often is determined not by who makes baskets than by who is unable to make baskets, determined on defense, as preached by Warriors coach Steve Kerr — and he’s hardly alone — andas displayed by the W’s on Sunday in the first game of the NBA Western Conference semifinals.

Again they didn’t have Curry, as was the case at the end of the first-round series against Houston. But again they did have pressure, smothering the Blazers, who made only five of their 21 shots in the first period, building up a lead that was as large as 20 and winning 118-106.

“Our offense, we had trouble scoring,” confirmed Portland coach Terry Stotts. “Their defense got into us.”

Their defense, the Warriors’ D, was Klay Thompson shadowing Damian Lillard, who scored 30 points but was a mediocre 8 for 26 shooting; it was Green blocking two shots and Andrew Bogut three; and it was Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston hindering passes with their extended reaches.

Yes, Thompson hit his shots, 14 of 28 (7 of 14 on threes), and had a game-high 37 points, needed in the absence of Curry. But it was at the other end of the court where Thompson impressed his coach.

“Not many guys could chase Damian Lillard around for 37 minutes,” said Kerr, “and score 37 points too. Klay is a tremendous two-way player, and this was a really amazing night for him just in terms of his all-around play, and obviously we got a lot of good performances from people. But that’s a big burden to have to play both ways like that.

“He was awesome.”

Thompson was an All-Star. Green, 23 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, was an All-Star. Sometimes we forget because of that All-Star and MVP — and product endorser and NBA scoring leader — Steph Curry.

Yet a team is more than one man, even if it’s a man who can throw in 30-foot jumpers in the blink of an eye.

Curry, restricted by that bad right knee, said in a TV interview he would be surprised if he couldn’t return by game three of this series, next Sunday at Portland. Until then, or even then, the Warriors have to do what they’ve been doing, use all their skills.

“Defense is the key against these guys,” said Kerr, knowing full well “these guys” could mean any team in the league.

“They,” Kerr said of the Blazers, “are a tremendous offensive team. They have a great system. They are hard to guard, and they spread out so much with their shooting that there are a lot of open lanes.”

Those lanes were closed Sunday, just as stretches of Interstate 880 are so often. The Warriors chased and harassed. The Warriors stymied and baffled. “We score a lot of points,” Lillard said of himself and teammate C.J. McCollum. “We’ve got to be better offensively if we want to have a chance against this team.”

That doesn’t come easily against the Warriors, schooled in the idea of taking the other team’s mistakes and pushing the ball down the floor. “Our offense,” said Kerr, “comes off movement. We can’t stand around.”

Green rarely is seen standing or heard silent. He’s the voice of the Warriors, cheering, chanting, hollering.  Still, it’s just as much a case of "do as I do" as it is "do as I say." Green leads by admonition. He leads by example.

“I don’t go out there saying, ‘I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do more of that,’” said Green. “We all have to. Everybody’s got to be more involved on the offensive end. Steph brings so much more to the table that one guy isn’t going to be able to do what he does.

“I just told the guys that we’ve got to come out with a defensive mind-set, and that’s pretty much it. I think we can pretty much just stay solid and get good stuff on the offensive end, but against this team we’ve got to get it done on the defensive end. We’ll get what we need on offense. We did that tonight.”

Absolutely.

8:09AM

S.F. Examiner: Warriors send hapless Rockets home with Curry wearing a suit coat

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

The next round won’t be this easy. It can’t be. The Warriors are good, very good, record-setting good, and the Houston Rockets were, well, not very good at all. The Rockets probably shouldn’t have been in the playoffs.

For certain they weren’t at all in Wednesday night’s game. Figuratively, of course. Literally, that’s open for debate.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner

8:48AM

S.F. Examiner: With Steph, without Steph, Warriors win as a team

By Art Spander

They missed Steph Curry. What, you thought the Warriors wouldn’t? But the Warriors didn’t set the all-time record for regular-season victories — 73, as you know so well — because they were dependent on only one player, even if he is the MVP.

They are a team, and what they didn’t miss Monday night at Oracle was a chance again to beat the Houston Rockets.

Read the full story.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner