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9:29AM

Warriors in a rout — but remember the Memorial Day Massacre

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — It was known as the Memorial Day Massacre. The Boston Celtics, at home, crushed the Los Angeles Lakers, 148-114, on Memorial Day 1985 in the opening game of the NBA finals.

What a rout. What a flop by the Lakers, who once more seemed destined to fail.

But it was only one game. And in basketball, as they say, the next one begins 0-0. And the Lakers won that game, and the third game, and defying tradition won the title in six games, the ultimate victory coming at the “massacre” site, Boston Garden.

Thirty-two years ago, of course, but as current as today, a reminder that nothing is certain, not even if you beat the Lakers by 34 points. Or if you whip the San Antonio Spurs by 36 points, 136-100, as the Warriors did on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference finals.

Sure, the Warriors, up two games to none, are in control. Or it would seem that way. The Spurs, after squandering a 25-point lead Sunday and being edged, were helpless Tuesday night. They were behind 33-16 after a quarter, and it got worse. A mismatch. Yet it was just one game.

Now the series moves to San Antonio for Game 3 on Saturday, and maybe Kawhi Leonard returns for the Spurs. And maybe the intensity and spirit return as well. At home and obviously in desperation, the Spurs will be a factor instead of a disaster.

“It’s a good team,” acting Warriors coach Mike Brown said of San Antonio. “I think they went on the road and beat Houston in a Game 6 (of the conference semis) where they didn’t have Kawhi.”

After that tentative warning, Brown pointed out that for the Warriors, with seven men scoring in double figures, with a defense that kept the Spurs to 37 percent, with a relentlessness evident from start to finish, “This was a good game.””

Not because the Dubs pushed the lead to 41 points near the end. Not because they made 18 of 37 three-pointers (yes, Steph Curry was the main man with 8 of 13 and 29 points, but Kevin Durant had 6 of 10 and 16 points). Rather, because of how they played, as compared to what they did.

“It doesn’t matter how many points you win by,” said Brown, who before the game was able to confer on site with the recovering Steve Kerr, for whom he is subbing.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you lose because sometimes things can just fall the other team’s way, but you do things the right way. So more than anything, yes, we want to win. But it’s how you play, too ... The score doesn’t really matter. It’s how we got to the score. It’s how we played defensively to the Spurs.“

They were missing Leonard, who re-injured his ankle stepping on the foot of the Warriors' Zaza Pachulia on Sunday. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said it was a dirty play by Pachulia. Maybe fate was listening. Pachulia left Tuesday’s game after roughly seven minutes because of a heel bruise.

Still more than Kawhi, Popovich suggested, the Spurs were missing their fire.

Tonight was not what I expected,” he said. “I’m disappointed. The only way I can process this is, I think, it’s not about X’s and O’s or rebounds or turnovers or anything like that. I think maybe we felt (Leonard’s absence) too much, Kawhi being gone, in the sense that, as I watched, I don’t think they believed. 

“And you have to believe. I don’t think as a group they really did, which means probably feeling sorry for themselves psychologically, subconsciously, whatever psycho-babble word you want to use ... I don’t think they started the game with a belief ... When you’re playing a team that’s as good as Golden State, you’re going to get embarrassed if that’s the way you come out. And we did. We didn’t come to play.”

The Warriors came, and they played, and they looked like the best team in the league, never mind the best team on the floor. It was the Warriors, flowing, racing, dominating, winning by 36 points.

But it was just one game.

10:18AM

S.F. Examiner: Is it Dirty Zaza or Unlucky Kawhi? Depends on who you support

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

OAKLAND — The issue deals with laundry, more specifically uniforms, such as which ones are the bad guys wearing. Well, “bad guys” is over the top, or in this case, under the shoes. Let’s go with “opposition.”

By the Bay, that’s the Spurs. Deep in the heart of San Antonio it would be the Warriors and Zaza Pachulia.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner

8:16AM

S.F. Examiner: Golden State reminded of why you play the games

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

Very clever of the Warriors, trying to con the NBA into thinking they aren’t the best basketball team ever created. But it won’t work. We all know the NBA championship is theirs, and all they have to do is throw their Nikes, adidas and Under Armours on the court and they’ll win in a walk.

So they lost their very first game of the 2016-17 season, 129-100, to the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle. So a considerable portion of the sellout crowd left early.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner 

11:08AM

Warriors live up to their name

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Such a perfect name. Warriors. Because they were. Warriors. Fighters, Battlers. Their coach called them “an inspiration.” The other coach called them really competitive. High praise, and that counts, if not as much as the final score in what for the Golden State Warriors the season of 2012-13 would be the final game.
   
It is done now, finished. Or has it just begun? The future looks wonderful for the Warriors. Yet that doesn’t ease the pain. It is the here and now that was important for the W’s, the game Thursday night at Oracle in front of fans so enthusiastic and loud it seemed they could will Golden State to a victory. They couldn’t.
  
The San Antonio Spurs, the old guys, the four-time champions, were too much for the Warriors, resilient as champions always are, and holding on to a 94-82 victory.
   
So the Spurs win the NBA Western Conference semifinal, four games to two. They go on to play the Memphis Grizzlies in the next round. The Warriors needed this one to keep the season alive. They didn’t get it. There will be no seventh game.
   
There will be only thoughts of what could have been. Those and the chants of the passionate 19,956 at Oracle.
  
Disappointment, certainly, for Mark Jackson, the coach; for the players; maybe most of all for the fans, clad in their yellow T-shirts and limitless hopes. They wouldn’t leave, serenading the players and no less themselves with the rolling, repetitive word, “Warr-iors . . . Warr-iors.”
   
A salute to the season, maybe to reason. The Spurs figured out this series quickly. If they were going to win, they had to stop Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. And after Game 2, mostly they did.
  
They jammed the middle and fought through the picks. They shoved and clawed. And, as in Thursday night’s game, even when their own offense was ineffective — Tony Parker, the San Antonio guard, was 3 for 16, while teammate Manu Ginobili was 1 for 6 — the Spurs stayed in and on top. Only briefly in the first quarter, and only by two points, did the Warriors ever lead.
 
“Defense,” said Gregg Popovich, the Spurs coach. “Yeah, if we can hold them in the 80s, we should have a decent chance at the end of the game . . . Down the stretch, we made a couple of shots and they didn’t.”
  
Down the stretch is where 90 percent of all NBA games are won. Down the stretch, the Warriors closed from seven points to four to two. Yes, two, 77-75, with 4:52 left, and regaining the ball and Oracle going mad, a cauldron of sound. But then Curry missed a 3-pointer and Parker made one. Then Kawhi Leonard made a 2-pointer.
   
Reality. The Spurs would win. The deed was done. Except for the fans.
 
“As an announcer,” said Jackson, the Warriors coach who did NBA games for ESPN, “I can recall calling the (Oklahoma City) Thunder game in the playoffs. They got knocked out. We’re sitting there closing on the air, and the fans are chanting, acknowledging the great season. I’m sitting there as an announcer thinking, ‘This is cool.’
    
“We’ve got the best fans in the business. It was an incredible moment for them to acknowledge what took place this year and also for my guys to acknowledge that we don’t take these fans for granted. It’s been a great ride.”
  
If Thursday night a wobbly one. Center Andrew Bogut’s bad ankle, surgically repaired more than a year ago when he still was with Milwaukee, was sore even before the game, and he played only some six minutes in the second half.
  
Forward Harrison Barnes, just named to the all-rookie team, caught an elbow above an eye near the end of the first half, went down for the longest while, had to helped to the locker room and was given six stitches. He returned after intermission but was unable to stay in the game.
  
David Lee, of course, had torn a hip flexor in the first game of the Denver series and was declared out until next season. His courageous comeback was part of the story, but he was limited.
  
Curry’s right ankle, a chronic problem, was tweaked in Game 3, and he wasn’t completely right in the last three games. Even then, he ended up with 22 Thursday night, the best of either team.
  
So when Jackson insisted, “My guys gave me everything they had,” it wasn’t fiction.
  
“It was incredible. I can go out and win championships, and I will not be any prouder of any group that I ever coached than this group. At the end of the day, our tank will be empty and the light will be beaming bright.”
   
The light has been dimmed. The season has been concluded. But it was a joy. “Warr-iors, Warr-iors.”