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9:50PM

For Warriors, no KD, no Boogie — and no Willis Reed moment

By Art Spander
For Maven Sports

OAKLAND — So KD and Boogie won’t play for a while. We’re going to be up to our eyeballs in Steph and Seth. And the hometown guy, Damian Lillard, is the best player on the other team.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2019, The Maven 

9:39AM

Warriors: Possibility (Durant), probability (Cousins) and Steph’s big quarter

By Art Spander
For Maven Sports

OAKLAND, Calif. — These are the Warriors that were supposed to be, baskets by the dozens, points by the hundreds, ignoring the possibility (that Kevin Durant may be leaving), relishing the probability (that DeMarcus Cousins is arriving) and ecstatic that Steph Curry, who scored 23 points in the third quarter alone, is once again, Steph Curry.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2019, The Maven 

9:48AM

Curry on rout by Lakers: ‘We just laid an egg’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — The head coach said this is the normal NBA, good teams playing bad games, coming out on the home floor when the opponent is a huge rival — in a contest that had been advertised every 10 minutes by ESPN — and for the most part performing so poorly it bordered on embarrassment.

In fact, embarrassing is the term Steph Curry used after the Warriors, his team, coach Steve Kerr’s team, had been crushed 127-101 on Christmas night by the Lakers, who for most of the second half were without an injured LeBron James, supposedly their only star. Ha!

“It was just one of those nights we just got outplayed from the jump,” said Curry. “Pretty embarrassing. Tough night obviously in front of a national stage. Christmas Day. A lot of hype, playing the Lakers. We were looking forward to the opportunity to get out there and play a lot better.

“And we just laid an egg.”

Not for the first time this season at Oracle Arena, where in the three months the NBA has been going this 2018-19 season, the one Golden State again was going to dominate, the Warriors have been overwhelmed by Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, Toronto and now the Lakers.

It can be shrugged off as just another game, one of 80 on the schedule, a game that in the great scheme of NBA things means little. Hey, the playoffs don’t begin until April. And in effect, that’s how Kerr judged it.

“We got off to a great start,” said Kerr, alluding to the year — the Dubs started out 6-0 — and not specifically to this game.

“But it’s a long year and a long haul. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs. What we did a few years was the exception. This is the rule. We are second place in the Western Conference. You lose some games. You lose some home games. The bar has been set exceptionally high by our players ... as a team, we have to fight through the adversity that hits, like a game like tonight, and keep moving forward.”

The Warriors played a few minutes of what has been known as Warriors basketball, rallying in the third quarter — yes, after James left with a groin injury — trimming a 12-point deficit to two points. But, wham, moments later they were behind by 18.

They shot terribly. There had to be at least five air balls, maybe six. On three-pointers they were 25 percent. The defense was worse than the offense. The Lakers shot 55 percent. Disgraceful.

James had 17 points in the 21 minutes he played, Kyle Kuzma 19, Ivica Zubec 18. The Lakers played the game the Warriors usually play, shooting and making threes, 13 of 33.

“We’ve definitely been inconsistent in our play,” said Kevin Durant. He scored 21 — two fewer than Andre Iguodala, who had his biggest point total since March 2017. You’d think any night Iguodala gets 23 points, the Warriors would be easy winners. Sure. And you’d think any time LeBron gets hurt, the Lakers would be finished.

Curry, who never does well in these Christmas games, made 5 of 17 and had 15 points. Klay Thompson, who hasn’t been scoring well since getting 52 against Chicago on Oct. 29, scored 5 points, taking only seven shots, making two.

“We can all play better,” said Curry. “Be more decisive.”

Luke Walton, the Lakers' coach, was once Kerr’s assistant. He knows what the Warriors can do. And can’t do. “I thought (the Lakers) had a great game plan tonight,” said Durant. “They used two players to guard Steph and Klay the majority of the night. I thought we made the right play and had some great shots. We just didn’t knock them down, and things snowballed from there.”

An apt description of a winter holiday game.

“We’ve definitely been inconsistent with our play,” agreed Durant, “and our record is 23-12. But that doesn’t really tell the whole story. We can definitely be better communicating on defense, moving without the basketball, just being aggressive to score a little more than we are.”

Curry sounded unworried but at the same time concerned.

“You can feel terrible about it leaving the arena,” Curry commented about the loss, “but you got to understand it’s December. And we are in a decent spot. We got to get better though, and we know that. We are not going to win a championship playing like we did tonight.”

10:28AM

Of moonshots, awards, Draymond and a Warriors win

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — Steph doesn’t believe America ever made it to the moon. Yes, Mr. Curry, who launches his own figurative moonshots, said he doubts the United States reached the lunar surface.

Just like the movie, “Capricorn One,” starring, back in the days before he went on trial and to prison, O.J. Simpson.

The film was built on skepticism, that what we saw on TV one July day in 1969, Neil Armstrong strolling on the moon, was in fact a video fraud, created on a sound stage in Hollywood.

That was long before Steph was born, but on a podcast with some other NBA types the other day, Curry just happened to ask, “We ever been to the moon?” Others on the panel, including technologically minded Andre Iguodala, answered in unison, “No.”

The guess is they were joking. But there’s no joking about Curry’s game. On Monday night, with the Warriors back to the Oracle after a five-game road trip, and with Draymond Green back in the lineup, Curry was back to, well, being Curry.

He started slowly, missing six of his first nine shots, but by the end he had 38 points, and the Warriors, whole again and roiling again, had a 116-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, their fourth in a row.

“He’s good at basketball,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr wonderfully understated when asked to describe Curry. “I get asked that every day, and I don’t know how to answer it anymore. Nothing he does surprises me. I guess I can say that. Even on a night he gets off to a slow start, he always finds a way.”

These are heady times for a notable team, a team — as Curry said, “is as close to full strength as we’ve been all year” — that has been chosen as Sports Illustrated’s “Sports Person of the Year,” even though it is not one person but many.

In the 65 occasions since the award was given, beginning with Roger Bannister in 1954, a team has been chosen four times — the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey champs; the 1999 U.S. women’s World Cup champs; the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series winners; and now the Dubs.

For all the individual brilliance of Steph Curry — a selection whom few would have protested — the Warriors have always been most delightfully viewed through a collective prism,” said Sports Illustrated.

“There have been superteams that have forced us to reimagine how the game is played, but none perhaps in a generation, maybe two, are so beautifully choreographed as the Warriors. At the Dubs’ most golden, their movements and pieces seamlessly blur into each other to the point where it impossible to distinguish the magic of one player from another, even magic so singular as that of Curry or KD.” 

In the blur Monday night, KD, Kevin Durant, had 22 points and Klay Thompson had 26. And Draymond Green, out the previous 11 games because of a right toe sprain, had 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 points.

The Warriors agreed that Green’s return brought revitalization. So did Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau, who insisted, “I’ve always said this about Draymond: he’s probably the most unique player in the league in terms of what he means to this team.”

What the team, the game of basketball, means to Draymond is clear.

“I miss the trash talking,” said Green, “the getting on the court. I felt like a kid in a candy store. That’s what we all miss when we leave the game, yelling at the guys, the refs.”

Asked his favorite play of the night, Green said it was just before the half. He took a pass, “but I was gassed. Not interested in going for a layup. I saw Klay was open. So I took the road less traveled. One more dribble probably would have taken me out.”

Durant said what he noticed with Draymond again in the lineup was not any disagreement such as the one when Green yelled at Durant to pass and Durant did not, but Draymond pushing the ball up and talking defense.

Four All-Stars once more together, one common goal.

“I think we play with a faster pace,” Kerr said, talking about how Draymond improves the Warriors. “That’s the main thing. He gives us a different dimension. I think we’re going to get much better. It was a good first step.”

You might say a small step for man, but not if you didn’t think we ever got to the moon. Come on, Steph.

9:18AM

Kerr on record-setting Curry: ‘He was tremendous’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — He makes tough shots, that’s what he does. Always has, always will. Warriors fans knew it. Hey, the basketball world knew it. 

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue just confirmed it.

Swish, swoosh. From downtown. From uptown. From here to eternity. Steph Curry was on fire, was on target, was, well, being Steph Curry, falling backwards, driving forwards, shooting, scoring.

Oh, what a night on Sunday at Oracle. The Warriors were focused. Steph was fabulous. Nine 3-pointers, an NBA Finals record, 33 points total. “It’s hard to look back at all his games,” said Steve Kerr, the Warriors' coach, “but he was tremendous.” 

So were the Warriors. They never trailed. Not once. They beat the Cavaliers 122-103, and with a 2-0 advantage in the best of seven-game series they are more than halfway to their third championship in four seasons.

You had to try to make Steph shoot twos. Cavs forward Kevin Love said that. But saying is not doing. “It’s tough,” Love conceded, “really tough to guard Steph anywhere out there on the floor. He’s just so good at finding himself open.”

Especially with teammates such as Kevin Durant, 26 points, and Klay Thompson, playing with that sore ankle from Thursday’s game, 20 points. Especially with Draymond Green anchoring a defense that a satisfied Kerr said was more intense than in Game 1.

Oh, those Warriors in full flight, when they are forcing turnovers and missed shots and racing the ball down court. Basketball at its most beautiful. For an opponent, even one as great as Cleveland, even one with arguably the best player in history, LeBron James, who had 29 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds, it can be basketball at its most frustrating.

Remember what John Madden said about those great 49ers teams of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Steve Young et al? “Too many weapons.” So apt a description for the Warriors.

Steph and Klay, Kevin and Draymond. And then Sunday night, JaVale McGee, a sort-of-surprise starter at center (12 points), and off the bench, Shaun Livingston (10 points).

“I mean, when you’re trying to take away Klay, Steph and Durant,” said Lue, when asked about McGee’s 6-for 6 and Livingston’s 5-for-5, “other guys are going to be open. So you’ve got to make those guys beat you. But guys are locking in, paying attention to Klay, Steph and Durant.”

For as much good as that did.

Kerr was asked how deflating it is for an opposing team when Curry makes circus shots, the ones where he escapes the defense and is going sideways or the ones where he takes a step or three across halfcourt or the ones he barely gets away before the 24-second clock expires.

“I don’t know,” said Kerr, trying not to sound arrogant. “I’ve never played or coached against Steph. We feel a lot of joy when he makes them, so that’s not a question for me.”

The question for Steph is no question at all. He just does it. Always has done it. There are other parts to his game, passing, dribbling, mobility, but the shooting was the reason he was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player two years running.

The joke that he comes out of the locker room shooting is no joke. Just before he leaves the concourse to step on the court, Curry tosses up — and usually in — a shot that seems to have been launched from some place east of Sacramento.

“He’s a big shot taker, a big shot maker,” Draymond said of his teammate. “Tough shot maker. He did that tonight. The one where he was falling away, I wouldn’t necessarily say (I was) surprised, but it was oh, man, he’s really got it going.

“But we’ve seen this before, and he completely takes the game over with his scoring ability, and he did that tonight, and it came at a great time for us.”

Curry is fearless, which is a characteristic of great shooters. Also tireless. In practice he’ll hit 30 or 40 consecutive 3-pointers.

“I try all sorts of shots at one time or another,” said Curry. “But at that point (the fallback with about seven seconds on the shot clock), it’s just feel and letting it go. And thankfully it went in.”

As on this record night, so did eight others.