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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.

9:12AM

Curry ‘blacked out,’ then was bleeped out

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — The volcano had to erupt. The pressure was building. Boom. Run for your lives. Run to the opposite basket. The lid had blown for Steph Curry.

He knew what they were saying about him, asking about him: “What’s wrong with Steph?” In Game Two of the Western Conference finals, the Houston Rockets were all over him. Then the media was all over him.

In Game Three on Sunday night, in the opening two quarters, Curry was only marginally better, even if as a team the Warriors, playing their signature defense, were much better. At halftime Steph was 1-for-7 on threes, scoring 8 points. Maybe the critics were right. Maybe he had lost his touch. Or maybe, as we ultimately found out, they had lost their minds.

Greatness doesn’t slip away just like that. Curry knew it. His teammates knew it. Swoosh. 5:07 left in the third quarter. Swoosh. A 30-footer. Yes. An outburst.

“This is my bleeping house,” he could be seen mouthing on TV — but fortunately could not be heard since the word wasn’t “bleeping.” 

And whatever the obscenity, it is Curry’s house, Oracle Arena, the Roaracle. And, after their outrageously one-sided 126-85 victory over the Rockets, the Warriors’ house.

Eighteen points for Steph in the third quarter, 7-of-7 on field goal attempts, 2-of-2 on the precious threes. Normalcy, certainty, and in the third quarter, naturally, the Warriors' quarter.

Steph would end up with 35 for the game. He was back, dominant and exultant, and the crowd, tentative at the start, was fully involved and loud enough to shatter an opponent’s eardrums, if not a cocktail glass.

Strength in Numbers. That’s the team slogan. Yet fans need individuals to idolize and cheer. And Curry, the two-time MVP, the guy who throws in the jumpers we as kids could only dream of making, is the choice.

“Steph definitely got it going,” said Draymond Green, who with 17 rebounds is to defense what Steph — and yes, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson — are to offense.

“I think it was very important for him to get to the basket,” Green said of Curry’s earlier maneuvering, “Once he got to the basket, all of a sudden the threes opened up, and they started to fall.”

Like boulders shot from a volcano.

This best-of-seven series is far from decided. Yes, the Dubs have a 2-1 lead, and Tuesday they have the next game at home where they’ve won an NBA record 16 straight playoff games stretching back to their championship year of 2016-17. But the way the Warriors came back at Houston after getting squashed in Game Two is a hint of the way the Rockets, with a better regular-season record, could come back against the Warriors.

“It’s a huge game,” Steve Kerr said of the next one. “It’s kind of the swing game of the series. We’re right where we want to be, but we’re not naïve enough to think what happened tonight will happen in a couple of days.”

They are, however, confident enough that Curry, the Curry we remember, the Curry who hits threes without hesitation, is present and accounted for.

“Steph is underrated for the toughness factor,” Kerr insisted. “But you don’t become a two-time MVP just by shooting a bunch of threes. He’s got unbelievable stamina, physical toughness, mental toughness. Everybody’s been talking about him. What he did tonight didn’t surprise any of us, because that’s who he is.”

He’s a polished athlete, one who understands the problems that that involves and how to correct them.

“It was big,” Curry said of that three that finally found the net. “It was frustrating moreso because I had the right intentions in the first half and got — I think I got like five wide open threes and only one of them went in. I say you never lose confidence. I knew to keep searching in the right ways to find some openings and some things that work, obviously.

“Got the first play of the third quarter and got to the free throw line, and one and one, saw the ball go in. From there I just was in the right place at the right time ... from there it was an avalanche, and it felt good.”

Even if his vocal outburst might not have sounded good — if it could be heard.

“I already know,” he protested. “I blacked out. I blacked out.”

More accurately, he was bleeped out.

9:44AM

Steph’s back; Draymond never left

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — It was Steph Curry’s night, as we knew it would be when he finally was able to play after these long weeks of rehabilitation. But it was also Draymond Green’s night because, even with all the other talent, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and once more Steph Curry, the Warriors are Draymond Green’s team.

He is the fire. He is the persistence. He is leader. He is the man who makes the pieces fit, who rides herd on the defense, who crashes the boards, who forces the issue.

Who made sure the Dubs would not squander the home-court advantage they held over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night, Golden State winning 121-116, the night Curry played for the first time in weeks.

That gave them a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-seven NBA Western Conference semifinals, but the next two games are at New Orleans. “And when their crowd gets into it,” said Curry, “it’s a different environment.”

Roughly six weeks Curry had missed with a knee injury. When he finally got the chance to play, he didn’t miss too many shots, immediately connecting on a 3-pointer and scoring 28 points in all, one fewer than Durant.

“You know,” said Draymond, “it was kind of electric in there, and for him to hit that 3 that fast, it brought a lot of life to the building, and a kind of light, spirit. Pretty fitting for sure.”

Spoken by a man who knows spirit, knows intensity, knows what’s lacking when the Warriors, as they did in the first quarter, don’t play all that well, particularly on defense.

“I had to bring some force,” said Green. “We were playing soft that first quarter. The second quarter, we needed to bring some intensity to the game, and that’s my job.”

As Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, who knows Green quite well as a former Warriors assistant coach, said, “Draymond can play every position.” And play the school principal if needed.

Green yelled at the Pelicans' Nikola Mirotic and Rajon Rondo, which didn’t displease Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who appreciates the edginess with which Draymond plays.

“I do like to see it as long as there’s no technical involved,” said Kerr. “But you know I thought those two 3s he hit to start the fourth quarter were probably the two biggest shots of the game, because we were kind of struggling, and the ball found its way to Draymond, so those were big shots that gave us a bit of a lead.”

The consecutive 3-pointers, the first 16 seconds into the fourth quarter, the next 16 seconds after that, put Golden State in front, 94-86.

Green had 20 points and team highs of 12 assists and nine rebounds.

“Draymond has been phenomenal throughout the playoffs,” said Kerr. “He’s been saving himself for the playoffs. It’s a long regular season, especially after three straight trips to the finals. And you can tell the difference in the intensity from a lot of our guys, but Draymond in particular.”

Green said about the same thing.

“I live for playoff basketball,” said Draymond. ”It’s the most fun time of the year for me, just locking in and focusing, kind of taking what the defense gives me. You know, just trying to create for my teammates in any way I possibly can.

“When you’re playing a great team like (New Orleans), a team with so many options and weapons, I have to be a threat. I think I’ve done a decent job so far.”

Curry’s return was special, of course. You can’t lose a two-time MVP and not be affected. There were games when others had the same deep open shots as Curry gets but failed to connect.

“I’ve been real eager of late to get back out with my teammates,” said Curry. To play some playoff basketball and get a big win. It was huge.”

He wasn’t in the starting lineup. “Seemed like it was forever,” Curry said of finally getting into the game. “It was a good feeling.”

Durant was asked what Curry was like when he can’t play basketball.

“That’s a good question,” said Durant. “Very anxious. Couple days ago in practice, he couldn’t stop running and jumping and making weird noises. So I’m glad he’s back. I was a little worried about him for a second.”

8:17AM

S.F. Examiner: Forget the naysayers, the Warriors and Cavs deserve this

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

OAKLAND — It’s all yours, America: Warriors-Cavaliers III, The Trilogy, the inevitability. You don’t like it? Tough beans. Too late.

You should have kept Kawhi Leonard healthy (although that wouldn’t have made a difference), Kept Isaiah Thomas healthy (although that wouldn’t have made a difference, either).Or kept Kevin Durant in Oklahoma and LeBron James out of Cleveland.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner

9:59AM

Durant gets his props and his points

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — The man was marveling about Kevin Durant’s brilliance. “He’s such a super efficient player,” was the observation. “He scores from all over the place. Watching a talent like that is just so special.”

As is the talent of the man talking, Stephen Curry.

They say only another athlete truly understands the skills and demands of a sport, the qualities that separate him or her from the rest. And so when Curry, who awes so many of us, himself is in awe — well, then we have a better idea of the level that Durant has reached.

And why the Warriors were so eager to sign him as a free agent, to join Curry and Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

Yes, the Dubs won a ninth straight home game Wednesday night, defeating the “how did they stay so close for so long” Portland Trail Blazers (answer: C.J. McCollum), 125-117, at Oracle Arena.

The Blazers didn’t have Damian Lillard, the Oakland kid, out with a sore left ankle. And yet for a while there, late in the second quarter, Portland was in front by eight, mostly because McCollum, who scored 26 of his total 35 before halftime, couldn’t be stopped.

But as expected (yes, these Warrior games have a familiar theme), the Dubs found a way — “In the second half, our defense picked up,” said a satisfied coach Steve Kerr — and extended their league-best record to 31-5.

Curry, with 35 of his own, and Durant's 30 were a couple of the reasons. And Draymond, with 11 assists and nine points, despite missing minutes because of foul trouble, was another reason.

Kerr echoed Curry about Durant. Or maybe Curry echoed Kerr. Either way, both offered respect and high praise for a man who simply plays basketball as it is meant to be played, never forcing a shot or a pass but working within the system and with his teammates. 

“I thought Kevin was great,” Kerr said. “We had to change our rotation with Draymond’s foul trouble, so we played (Durant) the whole third quarter, which we normally don’t do. It was a typical Kevin night, some of everything. “

As in five rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals, along with the 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

“We are getting used to it,” added Kerr. “He’s such an efficient offensive player. Thirty points on 16 shots. He seems to do this every night.”

Efficient. Curry said the same thing, with an adjective. “Kevin is super efficient.”

At 6-foot-9, Durant is not the huge presence of a 7-foot Andrew Bogut, someone who was, in basketball lingo, a rim protector, someone who jammed up the middle. So the Warriors found a different method.

“It’s not as traditional as it has been the last couple of years with Festus (Ezeli, now with the Blazers) and Bogut,” said Kerr. “It’s more guard-oriented. But KD comes in here and blocks a lot of shots, and so does Draymond. We have a lot of long, rangy guys to challenge shots.”

They didn’t do much challenging of McCollum in the first half. He was 10 of 19. But after intermission, he was just 3-of-12. “Just got more physical,” said Kerr. “The first half I felt he was getting anywhere he wanted. In the second half, we ran him off routes. Just a little quicker and more alert.”

Curry, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player the past two seasons (Durant was the MVP three seasons ago) has been knocked of late either for not taking shots or missing them. On Wednesday night, he connected on a quick three-pointer but had only (only?) nine points playing the full 12 minutes of the opening quarter. Eventually he would go 12-of-25, if only 5-of-13 on three-point attempts.

“It was a little more aggressive game,” said Curry. “The way they defended, I got a lot of shots off the pick-and-roll. Still, obviously I missed some easy ones. So I need to continue to be aggressive.

“There was a purposeful kind of focus for us. We’re at home. We have to take care of home court.”

They’ve done it, with the help of Kevin Durant taking care of everything.