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9:07AM

Curry calls his NBA record ‘pretty cool’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant combined for 46 points Monday night. Or the same as Stephen Curry scored by himself. The MVP indeed was shooting like an MVP.

After shooting, what, blanks? On Friday against the Lakers, he had a streak of 157 consecutive games with a three-pointer come to an inglorious end, going 0-for-10. On Monday, at Oracle Arena, he began a streak of one game with a three-pointer and, oh yes, made 13 of them overall, an NBA record, out of 17 attempts.

“This is a pretty cool,” said the very cool Curry. “To have the three-point record is really special, although it probably won’t last long the way the guys shoot these days.”

What didn’t last long was Curry’s shutout streak and, no less importantly, the Warriors one-game losing streak, Golden State defeating the stubborn New Orleans Pelicans 116-105. Since it was the Dubs ninth in a row over the Pelicans, you might add, as usual. If there’s anything usual in pro basketball.

Only a few days ago, people were questioning if the Dubs, the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, were ever going to make one from the outside, which over the last three seasons is what they always could do.

But if others panicked, Warriors coach Steve Kerr did not. Kerr hardly was pleased with the teamwork or defense, but as he reminded pre-game it was inevitable the ball would begin to go through the hoop. Shooters may lose their touch momentarily, but soon enough they’re successful.

Monday night was soon enough for the Warriors, who made 50 percent of their field goals (45 percent on threes). Curry was 16 of 26 (and only one of two on free throws). Klay was 11 of 20 with 24 points and Durant 8 of 17 with 22 points.

“You just have to keep shooting,” said Curry about lapses, “stick it out.”

“The ball’s going to go in.”

Kerr, certainly, expected that to occur. He was a shooter from long range on the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan. He may be impatient about sloppy play, but Kerr won’t complain about missed shots because he knows eventually the shots won’t miss.

“That was quite a show,” said Kerr of the Curry exhibition. “I’m not at all surprised.”

Nor is anyone in basketball.

Curry didn’t hit his first three until four and a half minutes were gone. But he had two more before the first quarter closed and was also three of four in the second quarter. “Pretty quickly I thought he was on,” said Kerr.

Four more threes in the third quarter and three more in the fourth gave him one more than the record of 12 three-pointers achieved by Curry himself, Donyell Marshall and Kobe Bryant.

“When he’s going off like that,” said teammate Draymond Green of Curry, “you don’t really have to try to find him. He’ll find a way to get a shot off. That’s for sure. But one thing about that, when he’s got it going you set screens. You’re usually the person who gets open because (the opponents) are so scared of him coming off a screen it starts a chain reaction and (starts) our ball movement.”

Alvin Gentry is the Pelicans' head coach. He used to be Kerr’s assistant on the Warriors. He knows Curry all too well.

“I think he’s a decent shooter,” was the Gentry tongue-in-cheek understatement of Curry. “The only mistake we made is we ran at him a few times and didn’t run him off the line ... If he would have had an average game, we would have had an opportunity to win.”

Average? Curry was average in the last game, not making a single three. Something was wrong. The correction was immediate.

“We let him go in the first quarter for the most part,” said Kerr. “He was really carrying us.”

Curry said he was down on himself after the Lakers mess. He practiced harder than usual coming into Monday night. “I wasn’t thinking about 0 for 10 tonight, really,” he said.

Now he and the Warriors can think about 46 points and 13 three-pointers. Much more satisfying.

7:52AM

S.F. Examiner: Curry Flurry buries the Thunder

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

It was desperation. No matter the mantra from the Warriors. They had to win that game or they were finished. They couldn’t lose the first two at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder and expect to win this series, not to mention another NBA championship.

It was desperation, but then it was Steph. And in the end it was elation.

Read the full story here.

©2016 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.

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

6:08PM

Warriors roll with the punches, roll over Rockets

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — These are the playoffs, when basketball changes from ballet to boxing, when defenses rule and physical play is not only tolerated it is expected. So when Patrick Beverley smacked Stephen Curry early on in Saturday’s first-round game between the Warriors and Houston Rockets and the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena booed and hollered, the men on the floor and bench all but shrugged.

“No, there was nothing dirty,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr responding to a question on how to explain the style. “It’s the playoffs. There was nothing dirty. Just two teams that want to win. So there were a few physical plays. So that’s to be expected.”

Also to be expected was a Warriors win — after all, the W’s were 3-0 this regular season against Houston and 11-1 over the last two seasons, playoffs included. Expectations were met in grand style, with the W’s, in arguably their best defensive performance in a year, building a 29-point lead and winning, 104-78.

Not to be expected was Stephen Curry twisting the right ankle that used to give him problems — the official description was “a tweak" — and for his own precaution being held out for all but three minutes of the second half. Despite Curry pleading with Kerr. “I was 0-for-3,” Curry said of his attempts to persuade the coach.

Where it mattered, on field goal attempts, he was 8 for 13 (5 of 7 on three-pointers) and so still ended up as the top scorer for either team with 24 points.

Game two of this best-of-seven series is Monday night at Oracle, and the only question is whether Curry, who was limping as he left the post-game interview room, will be ready. Kerr used the description “questionable,” a fall-back phrase of indecision — but the man himself said, “Right now I don’t see a scenario where I’ll be out.”

Time to exhale? Probably. Early on this year one might have said, “Time to McHale,” but Kevin McHale, the Rockets coach, was canned in early November and replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff, who contended that Houston didn’t move around on offense when pressured by a great Warrior defense.

It was a physical game, yes, but it also was strange game. The Rockets’ James Harden, who was second in the NBA in scoring (29 points a game compared to Curry’s 30.1) and led in free throw attempts (he’s clever at making people foul him), had only 17 points and didn’t try a single, solitary foul shot, something that hadn’t happened since January 2015.

“Yeah,” said Kerr of Harden’s blank. “That’s what he does better than anybody in the league, get to the line, draw fouls. So I thought Klay (Thomson) and Andre (Iguodala) did a great job. Our bigs stayed vertical. They didn’t reach when (Harden) came into the paint.”

It’s a given in sports that defense wins, because it’s easier to keep the other team from scoring than to score yourself, to win a game 3-2 in baseball, 14-10 in football or, as the Warriors did Saturday, holding the opposition to under 80 points, the Rockets not even reaching the 20-point figure in three of the four quarters.

Kerr had said Friday he thought the Warriors were playing their best defense of the year, and so he wasn’t at all surprised when they jumped out to a 33-15 first-period lead, Houston making only six of 20 attempts, a pathetic 30 percent.

“I thought defense was excellent,” said the head coach. “We didn’t reach. We made them earn every point. We did have the brief moment when Steph went out and we lost our poise and lost our focus a little bit, but we quickly recovered.”

Curry had 16 in the first quarter (or one more than the entire Houston team), despite Beverley grabbing and shoving. When Curry shoved back it seemed there would be a fight — memories of Mike Riordan and Rick Barry in the 1975 finals — but a technical foul against each player ended that.

Curry, however, didn’t injure his ankle until just before halftime. “I just tried to change direction,” he said of what occurred. “Missed the shot and tried to get back on defense, and then slipped a little bit and felt it slip or tweak. That’s when the pain kind of came in. I was able to do a couple more possessions, and it started to get a little worse.”

Off he came. “As a competitor, I was ready to go back in,” he said.

He didn’t go back, and of course the post-game conversation dealt with the possibility of the Warriors having to play without the guy who was MVP last season and most likely will be again this season.

“Well, you lose the MVP of the NBA,” said Draymond Green, who some might say at times is the MVP of the Warriors, “it definitely changes your team, so there is some concern. Hopefully when we play again, he’ll be fine. If not, it’s the same mentality we’ve had throughout the year. He can’t go, next man up.”   

In other words, if you’ll pardon the expression, just keep punching along.