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9:31AM

To the Nuggets, the Warriors are magic

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — The other coach, George Karl, and he’s an experienced coach, a winning coach, made a reference to the mystical, as if this first-round NBA playoff was being determined by factors other than suffocating defense and offense that does at times seem otherworldly.
  
“They’ve found some magic,” Karl said of the Golden State Warriors, “and we’ve got to take it away.” But time and games are running out for Karl’s Denver Nuggets. Time, games and history.
  
The Warriors did it again to the Nuggets on Sunday night, a Sabbath of bewilderment and not faith for Denver, figuratively run off the court at Oracle Arena, 115-101, by the Warriors, who now are one game away from the series everyone presumed would belong to the Nuggets.
 
Three games to one, the Warriors lead now, after three straight victories. They broke the curse — maybe it was magic — last week, winning at Denver where the Nuggets had lost only three times in 41 games during the regular season.
  
Sunday night, they broke Denver’s back.
   
It was Andrew Bogut, rattling rims — and maybe Karl’s senses — dominating in the first half and then, on a sore ankle, Stephen Curry, with 22 points in the third quarter and 31 for the game, in the second half.
   
It was defense that had the Nuggets throwing away passes and rushing shots.
  
It was basketball played by the book and by the heart, basketball that had a sellout crowd of 19,596 in a three-hour frenzy.
  
Warriors coach Mark Jackson, while enthralled, was also wary, offering the obligatory, “It’s not over yet” when we know it is — even if a year ago Denver rallied to beat the Lakers.
  
But the Warriors are the better team, the hotter team, the growing team. They might drop Game 5 Tuesday night at Denver, but they certainly will not lose Game 6 back in Oakland.
   
There’s no fear in the Warriors, and no reluctance either. They are believers and competitors. They swarm when the opponent has the ball — in the second quarter, the Nuggets made 10 turnovers to the Warriors one. The connect when they have the ball.
  
“God bless Steph Curry,” said Karl, “but there’s Jarrett Jack and (Carl) Landry. They also score. Turnovers gave (the Warriors) control of the ball. But it takes one game to turn it around, to regain our confidence.”
  
The Warriors are the confident ones. They’ve always been confident. It’s an expression of youth and fantasy. To the Warriors, anything is possible. Even shooting 75 percent, which they did in the third period, hitting 13 of 17 from the field.
    
Curry, naturally, was the catalyst. The right ankle, the one that’s troubled him for years, the one that required surgery, was sore even before the game, and so he received an injection, a pain killer.  
  
However, the hurt remained early on, and so Jackson thought of benching his star and did take him off the court for a long while.
  
Finally the pain subsided after intermission. Curry was able to flee the Nuggets’ trapping defense. A shot went in. Then another. Then another. In the last 4 minutes 22 seconds of the third quarter, Curry scored 19. Game, set and virtually match.
   
“He put the team on his back,” said Jackson, repeating a comment he’s used frequently, and for good reason. After that, someone from the Nuggets put a finger in Curry’s eye. With the Warriors up by 20 or so, Jackson smartly pulled Curry.
   
“I was considering shutting him down in the first half,” said Jackson, “and I told him that. It was almost like a boxer who knew he was on the ropes, because it was a matter of time. I told him I didn’t need him to be a hero. Smart coaching, huh? I guess he realized and sensed that, and he captured the moment and embraced the moment.
  
“The thing that stood out to me, it’s almost like he was waiting for this moment his entire career and wasn’t going to allow his body to tell him that he was too hurt to match the moment. It was an incredible, incredible performance by him once again.”
  
It was a performance reminiscent of that by Sleepy Floyd, who for the Warriors in a 1987 playoff against the Lakers scored 51 points, a record 29 in the third quarter. The Warriors coach that game: George Karl.
  
“They were definitely the quality offensive team,” Karl said of these Warriors on Sunday night. “They have shooters like they have, and Bogut played well.”
  
The 7-foot Bogut, acquired in a trade a year ago but not entirely recovered from ankle surgery that predated the swap, was aggressive and mean in the first half. He had several dunks, going to the basket as Denver trapped Curry, and one, reshown on the big screen again and again, was the stuff — literally — that brought fans to their feet hollering in delight.
  
“He was off the charts,” Jackson said of Bogut. “I thought he was the key to keeping us in the ball game, setting screens, rebounding, playing physical.”
  
Curry was on the charts, taking 16 shots and making 10, going 6 of 11 on 3-pointers. He also had seven assists, numbers that have to be displayed.
  
“The way I explain it,” said Jackson, a who has his own church, “(Curry) is blessed.”
   
If you choose to describe that as magic, all well and good.

7:46AM

Noise never stops for Warriors

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Playoff basketball, so manic and rewarding, returned to Northern California Friday night for the first time in a half-dozen years in a relentless, boisterous display of fan affection — and, no less significantly, a home win.
  
The game was what you might expect between two teams who’ve already seen too much of each other, and a response you might expect from a sellout crowd at Oracle Arena that, through the seasons, never lost faith even while Golden State lost games.
 
In the end, almost in spite of themselves, the Warriors hung on to an agonizing 110-108 victory over Denver, while 19,596 semi-lunatics dressed in yellow T-shirts declaring “We are Warriors” chanted their delight.
  
Only once in the previous 17 seasons had the Warriors made it to the playoffs, and even though they survived just one round — upsetting Dallas — the Bay Area never recovered from the joy. And never wanted to.
  
So when, in a first-round series tied at a game apiece, the Warriors merely walked out to the court for warmups, the fans poured out their emotion. “I’ve never heard anything like it,” said Jarrett Jack. “They were so hyped.”
 
At times, the noise was deafening. Stephen Curry, who as you knew would ignore that ankle injury and be ready, and who scored 29 points, said at times the Warriors couldn’t communicate on defense.
  
They couldn’t hear each other. They couldn’t hear the coach. They couldn’t hear anything but those fans bellowing over and over, “Warriors  . . . Warriors.”
  
“Amazing,” said Curry. “But a big deal has been made (about) how long have the Warriors not gone to the postseason. The fans had all that energy stored up.”
  
What the Warriors have stored up in this best-of-seven series is a two-games-to-one lead, with Game 5 Sunday, also at Oracle. “And when the cloud of night goes,” warned George Karl, the Nuggets’ coach, “(Saturday) morning we’ll be up and ready to work.”
   
So will the Warriors, not that they could work any harder than Friday night when, a bit sloppy and considerably off, they fell behind by 12 points at halftime, 66-54.
  
“This is a young team,” reminded Mark Jackson, who in his second year running the Warriors remains a young coach. “It’s going to make mistakes, make turnovers, miss shots. But it works extremely hard. It stays together, and it’s defensive-minded.”
   
Oh yes, defense. The oft-told and dead-accurate aphorism is that defense wins, because if the other team doesn’t score you can’t get worse than a 0-0 tie. The thought is not literal in the NBA, where there’s always scoring. The issue is how much scoring.
   
For the Nuggets in the third period, very little, 18 points, while the Warriors were picking up 33.
   
In the final moments, when the Nuggets were within two, Draymond Green, off the bench, caused a turnover.
   
“People probably thought I was crazy putting him in,” said Jackson. “But he has an incredible IQ for the game of basketball. He gave us a spark.”
  
Curry gave them what he always gives, points, passes – he had 11 assists along with the 29 points – and stability. He understands what a point guard must be, which is a leader, and Curry is one in the extreme.
  
“He’s a big-time player,” said Jackson. “He made big-time plays.”
   
Curry and Ty Lawson, the Nuggets’ point guard, came into the NBA at the same time, the 2009 draft, from the same state, if from different schools, Curry, a first-rounder from Davidson, Lawson an 18th rounder from the University of North Carolina.
  
Lawson, with 35 points, was virtually all of the Nuggets’ offense in the second half. “He tried to put the team on his back,” said Jackson, appreciating an opponent’s skills but grateful for the skills of his own man.
 
“Lawson was in my draft,” said Curry. “We’ve been compared to each other. He was aggressive from the start. He showed his talents.”
  
As did Curry, who tested his sore right ankle before tipoff and, after consultation with coach and trainer, said it was a go.
   
“I try to be as versatile as I can,” said Curry about his multiple assists, “and help the team by making the right play at the right time. They have a lot of trust in me.”
  
Deserved, certainly. He scored 54 against the Knicks earlier in the year and broke the league’s single-season record for 3-point baskets.
   
“I approached this game the same way as I do every game,” said Curry. “I try to go out and play my game, and enjoy the ride.”
   
The ride was a fine one, a noisy one, a successful one.
   
“It was just a big-time win for us,” said Mark Jackson.
    
Big-time and so very, very loud.

9:05AM

The Sports Xchange: Warriors worried about Curry's ankle injury in win over Wizards

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The ankle. Again.

"We'll have to wait," said Stephen Curry. "But I don't think it's too bad."

For the Golden State Warriors, anything with Curry's right ankle is never good.

In his almost four seasons with the Warriors and in the NBA, Curry, the seventh overall pick in 2009 NBA draft, the gun for Golden State, has had one problem after another with that ankle, from surgery to days of rehab.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2013 The Sports Xchange

2:35PM

Warriors coach: ‘We’re going to be here’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND – Even when they’re the only game in town, as the Warriors were on Monday night, it seemed they would be upstaged. The 49ers had traded for Anquan Boldin, and we know how big the Niners are, so big that on this night when the Warriors were the only game in town Niner quarterback Colin Kaepernick was doing his star turn on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
  
Boldin and Kaep, a tough combination. No matter, the Warriors would do their “Hey, we’re down here in the righthand corner” routine. They wouldn’t go unnoticed. On the contrary.
  
They would send the New York Knicks back to the NBA’s dark ages of scoring. They would send the rest of the league a message, as delivered by head coach Mark Jackson, to wit: “This is who we are. Get used to us. We’re not going anywhere.”
   
He meant they’re not going away, and the way they had played, losing 6 out 8, 11 out of 16, that seemed a figurative possibility. Down, down, while below them in the standings, the Lakers, the dreaded Lakers, were moving up, up.
   
The Warriors changed direction, if only momentarily. The Warriors won 92-63. Reads like a college score. Reads like a reassuring score.
   
The 63 points were the fewest for a Warriors opponent in almost 60 years, since Dec. 28, 1953, when the Philadelphia Warriors beat the Milwaukee Hawks, 69-63.
   
On Monday night, the Warriors were effective. Stephen Curry (26 points), Klay Thompson (23) and David Lee (21) alone combined for more than the entire New York team. The Knicks were pathetic. They made only 20 of 73 field goal attempts, 27.4 percent.
  
“I don’t know how many teams in history have had nights like that,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson was saying. “It takes a combination of great defense and, at times by the other team, bad offense. We have played that defense before and teams have made shots. But at the end of the day, it’s closer to who we truly are. And it’s a great way to stop the bleeding.”
  
Oh, the Warriors, with sellout crowds at Oracle Arena almost every game – there was one Monday, 19,596 – with the most loyal followers in the Bay Area, with seasons of unfulfilled expectations. 
 
Their games are half sporting event, half party. Are there really more people in the concessions area than inside the arena, or does it just seem that way? The smoke-and-mirrors introductions. The pizza giveaways. The acrobatic dunking routine. The intermission stunts.
  
Warrior games are entertaining. And often disappointing. What is it, 17 years out of 18 the W’s haven’t made the postseason? Changes in ownership. Changes in coaching. The dream persists.
   
Curry scores 54 against the Knicks, and the Warriors get their few seconds on ESPN, but they’re only a cameo. It’s Kobe and the Lakers, the Celtics, the Thunder and deservedly LeBron James and the Heat who receive the attention.
   
Part of the problem is geographical. If you’re in California and you’re not in L.A., then you’re virtually nonexistent. The Giants win the World Series, and nobody in the East watches.
  
Part of the problem is historical. The Warriors’ body of work is not considered worthy of serious study. When’s the last time the W’s were on a Sunday afternoon national telecast?
   
Jackson is a New York guy, who played at St. John’s and with the Knicks and then worked as an analyst for ESPN. If he can’t get attention, nobody can. On Monday night, he and the Warriors got it.

And Jackson, as usual, got texts from his mother, Marie, who’s in the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.
   
“We made it click,” said Jackson. He insists he took no more pleasure in sticking it to the Knicks – who two weeks earlier had stuck to the Warriors, despite Curry’s 54 – than any other team.
   
“We executed,” said Jackson. “We defensed. We rebounded.”
   
That’s basketball in the essence.
  
”That’s what we need to do,” said Lee, who had missed the previous two games. “I thought we played as good a defense as we did all season long. This was a very important win for us, and we have one on Wednesday and try to get that one as well.’
  
That one is against the Houston Rockets. Then two days later, Friday, is another, against the Chicago Bulls. Starting with the Knicks,  three games in five days all at home. Oracle will be full. Will what takes place there be fulfilling?
   
“The important thing,” said Lee, “is to take what we did (against the Knicks) and build on it, because each game presents its own challenges. The biggest thing is to remember the energy we played with on the defensive end.”
   
The biggest thing in the region where the 49ers, Raiders, Giants, A’s and, yes, the Sharks, also play is to stay relevant. The energetic Warriors on Monday night appeared very much so.

8:06AM

RealClearSports: A Different Christmas for Stephen Curry

By Art Spander
For RealClearSports.com


OAKLAND -- This is a different Christmas for Stephen Curry. His first as a pro. His first away from home. His first playing basketball for a losing team.

Life is a learning process. Curry was ahead of the curve. His father, Dell, played in the NBA. Stephen knew more than others. But there was much he didn't know.

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2009
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