Entries in Trail Blazers (7)


Warriors splash along on defense

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — This is the way it’s done when Kevin Durant, the man his coach called the best basketball player on earth, can’t play.

There’s a stifling defense that keeps the other team from making even a single 3-pointer in the second quarter.

There’s a couple of guys nicknamed the Splash Brothers who couldn’t be defended — at least the way the Portland Trail Blazers attempted, with big men below the free throw line.

There’s a group of reserves, Kevon Looney, Alfonzo McKinnie, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, that lends truth to the Warriors’ slogan, “Strength in Numbers,” and gives support to a team without the injured Durant and injured DeMarcus Cousins.

The Blazers hung in for a while, showed the style and talent that on Sunday enabled them to beat Denver and advance to the NBA Western Conference final. But the Warriors are the two-time champions, and they were playing at home, Oracle Arena, Tuesday night. and it was no surprise the Dubs won, 116-94.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr told us the Blazers barely had time to get to the Bay Area and get suited up.

“We were able to finish our last series on Friday,” Kerr said of the win over the Houston Rockets, “and they (Portland) had a tough game 7 in Denver, and the quick turnaround, so the schedule favored us.”

Unquestionably, but history also favors the Warriors, who have been to the NBA finals four straight years, winning three of those, and have all-stars such as Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and the absent Durant.

In betting, you stick with a winner until he loses. The Warriors so far have shown no tendency to lose.

Curry had 36 points, Thompson 26. The Warriors shot 50 percent (51 on threes) and limited the Blazers to 36 percent. If Portland hadn’t made 27 of 31 free throws, it wouldn’t even have been in the game.

“I thought the key stretch for us,” said Kerr, “was the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.”

The Warriors led 77-71 after three. Quickly enough, it was 97-81.

“They got loose in the fourth quarter and had, what 39,” said Terry Stotts, the Portland coach. “But going into the fourth quarter, down six, finding ways to hang in on a night we were struggling offensively.”

Struggling because when the Warriors are at their best they are brilliant defensively, forcing bad shots, grabbing rebounds and then racing toward their own basket for a score.

“It’s just one game,” reminded Stotts. “I know they gave Damian (Lillard) a lot of attention. They clogged the paint. We didn’t finish the opportunities when we had them. So when you turn the ball over and don’t shoot well and don’t finish around the basket, we’ve got to look for other things.”

Lillard is the Oakland kid — “I could walk home from here,” he said during the post-game inteview. He showed up wearing an Oakland Athletics jersey and with an accurate account of why, averaging 28 a game, he scored just 19.

“They gave a lot of attention to the ball when I was coming off screens,” said Lillard. “Even when I was in isolation situations I was seeing two people. I think it was obvious they were trying to make things hard for me, sending two guys at me. I couldn’t get an attempt up even if I was trying to force it.”

The Warriors didn’t have that problem, not with Andrew Bogut, Looney and Green setting up screens for Steph and Klay. 

“It was a nice flow,” said Curry. “I mean, it’s fun when we’re at our best in terms of everybody feeling like they are a threat ... It puts so much pressure on the defense.”

The other defense. The Warriors defense was able to put on pressure of its own.


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 


For Warriors, new faces, old result; ‘This team is the NBA champ’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — No Steph? No Draymond? No Zaza? Three starters missing because of injuries? Ehhh. Maybe if the entire lineup was on the bench, the Warriors might be in trouble. Repeat: might.

But as one of the guys who did play, Kevin Durant, reminded us après game, “This team is the NBA champion.” And, one implies, believes it will be again, a third time in four years.

But we get ahead of ourselves, a legitimate failing when dealing with the Dubs. No matter who’s on court or who isn’t, the script seems wonderfully boring — wonderfully if you’re a Warriors partisan.

On Monday, with three-fifths of the normal starting lineup unable to take part, the Dubs whipped the Portland Trail Blazers, 111-104, at the Oracle.

It was a bit of a bummer that Nick Young was elbowed in the head in the third quarter and incurred a concussion. Not to make light of the matter. Concussions are serious, but somehow a blow to the head, sprained ankles (Steph Curry) and sore shoulders (Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia) have little effect.

Not when there’s a rookie name Jordan Bell. Or veterans such as David West or Omri Casspi.

Strength in numbers. You’ve heard it and read it ad infinitum. But that’s what the Warriors have. Just swallow hard and accept the repetition. And the success.

That was the Dubs’ seventh win in a row, the previous six, of course, coming on an historic (for them) road trip when they swept through the country from La-La Land (Lakers) to the Atlantic (Miami) without a loss, if you don’t count losing Curry when he stepped not lightly but on an opponent’s foot.

The Warriors were up by 20 much of the second half Monday against the Blazers, but as so often happens in a sport governed by a 24-second clock, big leads are difficult to retain, especially when Portland has that Oakland kid, Damian Lillard, who scored 39.

Durant had 28, nine rebounds and three blocks. Bell had the block of the night and 11 points. Klay Thompson had 24 points, And the NBA's most senior player, 37-year-old West — “I like competing,” was his reason not to retire — had 10 points.

“David’s had a spectacular season,” said Steve Kerr, the Warriors coach. “Every night he makes five or six shots and blocks shots. He’s one of the smartest players on the floor. A guy who’s a been a star, this late in a career, is like playing with house money.”

At 22, Bell is 15 years younger than West, but as Kerr said when asked about integrating young and old(er), experienced and inexperienced, “It’s not hard when you have people with talent who are willing to work.”

Said West, about Bell, Young and Casspi, new this season, “Those guys figure it out. Bell is learning quickly. He’s been getting a crash course from all the coaches and the veterans. It’s a golden opportunity just being around such great players.”

Kerr said using Bell — the coach teased pre-game and waited to announce him as his fifth starter — becomes a trade-off between youthful exuberance and youthful mistakes. “We point them out,” the coach explained. “He’s been coming on fast.”

Kerr was particularly enthused by the Warriors’ defense, especially without Draymond, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year for 2016-17. “Jordan was really powerful," he said. "That makes him feel good. That makes us feel good.”

Teams occasionally get sloppy in the first home game after a long trip. There’s a tendency to relax. But Durant said the two days off between the Friday night game at Detroit and Monday night game in Oakland allowed time to refocus.

He also pointed out that, no matter who couldn’t play, the people who did play were 6-foot-11, 6-7 and 6-6 and with plenty of reach. “We know how to play defense,” said Durant. “We’re not going to give up how we approach a game.”

No matter who can play or can’t.


S.F. Examiner: JaVale’s journey brings him to Golden State, benefitting both parties

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

OAKLAND — The pregame questions carried a sense of worry and a hint of panic. Kevin Durant wasn’t going to play, and my goodness, what were the Warriors going to do without him? Play basketball, of course, as brilliantly as demanded.

You thought otherwise?

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner 


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.