Cavs' final straw only rests on Warriors' past Game 3 blues

Cavs' final straw only rests on Warriors' past Game 3 blues

The Golden State Warriors, who are rapidly turning these NBA Finals into a wholly-own subsidiary of the No Fun League, have shredded yet one more Styrofoam narrative – The Distraction Of Steve Kerr.
By curb-stomping the Cleveland Cavaliers, 132-113, Sunday night with Kerr on the job for the first time in more than a month, the Warriors eliminated yet one more reason why they might not win this championship. All the others have been lined up and shot down, carnival style, in differing but equally comprehensive styles. They've won one game with defense and ball maintenance, one with offense and rabid pace. They've won one with Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and a whirl of supporting cast members, and one with Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson and a whirl of supporting cast members.
That leaves only one potential flogging point, and it’s a familiar if thinning one.
A year ago, the Warriors lost Game 3 of the Finals by a smooth 30, thereby arresting a feeling every bit as strong as the one they felt after the first two games. The Warriors won Game 4 but unraveled from there, and for all the subsequent excuses you want to employ about Draymond Green's suspension this and Andrew Bogut's injury that and Stephen Curry's knee the other thing, the series was there to be won with a more representative showing in Game 3.
And we mention this only because, just as in 2016, we are out of alternate reasons save the old LeBron-Will-Save-This-Series-On-His-Own chestnut.
James was offensively superb again, going 29/11/14 , and this time he had help from Kevin Love (27/7) and Kyrie Irving (19/2/7). But as the game went on and the Warriors slashed at Cleveland’s resolve from too many places to count, he seemed to see the 2015 series looming before him – the one in which he thought he had to win it himself because he did, but didn’t because he couldn’t.
There was too much Durant and Curry at both ends, plus the offensive resuscitation of Thompson, plus Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark to subtly kick into the pot that in Game 1 was handled by JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia.
And for all that, as the Warriors clanked 15 layups in Game 1, they hurled the ball about the floor like a hot brick (20 turnovers after only four in Game 1). As Kerr said ruefully afterward, “Tonight was a game based on talent. Guys played exceptionally well individually. But heading to Cleveland, we're going to have to be much smarter.”
Hey, that’s what a coach does – he looks for reasons to stress those arteries. Yeah, like Kerr needs that.
It comes as little surprise that the Warriors seemed utterly unfazed by his return – as unfazed as they did when he absented himself midway through the Portland series. He was not symptom-free from The Back Surgery From Hell, but he isn’t going to be, not in time for the rest of this series.
Health aside, though, he seemed as though he had never left because what he has built and what the players have helped him build endures.
Put another way, Kerr thought his return was so unimportant that he told the team he was coming back after he announced it to the media, which is the diametric opposite of approved protocol. And as we saw, the players fell short of personal and emotional devastation.
But Kerr said one other thing that actually should worry Cavaliers fans, television executives and people who waited a whole year for seven more games of this.
“They made a lot of adjustments.”
And all of them put together netted them three points from the 22 they lost by in Game 1. The changes couldn’t integrate J.R.Smith or Tristan Thompson or Iman Shumpert or Kyle Korver into positions of influence. Instead, Tyronn Lue altered his rotation to get more time for Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye in hopes of altering the pace and forcing the Warriors to go big when they didn’t want to, they tried to go small and shoot their way into a rhythm, they changed defensive looks to try and impede Curry and Durant, and instead Klay Thompson reintegrated his shooting stroke.
None of it worked. The Warriors scored 40 points in the first quarter, and while the Cavs stayed close (in part because of Green’s early, middle and late foul trouble), they never took control of the game, and eventually succumbed to the Warriors’ perpetually irksome Warriorosity.
In short, the Warriors are clearly superior – as we suspected all along. But proving it is, as we have learned, a more difficult matter.
That’s why the new narrative – Golden State being 5-6 in Game 3s – is about all the Cavs have to cling to at this point. Smith said before Game 2 that if the Cavs played their game (whatever the hell that means) nobody could beat them. But as we are coming to learn, the Cavs’ game may not have anything on the Dubs’ game.
A more assertive James means less offensive impact by either Irving or Love, and the Cavs are being increasingly exposed at the other end. Thompson played fewer minutes in Game 2 than Game 1 because he did even less of note. The Warriors did not let Cleveland get to the offensive boards, or get clean looks from beyond the arc, which were two evident advantages the Cavs should have been able to exploit.
So if the Cavaliers are to save this series from becoming the remorseless throttling it has been, they are down to one straw.
And even that desperate rope has never seemed further away and greasier than it does right now. I mean, if they can’t even get more than three points out of a mid-series coaching change, what real hope have they?

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Because it’s only two games against two of the worst teams in the NBA, it’s prudent to resist the temptation to fall in love with Quinn Cook.

Putting up Stephen Curry numbers in consecutive games does not make one Stephen Curry.

It’s impossible, though, not to clearly understand why the Warriors have consistently expressed faith in Cook, the two-way point guard who has spent three years trying to make an NBA team.

Two fine games are enough, though, for the coaching staff to recommend adding him to the postseason roster. It’s wise to have a contingency in case Curry has to miss any of the games that matter most, and the Warriors are a smart bunch.

Cook on Saturday told reporters in Phoenix that the Warriors have not addressed the possibility of being on the postseason roster. That doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it.

“He’s proven that he can compete at this level,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Saturday night in Phoenix. “The last couple games, you’re seeing what he can do. He’s a great shooter. We’ve known that."

Cook scored, on back-to-back nights, 25 and 28 points, shooting 70 percent (21-of-30) from the field, including 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from deep. That’s Curry-type quality when he’s on a roll. Cook also handled the ball well, recorded seven assists and was pesky enough on defense to nab five steals.

“Quinn is showing the world that he is an NBA player,” Draymond Green said.

Cook’s 10 3-pointers over the past two games are more than anybody not named Curry, Durant or Thompson have drained over a similar stretch -- and only Nick Young among the team’s reserves have made more over any single month.

The Warriors, it just so happens, are dead last in 3-pointers made by reserves, averaging 2.0 per game, with Young accounting for 1.5 per game.

Cook is showing he might be able to help with this.

Kerr loves 3-point shooters. General manager Bob Myers is fond of saying he can never have too many shooters.

The Warriors are discovering they can’t have too many capable point guards, particularly when Cook is proving that he, like Curry, also is comfortable playing off the ball. Pairing Cook with Shaun Livingston, the primary backup to Curry, is a nice option to have.

“I’ve said all along,” Green said. “I sit here and watch so many other teams play and I wonder, ‘How is Quinn Cook a two-way player?' And then you’ve got guys in the league that can’t dribble with their left hand, or can’t go left, can’t go right, but you’ve got a guy like that as a two-way player.

“So I’m happy for him. I pray that he gets rewarded and gets what he deserves.”

Cook had brief trial runs with the Pelicans, as a rookie, and the Mavericks last season. He played a total of 14 games with the two teams. He has played 21 with the Warriors, seven as a starter, but only in the last two has he looked entirely comfortable in his role and with these teammates.

With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Curry out, the Warriors need Cook to score. He knows he needs to score. He is scoring. And doing a few other things, too.

“Playing in the NBA is something that I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Cook said after his 28-point performance in a win over the Suns. “I can’t really put it into words, just being able to put on an NBA jersey night in and night out, practice with an NBA team every day, has been my goal since I can remember. I’m just trying to get better every day and live in the moment. I’m just trying to win games. I’m trying to help out as much as possible, whether it’s getting guys shots, playing defense, shooting the ball.

“Lately the ball’s been going in a little bit. But with three All-Stars out, I’ve got to step up. I’m just taking it game by game and competing night in and night out.”

Sometime early next month, if not late this month, the Warriors expect to have their starting backcourt. Curry and Thompson will have returned before the playoffs begin April 14-15, and both will need to be available if for reasonable chance to repeat as champs.

But Cook is making his case for inclusion. He’ll get another test Monday night in San Antonio, where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is sure to throw at Cook a few wrinkles he may not have seen, but the Warriors have seen enough to know he can help.

“He’s a good fit for us, too,” Kerr said. “It’s not just his ability. It’s his maturity. He’s very professional, does whatever is asked, the guys love him. They want to go to war with him.

“He’s a guy. He’s an NBA guy. We’re lucky to have him.”

That’s not an demand, or even a preference. To add Cook to the roster, the Warriors would have to shed one of their 15 players currently on a standard NBA contract.

But somewhere among Kerr’s words, I believe I see an endorsement.

Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns


Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns

The Warriors have lost three of their last four games, their roster is in shambles and, still, they look like pure gold in contrast to the Suns team they’re facing Saturday night in Phoenix.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff scheduled for 7:05.

Reeling from the absences of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors (52-17) showed plenty of the scrap in losing to the Kings on Friday in Oakland but couldn’t get much offense from their veterans.

The Suns (19-51) are having the worst season since 1968-69, their inaugural season. They’ve lost seven in a row, 16 of their last 17 and 21 of their last 23.


Warriors by 3


Quinn Cook vs. Elfrid Payton: Payton bolted to a 16-point first quarter and scored 29 the last time he faced the Warriors. Quinn is coming off a career-high 25-point game. With teams relying on diminished rosters, whichever of the two young PGs can set a tone gives his team an advantage.


Warriors: G Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib soreness), G Pat McCaw (L wrist fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Suns: G Devin Booker (R hand sprain) and F Alan Williams (R meniscus tear) are listed as questionable. G Brandon Knight (L ACL tear) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3.

Suns: 1-9.


Tony Brothers (crew chief), Jacyn Goble, James Williams


The Warriors won the first of four meetings this season, 129-83 on Feb. 12 at Oracle Arena. They swept all four games last season and are 12-1 against the Suns in the Steve Kerr era.


MOTIVATED VETS: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Nick Young, expected to generate offense, combined to shoot 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) in a five-point loss Friday. They must be better; they can’t be much worse. Phoenix leads the NBA in points allowed.

THE BIG MEN: JaVale McGee started nine straight games at center, but Pachulia started the last two. The Suns are long up front, so McGee could be in line for a start or more minutes. In addition, Damian Jones, the team’s other 7-footer, also could get playing time.

STREAKING WITH THREES: The Suns own the longest active streak of games with at least one 3-point make (1,128). The Warriors are No. 2 (1,121). Both streaks are endangered. Curry, Thompson and Durant are out for the Warriors. Booker will either sit out or play with a splint on his shooting hand.