Warriors

Gameday: Draymond takes on 'seems like a new man' Griffin

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USATI

Gameday: Draymond takes on 'seems like a new man' Griffin

Still trying to find their bearings, the Warriors stagger into the most intriguing game of the season Monday night when they face the Clippers in Los Angeles.

The once-intense rivalry, which reached its apex in a seven-game playoff series in the 2014, has since flamed out as the Warriors have won 11 of 12 meetings. All four wins last season were by double-digit margins, including a 144-98 rout in Oakland.

But while the Warriors (4-3) are struggling thus far, the reconfigured Clippers (4-1), who in June traded longtime leader Chris Paul, are sitting atop the Pacific Division behind terrific defense and rebounding.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 5.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Draymond Green vs. Blake Griffin: It was his tremendous defensive work against Griffin in the ’14 playoffs that shined Green’s star and set the stage for dominating LA. Griffin, however, seems like a new man. He is taking on leadership role while averaging 24.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Not much will change between these teams if that doesn’t translate into him being more effective against Green.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: No injuries listed. C Damian Jones is on assignment with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors.

Clippers: G Milos Teodosic (L foot plantar fasciitis) is listed as out.

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors have won the last 10 meetings -- their second-longest active streak over any team -- and 11 of the last 12. They have won five in a row at Staples Center.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

STRENGTH ON STRENGTH: Despite their troubles, the Warriors own the No. 1 offensive rating while leading the NBA in scoring (118.1 points per game) and field-goal percentage (51.4). The Clippers rank No. 1 in defensive rating and points allowed (92.4) while ranking second in field-goal percentage allowed (40.4 percent). Pesky guard Patrick Beverley, acquired in the Paul deal, has been a great influence.

STEPH AND PAT: No point guard in the NBA plays more aggressively irritating defense on Stephen Curry than does Beverley, who is transparent in his desire to get under Curry’s skin. This tactic doesn’t always work, but it always makes for a physically challenging 48 minutes for the two-time MVP.

TURNOVER TOWN: Only two teams have committed more turnovers than the Warriors, who committed a season-high 26 in losing to Detroit on Sunday. The problem has been addressed by coaches and players and is a known point of emphasis. If it doesn’t get fixed, it creates an opening for LA, which ranks sixth in points off turnovers.

Warriors tease in first half, then torture Cavs

Warriors tease in first half, then torture Cavs

After all the battles over the past three years, the exchanging of championships and champagne celebrations, the Warriors truly respect the Cavaliers and give honest props to LeBron James for being a great player.

But the Warriors have moved beyond the days of considering the Cavs a legitimate threat to rob them of their goals. That much was evident in the first half of their 118-108 victory Monday night in Cleveland.

“I was a little upset at halftime just because we weren’t guarding anybody,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters at Quicken Loans Arena. “We didn’t play with much intensity.”

The Warriors spent the first quarter lounging about at scrimmage speed. They could’ve wearing robes and smoking pipes. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry combined for six shots. There wasn’t much sweat at all, yet the offense was effective: 35 points, 56.5-percent shooting and 11 assists on their 13 buckets.

The offense slowed to a crawl in the second quarter, as the Warriors managed only eight field goals while shooting 36.4 percent.

And Warriors defense was a rumor throughout the half, during which Cleveland shot 56.5 percent.

“We kind of let them do whatever they wanted in that first half,” Klay Thompson said.

That’s not the way Cavs big man Kevin Love saw it.

“We played well in the first half,” he summarized.

Fools gold. Cleveland went into the locker room with a seven-point lead, 64-57, in part because a Kevin Durant live-ball turnover in the final seconds resulted in at least a four-point swing.

Once the Warriors actually arrived in the second half, the blowout was on. They poured in 56 points in a little more than 20 minutes, during which time Cleveland managed only 35 points.

“We just started focusing more,” Durant said.

“In the first half, we were just out there,” Draymond Green conceded. “We played with more force in the second half.”

Put another way, the Warriors spent 24 minutes toying around, skipping and shrugging and whistling, before operating on the team they have faced in the last three NBA Finals.

The team widely considered No. 2 in the NBA despite its current 26-17 record.

When the Warriors pulled away for good early in the fourth quarter, Durant and Curry were sitting on the bench, peeking out from beneath hoods. They’d crushed it in the third quarter, combining for 27 points to equal Cleveland’s total for the quarter. Now they were watching Green and Thompson and the Vet Platoon -- Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West -- bury the Cavs under a ton of defense.

“Seemed like the rim got smaller and smaller,” James said.

“That group that was out there, they have hung their hats on being a defensive unit and getting stops and that’s what they did the first four minutes,” Curry said. “I don’t think they gave Cleveland any daylight.”

Leading by two entering the fourth quarter, the Warriors needed about six minutes to push it to 10. They were up eight, 105-97, when Curry and Durant returned with 5:29 remaining to deliver the goodnight kiss.

The Warriors well into that stage that most great teams experience. They know that if they do what they’re capable of doing, the competition is irrelevant.

They also are aware that if they are too careless or complacent, they can lose to any team. Five of their nine losses are to teams simply hoping to make the playoffs.

The Cavs aren’t hoping. They’ll be there. The question is will they be there in June.

“I don’t think this game was any indication of what’s going to happen with this team down the line,” Durant said of the Cavs. “They’re going to be much better than what they are right now. And we all know that.”

Durant is right. The Cavs will be better in April than they are in January. Isaiah Thomas, who missed the first 11 weeks before taking the court on Jan. 2, will have shaken off the rust long before the playoffs. James will be in championship-or-bust mode. Whether there is a trade or not, Cleveland’s rotations will be set.

But the Warriors know they’re the better team, able to keep up with the Cavs even while snoozing. When the defending champs decide to work at it, they know Cleveland is helpless, even if it’s not something said in public.

Report: KD wants to own an NBA team

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USATSI

Report: KD wants to own an NBA team

Kevin Durant figures to have a good chunk of his career ahead of him, but he's already thinking of his next move.

Durant is only 29-years-old, but is already in the midst of his 11th NBA season. For his post-basketball life, the reigning Finals MVP has his sights set on NBA ownership.

Over his last 18 months as a member of the Golden State Warriors, Durant's increasingly yearned to own an NBA team, according to a report from ESPN's Chris Haynes. 

"[This] is a genuine goal of his after he retires, to add another African-American in the position of majority ownership," a league source told Haynes under the condition of anonymity. 

Currently, Michael Jordan is the only African-American majority owner in the league. Durant said he would also like to see more African-Americans in front office roles. 

"[Jordan] was the first big Nike athlete, the biggest star of his time, but if you don't have the trajectory, that path, that journey, it's going to be hard to do what he did," Durant told ESPN. "But you can still affect the NBA and the game of basketball in a different way. You don't have to be an owner.

"I think it should be more guys in the positions of power like general managers and scouts and coaches. Anything that involves the day-to-day operations of these franchises. I think more players and more experienced players should be in those positions."

Durant and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, have met with multiple tech executives and team owners in order to "learn the lay of the land," Haynes wrote. 

He's not the only former MVP on the Warriors with ownership aspirations, either. Stephen Curry tweeted last month he wanted in on Sean "Diddy" Combs' prospective bid for the Carolina Panthers, and Curry told ESPN last month he's "really serious" about the opportunity.