Iron spine on full display in Game 3, Warriors on brink of historic finish

Iron spine on full display in Game 3, Warriors on brink of historic finish

You all remember the final 4:59 of Game Seven last year, don’t you? It’s been eating at your eyes, ears, tongues and souls all summer, fall, winter and spring. The Golden State Warriors missed every shot they took for five consecutive minutes, lost the NBA championship and ripped the crown from their own heads, of their own accord, by their own hand.

Well, life’s a funny old bastard sometimes, and now you can remember the last 3:13 of Game Three this year – when the Warriors did to the Cleveland Cavaliers what the Cavs did to them (and what they did to themselves) last June 18.

They are now, as a result of Wednesday’s 118-113 win in Game Three of these NBA Finals, on the verge of finishing one of the most frightfully impressive seasons in the history of the sport by rolling the team that wallet-lifted them a year ago.

And the difference – yes, yes, I know you know already – was the nonpareil Kevin Durant, whose 31/8/4 line was rendered nearly invisible by his work turning around a seeming Cavaliers victory by with a basket/rebound/26-footer in a 30-second span of the final 1:15 turned the game, the series, and a whole lot of narratives, flight plans and hotel cancellations.

In stopping the disintegration of their worst half of the series by seizing the final three minutes, the Warriors displayed the iron spine and the willful refusal to bow to the inevitable that they have rarely had to display this postseason.

Plus, unlike last year’s collapse, which was nearly matched by Cleveland’s own dreadful shooting, the Warriors did it by resuscitating themselves in crunch time, which is a refreshing change from their usual M.O. of stomping a team early and then staying safely ahead.

It was the win that fleshes out their very likely championship as one of the sport’s most well-rounded teams. They won Game 1 by preventing the Cavs form doing what they wanted, Game 2 by doing whatever they wanted, and Game 3 by showing their fullest understanding yet of the art of the gut-check.

“It was just an incredibly tough, resilient performance,” said incredibly tough and resilient head coach Steve Kerr. “It wasn’t the smartest game that we’ve played all year, but it was maybe our toughest in terms of our ability to just hang in there.”

It was also satisfying entertainment for all but the most strident of Cleveland fans. The best players on both sides – Durant, Klay Thompson (30 and six), Stephen Curry (26/13/6), LeBron James (39/11/9) and Kyrie Irving (38/6/3) – were brilliant, save Draymond Green, who was dogged throughout by paralyzing foul trouble, and Kevin Love, who couldn’t make a basket worthy of the memory.

But the final three minutes were the Warriors at their most incandescently obstinate. Having lost the initiative in a sub-optimal third quarter, they had to scramble from behind in the fourth, and did so as though they the outcome was exactly the one nobody had prepared for. In the immortal words of Kyrie Irving, “Diown the stretch they were just more poised.”

And bloodless. And supremely, defiantly arrogant in their certainty. And that’s arrogant as in utterly self-assured, not arrogant as in preening and dismissive. They needed the Curry 12-footer and the Green rebound the Durant rebound-and-run for the 26-footer, and the defense by Thompson ion Irving and the block by Andre Iguodala on James (another bit of turnabout from a year ago) . . . it was almost a tapestry of single mindedness and brilliance under the most difficult of circumstances.

But maybe they knew that the two most important Cavaliers, James and Irving, could not sustain themselves at their rate of play for an entire night.

“Those guys had to do so much for them and they were doing it tonight, and they got better contributions from their bench, but I think we have an advantage in our depth, they don't have as much depth as we do. But those guys can win you a game, and you almost saw it tonight in LeBron and Kyrie. It didn't seem like they got tired, and they might not show it, but it's hard to do that for 48 minutes.”

“We didn’t change anything,” Kerr said of the late-game adjustment that weren’t made. “We discussed making changes but didn’t want to change anything,. The way they play, LeBron and Kyrie had it going the whole game, but that’s pretty taxing, and we kept telling them they would get tired, and fatigue would play a role.”

For his part, James dismissed that as an excuse, as he would. But his voice would not be heard in the wake of the result of the best game of what is probably going to be a shamefully short series.

Four things we learned while Steph Curry dealt with fourth ankle injury

Four things we learned while Steph Curry dealt with fourth ankle injury

UPDATE (2:40pm PT on Tuessday): Steph Curry has been cleared for full team practices with the goal of playing this week, the Warriors announced.


The Warriors’ usual late-spring sprint toward the postseason, already slowed to a limp, deteriorated into a forlorn crawl Monday night in San Antonio as they were losing for the fourth time in six games.

Draymond Green, the only “healthy” member of the team’s All-Star quartet, left the game in the second quarter with a pelvic contusion and did not return.

Though Green said after this 89-75 loss to the Spurs that he doesn’t consider this a serious injury, it’s abundantly clear reinforcements can’t arrive soon enough.

Stephen Curry, a profoundly superior reinforcement, may return as soon as Friday.

Curry’s tender right ankle is scheduled to be reevaluated Tuesday, after which the Warriors will establish a timeline for his return. He could, according to team and league sources, be back in the lineup Friday night when the Atlanta Hawks visit Oracle Arena.

That would provide a massive injection of talent for the Warriors, who lost of three games during a four-day stretch in which they were forced to rely heavily on reserves and role players.

“We’re already shorthanded and then we lose another All-Star, the glue to our team, Draymond, at halftime,” said Quinn Cook, who in scoring 73 points over the past three games did an admirable job of trying of producing Curry-like numbers.

As good as Cook was on Monday, scoring 20 points, it’s a bit much to ask Cook to lead the Warriors past a San Antonio team fighting to extend its 20-year streak of consecutive playoff appearances.

The Warriors are built around their four All-Stars -- Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Curry and Green. They usually can withstand the loss of one, and they can often are OK missing two. But when it’s three, and possibly four, the defending champs are a home without a foundation.

As the Warriors were losing four of six games, and two of the last three, we have learned four things:

1) Cook is an NBA keeper.

The point guard from Duke, who turns 25 on Friday, has proved not only that he belongs in the league but also that he can survive in the rotation of a championship contender. He’s considerably more effective than Pat McCaw. Even if everybody were healthy, it would be hard, maybe foolish, to deny Cook minutes.

2) Kevon Looney continues to smooth the rough edges of his game.

The Warriors opened the season uncertain what they could expect from a forward that has undergone surgery on both hips. Month after month, though, he has done most everything they could have asked. He operates well in their switching defense, is effective in traffic and now he’s blocking shots and raining jumpers. At this rate, the Warriors would be delighted to have him back next season.

3) David West and Jordan Bell are in search of rhythm.

West was reliably excellent, at both ends, prior to missing five games with a cyst on his right arm. Since returning last Friday, there have been visible signs of rust. He’ll be OK in time, but at 37 likely needs another game or two to rediscover his touch.

Bell missed 14 games with a left ankle sprain, returned briefly, sustained a sprain of his right ankle and missed three more games. In the three games since his return, he has yet to look comfortable. It’s not just rust; it’s also the team around him. He’s at his best when supporting the stars. It may take him a while before he shines again.

4) Postseason minutes may be scarce for Nick Young

The Warriors hired Young to score while not embarrassing himself on defense and he has had good moments on both ends. But his inconsistency -- partly attributed to unspectacular conditioning -- grates on coaches and sometimes teammates. As much as he wants to enjoy the postseason, he’s playing his way toward an insignificant role unless injuries dictate otherwise.

Source: Warriors, Curry aiming for Friday return


Source: Warriors, Curry aiming for Friday return

UPDATE (2:25pm PT on Tuesday): The Warriors announced that following an examination by the team's medical staff, Steph Curry has been cleared to participate in full team practices beginning on Wednesday. The goal is for Curry to "play later this week."

The Warriors return to action Friday when they host the Hawks. They face the Jazz on Sunday in Oakland.


The Warriors have been without Stephen Curry for six full games and all but the first two minutes of a seventh. The last three were less out of medical necessity than an abundance of caution.

Curry could, however, return as soon as Friday when the Atlanta Hawks visit Oracle Arena, multiple sources disclosed to NBC Sports Bay Area on Monday night. ESPN, citing league sources, was first to report the team’s plan.

The two-time MVP’s right ankle is scheduled to be reevaluated Tuesday, after which time a firm return date is expected.

Curry was physically able to play -- and actually pushed to return -- last weekend, according to league sources. But the Warriors, looking ahead to the playoffs and seeing diminished value in the remaining regular-season games, opted to continue rehabilitation in hopes of maximizing support for the area around his ankle.

The Warriors have described Curry’s injury not as a sprain but a “tweak,” implying less severity.

Though the Warriors won the game in which Curry was hurt, 110-107 over the Spurs on March 8, they have since lost four of six, including 89-75 on Monday in San Antonio.

The Warriors arrived early Tuesday morning and won’t practice Tuesday afternoon and are contemplating skipping an official practice on Wednesday.

The Warriors, averaging a league-leading 115.5 points per game this season, saw that figure drop to 103.3 during Curry’s six-game absence.