Klay Thompson

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

You can talk all day and all night about the greatest teams of all time. And you really can't come to any conclusions. Differing eras makes it too difficult.

But there has never been another team like this version of the Golden State Warriors.

Folks, time changes. And it has changed basketball in a very big way. You know that, of course, but it may be a bigger change than you think.

Yes, the Warriors shoot the three-point shot like nobody else -- in volume and accuracy. In Game 3, they made 16 of their 33 threes while Cleveland was hitting just 12 of 44. That's a huge edge.

And I must say, Steph Curry is just as unique as his team. I know Kevin Durant is getting most of the headlines from Wednesday's game -- as he should -- but we're already taking Curry for granted because he's been doing his amazing thing for a few years now.

It wasn't just that Curry made five of his nine three-point shots. It's that he made shots -- and continues to make shots -- from spots where other players don't dare shoot them. And he gets them off quickly, too. Curry's edge over most every other player in the NBA is that he's accumulating points three at a time on shots that nobody else makes with consistency. If he gets a glimmer of daylight from about 25 feet and in, he can be deadly. I don't remember any other player in the history of the game as proficient as he is at shooting in volume from distance.

And above that, he's a perpetual motion machine. He had 13 rebounds Wednesday because he's so active. He gets to the ball, whether in the air or on the floor. In his own way, he's as difficult to defend as any of the game's legendary players.

And yes, the Warriors also have other shooters. Klay Thompson and Durant are terrific. But what makes these guys special is that they move the ball and move bodies. They play an unselfish, equal-opportunity offense that doesn't allow the defense to lock in on anybody. In contrast to the Cavaliers.

Cleveland plays too much one-on-one. It's really not sustainable -- even as good as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are at it -- over the long haul against a team moving the ball the way the Warriors do.

Wednesday, 72.5 percent of Golden State's made field goals were assisted. For Cleveland, it was just 42.5. EVERY SINGLE SHOT by Thompson, Draymond Green, David West and Shaun Livingston came off an assist. That's crazy.

And of course, when a lot of people are evaluating this series at some point, they're going to point fingers at the Cavaliers' "supporting cast" and conclude Cleveland didn't get enough production out of it. I think it's easy to say that, but my observation over many years of watching this game is that when one or two players are as ball dominant as James and Irving are, other players simply don't get a good feel for the game. What you end up with is players who are so eager to actually get a shot they burp up a bad one (J.R. Smith) or become more reluctant to shoot (Kevin Love). It's a natural response when you aren't getting consistent touches.

Basketball is changing at warp speed and the Warriors are leading the way. Shooting from distance is of paramount importance these days. You simply cannot afford to get outscored by a big number from behind the three-point line. It's so difficult to overcome that. And you've got to move the ball and play unselfishly to get open three-point shots.

And to beat the Warriors, you're going to need a great team. And there is only one great team out there right now and it's the Warriors. And they are so much different than any of the other great teams in history that it's hard to say where they fit.

A few other thoughts about Game 3:

  • I'm still not understanding why James didn't get out past the three-point line on Durant on that critical shot late in the game. That shot was too important to allow it to be wide open.
  • I'm also bewildered as to why the NBA allows these games to degenerate into a wrestling match. So many obvious fouls are being ignored that if you actually get called for a foul -- or a travel or a double dribble -- you're just flat-out unlucky. It's a joke.
  • People are saying that Green isn't playing his best during this series but he does so many things for his team. Wednesday night he led all players in contested shots with 15, had the best plus/minus of anybody with 14 and had a team-high seven assists to go with a team-high five screen-assists. That doesn't sound like a bad game to me.
  • The only team capable of beating the Warriors is the Warriors. If they don't move, or move the ball, or take a night off on defense, they can be had. But that's the only way.

 

 

Golden State puts finishing touches on sweep of Trail Blazers with dominating first quarter

Golden State puts finishing touches on sweep of Trail Blazers with dominating first quarter

The Trail Blazers’ season is over, their final attempt at redemption buried amid an avalanche of greatness from Golden State on Monday.

In a devastating start to Game 4, Golden State bolted to leads of 14-0 and 41-13 before eventually sealing a sweep in the best-of-seven series with a 128-103 win at the Moda Center.

Golden State tied an NBA-playoff record with 45 first quarter points and handed the Blazers their first playoff sweep since the Lakers in 2002 won a best-of-five series in three games.

Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 34 points and Al-Farouq Aminu had 25 points, but CJ McCollum missed his first nine shots and finished with six points and one assist on 2-of-12 shooting and the Blazers were held to 38.8 percent shooting.

Golden State, which welcomed the return of Kevin Durant after the star missed Games 2 and 3 with a calf injury, was led by Stephen Curry (37 points), Klay Thompson (18 points) and Draymond Green (21 points, six rebounds, four assists). Durant had 10 points in 20 minutes.

Golden State entered the playoffs with the NBA’s best record, and never did they play more like it than in Game 4, and in particular the first quarter.

In a whirlwind of three-pointers, blocks and dunks, the Warriors instantly sucked the air out of the sold out Moda Center. Portland didn’t score until 3:38 into the game with an Evan Turner three-pointer, but the Blazers never could put together a run against the NBA’s second best defense.

The Blazers started the third different starting lineup of the series in Game 4, inserting Meyers Leonard at center, but the move turned out to be moot after the Warriors’ hot start. Leonard played the opening five minutes, during which he grabbed one rebound, and did not play again until the final five minutes, as coach Terry Stotts started Aminu in the second half.

Any hopes for a Blazers’ comeback from a 72-48 halftime deficit were quickly dashed when the Warriors scored the first six points of the second half as the lead eventually swelled to as many as 33.

Shabazz Napier finished with 14 points and Noah Vonleh 14 rebounds for the Blazers. 

Podcast:

Confident Trail Blazers look at first-round matchup with Golden State as 'opportunity'

Confident Trail Blazers look at first-round matchup with Golden State as 'opportunity'

In what most everyone else sees as an insurmountable obstacle, and perhaps the best NBA team ever assembled, the Trail Blazers view their first round playoff matchup with the Golden State Warriors as something much different.

“It’s a great opportunity,’’ coach Terry Stotts said Saturday, about 24 hours before Game 1 in Oakland. “We are glad we are here. It’s a good challenge to be facing the best team in the league right now … looking forward to upsetting the best team in the league.’’

In comparison to the Warriors (67-15), what the Blazers (41-41) lack in star power and depth they make up for in confidence.

Captain Damian Lillard, who was one of the best players in the NBA after the All-Star Break, has used a “shock the world” mantra in describing the Blazers’ mindset entering the best-of-seven series.

“We are coming out to win the series,’’ Lillard said. “Whether people are offended by that or not, that’s not our problem. We’ve worked hard to get here and we are not going to come in and just say ‘We are playing the best team, it’s not possible.’ We are going to go out there and play. We feel like we can beat them. If we don’t we shouldn’t go out there and lace up our shoes.’’

The Warriors finished with the NBA’s best record for the third straight season, and that included a 4-0 sweep of the Blazers, including a 45-point beatdown in December. But none of those meetings were when Portland had center Jusuf Nurkic, the 7-foot Bosnian who changed the Blazers’ season after being acquired in a Feb. 12 trade with Denver.

Whether Nurkic takes part in Game 1 is still up in the air, as the Blazers on Saturday listed him as questionable for the opener as he continues to heal from a fractured right fibula discovered on March 31.

Nurkic on Friday said if the decision were up to him, he will play, and although Stotts said Nurkic was not an “active participant” in Saturday’s practice, he said Nurkic was “involved.”

Lillard, meanwhile, smiled when asked questions about Nurkic, offering only a “no comment.’’

Whether Nurkic is able to play – and if so, how well he plays after being sidelined 15 days – figures to be central to the Blazers’ chances against the heavily favored Warriors.

The Blazers went 14-5 with Nurkic in the starting lineup, his size boosting the team’s rim protection, and his passing skill and pick-and-roll savvy alleviating the pressure on the Blazers’ talented backcourt of Lillard and CJ McCollum.

His screening also provided added space for the Blazers’ sharp-shooters, which contributed to the Blazers becoming the NBA’s second best 3-point shooting team after March 1 (40.7 percent).

With Nurkic making a two-way impact, the Blazers after March 1 had the NBA’s second best record (17-6), which included road wins at San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Atlanta and home wins over Houston, Utah, and Oklahoma City.

“He’s made a huge difference,’’ Lillard said. “You see how good of a team we are when he is on the floor. You see, since the break, since we got him, how we elevated our play because of the balance and how good he is on both ends of the floor.’’

Still, much of the Blazers’ chances rest in the hands of Lillard and McCollum, which is probably why Stotts separately called each of his starting guards to the side after Saturday’s practice in Portland. With McCollum first, then Lillard, Stotts sat on a bench and shared game film on a laptop, pointing out various nuances.

“We are going to need to be able to score, so we need to make sure we understand what gives us the best chance to score,’’ Stotts said later.

Of all the NBA playoff matchups, this might feature the most prolific set of guards.

Lillard averaged a career-high 27.0 points, the sixth highest in the NBA, and after the All-Star Break he averaged 29.7 points, second most in the NBA behind Russell Westbrook.

Meanwhile, CJ McCollum averaged a career-high 23.0 points and finished as the NBA’s top free-throw shooter at 91.2 percent.

They will be pitted against the Splash Brothers – Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – with Curry as the former MVP and Thompson a noted defender as well as an accomplished shooter.

In last season’s playoff series, the Warriors often started with Thompson guarding Lillard, but this season they usually went with Curry on Lillard.

In three games this season against Golden State, Lillard averaged 23.3 points, but he historically has performed well against his hometown team. Last season in the Western Conference semifinals, Lillard averaged 31.8 points against the Warriors, which came after he scored what was then a career-high 51 points against Golden State in February.

Much of Lillard’s damage this season was done in attacks to the basket, usually after blowing by Curry. Lillard at the beginning of this season said Golden State “just didn’t look the same” defensively without Andrew Bogut protecting the paint, which Draymond Green said he took personally after the team’s first meeting on Nov. 1.

Green, of course, has become the leading candidate for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, playing what Lillard this week called “free safety” in the back of the Warriors’ defense. Lillard was clear to point out the Warriors have a great defense, specifically noting that Kevin Durant doesn’t get enough credit for his defense, but he added “I think we will be able to get our opportunities.’’

This is probably the biggest opportunity for the ascending McCollum to make a splash on the national scene. On the cusp of being a superstar, McCollum has at times carried the Blazers, with his scoring streaks often being the avalanche that buries an opponent.

Whether he can do it against the NBA’s second-rated defense, and in particular one of the NBA’s better defensive two-guards in Thompson, will be a subplot to the series.

“I know who I am as a player – I don’t worry about other players,’’ McCollum said. “But this is not about me and Klay, or Dame and Steph. It’s about the Blazers and Warriors.’’

As much bravado as the Blazers have shown leading up to the series, a confidence rooted in the fact they led Golden State for 56.1 percent of their five-game series last season and held double-digit leads in the final four games, they hold Golden State in reverence.

The Warriors own the NBA’s top offensive rating (113.2) and the second defensive rating (101.1). Their 11.63 point differential is the most since the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls and the fourth highest in NBA history.

In addition to leading the league in scoring, the Warriors led in assists, blocks, and steals. Their average of 30.4 assists is the most since the 1984-1985 Lakers.

“I don’t think anybody out there has us beating them, except us,’’ Maurice Harkless said. “We just have to go out there and do what we know how to do.’’

For a Blazers team that six weeks ago was 11 games under .500 and spiraling toward a season of disappointment, a matchup against the Warriors isn’t daunting as it might seem.

“I’m sure people are expecting the worst, for us to go in there and get beat up on,’’ Lillard said. “But we are playing our best basketball of the season, and if we go in there and we swing first and show that we are here to win, and not just happy to make the playoffs, that’s when it will get interesting.’’

Blazers are close, but Golden State finishes sweep on season series.

Blazers are close, but Golden State finishes sweep on season series.

Klay Thompson didn’t hit many of his shots Sunday, but he hit the most important one, helping the Golden State Warriors beat the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.

Thompson missed 15 of his first 20 shots, but hit a back-breaking three-pointer with 37.5 seconds left to push the Warriors to a 113-111 win over the upstart Blazers.

Thompson finished 6-for-21 with 27 points and Kevin Durant had 33 points as Golden State improved to an NBA-best 41-7 after sweeping the four-game series against the Blazers 921-28).

Portland had a chance to win the game, but Evan Turner missed a three pointer in the final second after Portland was awarded the ball after offensive foul by Kevin Durant with 5.5 seconds left. Durant ran over Turner while trying to get open on an inbounds play.

Stephen Curry, who scored 43 points the night before against the Clippers, did not play for Golden State after experiencing the flu-like symptoms.

Portland, which was trying to win four in a row for the first time this season, played valiantly but couldn’t get enough stops late on Durant, who also added 10 rebounds and six assists.

CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 28 points while Mason Plumlee recorded his team-leading 13th double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Damian Lillard added 19 points and eight assists for the Blazers and Evan Turner had 18 points and six assists.

Portland forged three ties in the second half but could never take the lead.  The last tie was at 93 with 6:32 left, but Andre Iguodala hit a three-pointer and the Warriors never looked back.

Portland never gave up after Thompson’s dagger three-pointer, making Golden State be nearly perfect from the free throw line. McCollum made a three-pointer with 17.8 seconds left, pulling the Blazers within 109-107. But Thompson made two free throws with 16.7 seconds left and with 10.0, putting the finishing touches on an 13-for-15 night at the line.

The game was tied as late as 68-68 with 5:12 left in the third quarter before Golden State closed strong behind consecutive three-pointers from Andre Iguodala to head into the fourth quarter leading 84-74.

The Blazers fought to within 53-50 at halftime after closing the half on a 20-2 run that was fueled by better defense and some hurried and undisciplined shot selection by the Warriors.

Lillard put the exclamation point on the run, hitting back-to-back three pointers then feeding Evan Turner for a layin.

Next up: Charlotte at Blazers, 7 p.m. Tuesday (CSN)

Video: Klay Thompson's 60-point game a tribute to unselfish Warriors

Video: Klay Thompson's 60-point game a tribute to unselfish Warriors

If you haven't seen a highlight reel from Klay Thompson's incredible offensive performance Monday night, I invite you to take a quick click over to this one.

I watched those highlights and am still amazed at someone being able to score 60 points in 29 minutes of action. Nobody has scored that many in fewer than 30 minutes during the shot-clock era. And remember, Thompson is the Warriors' third option on offense and in this game, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant still ended up with more touches than Thompson.

But there are several things worth watching in the highlights:

  • The Warriors used a whole lot of different offense to get Thompson shots, including their weave, their triangle, their motion and the same "horns" offense that many other teams run. Golden State is unselfish and as soon as it was obvious Thompson was having a special night, he got the ball plenty, quite obviously.
  • The Pacers did an almost historically bad job of defending Thompson. He got way too many wide-open jumpers and dead-cold layups for a man on his way to 60 points. In fact, in the third quarter Indiana seemed to just give up on him. You could see Coach Nate McMillan squirming on the sidelines. I'm guessing some Pacers got a full blast from him after the game.
  • Steve Kerr does a terrific job of creating an unselfish, winning culture at Golden State. Every guy on the floor feeding Thompson knew that if THEY were the hot one, they'd be getting the ball in much the same manner.
  • I've said this before but the anti-Durant people just don't want to listen: Don't you understand why Durant wanted to go to this team? Forget about rings, NBA players have to muddle through 82 games during the regular season. For months, their lifestyle is a game just about every other night. And wouldn't you want to play with a team that's unselfish? A team that wins just about every game it plays? Seriously, did you watch the Warrior bench while Thompson was going off? Those guys were going crazy. There cannot be a more fun place to play anywhere in sports.

Golden State finds its groove against Trail Blazers

Golden State finds its groove against Trail Blazers

Golden State might have found its groove Tuesday in Portland. 

After sputtering through its first three games, Golden State routed the Trail Blazers 127-104 behind 28 points from Stephen Curry and a perfect shooting night from reserve Ian Clark. Curry scored 23 of his points in the third quarter and Clark scored 22 points on 8-of-8 shooting after entering the game averaging 2.7 points.

The Blazers, who have struggled this season in giving up big runs, let the game get away in the third quarter when Golden State went on an 18-2 run that helped extend a 59-53 halftime lead to 100-73 entering the fourth quarter. The Blazers have now given up a 16-0 run in the second quarter to the Clippers, a 17-1 run to Denver in the third quarter and Tuesday's 18-2 run to Golden State in the third. 

Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 31 points in 31 minutes and Evan Turner added 14 off the bench, but the Blazers were plagued by poor shooting, particularly from three-point range. While the Warriors clamped down on Lillard and CJ McCollum, it dared Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu to beat them from the outside, but despite open looks the two forwards combined to make 6-of-22 shots, which included missing all nine of their 3-point attempts. Aminu went 0-for-6 from three-point range and is now shooting 3-for-20 from beyond the arc on the season. 

The Warriors (3-1) lost their opener by 29 points to San Antonio, then had close victories over New Orleans and Phoenix, but on Tuesday they looked every bit the "Super Team"  so many have labled them after the Kevin Durant signing in the offseason. Durant had 20 points, five rebounds and two assists and Draymond Green had six points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Klay Thompson added 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting as he played through foul trouble.

In a fast-paced and at times hectic first half, the Warriors took a 59-53 lead on the heels of 52.2 percent shooting that included backup point guard Ian Clark making all six of his shots while Curry sputtered to five points on 2-of-9 shooting. Lillard kept the Blazers in the game with 22 in the first half, but Portland was hurt by 10 turnovers, including three trainwreck passes by Turner, and shodding three-point shooting (4-of-15).

The Blazers (2-2) raced to a 14-7 lead as Lillard scored eight quick points and Golden State struggled to a 3-for-9 start. But while Curry was missing his first three shots during a scoreless first quarter, unheraded Clark provided a spark by hitting all four of his shots and scoring 11 points in the quarter. What seemed like a good start for the Blazers was instead a 34-25 deficit after they managed just two points over the final 4:25 of the first quarter. 

Notes: Lillard has 136 points through the first four games, breaking Kiki Vandeweghe's franchise record for points in the first four games of a season. Vandeweghe had 124 to open the 1984 season ... Rookie Jake Layman made his Blazers debut in the fourth quarter and scored 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, which included 5-of-7 from three-point range. 

Next up: Blazers at Phoenix, 7 p.m. Wednesday (CSN)

It appears the season has lasted a couple of games too long for Warriors

It appears the season has lasted a couple of games too long for Warriors

It's looking as if the season has just gone a little too long for the Golden State Warriors. In a season of an unprecedented number of wins, can they somehow find a way to win just one more?

It's going to be very difficult. I called them to win in seven and I'm going to stick with that. But it's entirely possible that they've blown their chance to properly finish off the greatest season of all time.

Draymond Green, by getting suspended for Game 5 when Golden State had the Cleveland Cavaliers on the run, cost them a lot. The injury to Andrew Bogut has deprived them of their rim protector, throwing their great defense off kilter. The guards -- the backbone of the offense all season -- have been held, pushed, jostled and wrestled to the point where they look completely worn out and ineffective.

Without Bogut, they have very little choice now but to play small most of the time -- which allows LeBron James to be the biggest player on the floor, a role he seems to relish. In fact, James has played back-to-back games that have probably been among the two best he's ever played on a big playoff stage. But can he have one more of those Sunday night in Game 7 in Oakland?

That's going to be big, of course. But not the biggest decider of what's going to happen in Game 7.

The Warriors need to find their touch from long range. Getting field goals in three-point bunches has been a difference-maker for this team all season. And I'm not talking about making nine or 10 of them. I'm talking about an avalanche of threes.

And frankly, to do that the Warriors need freedom of movement and the ability to get open for those shots. A lot of what's going to happen has to do with how this game is going to be called by the officials. Steve Kerr did a masterful job of trying to work the officials two days in advance after Thursday night's loss:

Look, it's the Finals. Everybody is competing out there. There are fouls on every play. It's a physical game ... if they're going to let Cleveland grab and hold these guys constantly on their cuts and then you're going to call these ticky-tack fouls on the MVP of the league to foul him out, I don't agree with that."

Steph Curry has been bounced around by defenders since the Oklahoma City series, when NBA referees went back to their old habit of allowing teams to get more physical with their defense just because it's the playoffs.

I don't abide that and never have. But it's the way this has been going. And if Klay Thompson and Curry can't shake free of the arm bars and body bumps, it's going to be another long night Sunday for Golden State.

The three-point shot has been the difference for the Warriors all season. They can get beat on the boards, and allow more free throws and points in the paint but as long as they have one of those huge nights from long range, they've still won. It's likely going to have to be that way Sunday in Game 7.

Or a great season is going to come to a stunning end.

Klay Thompson on LeBron: “I guess his feelings just got hurt”; LeBron laughed

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USATI

Klay Thompson on LeBron: “I guess his feelings just got hurt”; LeBron laughed

OAKLAND — There’s been a lot of smack talked on the court between the Warriors and Cavaliers through the NBA Finals, a fair amount of it between the always chatteringDraymond Green and LeBron James. After Game 4, LeBron said that he felt some of what was said crossed a line.

“I’m all cool with the competition,” LeBron said after the loss. “I’m all fine with that, but some of the words that came out of his mouth was a little bit overboard, and being a guy with pride, a guy with three kids and a family, things of that nature, some things just go overboard and that’s where he took it, and that was it.”

In the wake of Green’s suspension for Game 5 (not for words but a low blow to LeBron), Klay Thompson commented on the smack talk and LeBron, voicing the feeling among the Warriors that the Cavaliers lobbied for the Green suspension.

“I don’t know how the man feels,” Thompson said of LeBron. “But obviously people have feelings and people’s feelings get hurt even if they’re called a bad word. I guess his feelings just got hurt. I mean, we’ve all been called plenty of bad words on the basketball court before. Some guys just react to it differently.”

When told of this, LeBron just laughed.

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Warriors' Splash Brothers still M.I.A. in NBA Finals

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Warriors' Splash Brothers still M.I.A. in NBA Finals

Three games into these NBA Finals, the Warriors continue to await the arrival of Splash Brothers.

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have been present for all three games. But their superhero alter egos have yet to show up.

“Me and Steph, we’ll figure it out,” Thompson said Thursday. “But there’s no time to press and try to get our numbers.”

“We’re 2-1. We’re 2-1,” Curry said, referring to the Warriors holding a 2-1 lead over Cleveland in the best-of-seven series. “We’re up 2-1 right now and the story is still unfolding.”

The story that’s unfolding is the Warriors have managed to get in such good position without Curry and Thompson providing anything close to their usual production.

Also unfolding is the question of whether the Warriors can win the series without their All-Star guards playing at that level -– and where on earth will the Cavaliers turn if the Splash Brothers take the stage.

“We’re usually the better team when that happens,” Curry said.

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Klay Thompson: Timofey Mozgov’s injuring screen ‘seemed kind of dirty to me’

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Klay Thompson: Timofey Mozgov’s injuring screen ‘seemed kind of dirty to me’

Klay Thompson got off to an awful start in Game 3 tonight, shooting 0-for-5 from the field and missing both his free throws.

Then, it got worse.

The Warriors guard suffered a left-thigh contusion when colliding with Timofey Mozgov late in the first quarter. Thompson went to the locker room then returned to the game in the middle of the second quarter.

Thompson:

I didn’t get it. I don’t know. I’m guarding Kyrie. I’m running full speed downhill. I just don’t know who’s trying to set a pick on you in the middle of the key. If it’s on the perimeter, I understand. But it didn’t make sense to me.

Obviously, it didn’t feel good, but I’ll alright. Luckily for us, I’m going to take the day off tomorrow and get healthy. But it’s the Finals. Nothing is going to keep me out of it.

But I re-watched it. I’m just confused why he’s trying to set a screen in the middle of the key when we’re both running full speed downhill. It seemed kind of dirty to me. He stuck his knee out, too. But you know what? That’s basketball.

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