Stephen Curry

Yes, the Blazers made a Paul George run and I'm happy they didn't get him

Yes, the Blazers made a Paul George run and I'm happy they didn't get him

As I sit back and watch another free-agent frenzy unfold in the NBA, I wish I could tell you where this is all going.

It seems to me there's a pretty good chance that in just a few seasons, nearly every team in the league that matters is going to be capped out. If there's money available under the cap, teams spend like a lottery's instant millionaires. It appeared the Trail Blazers dished out some pretty spendy deals last summer, but -- just as Neil Olshey said -- those deals look commonplace or even cheap compared to what's going on this year.

Yes, Allen Crabbe is going to be making about $18.5 million a season for the next three seasons. Maurice Harkless a little over $10 million for each of the next three, Evan Turner about $18 million a season and Meyers Leonard a little over $10 million per year.

Well, if you haven't noticed, Taj Gibson is going to be getting about $14 million a year over the next two years, Serge Ibaka about $21 million per season over the next three, Amir Johnson has a one-year deal for $11 million, Joe Ingles is going to earn $13 million a year over the next four, J.J. Redick has a one-year deal for $23 million and how about Jrue Holiday getting $25 million a year for the next five seasons?

And yes, Portland tied up Damian Lillard at an average of about $28 million a year over the next four seasons and CJ McCollum for a little more than $25 million a season over the next four years. Those deals are already looking like a bargain.

Paul Millsap just signed for three years at $90 million with Denver. Good player, but wow. Blake Griffin is going to get $173 million over the next five (probably injury-riddled) seasons with the Clippers. Kyle Lowry is going to be getting a total of $100 million over the next three seasons and Steph Curry is reported to be getting $201 million over the next five years.

Whew!

The NBA has become Escalation Station as far as salaries are concerned. It has always been that way, too. I can recall back in the 1980s when I was covering the team for The Oregonian, a young player actually called me when he signed his second contract, so excited he just couldn't keep the dollar figure a secret. "I'm getting two million over four years," he said. "I'm a millionaire."

About a year later, after inflation did its usual thing, that deal didn't look very sweet after all.

"I'm playing for chump change," he told me. "I'm getting screwed."

True story.

And as the numbers go up, the ability to shed salaries and clear cap space becomes more important. The Trail Blazers have work to do in that area but remember, when you do that, you usually lose players with some degree of talent -- which has an impact on team performance.

"Cap Space" doesn't look any better running up and down the court than "Cash Considerations."

Everyone was excited for Portland to go all-in on the Paul George Sweepstakes -- which it did. Olshey's offer of all three first-round picks in the recent draft PLUS a player of Indiana's choosing outside the Big Three was probably the real deal, although I did hear that it could have ended up with the Pacers choosing two players rather than one.

That would clear cap space when George departed a year from now. I know a lot of fans would have been overjoyed with a George deal -- a lot of them seemed ecstatic at the prospect of a season of futility chasing Golden State at the cost of long-range goals. For me, I'm fine with the two draft picks. I think there's a real chance at least one of them will pop. At some point, salaries will be dumped and that will mean their talent will go out the door with them.

As I said, I can only guess where this is going -- in Portland or the rest of the league. But I'm more convinced than ever that the great baseball general manager Bill Veeck was so prescient when he said many decades ago, "It isn't the high price of stars that is expensive, it's the high price of mediocrity."

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.

 

 

Three things to monitor during the NBA Finals

Three things to monitor during the NBA Finals

The NBA Finals (finally) start tonight in Oakland and here are three things to keep an eye on during the series, three things that could decide the Finals rubber match between these two superteams:

  • How will this series be officiated? Last year the Cavaliers were able to get very physical with Steph Curry -- holding him, bumping him and keeping him from the constant movement that helps him get free. If that happens in this series, not only with Curry but the other players who make the Golden State motion offense the best in the league, the Warriors are going to have trouble.
  • Can the Warriors bring down Cleveland's three-point field-goal percentage? The Cavaliers are making an impressive 43.5 percent of their threes and if that continues it's going to keep Cleveland in this series. And that percentage is not based on a small sample size. The Cavs have made 45 more three-point shots than the Warriors have in the playoffs. And people wonder why LeBron James is playing so well this postseason? He's got help in the form of shooters who have spread the floor, allowing him to get to the basket easier than ever. People talk a lot about Kyrie Irving but Kevin Love is critical for this team. So far, he's averaging 17.2 points per game in 32 minutes, with 10.4 rebounds per game and a 47.5 shooting percentage from three-point range. If those numbers hold firm in the Finals, the Cavaliers have a real shot.
  • How much coaching is Steve Kerr going to do in the Finals? I have tremendous respect for what he's done for that team and I think the Warriors can only reach their maximum potential with Kerr on the sidelines. Mike Brown is probably a very capable replacement but he's a replacement -- and substitute teachers are never as good as the real thing. Kerr has created a team that is superior on offense and very good on defense and it would be a shame if he couldn't be there to guide it to the end of the season. And it could also be detrimental to the Warriors' chance of capturing the championship.

Who do I think will win? Golden State. This is one of the league's all-time great teams and if Kevin Durant doesn't crack under the pressure of the Finals the Warriors should win. But I'm not sure it's going to be as easy as many people figure. Cleveland is the one team that can match Golden State's three-point production and that's a big key in the modern game. And to beat Golden State, you better score a whole lot of points.

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.’’

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)

Trail Blazers put preseason to bed, proclaim they are ready for games to count

Trail Blazers put preseason to bed, proclaim they are ready for games to count

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The good news Friday was the Trail Blazers looked good in their final preseason game.

The bad news is it wasn't even close to beating the Golden State Warriors.

Stephen Curry scored 35 points and Kevin Durant 28 as the Warriors overcame a 16-point first quarter deficit to beat the Trail Blazers 107-96 at Oracle Arena in the preseason finale for both teams. 

Portland finished 4-3 in the preseason and will play host to Utah on Tuesday in its regular season opener. Golden State went 6-1 in the preseason and will play San Antonio in Oakland on Tuesday.

Both teams played their regular-season rotations into the fourth quarter before Stotts emptied his bench with about 7:30 left and the Blazers trailing by 14.

The Blazers for the past week have said they were ready for the regular season, and they backed that up with solid performances Wednesday in Utah and Friday against the defending Western Conference champions. 

With crisp ball movement and aggressive drives to the basket, the Blazers raced to a 26-11 lead as Damian Lillard hit his first four shots and the Warriors started 2-for-8. Lillard was particulary effective driving past Curry for layins and scored 10 of his 20 points in the first quarter. 

By halftime, Golden State had come back to lead 57-56 as Curry had 28, then Durant in the third quarter spurred a 17-2 run by hitting back-to-back-to-back three pointers. 

Stotts used the same starting lineup for the fourth consecutive game -- Lillard, CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee -- with his top four players off the bench being Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe, Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh. 

Lillard led the Blazers with 20 points in 27 minutes on 7-of-15 shooting and McCollum added 16 points in 32 minutes on 7-of-18 shooting. Vonleh had nine points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes.

Notes: Meyers Leonard entered the game with 3:22 left in the third quarter after missing the past two games with a sore back. He made his first two three-pointers and finished with 12 points and one rebound in 16 minutes ... Shabazz Napier did not play because of a sprained left ankle. 

Next up: Regular season opener -- Utah at Portland, 7 p.m. Tuesday (KGW).

A little less hysterical look at the Cavaliers' win over Warriors

A little less hysterical look at the Cavaliers' win over Warriors

It seemed like the entire world of sports went a little bonkers Sunday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers finally finished off the seemingly endless NBA season. Just a few comments on what went down in Oracle Arena:

  • Before handing over the Larry O'Brien Trophy, Commissioner Adam Silver -- doing this for the first time -- just couldn't restrain his goofy enthusiasm. Like so many people these days, he seemed to think history started about a year ago. "You just witnessed one of the greatest games in NBA history," he said. Note that he didn't say Finals history. Or Game 7 history. He said "in NBA history." And that, Mr. Commissioner, isn't even close. I'm not going to insult anyone's intelligence by listing a bunch of games but if you've watched the league for more than a few minutes, you can remember a whole lot of games that were more dramatic or featured better play than this one.
  • I must say, too, I'm already up to here with "long-suffering Cleveland sports fan." Yes, I know -- it's been a long time since that NFL title in 1964 with no "Big Four" championship in between. But you did win four NFL championships prior to the Super Bowl era and you at least get to watch major-league baseball and pro football forever. And you have beautiful venues for all of your sports teams. In Portland we haven't won an NBA title since 1977 and don't even have any other Big Four team to watch. But we do have a national treasure planted near the Moda Center. So there is that.
  • LeBron James spent a lot of time after the game he couldn't wait to get back to Cleveland to celebrate with his people. But then, of course, he chartered a plane and took the team to Las Vegas for a late-night celebration (pictures here).
  • I give James a lot of credit -- his post-game Michael Jordan impersonation (down on all fours crying) was pretty good, if not too creative.
  • LeBron James used "I" more than "We" much more often than most sports heroes do after winning a championship.
  • On and on and on we hear about LeBron's "legacy." And the legacy of other players. Folks, presidents have legacies. Great humanitarians have legacies. Athletes give us memories, not legacies. Other than Muhammad Ali, who did leave a legacy.
  • That said, people are very unfair to LeBron when they hold it against him that he lost so many times in the Finals. Many of LeBron's teams have been potential lottery teams without him. Yeah, Michael Jordan has all those rings. So does Bill Russell. But those guys played alongside a lot of all-stars. Frequently, LeBron has had to carry undermanned teams. Give him credit for that and don't always "count the rings" -- that is patently unfair. Absurd, actually.
  • Golden State had multiple chances to put the Cavaliers away, starting in Game 5 -- before Andrew Bogut was injured. But Draymond Green was suspended, the Warriors struggled and it seemed to knock Golden State off its game for the rest of the series.
  • I hope all the isolation plays we saw in that series don't spark a return to such things in the NBA. It's not pretty basketball.
  • Same with the physical nature of the Finals. Go ahead and try to grab and hold Curry during the regular season and see where that gets you -- on the bench in foul trouble. But in this series the NBA reverted back to the tired old custom of "playoff fouls" being different than regular-season fouls. Hate that.
  • A team that thrived on threes for most of the last two seasons just couldn't hit them when needed. And Curry's late-game, behind-the-back pass that sailed out of bounds on a critical possession showed a lack of understanding of the time and situation. It was very careless.
  • Kevin Love had a very nice Game 7, including that one-on-one stop of Curry late in the game. Good for him -- I thought he was being set up to be the goat of the series had Cleveland not won. But Sunday night he got what he came to Cleveland to get -- a championship ring. And now I hope he moves on to someplace where he can again showcase the skills that made him an all-star.
  • Man, that season seemed to last forever, didn't it?

Warriors' Curry, Kerr each fined for Game 6 actions

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USATI

Warriors' Curry, Kerr each fined for Game 6 actions

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and head coach Steve Kerr have each been fined $25,000 for separate incidents, it was announced Friday by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

Curry has been fined $25,000 for throwing his mouthpiece into the spectator stands. The incident, which resulted in a technical foul and subsequent ejection.

[POOLE: Curry flips out in Game 6 of finals, takes first NBA ejection]

Curry, occurred with 4:22 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ 115-101 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game 6 of The Finals on June 16 at Quicken Loans Arena.

[POOLE: Curry's father-in-law detained at Game 6: 'Traumatic situation']

Kerr has been fined $25,000 for public criticism of the officiating during his press conference following the same game.

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.