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Is Nick Young ready for the bright lights?

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USATSI

Is Nick Young ready for the bright lights?

OAKLAND -- Gone, at least temporarily, is Nick Young’s lot as the untamed mustang running with thoroughbreds among on the Warriors’ roster. Time to dial back the wild, the coming off the bench and launching 25-footers like wads of paper toward a trash bin.

Young is the only healthy shooting guard on a team chasing a championship, and with that comes more responsibility than he has known at any time during a 10-year career spent mostly with floundering teams that spend the final weeks of the season easing into an early summer daze.

But with All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson, in many ways the rock of the Warriors lineup, out for a couple weeks, most of his job of scoring and defending falls to Young, whose 10-year career is defined mostly by streaky shooting, a lot of losing and giving himself a nickname.

Never before has Swaggy P -- or his alternate spelling, Swagy P -- been described as “the rock” of his team. The Warriors aren’t asking that of him now. He will start, though, and the Warriors want him playing each possession at both ends with a little more detail because they have no other option.

The next few games are Young’s dress rehearsal for the postseason. He says he is ready, despite his unsteady start Wednesday against the Lakers, his former team.

“Just thinking too much,” he said of a scoreless first half during which he missed all four of his shots. “Just had to get out of my head, and the guys helped me. KD (Kevin Durant) told me, ‘You’ve been a scorer in this league forever. Just do that. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen.’ ”

Young came out in the second half and scored 18 points. He was 6-of-9 from the field, 3-of-6 from deep. He added three rebounds, an assist and a steal. After posting a minus-9 in 11 first-half minutes, he was a team-best plus-16 in 20 minutes in the second half.

His 10-point third quarter, ignited by a 3-point bomb 29 seconds into the second half, was the catalyst for the pivotal point of a game that was tied at the half. The Warriors went in front early in the quarter and rolled to a 117-106 victory.

“It’s not just because he’s making shots, but he’s providing the spacing,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr explained. “You could see the Lakers were loading up on every play in the paint. We needed that spacing and knocking down those threes in the second half opened the game up a little bit.”

His mind set free, Young he performed exquisitely while also conforming just enough to at least temporarily keep the doubters at bay.

He even allowed himself a little shimmy and body lean, flashing three fingers to signal he had drained a triple.

“I love when Nick’s out there enjoying the game that way,” Durant said. “It just brings different energy to our team. He was excited tonight and hopefully, we continue to build on that. He played extremely hard on both sides of the ball, and I think that’s what got his jump shot going.”

The Warriors need to see Young make an impact in March, and they really need to see it now, with Stephen Curry out for at least another week and Thompson out even longer.

Young concedes that making adjustments -- coming off the bench on a team with established All-Stars -- has been challenging. He wants to be himself, let the mustang out, but he sometimes needs help in reading his teammates.

“They think I can’t . . . that Swaggy can’t get in his head,” he said. “But we’ve got so many stars over here that I’m trying play the perfect role. I don’t want to mess up. Even them guys tell me to ‘be Swaggy. Dance out there. Be you.’ ”

Well, sometimes, yes. Swaggy plays fine in the good times. That was hard to know for sure, though, because they’ve been rare. Swaggy being Swaggy in defeat is a bad look that wouldn’t wear well even on a tolerant culture of the Warriors.

There were many around the NBA that wondered last summer why the defending champions would use their $5.2 million midlevel exception on a player with a reputation for being a free-spirited individual and a one-dimensional player.

Young had been to the playoffs twice in 10 seasons, once as a rookie with the Wizards, playing all of nine minutes over four games and once more with the Clippers in 2011-12.

How would this dude, with his undecorated history, fit with his new task-oriented teammates so accustomed to winning at historical levels?

“I was over on that side, counting down the days,” Young recalled of his four losing seasons with the Lakers. “With 10 more games left, they probably would have sat me our or something. I would have had an early vacation, being out in April.

“But now I’m trying to play until June. My birthday is June 1. I’m trying to meet that mark and still be out there.”

Toward the end of Young’s postgame interview session, he began a dialogue with teammate JaVale McGee. Young was in front of his locker, McGee in the shower, out of view. The two are supposedly collaborating on an album, with McGee producing the Young rapping. They were shouting about studio time.

It was so, well, Swaggy P. He sees himself as a star.

The Finals are scheduled to begin May 31. For the Warriors to participate, they’re going to need Young to have some star moments. This is going to be a symbiotic relationship for however long it lasts. The better he is, the better they can be.

Warriors in deeper hole after Harden-less Rockets rout Mavericks

Warriors in deeper hole after Harden-less Rockets rout Mavericks

BOX SCORE

DALLAS -- Eric Gordon scored 26 points and Chris Paul had 24 points and 12 assists as the Houston Rockets, playing without James Harden, beat the Dallas Mavericks 105-82 on Sunday night.

The Rockets rested Harden because of a sore left knee, but had plenty of 3-point shooting even without their MVP candidate.

Houston, which had its 17-game win streak snapped Friday in Toronto, broke the game open in the third quarter by hitting their first six 3s of the period amid a 22-10 run. The Rockets finished 17-for-45 from beyond the arc.

Paul either scored or assisted on the first 20 points of the quarter and finished the quarter with 12 points and five assists as Houston outscored Dallas 32-16.

The Rockets moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Golden State for the best record in the NBA after the Warriors lost to Minnesota earlier Sunday. Houston also holds the tiebreaker on Golden State should the teams finish with identical records.

Houston swept the four-game season series from the Mavericks for the second year in a row. The Mavericks' last win over the Rockets came in the final week of the 2015-16 season, the last time Dallas made the playoffs and the last time Houston did not.

Dwight Powell led the Mavericks with 20 points, one short of his career high, on 9-of-11 shooting. Harrison Barnes added 14.

Houston went on an early 14-0 run behind eight points from Gordon to go up 17-3. The Mavericks came back, taking their first lead at 38-37 on Smith's lay-up with 4:31 left in the second quarter.

Dallas led by six with two minutes left in the half, but the Rockets scored eight of the last nine points to go up 48-47 at the break.

TIP-INS:
Rockets: Coach Mike D'Antoni said Harden should be available Monday against San Antonio. The Rockets are 5-3 without him in the lineup. ... Houston used its 13th different starting lineup of the year. ... D'Antoni was on hand in nearby Frisco, Texas, to watch his alma mater Marshall, coached by his brother Dan, win the Conference USA Tournament final Saturday. The Thundering Herd beat Western Kentucky 67-66 for their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1987.

Mavericks: Barea assisted on nine of the Mavericks' first 10 field goals. ... Dallas signed F Jameel Warney to a 10-day contract. Warney has averaged 20 points in 40 games for the Mavericks' G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. Warney entered in the fourth quarter and scored five points. ... Dorian Finney-Smith, who played Saturday after missing 51 with a quadriceps injury, sat out Sunday. Wesley Matthews and Salah Mejri also sat out for the Mavericks.

UP NEXT:
Rockets: Host the Spurs on Monday for the second half of a back-to-back.

Mavericks: Start a four-game road trip Tuesday at the Knicks. Dallas plays 10 of its final 15 on the road.

Steph Curry loses his mind after Davidson makes NCAA Tournament

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AP

Steph Curry loses his mind after Davidson makes NCAA Tournament

The Atlantic 10 was expected to be a two-bid league for the 2018 NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

But Davidson had other plans, as the No. 3 seeded Wildcats stole a bid by upsetting No. 1 seed Rhode Island on Sunday.

Steph Curry, a proud Davidson alum, was watching while rehabbing his tweaked right ankle at the Warriors practice facility and posted this video: