Warriors

As trade deadline looms, Warriors ready to readdress bench shooting

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USATSI

As trade deadline looms, Warriors ready to readdress bench shooting

OAKLAND -- Surrounded by cameras and recording devices, Warriors general manager Bob Myers spent 17 minutes Thursday discussing the upcoming trade deadline while a lone member of the team was nearby practicing 3-point shots.

If veteran forward Omri Casspi were swishing in games at a rate similar to his clip during Myers’ news conference, the Warriors might not be so eager to shop the market for an extra 3-point shooter.

And they are very much in the market for one.

“We’ll look at everything,” Myers said when asked specifically about 3-point shooting off the bench.

They have to look at deep shooters because it’s the most visible weakness of the team with the best record in the NBA. The Warriors (40-11) average two triples per game from their bench players, ranking last in the NBA.

After finishing next-to-last in that category in 2016-17, getting 2.1 triples per game, the Warriors last summer set out to address that deficiency by adding guard Nick Young and Casspi. They clearly have not fully addressed the need.

“It’s just the way our team is built,” coach Steve Kerr said this week. “We’re pretty top-heavy with the 3-point shot. Obviously, we’ve got three of the best 3-point shooters in the world, but not a lot of depth behind those guys in terms of our shooting.

“Nick’s a good shooter, a good 3-point shooter. He has the potential. He has shown, in many games, to give us that threat. He’s made some big shots and I’m confident that he will make more.”

Kerr may be spot-on. Young may become that “instant offense” threat that gives opposing defenses headaches. In 49 games this season, 176 of his 261 shots have come from beyond the arc. He’s shooting a respectable 38.6 percent from deep.

Casspi, however, has not been much of a 3-point threat at all. Though the guy who shot 40.9 percent on 274 treys two seasons ago for the Kings is shooting a robust 50 percent through 39 games with the Warriors, it’s a tiny sample size, as in 9-of-18.

Part of the problem is that Casspi needs time and space to get his shot off, and defenses haven’t always been accommodating. Another part of the problem, and Casspi is well aware of it, is that he has not been aggressive at launching from deep.

“When we call upon him, he’s always ready with his energy and his cutting and his movement and rebounding,” Kerr said. “It’s a great luxury as a coach.”

Casspi’s instincts on offense are only part of the reason the Warriors signed him. They also figured they were getting someone who could stretch the floor with his deep shooting.

Because it has not materialized, the Warriors are casting their eyes upon the rosters of other teams.

“People like to talk about all the things we have, which we are fortunate to have a very good roster,” Myers said. “But no roster is perfect. That’s why we listen. We look around and explore different things.

“We want to shoot better. We want to rebound better. But overall I can’t be too critical.”

The trade deadline is set at 12pm PT on Feb. 8. Myers said he has been in contact with maybe two-thirds of the teams in the league. Don’t expect that to change over the next seven days.

'Pissed off' Warriors confident they will respond with backs against the wall in Game 5

'Pissed off' Warriors confident they will respond with backs against the wall in Game 5

HOUSTON -- It was a single two-word phrase, flying off the tongue of Draymond Green. And it matters because no one on the roster is better than Green at accurately reading the thoughts and emotions of the Warriors.

Pissed off.

That’s how Green described the team’s reaction to experiencing and reviewing its deeply lamentable 95-92 loss in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Rockets.

If Green is on target, and he usually is, the Warriors won’t allow themselves to give away any more games, certainly not after building double-digit second-half leads against the team that presumably poses the greatest threat to their goal of repeating as NBA champs.

“We know we let one slip away,” Green said after an evening practice in Houston. “So definitely, guys are pissed off.

“But encouraged as well. I love the way this team responds when our back is against the wall. I don’t mind our backs being against the wall, because I know what we’re capable of and I know the level of focus and intensity that this team brings when that is the case.”

The Warriors are at their best when they curl their lips and furrow their brows and summon an exquisite blend of rage and intellect and remorselessness. With the resolve being displayed by Houston in this series, the Warriors are going to need all three of those components to get beyond the Rockets and make a fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

This version of the Rockets is not like the previous versions, those emotionally fragile and defensively challenged squads the Warriors eliminated in five games in 2015 and again in 2016. These Rockets are showing backbone and a level of moxie not visible in a Houston team since Hakeem Olajuwon was laying waste to centers a quarter century ago.

These Rockets are not leaving the court unless the Warriors blow them off, as they did in Games 1 and 3.

The Warriors enjoyed crushing them both occasions, and both games demanded a statement. Game 1 was about establishing a hierarchy and proving they could win in Houston. Game 3 was about going back home and putting on a show.

Game 4 was about putting on a show . . . but fumbling the finale.

“When you don’t win, you play every possession back in your head,” Stephen Curry said. “You play the whole fourth quarter back to figure out ways that you could do something better to help the team get a win.

“It’s a frustrating feeling, obviously, but we’re great at turning the page and being resilient and finding a way to bounce back.”

The Warriors have played 14 postseason series under Steve Kerr and only twice have they been 2-2 after four games. Both times, in 2015, the recovered to win Games 5 and 6, first against Memphis in the conference semifinals and then against Cleveland in the NBA Finals.

This is the first time, though, that they have been locked in a 2-2 tie without homecourt advantage. It’s a new experience, an unfamiliar sensation, but one capable of bringing them together.

Common unrest can be a powerful force.

“Yeah, if use it in the right direction,” Kevin Durant said. “If you want to correct the mistakes, play a little bit more aggressive and angry, but smart, you can channel in the right direction.

“We know that this team is tough to beat, especially at home. So we’re looking forward to going out here and seeing if we can get it done. And we’re confident that we’ll go out there and play well.”

They’ve replayed Game 4 because it was too distasteful to ignore. They let it burn, and it hurts. Losing is supposed to be painful, and always is to the true competitor.

“Every single game that I coach,” Kerr said, “I look back at the tape and second-guess myself. But it’s exposed during the playoffs because the stakes are higher. I didn’t sleep very well (after Game 4). There were some things that I could have done a better. Our players feel the same way.”

So it should be a “pissed off” Warriors team that takes the floor Thursday night at Toyota Center. Game 4 is gone, but it serves as a painful reminder that winning at the highest levels requires ruthlessness, a useful by-product of anger.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2 Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3 Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4 Rockets 95, Warriors 92
Game 5 Houston -- Thursday, May 24th at 6pm
Game 6 Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm
Game 7 Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm

Cavs on the brink of elimination after losing Game 5 to Celtics

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AP

Cavs on the brink of elimination after losing Game 5 to Celtics

BOX SCORE

BOSTON -- Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 24 points and Al Horford had 15 points and 12 rebounds to help the Boston Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 96-83 on Wednesday night and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics remained perfect in Boston this postseason with their 10th straight victory at home and moved within one win of their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2010.

Game 6 is in Cleveland on Friday night, with the decisive seventh game back in Boston on Sunday if necessary. The home team has won every game so far in the series, and none has been closer than nine points.

"To do what we want to do we still have to beat this team one more time," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "And it's hard to do in the NBA."

LeBron James had 26 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Love scored 14 for the Cavaliers, who are trying to reach the finals for the fourth consecutive season. James has played to the end in seven straight seasons.

"Our focus, LeBron's focus is to win," Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. "That's the only thing that matters."

The Celtics opened a double-digit lead in the first quarter and nursed it the rest of the way, holding on through a four-minute scoring drought that saw Cleveland score nine straight points to cut the deficit to 83-71. But Terry Rozier hit Horford with an alley-oop to snap the skid, and that was as close as the Cavs would get.

James seemed to tire in the fourth, scoring just two points on four shots. He finished 1-for-6 from 3-point range in the game; the Cavaliers made just 9 of 34 attempts from beyond the arc and shot just 42 percent overall.

"He did look a little tired to me," Lue said. "No concerns. You've got to be ready to play now."

Jaylen Brown scored 17, and Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart each scored 13 as reserves. Tatum added seven rebounds, four assists and four steals one day after finishing one vote shy of a unanimous selection to the NBA's All-Rookie team.

"Everybody's anxious after you get beat," Stevens said. "But I think Jayson was especially anxious after Game 4."

Boston went on a 15-3 run in the first quarter to turn a three-point deficit into a nine-point lead. The Celtics scored nine in a row at the end of the first quarter and into the second to take a 36-19 lead, their biggest of the game.

That's when the Cavaliers fought back.

After a hard defensive play by Morris sent Larry Nance Jr. into the first row of seats, Morris appeared to wander over and say something. Nance to jump up and body checked him; Morris responded with a one-handed shove to the face.

Aron Baynes and Brown came in to break it up, and Terry Rozier put a body on Nance. After a review, the referees called technicals on Rozier, Nance and Morris. Kyle Korver made the foul shot to make it 36-20 and Cleveland went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to eight points, 36-28.

But Morris made a long 3-pointer to stop the scoring drought, and soon hit another to cap an 8-2 run that made it a double-digit lead.

TIP-INS:
Teams that win Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series win 83 percent of the time. ... James had 16 points, four rebounds and three assists at the half. Tatum had 13 points, and Horford had 10 points and seven boards at the break. ... Baynes made his first start of the series, subbing for Morris. ... It took until midway through the third quarter for a Cavs starter other than James or Love to make a basket. J.R. Smith sank a floater to make it 63-50, and George Hill followed with a jumper of his own. ... The Celtics were 10-0 in the playoffs at home in 1986.