Warriors

Warriors' defense on Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum has Blazers on brink

Warriors' defense on Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum has Blazers on brink

PORTLAND, Ore. -- As the Trail Blazers searched for a fourth-quarter spark Saturday night, CJ McCollum stepped to the free-throw line in an important spot.

The Blazers had just forced a turnover with 6:21 remaining in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, giving the career 83.9 percent free-throw shooter a chance to halt the Warriors’ second-half run and energize the Moda Center crowd.

After he was fouled on a 3-point attempt, McCollum made his first foul shot, but he missed the next two.

“I was locked in as could be, focused as I could be,” McCollum said after the Blazers’ 110-99 loss to the Warriors. “ … There’s no excuses. It’s on me.”

McCollum chased that second miss, and helped force a Warriors turnover. He found himself open in the right corner for a 3-pointer, but he missed that one, too. That shot could’ve cut Golden State’s lead to one. He missed all but one of five free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter, and four of six shots from the field.

McCollum didn’t say he was fatigued postgame, but those misses arguably represented the culmination of the Warriors’ relentless defensive pressure on him and fellow Blazers star Damian Lillard.  

In all three games of the best-of-seven series, the Warriors have won by throwing wave after wave of defenders at Lillard and McCollum. They have blitzed both players on pick-and-rolls, and employed plenty of off-ball help when one of the two manages to get in isolation.

The result? Lillard and McCollum have shot a combined 35.2 percent from the field, and turned the ball over 22 times, and the Blazers now face elimination from the NBA playoffs.

“You know, you go up against a wall of defense, sometimes it’s three defenders,” Lillard said. “It’s tough because you’re not always going to get a quality look, and then when you do get a quality look and don’t make it, that just kind of makes it worse.”

Both Lillard (27.6 field-goal percentage) and McCollum (35.5 percent) have shot worse in the second half than the first over the course of the series. Lillard, who reportedly is playing through separated ribs, admitted that this series is “definitely tiring” even though he has felt “fine enough” to play 40 minutes a night.

After a grueling seven-game NBA playoff second-round series with the Denver Nuggets, Lillard and McCollum each have averaged more than 38 minutes per game against the Warriors. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are playing heavy minutes on the other side, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Golden State has made it a point to throw “fresh bodies in there” against the Blazers duo defensively.

Twelve Warriors saw the floor Saturday night, and Golden State won the war of attrition.

“We just want to try to wear guys down over the course of 48 minutes,” Green said. “It’s not necessarily that he’s going to start the game gassed, but if you can just wear him down over the course of 48 minutes, that makes those shots as the game goes on a little bit tougher.”

[RELATED: Draymond believes locked-in Steph taking Dubs to 'different level']

The Warriors have contained Lillard and McCollum so far, and they are one win away from their fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. Still, Golden State knows it can't afford to relent against the duo. Kerr noted the Warriors fouled the two on a few 3-point attempts, and Green said Lillard is liable to get hot at any time.

In other words, that pressure isn’t going away. The Blazers will have to solve it if they’re going to make this a series, let alone make history and come back to advance to the Finals.

“That’s what elite defenses do,” McCollum said. “They make it difficult on you and try to get the other guys to beat you.”

NBA rumors: Knicks contemplating big one-year DeMarcus Cousins offer

NBA rumors: Knicks contemplating big one-year DeMarcus Cousins offer

Warriors big man DeMarcus Cousins will become an unrestricted free agent Sunday, and he just might be bound for the Big Apple when it's all said and done.

Marc Stein of The New York Times has the information:

So, the Knicks wouldn't consider the same offer for Cousins if Kevin Durant does sign with them?

If you were hoping Cousins returning to the Warriors was a serious possibility, you shouldn't hold your breath. They only can offer Boogie a maximum of $6.4 million next season.

"I would say that the hope is that frankly he [Cousins] can do a lot better financially than what we could offer him," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters on June 14. "But who knows? Every year is different.

"I could absolutely foresee a place for DeMarcus here if he wanted to come back. It's just a question of what are his goals, what is out there for him."

Well, it's safe to assume that "considerable" means way more than $6.4 million, which would be very hard for Cousins to pass up.

[RELATEDBoogie thanks Dubs fans, sends message about next season]

Will any other teams pony up big money for the soon-to-be 29-year-old? Will someone offer a multiyear contract?

Boogie has been through a lot in the last 18 months, and hopefully he gets what he's seeking.

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Steve Kerr issues early message to Warriors fans about next season

Steve Kerr issues early message to Warriors fans about next season

It's way too early to know what sort of expectations the Warriors will bring into next season.

Kevin Durant is a free agent, and it's anybody's guess what the two-time Finals MVP will decide. Even if he does re-sign with the Dubs, he'll probably miss the entire season as he recovers from his ruptured right Achilles.

Klay Thompson also is a free agent. And even though it's widely expected that he will return to the only franchise he's played for, the five-time All-Star will be sidelined for much (if not all) of the 2019-20 campaign as he makes the journey back from his left ACL tear.

Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala both are entering the final year of their contracts.

DeMarcus Cousins most likely is gone. Shaun Livingston might retire, or he could be waived or traded. Kevon Looney is an unrestricted free agent, and it's far from certain that he'll be back for a fifth season.

Jonas Jerebko is a free agent, Andrew Bogut is headed back to Australia, and the Warriors haven't yet extended qualifying offers to Jordan Bell or Quinn Cook.

The Warriors selected three players in last week's NBA draft, and it's unclear if any of them will be mainstays in the rotation.

There's a lot of uncertainty right now.

"We'll see what our roster ends up looking like," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic on Wednesday. "Everything's on the table for us going into next year -- from starting jobs, to style of play -- we got a lot to sort through. And from that perspective, I think it's exciting.

"I think our fans ... obviously we want to compete for a championship every year, and our fans probably expect that, and we've had that the last five years. But I think next year, there will be a lot of interest from our fans in watching our young players grow, and watching a team form and watching a style form. And we'll see how all that comes together.

"But I know I'm excited and our staff is excited for what's coming."

Kerr essentially is telling Warriors fans ...

... to make other plans in early June because a sixth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals looks very unlikely.

[RELATED: Kerr provides update on assistant coach Adams' job status]

There already are plenty of people in the basketball world who believe the Dubs will be fighting just to make the playoffs.

Again, it's way too early to make any sort of predictions. But Year 1 in Chase Center is going to be ...

... different in many ways.

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