Kevin Durant

On a night the Warriors won, the NBA lost

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On a night the Warriors won, the NBA lost

These NBA Finals have been absolutely amazing. 

One team is trying three-peat while the other team is trying to win its first championship in franchise history. 

It's Steph and Co. vs Klaw and Co.

The North vs The Bay.

U.S.A vs Canada.

No matter how you slice it, the series has been well worth the price of admission and just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it got better.

Like one of those famous Marvel Cinematic Universe end scenes that get you hyped for the next movie and hint at a new character, Twitter started to tease us with the prospect that Kevin Durant could return to play in Game 5. Then the tease turned to reality. KD was a full go. He was about to play superhero. He was going to will the Warriors up from the ashes and the brink of elimination to another championship. 

The story had the making of a Hollywood script. Durant came out on fire. He showed no signs of rust as he torched the Raptors early.  Then in a snap, it all came crashing down. One wrong move and Durant fell to the floor.

It is feared the Durant has torn his Achilles. If that's the case, what a heartbreaking end of the season for one of the greatest players in the game. 

Injuries are the worst part of sports. 

The. Worst.

You know what sucks? Jusuf Nurkic breaking his leg.
You know that sucks? Victor Oladipo rupturing his quad tendon
You what sucks? Kevin Durant tearing his Achilles.

Now I'm not here to place blame like so much of social media was quick to do on Monday night. Was it Golden State's fault? Was it Kevin Durant's fault? Was it your next door neighbors fault? Come on. 

No matter who we choose to blame for this accident, the end result is the same - We don't get to watch one of the most amazing basketball players in the world next season, and even worse, he doesn't get to lace up his shoes and play the games he loves. 

That was my first reaction when I saw the injury Monday night. A man who put it all on the line, who wanted nothing more than to play the game of basketball, had it cruelly ripped away from him on the world's biggest stage. I cared not for the series. I cared not for how this could impact free agency. I cared only for the person on the court wearing the blue No.35 jersey.

Too often we forget that these players are not robots. they are people. Kevin Durant the person will be around long after Kevin Durant the player is gone, so we should really take time to enjoy Durant the player while we can.

We should all be rooting for Durant, because as much we want to make him a basketball villain and pretend like we hate him, deep down we all know we need him. 

It's like the scene in The Dark Knight where Batman says The Joker wants to kill him. Joker's response, "I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you... No, no, you… you complete me." 

Durant completes us.

Why? Because as fans we all love the game of basketball, and the game of basketball is better when the best in the world are suited up. Seeing Durant, arguably the best player the game has to offer, on the court makes the game that much better. 

I hope Durant comes back stronger than ever. The game next season won't be the same without him. 

'Wrecking ball' Draymond Green is demolishing the Trail Blazers

'Wrecking ball' Draymond Green is demolishing the Trail Blazers

With Rip City nearly reduced to rubble, the leader of the demolition lingered at midcourt to celebrate with his co-workers.

Draymond Green hugged Stephen Curry and then hi-fived Alfonzo McKinnie, Kevon Looney and Klay Thompson. Behind a virtuoso performance from their fiery do-it-all forward, the Golden State Warriors grabbed a commanding 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals, moving them one win away from a fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

“I don’t even know what to say about Draymond,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He was like a wrecking ball, destroying everything in his path. The pace that he was generating was incredible. It just seemed like he never got tired.”

Game 3 in the Moda Center played out much the same way as Game 2 at Oracle Arena had two days earlier. The Blazers put together a brilliant first 24 minutes then the wrecking ball came crashing through in third quarter. The Warriors have a way of making double-digit leads crumble in an instant, the Blazers’ 18 point lead in Game 3 last longer than their 17 point lead in Game 2, but the final result was still the same.

In the decisive third quarter Saturday night, Green took two shots, drawing a shooting foul on one and finishing a transition layup on the other. But he changed the game with his force, creating 13 points off six assist and grabbing six rebounds while pushing the pace at every opportunity. He overwhelmed the Blazers and shifted the series likely for good.

Defensively, Green was seemingly everywhere. He would trap Damian Lillard above the three-point arc and then recover to disrupt the back end of the play to make life miserable for the Blazers if they could maneuver into the paint.

Even before the game-changing third quarter, Green kept the Warriors in striking range in the first half. Getting easy transition buckets by relentlessly pushing the ball after the Blazers would score. He kept the window open for a Golden State run, and then decided to just kick the front door down instead.

“He was the difference-maker,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “What he did, he kept them going, even though we had a lead in the first half, his energy, the way he was pushing the ball, kept them going, and you know, he has such an impact on the game on both ends.”

Curry and Thompson get the headlines for the Warriors and rightfully so. Curry’s long-range shooting threat has helped the Warriors leverage easy baskets all series long. But it’s Green’s decision making that has helped Golden State take advantage of a team so concentrated on a Splash Brothers onslaught. Trap Curry, and Green will happily make the right play out as he rolls to the rim. Fail to get over a screen, and Green will deliver a pass with impeccable timing to capitalize on the mistake.  

“It’s an interesting challenge,” Blazers forward Moe Harkless said. “Because he so good playing with his teammates. He’s like the perfect fit for the guys around him.”

The Blazers have made their adjustments, and mostly they have been effective. They’ve ratcheted up the perimeter pressure on Curry and Thompson to take away the opens three-pointers Portland conceded in Game 1. Stotts inserted Meyers Leonard into the starting group in Game 3, a move that helped the Blazers get more space on offense and loosen up the Warriors defense with an additional long-range shooter and strong screen setter.

Those adjustments weren’t enough. In large part because Green is hard to scheme against. Daring a non-shooter to take unguarded jumpers can work, unless of course that non-shooter is driving the ball at full speed towards the rim, compromising a defense and finding his all-world teammates with uncanny timing. Avoiding an All-NBA defender on offense works, until he steps into passing lanes from the weakside or meets a drive in the paint with swarming ferocity.

The adjustments limited the easy splashes. They haven’t stop the wrecking ball. Green’s relentlessness has seemingly worn down the Blazers. Portland’s stars looked tired, Golden State looks to be rounding into title chasing rhythm.

“We just want to try to wear guys down over the course of 48 minutes,” Green said when asked if Golden State pressure had exhausted Lillard and Blazers teammates. “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.”

In the past, Green could be rattled. His biggest nemeses were the people with whistles, not those in opposing jerseys. Admittedly, Green said he “got to a point where I was doing more crying than playing.” His feud with the officials on hold, he can get back to making life miserable for his opponents. His multi-faceted brilliance has all but ended the Blazers seasons.

The Blazers have played back to back excellent first halves, they made subtle defensive adjustments and found a better solution in their starting lineup. Sometime this summer the Blazers may be able to appreciate what they accomplished during this run to West Finals. But that time isn’t now, because they’re seemingly out of moves and out answers. Their inevitable demolition is coming. They can’t avoid the wrecking ball.

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Kevin Durant: “Finals? They [Portland] ain’t trying to go there…”

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Kevin Durant: “Finals? They [Portland] ain’t trying to go there…”

Game two of the Western Conference Finals between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors came down to the wire. Down three with time winding down, all of Portland was looking for the clock to strike Dame Time once again. Unfortunately for the Blazers, defense stud Andre Iguodala stripped the ball away from Dame and the Warriors went on to take a 2-0 series lead with a 114-111 win in Oakland, CA.

But what was said following the game should not go overlooked.

Warriors star Kevin Durant, who is out for at least the first four games of this series due to injury, met his teammates in the tunnel, excited and pumped up from the win. As Draymond Green and Durant locked eyes in the tunnel, Durant said, “Finals?… They ain’t trying to go there…” 

Update: ESPN has since deleted the tweet. 

The likelihood that Durant was talking about the Trail Blazers is as high as 1 + 1 = 2. 

Will this serve as an additional bit of motivation for the Blazers to get their first win of the series back home in Portland in game three?

Let’s also not forget what he also said back in July 2018 on CJ McCollum’s Pull Up podcast

Durant and McCollum were talking about Durant’s move to the Warriors, which many thought the move was just to chase rings. McCollum voiced his feelings as Durant said… 

“Bro, you guys know you’re not going to win a championship?”

Durant then went on to say that he liked the two guards [Damian Lillard and McCollum] but Portland lacked the additional personnel to win an NBA championship. 

All this to say, Portland has made the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 19 years; Damian Lillard is loyal to the city of Portland; and why not this be the year the Blazers shock the world?

See you at Moda Center, KD.

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Kevin Durant will not travel to Portland for Games 3 and 4

Kevin Durant will not travel to Portland for Games 3 and 4

OAKLAND – Golden State Warriors General Manager Bob Myers told NBC Sports Bay Area that Kevin Durant (right calf) will not travel with the team to Portland for Game 3 and 4. Durant was re-evaluated on Tuesday night prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

Durant suffered the right calf strain in Game 5 of the Warriors and Rockets 2nd Round series. The Warriors issued the following injury update just after Game 2 started:

 

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Do the Warriors even need Kevin Durant to win this series?

Do the Warriors even need Kevin Durant to win this series?

OAKLAND -- On this week’s Western Conference Finals edition of The Scoop Podcast, I’m very excited to be joined by NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh and Warriors Insider for NBC Sports Bay Area Logan Murdock.

It was great getting a national perspective along with a local Bay Area perspective on the Trail Blazers-Warriors Western Conference Finals. We discussed what changes we expect the Blazers to make heading into Game 2, the “storybook moment” that is Damian Lillard returning to ‘The Town’ for his very first Western Conference Finals, along with Klay Thompson’s love affair for Portland. All of that and so much more on this week’s podcast.

But probably one of the biggest takeaways from catching up with Tom and Logan is how confident the Warriors are feeling at this point.

After Game 1, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talked about how this is a series that he might be able to go deeper into his bench. Kerr said he can play more guys against the Blazers as opposed to the series against the Rockets.

“It's a different game,” Kerr said. “Every team presents different challenges. There's different matchups. And you know, the way Houston plays, it makes it more difficult to play a lot of people. They just look to isolate you on every spot on the floor. Their style of play makes it more difficult. So nothing earth shattering.”

Some could take Kerr’s comments as he feels the Blazers series will be an easier task than what they had to do to get by the Rockets.

There has beeen a sense of confidence or some may say cockiness with the Warriors over the past few seasons.

It was great to chat with Logan about Kerr’s comments to get his thoughts. Plus, we talked about how Stephen Curry has elevated his game without Kevin Durant, even though Curry won’t admit it.

Yes, the Warriors saw a 2015 throwback MVP version of Steph Curry in Game 1 without Durant.

After wrapping up this week's podcast, I walked away with a better understanding of what I had once felt was more cockiness than anything else with Golden State and its fan base. It’s one of those things that the Warriors players, Warriors coaching staff, and Warriors reporters are just used to winning. They’ve been here before. They believe their team is still better than the Blazers even without Durant.

Now it’s time for the Blazers to show their confidence in making adjustments in Game 2. It’s time for Portland to knock the Warriors confidence level down a peg or two. It’s time to see the Blazers team that got this to this point.

 

LISTEN TO PODCAST HERE:

Report: Warriors' Kevin Durant to miss Game 2 of Western Conference Finals

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Report: Warriors' Kevin Durant to miss Game 2 of Western Conference Finals

The Portland Trail Blazers just got another opportunity to take advantage of the Kevin Durant-less Golden State Warriors.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, Warriors star Kevin Durant will be out for Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. 

Durant suffered a calf strain in Game 5 of the Warriors second-round series with the Houston Rockets. His initial reaction to the injury left many wondering if the Warriors sharpshooter had suffered an Achilles injury, but the Warriors later revealed he did not suffer a career-altering injury.

In the postseason, Durant is averaging 34.2 points per game and 41 percent from three-point range. 

The Warriors had no problem handling the Blazers without Durant in Game 1. The Splash Brothers combined for 62 points in the two teams’ first meeting and easily torched Portland with a 116-94 win

Game 2 of the Blazers-Nuggets series is set for Thursday at 6 p.m. at Oracle Arena.

Can the underdog Trail Blazers beat the Warriors? Yes. Yes they can

Can the underdog Trail Blazers beat the Warriors? Yes. Yes they can

OAKLAND – I haven’t found many people outside of Charles Barkley willing to say that the Portland Trail Blazers have even a small chance of upsetting the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals, which begin this evening in Oracle Arena.

Make no mistake, the Trail Blazers are heavy underdogs to what have become the perennial NBA champions.

But does that mean Portland can’t win? No. It does not. But the Blazers will need help.

From the Warriors.

Let’s face it – if Golden State comes out and throws its very best games at Portland, the Trail Blazers are going to have a very difficult time sticking around. And the Blazers are going to have to play at a high level to stay with the powerful Warriors.

But in the playoffs, teams don’t always play at their highest level. Stuff happens. And the pressure, which often sits more heavily on the favorite than the underdog, can have an impact.

Take Portland’s previous series, against the Denver Nuggets.

Denver had the seventh game at home, where about 80 percent of the time the home team wins. Denver had a 17-point lead in the first half. Portland went 4-26 from three-point range. Damian Lillard went 3-17 from the field.

Yet, with all that, the Trail Blazers won the game 100-96. And it wasn’t, quite obviously, due to how fantastic Portland played in the deciding game.

Denver shot just 29.2 percent from the field in the fourth quarter and missed all six of its three-point tries. A good many of those shots were wide open. The Nuggets just missed them.

For the series, Denver made just 33 percent of its three-point shots – something you certainly wouldn’t expect from Golden State, a historically great shooting team from distance.

But again, stuff happens. Perhaps the Trail Blazers are a team of destiny that will confound the experts all the way to a championship. And with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the lineup, anything is possible.

Kevin Durant is not going to play in the first game of the series and probably not in the second. I wouldn’t be surprised if he misses more games than that because calf strains are tricky. And of course, the Warriors have a right to expect to win the series without him and may not want to risk further injury by bringing him back too soon.

But facts are facts. Even if Portland steals a win on the road, it will have trouble holding serve. The Warriors have won at least one road game in their last 21 playoff series, an NBA record.

And since the 2014-15 season, Golden State has a 13-5 record (2-2 this season) in the regular season against the Blazers and is 8-1 in the playoffs.

Not only that, the Warriors are 3-0 in the playoffs without Durant in the lineup.

But all that historical stuff is meaningless. The series will be decided on the floor, where Portland is a definite underdog.

But can the Blazers win? Yes. Of course. Somebody, sometime, is going to knock these guys off.

And that team will probably have been an underdog heading into the series.

CJ McCollum not taking motivation from Kevin Durant's offseason dig

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CJ McCollum not taking motivation from Kevin Durant's offseason dig

SAN FRANCISCO -- Last summer, during an appearance on CJ McCollum's "Pull Up podcast," Kevin Durant told the Trail Blazers star guard that Portland "wasn't going to win a championship" and not to "worry about what goes on at the top of things."

McCollum told the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP that the Blazers would meet the Warriors at the top.

Here we are.

On Sunday, McCollum scored 37 points in the Blazers' Game 7 win over the Denver Nuggets to set up a date with the Dubs in the Western Conference finals.

So, how does McCollum feel about Durant's dig at the Blazers 10 months later?

"Past is the past man," McCollum said Monday at his Western Conference finals media availability. "I think it's funny. Obviously, you don't think that's going to be relevant at the time. You know, when it's summertime and you're in a hotel room joking around, and then it happens. It's a nice soundbite. I hope you're subscribing to my podcast. You know what I'm saying? If you're going to use the soundbite, I hope you actually subscribe to the Pull Up podcast. But hey, that's dumb. Don't nobody get no extra motivation for the Western Conference finals. If you need to listen to some stuff then you got some serious issues."

Durant (right calf strain) reportedly will miss Game 1 of the series and is "unlikely" to play in Game 2. If McCollum and the Blazers can get one of the first two games at Oracle Arena, it could force the Dubs to tense up and try and get Durant back sooner than expected. 

[RELATED: Get ready for fireworks in Warriors-Blazers West finals]

The Blazers went 2-2 against the Warriors this season, including a win at Oracle. Damian Lillard, McCollum and the Blazers won't be scared of the two-time defending champions, especially given the odds they've faced to get to their first conference finals in 19 seasons. 

McCollum said he would meet KD at the top and he did.

No matter what happens next, Durant's next appearance on the "Pull Up podcast" should be something. 

Kevin Durant's comments to CJ McCollum last July didn't age well

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Kevin Durant's comments to CJ McCollum last July didn't age well

Kevin Durant would never admit that he regrets making certain comments.

But the Warriors star probably regrets what he said to Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum back in July.

While appearing on McCollum's Pull Up podcast, Durant said the Blazers "aren’t going to win a championship" and told McCollum not to "worry about what goes on at the top of things."

Well, now the Blazers will meet the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, so they’re on the same level as the defending champs at the moment. And if Portland can upset Golden State, it will have a chance to win an NBA championship.

So, McCollum and the Blazers are making Durant eat his words.

[RELATED: Warriors-Blazers will be fireworks show]

Durant, who is recovering from a strained right calf, has yet to be cleared to play, but he will be re-evaluated this week.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven series between the Warriors and Blazers takes place Tuesday night in Oakland.

Black Friday rout shines light on defensive issues

Black Friday rout shines light on defensive issues

OAKLAND – They call this Black Friday.

And it was a pretty dark day for the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland finished off a disappointing 2-4 road trip by getting thrashed 125-97 by the Golden State Warriors.

Certainly, it wasn’t as disgraceful as the 43-point loss Wednesday night in Milwaukee, but with the Warriors languishing in a four-game losing streak and playing without Steph Curry and Draymond Green, there were expectations of something better coming from the Trail Blazers.

The Blazer defense was not up to par through most of the trip but this game was the worst. The Warriors shot 56.5 percent from the floor and 53.1 percent from three-point range.

Portland shot worse (54.5 percent) from the foul line than Golden State did from the field.

“(expletive),” said Jusuf Nurkic to open an interview. “We don’t look too good the last two games. Just not who we are. Who we believe we are. I thought before the road trip we felt pretty good about ourselves.

“Our offense isn’t clicking because of our defense. We need to play defense. That’s what happens. It’s a good wakeup for us. We need to come back home and see what we’re doing wrong and we just need to play better.

“Overall, it was the team losing. Pretty much from me, myself, not doing their job. We played against good teams but it doesn’t mean we’re not that good – or we’re not that bad, either.

“We just don’t look good out there right now. Right now, they overworked us, which is something we can’t be proud of.”

Portland held a 27-24 lead after the first quarter but the Golden State bench came on in the second quarter to blow the Trail Blazers away 35-17.

“I thought in the second quarter, Golden State’s second unit came in and played with a lot of energy,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Jordan Bell was running around and diving on balls. The Warriors were getting second-chance points, they picked up their defensive intensity and there was a lot of switching.

“I credit their second unit and the way they came in. I thought they changed the game.”

The Blazers turned the ball over seven times in the first half but the Warriors turned those into a whopping 19 points – a ridiculous total built on their barrage of three-point goals.

“They took advantage of every time we turned it over,” Stotts said. “To be honest, the Warriors were due for a game like this.”

When Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and company get it going from deep there’s not a lot that can be done.

Portland’s ball and player movement deteriorated from the first quarter through the rest of the game. But it was probably due to the problems at the defensive end.

“When you aren’t getting stops, you aren’t pushing the ball back at teams,” said Damian Lillard. “When you get a rebound, push it up the floor, now teams are trying to figure out who is guarding who and they aren’t in a set defense.

“When you’re taking it out of the net every time you’re playing against a set defense and you’re calling a play every time and their bench is echoing the call every time, trying to figure out what we’re calling.

“It’s easier to stop teams that way as opposed to the ball coming downhill at you.”

The Trail Blazers lost two games to open this road trip, then won two, then got clobbered in the final pair of games.

“It was disappointing to lose the first two,” Stotts said. “You look at each game individually and LeBron played an outstanding game. Minnesota made a trade and then played with a lot of life and energy.

“Then we got two good wins.

“Milwaukee is the best team in the league right now. But I think this is the most disappointing game of the trip because they had two guys out with injuries and we had a day of rest.

“This is the one we really needed to get.”

Black Friday.