KD ‘unlikely to play’ at beginning of Finals, but Boogie might be back just in time

Steve Kerr On Injured Stars Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins…

Warriors’ Kevin Durant ‘unlikely to play’ at beginning of NBA Finals

Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS 

After sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors have more than a week to rest up and hopefully get healthy for their fifth straight NBA Finals appearance.

The Warriors updated the progress of Kevin Durant (right calf strain) and DeMarcus Cousins (torn left quad) ahead of Thursday’s media availability, and it doesn’t look like either star will be able to go when the Finals begin May 30.

Durant has not yet resumed basketball activities, but the Warriors are hopeful he can return at some point. Golden State is hopeful that Cousins will be able to return for the Finals.

Durant initially injured his right calf during the third quarter of Game 5 in the Warriors’ second-round NBA playoff series against the Houston Rockets. The two-time NBA Finals MVP had been on a tear leading up to the injury, averaging 34.2 points per game during the postseason, and was unstoppable ever since his “I’m Kevin Durant” moment following the Dubs’ Game 2 loss to the LA Clippers in the first round. 

After waiting his entire career to see playoff action, Cousins injured his quadriceps muscle in the opening minutes of Game 2 of the Warriors’ series with the Clippers.

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Warriors GM Bob Myers explains tricky part about Kevin Durant’s injury

Drew Shiller | NBC SPORTS 

Warriors forward Kevin Durant sustained a strained right calf on May 8.

The injury is more serious than initially thought, as Golden State made the following announcement on Thursday morning:

“Durant, who has not yet been cleared to begin on-court activities, continues to make good progress with his rehabilitation. At this point, it is unlikely that he will play at the beginning of the 2019 NBA Finals, but it’s hopeful that he could return at some point during the series.”

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is on Thursday, May 30 in either Milwaukee or Toronto, and the Warriors will provide another update on KD next Wednesday.

“The tricky thing with Kevin is you cannot have a setback because we’re so up against it,” Dubs GM Bob Myers said on 95.7 The Game on Thursday afternoon. “This is not something you can push hard because if you have a setback, it kind of takes you out of the equation.

“So you have to be very diligent and smart. And [Director of Sports Medicine and Performance] Rick Celebrini is great and Kevin has been unbelievable in showing up twice a day and putting all the work in that he can. You don’t need to motivate Kevin Durant to want to get back.”

The reigning two-time NBA Finals MVP did not travel to Portland for Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals. Is it possible that he stays back in the Bay Area next week as well?

“I haven’t gotten to that place yet,” Myers said. “I’m speculating that at this point we’re assuming he will travel … that hasn’t even really been kicked around. I think all indications are that he would go and play or continue to rehab there.

“But we haven’t finalized that.”

Game 2 is on Sunday, June 2 with Games 3 and 4 at Oracle Arena on June 5 and 7 respectively.

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Warriors’ DeMarcus Cousins could return in time for start of NBA Finals

Logan Murdock | NBC SPORTS 

OAKLAND — In a surprising twist, injured Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins practiced Thursday afternoon for the first time since tearing his left quad. 

With Cousins one step closer to game action, Golden State could be getting reinforcements at just the right time. 

“I feel good. A lot better than I was,” Cousins said Thursday afternoon. “I’m able to get up and down the court more. I’m able to play a little competition basketball.”

Minutes before Cousins spoke to the media for the first time in more than a month, the Warriors announced he, along with Kevin Durant, will miss the onset of the NBA Finals next week, but expressed hope both could play sometime during the series

Following Thursday’s practice, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Cousins’ availability for Game 1 of the Finals on May 30 will depend on his conditioning level. Additionally, Kerr wouldn’t commit to starting the big man when ready, saying the decision will depend on matchups. 

Cousins, who tore his quad diving for a loose ball in Game 2 of a first-round series with the Clippers, signed a one-year, $5.2 million deal with the Warriors in July in an effort to boost his value after the perennial All-Star tore his Achilles last season. After averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 30 regular-season games this year, Cousins seemed primed for a summer payday before the quad injury occurred. Shortly after suffering the injury, Cousins vowed to return in the playoffs. 

“Initially, I thought it was worse than what it was,” Cousins said. “There was obviously a panic, but once the doctors came out and I realized what it was, I gathered myself from a couple of days of frustration, anger, sadness and all of the above. I told myself to get back to work and do it all over again. That’s what I did, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

“I feel like that’s what adversity does: It always builds you up and makes you stronger for the next bump,” he added. “That was one of my darkest moments, dealing with the Achilles. I feel like I was in a stronger mental capacity when it came to dealing with this one. Not to say that it’s been easy, but it’s a more comfortable situation.”

Over the last month, Cousins has been seen working on his lateral movement and taking light jump shots after practice. As for his pending return, Cousins believes that he can be a vital piece for a team in need of reinforcements. 

“I think people know what I can do,” he said. “It’s just about me being healthy. Of course, I want to be out there to help my team and to play the game that I love to play. I also just want to be healthy. This is an opportunity to do that.”

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Klay Thompson Remains Remarkably Calm Upon Learning He Lost A Chance At Another $30 Million

Lauren Theisen | DEADSPIN

The All-NBA teams came out today, and Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson isn’t on any of them. While teammates Steph Curry and Kevin Durant made the first and second teams, respectively, Thompson couldn’t even sneak onto the third team. Those honors went to Russell Westbrook and Kemba Walker.

There’s a strong case to be made that this was the right call by the voters, since most advanced metrics really do not like Thompson, and the sharpshooter’s efficiency is significantly behind Curry’s or Durant’s. Still, getting left off the list is tough for Thompson’s future, because it means he won’t be eligible for a supermax deal when he becomes a free agent this summer.

That difference, of potentially $30 million, is completely beyond Thompson’s control, but you wouldn’t know it from his reaction. Upon hearing of the snub, he somehow maintains his chill, reacting the way someone would if you stole their seat when they went to the bathroom. The closest he ever comes to showing his anger comes with a mere squint into the distance, when a reporter erroneously says Bradley Beal made the team over him.

Chin up, Klay. You can still get a spot on the Calm-NBA first team.

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And while he did remain “remarkably calm” upon hearing about the $30 million loss, he certainly didn’t appear very happy about it either…

Warriors’ Klay Thompson not happy after being snubbed from All-NBA team

Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS 

Klay Thompson received some bad news Thursday when the All-NBA teams were released and he was left off the list.

Warriors star Steph Curry and Houston Rockets star James Harden were voted to the first team, and Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving made the second team. Kemba Walker and Russell Westbrook were chosen as the third-team guards.

The Warriors guard was in the “others receiving votes” category, right behind Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal.

When informed of the snub at Thursday’s media availability, Thompson was visibly disgusted at the voting and explained why he believes he deserved to be selected.

“Oh, I didn’t? It already came out?” Thompson said after being told he didn’t make an All-NBA team.

When told Walker made the third team, Thompson gave a heavy eye roll.

“I mean that’s cool and all, but like, when you go to five straight Finals — I respect those guys, but when you go to five straight, it takes more than just a couple All-NBA guys,” Thompson said. “It takes an All-Time team. But whatever. I’d rather win a championship than be All-NBA.”

The snub also costs Thompson $30 million, as he’s now not eligible to receive a super-max extension from the Warriors.

“It is what it is, you know I can’t control it,” Thompson said. “Do I think there’s that many guards better than me in the league? No. That’s the reason why we are still playing, so I don’t even want to get into it.”

Thompson certainly has a point on all counts.

The five-time NBA All-Star is one of the best shooters of all time, and he put his defensive prowess on display in the Warriors’ Western Conference finals sweep of the Trail Blazers by locking up Damian Lillard. 

Thompson has every reason to be upset, especially with Walker, whose Charlotte Hornets went 39-43 and missed the playoffs, making it over him. But a fourth NBA title would make it sting a little less.

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LeBron James already recruiting Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS 

Say what you will about LeBron James, but he’s no fool.

The three-time NBA champion knows that despite the promise his Los Angeles Lakers showed early on this season, they have a long way to go to catch the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors.

So, with a historic free-agent class set to hit the market July 1, James reportedly has already started putting in work with some of the biggest stars who will be available this offseason, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Thursday.

“Have you seen the Lakers’ roster at the moment?” Windhorst said on “Pardon The Interruption.” “I don’t think LeBron is in position to be too picky. From what I understand, he has already begun the recruiting process. I’ve heard he has had contact with Kawhi Leonard. I’ve heard he’s had contact with Jimmy Butler. There’s no tampering enforcement with players … LeBron is Tamperer-in-Chief of the Lakers right now.”

Spicy.

Leonard and Butler are just two of the big names set to hit the market this summer. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both are expected to opt out of their contract and become free agents, while Klay Thompson, Tobias Harris and Kemba Walkers also will be available. 

The Lakers have been such a mess lately, it seems like their best options are to hope Irving wants a reunion with James or that Butler didn’t enjoy playing with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons during his brief stint with the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Most expect Leonard to leave Toronto for Los Angeles, just not for the Lakers. The Clippers have long been seen as the front-runners to sign the 2014 NBA Finals MVP, but it’s hard to count out the lure of playing with James and trying to bring an NBA title back to the Lakers’ franchise.

Durant doesn’t appear to be an option for the Lakers and most believe Thompson will re-sign with the Warriors.

Harris or Walker could be a “break glass in case of emergency” option for the Purple and Gold.

If the Lakers are unable to land a marquee free agent, they will once again have to turn to the trade market as a way to try and level the playing field with Golden State.

But if the Lakers can’t LeBron the help he needs, it could be another long year in Tinseltown.

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HOOP HANGOUT • NBA PLAYOFFS • GAMEDAY POST • May 23rd 2019

SportsLine

Leonard scores 35, Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 for 3-2 lead

Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-99 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Leonard showed no obvious signs of the leg soreness that bothered him in Toronto’s victories in the previous two games, hitting the 30-point mark for the fourth time in the series. He made five 3-pointers and had seven rebounds and nine assists.

Fred VanVleet scored 21 points, hitting seven 3s. Kyle Lowry added 17 as the Raptors put themselves in position to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time. A victory at home Saturday would set up a matchup with two-time defending champion Golden State.

The Raptors battled out of an early 14-point hole, then got 15 points from Leonard in the fourth quarter to send the top-seeded Bucks to their first three-game losing streak of the season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points for Milwaukee hours after being announced as a unanimous first-team, All-NBA selection. Eric Bledsoe scored 20 and Malcolm Brogdon added 18 points and 11 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup.

The Raptors were clinging to a two-point lead in the closing minute after Khris Middleton drove around Leonard on the baseline for a layup.

Toronto was initially called for a shot-clock violation when Leonard missed a fadeaway jumper with 35 seconds left. That got overturned by a replay review, and Brook Lopez was called for a foul, instead, for bumping Marc Gasol after he retrieved the loose ball.

Gasol hit both free throws to make it 100-97. Another replay review went in Toronto’s favor when officials determined a ball went out of bounds off Brogdon with 26.8 seconds left. Brogdon pulled his hand away, thinking his dribble had gone off Pascal Siakam‘s foot.

Siakam then drove for a dunk, making it 102-97, and the Raptors hung on from there.

Milwaukee was leading 81-79 with about 8 1/2 minutes left when Leonard nailed back-to-back 3-pointers. He hit two free throws before Siakam threw down a put-back dunk to make it 89-81.

The Bucks tied it at 93-all with 2:44 left on a 3-pointer by Lopez. VanVleet answered with one of his own before Antetokounmpo threw down an alley-oop dunk to cut it to 96-95 with just over two minutes remaining.

The Bucks set a fast pace early on and led by 10 after the first quarter, delighting the towel-waving fans chanting “Fear The Deer! Fear the Deer!” They withstood a 16-2 run by Toronto to start the second, with Antetokounmpo nailing a 3 to stop it.

The Bucks also went on a 14-2 run early in the third, with the Greek Freak throwing down a hard dunk off a feed by Middleton for a 63-51 lead. But the Raptors got right back into it.

TIP-INS

Raptors: Lowry now has 1,126 points in 66 playoff games for Toronto, surpassing DeMar DeRozan (1,117) as the franchise’s postseason scoring leader.

Bucks: Brogdon started all 64 games he played in during the regular season, before missing basically all of the first two rounds because of a heel injury. With Brogdon back in the lineup, Nikola Mirotic came off the bench.

UP NEXT

Game 6 is at Toronto on Saturday.

Charles Barkley admits he was wrong about Steph Curry’s rank in NBA

Jessica Kleinschmidt | NBC SPORTS 

Stop the presses, but Charles Barkley is admitting he’s wrong — “100 percent wrong.”

Sir Charles admitted his much during an interview with ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” when discussing Warriors superstar Steph Curry.

“Steph Curry has put his name back in the conversation — we talk about the best players in the world, we talk about KD, we talk about Giannis, Kawhi, LeBron — Steph Curry is proving to us he’s a two-time MVP,” Barkley said.

What was he wrong about exactly? Well, for starters — he left Steph out of his top five list of players currently in the NBA. 

This was his list:

OK, OK — it’s not an easy task. Any top-five lists are difficult because no matter what, you have to make some cuts. 

But … it’s Steph freakin’ Curry, and it appears Barkley finally knows that. 

“He’s been fabulous,” Barkley said of the six-time All-Star.

But wait … there’s more.

Earlier this month, the Basketball Hall of Famer-turned-analyst said the Warriors had “no chance” of beating the Houston Rockets in the second-round NBA playoff series without the help of the injured Kevin Durant. He even said the Rockets will win “in blowout fashion.”

Hmm … OK.

He also said the Blazers … whom the Warriors just sweptwould be going to The Finals (although he originally said this back in March). Barkley received some backup from his fellow TNT analyst Kenny Smith, who agreed with the statement and followed it with a high-five. That’ll boost your confidence.

But for now, Sir Charles admitted his faults and is even giving compliments to the entire Warriors team in the same interview … something he is not known for.

[RELATED: Barkley predicts Bucks, not Dubs win 2019 NBA title]

“I want to give a shoutout to Steve Kerr and his coaching staff because they got guys on the bench who have come in the game — going back to Game 6 in Houston — and played fabulous and that’s the coaching staff,” he said. “It goes to show that when they’re not playing games they’re working with those young players.”

Is this the year he finally stops trolling the Dubs?

Don’t bank on it. 

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Budenholzer miffed by Drake antics; rapper replies

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

ESPN

Drake clearly has been enjoying Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s struggles during the Eastern Conference finals, but the superstar rapper’s antics are rubbing some people the wrong way.

A day after the Raptors beat the Bucks to tie the Eastern Conference finals at 2-2 – a game in which Drake, sitting in his usual courtside seat in Toronto, was seen laughing when Antetokounmpo missed free throws and at one point even rubbed Toronto coach Nick Nurse’s shoulders — Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer was asked if it was fair that a celebrity received special treatment.

“I will say, again, I see it in some timeouts, but I don’t know of any person that’s attending the game that isn’t a participant in the game a coach — I’m sorry, a player or a coach, that has access to the court,” he said. “I don’t know how much he’s on the court. It sounds like you guys are saying it’s more than I realize. There’s certainly no place for fans and, you know, whatever it is exactly that Drake is for the Toronto Raptors. You know, to be on the court, there’s boundaries and lines for a reason, and like I said, the league is usually pretty good at being on top of stuff like that.”

Budenholzer’s comments came after Georgios Dimitropoulos, a senior executive for Octagon who used to be Antetokounmpo’s European agent, tweeted that he had “never seen anything as disrespectful” as Drake’s repeated trolling.

Imagine a gig & an athlete on VIP seats, right next to the band, stands up on the stage just to show off during the entire game, knowing cameras are on him, occasionally even massaging the singer. Security&him both allow it. Never seen anything as disrespectful as this before…— Georgios Dimitropoulos (@DimitropulosOCT) May 22, 2019

Dimitropoulos later deleted the tweet.

Drake responded to the criticism on social media Wednesday night, first with a series of emojis on Instagram, and then with an Instagram Live post that showed him liking a user’s comment that read in part:

“If you don’t want the opposing team to celebrate and dance, prevent them from scoring, winning, or achieving their objective. Get over it and keep moving.”

Antetokounmpo scored 25 points in Game 4 but shot just 6-of-10 from the line and airballed a free throw for the second consecutive contest. He scored just 12 points in Milwaukee’s double-overtime loss in Game 3 and went 2-for-7 from the line.

Antetokounmpo was not asked about Drake after Tuesday’s game, but the star rapper was a hot topic a day later.

“You can’t help but occasionally see Drake just going into timeouts or in and out of timeouts, whether he’s encouraging or cheering for Toronto,” Budenholzer said. “You know, trying to talk to referees. To say I don’t see it at all would be inaccurate, but to say I give it much or any thought, you know, it’s kind of same answer, same mantra. I just tend to ignore and focus on our team, focus on whatever it is we need to be doing.”

(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

In regards to the shoulder rub, Nurse said Wednesday that he didn’t even realize what happened.

“I didn’t even know I got the shoulder rub last night until somebody showed me a picture of it today,” he said. “I didn’t even feel it. I was so locked into the game.”

The series resumes in Milwaukee for Game 5 on Thursday night. But Drake will get one more chance to taunt Antetokounmpo and the Bucks when the series returns to Toronto on Saturday for Game 6.

ESPN’s Malika Andrews and Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.

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Colin Kaepernick sits next to Warriors bench in Game 4 vs. Blazers

Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) holds his son Canon as he meets Colin Kaepernick after defeating the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Monday, May 20, 2019. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in overtime 119-117. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

Marcus White | NBC SPORTS 

Colin Kaepernick had a great view of Game 4 of the NBA’s Western Conference finals Monday night. 

The ex-49ers quarterback had a courtside seat next to the Warriors’ bench at Portland’s Moda Center as they squared off with the Trail Blazers.

Kaepernick told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Ann Killion that he was not in town to visit Oregon-based shoe giant Nike, which is one of his sponsors.  

“Being in the Bay so long, I’ve always followed them,” he told the Chronicle. “And they’ve always supported me.” 

Kaepernick met with Steve Kerr, Andre Iguodala, and DeMarcus Cousins after the Warriors outlasted the Blazers in overtime to advance to their fifth straight Finals.

Kaepernick played six seasons with San Francisco. He kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before games in 2016 in order to protest social injustice and racial inequality. Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Golden State players — including Steph Curry and Kevin Durant — have staunchly supported Kaepernick, even as he went unsigned by an NFL team after opting out of his 49ers contract during the 2017 offseason. 

Kaepernick and former 49ers teammate Eric Reid, who was the first player to kneel alongside the QB, settled collusion grievances with the league back in February. Reid signed a lucrative extension with the Carolina Panthers this offseason, but Kaepernick is still not on an NFL roster. 

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Damian Lillard expected to get $191M supermax deal from Trail Blazers this summer

Chris Haynes | Yahoo Sports

PORTLAND, Ore. — Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers are expected to come to terms over the summer on a four-year, $191 million supermax contract extension, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Lillard would officially qualify for the supermax if he’s voted to one of the three All-NBA Teams, which is virtually a lock for the four-time All-Star.

Lillard has two years and approximately $62 million remaining on his current deal. The extension would put him under contract for the next six years, and he’d be 34 years old by the time the deal expires, perhaps solidifying his status as arguably the greatest Trail Blazer of all time.

According to rival executives, a new pact for Lillard would almost certainly include a player option, something the guard bypassed on his previous deal.

“We’ll focus on the [contract] later,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports after the Blazers’ 119-117 Game 4 overtime loss to Golden State Warriors on Monday night.

The seven-year veteran led the Trail Blazers to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 19 years before being swept by the defending champions.

“Look at what we did this year,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “We played without our starting center [Jusuf Nurkic, who suffered a season-ending leg injury]. We played without CJ [McCollum] toward the end of the season. So, looking at that, we were still able to get here. We were one step away [from the Finals]. And not only here, we had double-digit leads in three of the four games. I think getting here is reassuring that we can get the job done.”

Although Lillard wasn’t able to have a breakout offensive performance because of the Warriors’ ultra aggressive traps and double teams and a nagging rib injury, his competitiveness and perseverance were admired from the opposite bench.

“Dame is a special player,” Warriors star Draymond Green told Yahoo Sports. “He just keeps battling. He loves this team and this city, and you respect the fact that he wants to win here and do it his way. He’s an ultimate competitor, and you can tell he’s from Oakland. He’s going to find a way to get it done.”

The series proved Portland is still a few pieces away from legitimately contending for a title. For the second consecutive year, the game plan was to take Lillard out of the game by swarming the star and forcing him to pass and rely on his teammates to hit big shots.

Roster depth also remains a major concern for Portland. Including the regular season and postseason, Lillard led the league in minutes played with 3,488.

If Neil Olshey — the Blazers’ president of basketball operations — decides against making a trade or stretching the contracts of Evan Turner or Meyers Leonard, then Portland is likely headed for another season over the luxury tax threshold and it would severely restrict the team’s options in the offseason.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, shoots near Golden State Warriors forward Jordan Bell during the first half of Game 4 of the NBA basketball playoffs Western Conference finals Monday, May 20, 2019, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
Blazers guard Damian Lillard goes to the hoop during the first half of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals Monday. (AP)

“We just have to continue to improve with the guys we have,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “And then if it presents itself where we can get some guys in that can maybe take us to the next level, then look at that. I think that’s all we can do.”

“It’s a disappointing loss, but for me it was an outstanding season,” head coach, Terry Stotts said Monday night. “The guys in the locker room are special. It’s been a special season. Always tough to lose the last game of the year, but I couldn’t be more proud of the group that we’ve had.”

The Trail Blazers watched the Warriors celebrate on their home court as Golden State heads to a fifth straight NBA Finals. The Blazers were so close to extending the series, but realize how much more they need to grow.

“We’re one step away from the Finals, and I see it’s the maturity and understanding how steady you have to be,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “We played great in spurts. We had four great first halves. But those moments where we kind of let up and relaxed and we stopped doing the things that gave us that lead and they pounced on us because they don’t change the way they play. They just keep going, keep doing the same stuff. They overtook every game that way.

“I think one of things we needed was experience and knowing what it’s like to play this far into the season. We’ve never been this far in the playoffs, so I think the experience is something you need. And obviously as players, we’ve got to improve. We have to improve as players. We were in some positions where we weren’t able to capitalize. All of us. From top to bottom. We’ve got to improve. And once those situations present itself again, we’ll be able to hold on.”

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Steph Curry quiets critics, validates legacy with dominant West finals

Monte Poole | NBC SPORTS 

PORTLAND, Ore. — All through the first two rounds, the silliest of debates kept resurfacing in those charmless public dive bars we call sports talk and social media.

Stephen Curry can’t do this. Or can he? He isn’t doing that. But is he? He Is overrated. He is underrated.

Curry handled it as he always does, as he would a heckler in the forest 100 miles away. He keeps playing. And winning.

He came into the Western Conference finals to the sound of skeptics wondering if he could thrive in the postseason, as if he has not already. As if the Warriors, with him as their front man, hadn’t won three NBA championships in four years.

Oh, but without Kevin Durant, could Curry carry the load?

Answer: Curry came out of the conference finals with 146 points, or 36.5 per game, as the Warriors swept the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, finishing the job with a 119-117 overtime win in Game 4 on Monday night at Moda Center.

Validated. Again.

If Curry’s 33-point second half in Game 6 of the second round to bury the Rockets weren’t enough, he averaged 36.5 over the four conference finals games.

“The situation called for more aggressiveness,” Curry said. “The way KD was playing up until the time he was hurt, we had a certain balance and a certain look as a team. Every guy took the challenge when he went out to step up and play a little more aggressive: Myself, Draymond — what he did in the series is unbelievable — Klay, on both ends of the floor. And then the collection of bench guys and role guys that really helped us in this series.”

Curry in Game 4 posted a triple-double: 37 points (on 11-of-25 shooting, including 7 of 15 from deep), 13 rebounds and 11 assists. He did enough to cover for the offensive struggles of Klay Thompson (17 points, 7-of-21 shooting, four turnovers).

“Steph was making shots tonight,” Thompson said. “Me, I missed a couple. I missed a few of them.”

What might have been most impressive of Curry is that after scoring 25 points in the first half, he never left the floor once the third quarter started, playing all 29 minutes of the second half and overtime. No one else on either team subjected themselves to such torture.

When the Blazers went up 17 (95-78) late in the third quarter, Curry responded with a 30-foot 30-ball. It trimmed the deficit to 14, but it also sent a message that the Warriors were going nowhere. That shot set off a 9-0 run that allowed the Warriors to open the fourth quarter down eight.

“We know we can cover 17 points in a matter of three or four minutes, and so we always try to keep that mindset that we are never out of the game and we just need to make solid plays,” Draymond Green said. “It definitely helps to have No. 30 [Curry], who they can go up 17 and he hits a 3, it just kind of puts them back on their heels and it shifts the momentum for us.”

Curry usually sits for the first five or six minutes of the fourth quarter. Not this time. Less than a minute into the fourth, he drilled a 27-foot 3-ball that pulled the Warriors within five. The Moda Center crowd turned quiet, as if they knew what was coming.

The Warriors outscored Portland 24-16 in the fourth quarter to send the game into OT.

Once there, the Warriors seemed to get into a zone of comfort. Both teams were reeling, but the Warriors were pulling the Blazers toward the deep end of the postseason ocean. Curry’s biggest play in OT was not a bucket but a dime, a pass whipped to Green that he launched from 25 feet.

Splash. A triple. Warriors up four (119-115), 39.6 seconds remaining.

Game over, with Curry dancing off in triumph.

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