No. 1: Green steps in when Warriors need him most -- A three-game win streak, coupled with the San Antonio Spurs' recent success, had knocked the Golden State Warriors from their No. 1 spot in the Western Conference on Tuesday morning. A date that night with the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers, on paper, seemed to be just what Golden State needed to get on track. Yet the closer-than-it-should-have-been 106-103 Warriors win was marked by Draymond Green's all-around brilliance -- which was just what Golden State needed. Tim Kawakami of The Mercury News has more::
The shots still aren’t falling the way they normally do. The games still are far, far tougher than the Warriors have grown used to.
The Oracle crowd–and the Warriors franchise–is much antsier than they want to be. And the playoffs are less than a month away now.
This is when Draymond Green–who is always extremely important to everything the Warriors do–is something beyond essential, he’s the Warriors’ energizer, life vest, leader and quantum MVP.
Green’s stat-line was incredible: 20 points (11 of 14 from the free-throw line), 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals and 6 blocks in 38 minutes, for a +16 in the plus-minus.
What was his message to his teammates in the middle of this one, that saw them down by 16 points at one point and by 12 going into the fourth quarter?
“Just continue to remind guys that we’ve been in a little bit of a rut,” Green said. “The only way to change that is to grind yourself out, grind your way out of it. Like I said, it’s not going to be pretty. The shots aren’t just going to fall. That’s the way the game works. You don’t just go into a rut and then come out and hit 20 threes. It just don’t work like that.
“You’ve got to grind your way out of it. And I think tonight we did that–the end of that third quarter and the fourth quarter, we realized hey, it’s not going our way but just put your head down and go, defend and the offense will come.”
So… maybe at some point soon Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will make shots from the start and the Warriors’ defense will dominate an entire game… maybe it will take until Durant gets back healthy, whenever that is… maybe the Warriors will look like the Warriors again before or during the playoffs.
“It’s a reminder of… how important our defense is,” Curry said. “A lot of focus has been on us not making shots the last couple games.
“But if that happens in any game going forward, whether the regular season, playoffs, whatever, if you don’t make shots you still can’t let that affect the other end of the floor because it’s not guaranteed you’re going to make every open three, you’re going to have just this beautiful game on the offensive end.
“So in the fourth quarter we showed that, down 12, the only way we were going to get back in it was to play defense.”
The main result: Curry and Draymond played more together than they have in a few months, and the second unit was mixed up to get Ian Clark and Matt Barnes more time.
Because of the scramble, it so happened that Curry and Green both played the entire fourth quarter–don’t expect that to happen very often, but it was notable to see how things ignited with the Curry-Green-Andre Iguodala-Klay-Barnes group.
Expect Kerr to get that unit on the floor together a lot more in the next few games.
These are not easy days for the Warriors. And for a while tonight looked like it might be one of the low points of the Kerr era–when they were down 16 in the third quarter, I wondered if it was the worst a Kerr Warriors team has ever looked at home.
But they gutted and grinded it out, pulled along by their gutsiest player, and I think Draymond Green knows he might have to keep doing it for just a little while longer.
* * *
No. 2: Report: Lakers to shut down Mozgov, Deng for season -- The Los Angeles Lakers are hurtling toward a fourth straight season in which they'll miss the playoffs. With 15 games to go in the season and the Lakers sporting just 20 wins, its doubtful they'll reach the 30-win mark. In short, the rest of 2016-17 is about developing and assessing the team's young talent. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com, the Lakers are going to shut down healthy veterans Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng for the rest of 2016-17 to help reach that goal:
The Los Angeles Lakers have effectively shut down healthy veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov for the rest of the season to give the majority of playing time over the final 15 games to their younger players, sources told ESPN.
Deng and Mozgov were the Lakers' big free agent acquisitions last summer, signing contracts worth a combined $136 million over four seasons. Neither has been particularly effective in their first season with the Lakers: Mozgov averaged 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in nearly 21 minutes a game; Deng averaged 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in nearly 27 minutes a game.
Deng and Mozgov had each been replaced in the starting lineup and their playing time had been cut dramatically. Rather than play sporadically, sources told ESPN that Deng and Mozgov were comfortable with the decision to shut it down for the rest of the season after meeting individually with coach Luke Walton over the last few weeks.
While sources said the Lakers could revisit the situation with either player before the end of the season, the plan right now is for both to remain inactive.
Mozgov had started 52 of the 54 games he played in during the first year of a four-year, $64 million deal. The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears reported Tuesday that he had effectively been shut down for the rest of the season following a stretch in which he has played just one game since the All-Star break.
Deng had started 49 of the 56 games he's played in the first season of his four-year, $72 million deal. He hasn't played since February 26.
* * *
No. 3: Pelicans get another glimpse at their future -- When DeMarcus Cousins was dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans to play alongside fellow All-Star big man Anthony Davis, NBA fans were salivating. The combo, however, had amassed a 2-6 record in their eight games together so far entering last night's home game against the Portland Trail Blazers. However, last night, Cousins and Davis were more than solid and showed just how potent they can be together. William Guillory of The Times-Picayune has more:
The New Orleans Pelicans have been waiting patiently to see just how good they can be when big-man duo DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis play well together, and the team finally got a glimpse on Tuesday night.
Cousins and Davis combined for 37 points and 24 rebounds and helped the Pelicans dominate defensively to come away with a 100-77 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Smoothie King Center on Tuesday night in what was the team's most impressive performance since the two All-Stars joined forces.
The Pelicans (27-40) went into halftime holding a 14-point lead, and while Portland point guard Damian Lillard did all he could to keep his team in the game, New Orleans was too much to handle by the end of the night.
The Trail Blazers (29-37) cut their deficit down to 11 points with 6:47 left in the third, but the Pelicans immediately ripped off a 10-0 run that ended with a Davis 16-foot jumper that made the score 70-49.
The Pelicans' lead ballooned up to 77-54 going into the final period and they held on to at least an 18-point advantage for the rest of the game.
Coming off his 46-point, 21-reboudn performance last Saturday, Davis finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Cousins added 22 points and nine rebounds.
As a team, the Pelicans ended the night shooting 47.5 percent from the field, while holding the Blazers to 30.3 percent from the field, the lowest any team has shot against New Orleans this season. The Pelicans also held Portland to the fewest points any team has scored against them this season (77) and finished with a season-low five turnovers.
74 points is also the fewest points Portland has scored this season.
New Orleans is now 3-6 in games with Cousins in the lineup this season, which includes wins in each of the past two games.
* * *
No. 4: Paul in offensive rhythm for Clippers -- Make no doubt about it, the LA Clippers are still looking for their post-All-Star break footing. They enter tonight's ESPN showdown with the Milwaukee Bucks (10:30 ET) sporting a 5-6 record since the All-Star Game. One way to find that rhythm may be giving the ball to Chris Paul, who has been on fire offensively of late. Bill Oram of the Orange County Register has more:
After one layup with a high degree of difficulty, Chris Paul headed the ball as it fell through the net as though he were in a soccer match. On the next Clippers possession, he ran right up to the 3-point line and fired a shot that swished through.
He wasn’t looking for anyone but himself. He was feeding the hot hand, who just happened to be himself.
The constant push-pull of Chris Paul is whether he is at his best for the Clippers when he is looking for his own shot or setting up others. One of the best passing guards in the game, he is also a uniquely skilled shot maker.
Paul’s scoring ability has been on the forefront of late. He scored 33 points in Monday’s 114-108 loss at Utah, and has totaled 82 points in his past three games.
“I think he’s in great rhythm right now,” coach Doc Rivers said in Salt Lake City. “I thought tonight we needed him to do that. Some night we need him to just be a playmaker, some nights we need him to be a scorer.”
Rivers often finds himself imploring Paul to be more assertive when it comes to his own shot.
“I let Chris be Chris,” Rivers said, “but at the end of the day when he’s not, we have to tell him. Because he’s such a willing passer, sometimes he can forget about what he can do well, and we need him to do it more.”
Paul wasn’t interested Monday in discussing his offense. Instead, he was kicking himself for letting George Hill, Utah’s point guard, get free for 19 points.
“Offense is what it is, but I go into every game thinking about defense,” Paul said.
“We’ve got to get it together,” Paul said. “I’d much rather be playing together and playing consistently on both ends and lose a couple games and know that we have our principles, but we’re still working on it.”
Injuries have knocked the Clippers behind schedule on that front.
“It sucks,” Paul said, “but you’ve got to do it. If we were ready for everything right now, we might be peaking too soon, so hopefully we hit it at the right time.”
* * *
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: If it ends up being Utah Jazz vs. LA Clippers in the first round, Austin Rivers is expecting a physical, hostile series ... The Houston Rockets have employed some new, high-tech gadgets at practice ... Are the Chicago Bulls rebuilding or not? ... Defensive adjustments are at the top of the to-do list for the Washington Wizards ... Kevin Love could be back in action for the Cleveland Cavaliers on their upcoming road trip ...