Golden State vs. Portland preview

  
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One versus three, season series tied at 2-2.

TUE, THU, SAT, MON, WED, FRI, SUN

Warriors in six.

WARRIORS STARTERS

CAndrew fucking Bogut — this shit again.
PFDraymond Green — Huge work down the KD-less stretch of Game 5 plus 13.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 8.2 assists per (Houston) game, your Dray is crucial.
SFAndre Iguodala — Hit 20-29 two-pointers vs. Houston. If Andre slides toward funky double-figures again in Durant’s absence (13.5 in the semis), PDX is toast. 
SGKlay Thompson — Took only five free throws against Houston yet still managed 19.2 a game (plus 2.2 steals), will be exhausted by the time Portland is over.
PGStephen Curry — Hasn’t locked in, and I’d like to see him try.

Curry’s only infrequently adjusted to his injured left hand, less supremely to the vicissitudes of repeated games against a single team. The 31-year old can’t let his colleague matchup or the post-Houston giggles get to him, he’s got to get back toward sensibly leading Golden State toward its tornadoes.

It would be nice to count on Game 6’s second half as a harbinger for Steph, but there will be a lot in this series to get distracted by.

GOLDEN STATE ROTATION

There won’t be any two-day shades for rest in this series, so if Kevin Durant wants clearance to play Portland he’ll have to fly some ways ahead of schedule, even if we’re calling this thing “mild.”

Ramona Shelburne reported on Monday that Durant won’t even be re-evaluated in time to play Game 2, May 22nd’s Game 5 in Oakland only puts KD at two weeks removed from a setback that should probably take about that long. Once Durant returns he’ll be like the best player in basketball, but with a little lingering calf pain.

Kevon Looney (14-18 on field goals) was as helpful as they come against Houston, he’s only just turned 23 and his sense of process has begun to pay off … The most relateable move in NBA basketball is Shaun Livingston’s determined drive into an open-14 footer (that he shoots several inches too strong) … Quinn Cook brought the good minutes down in Texas during Game 6, likely the start of something.

Steve Kerr’s interest in Alfonzo McKinnie dimmed against Houston because offensive rebounds from small forwards aren’t that important and because Alfonzo is on a 1-11 tear from long range since Game 3 in Los Angeles. I’m not gonna pretend to have a clue as to whether or not Kerr will trust him defensively against Portland, as opposed to Houston, the Warriors don’t need to gnash as much at Terry Stotts’ movement with Jusuf Nurkic out of the picture. This seems like a lot about Alfonzo McKinnie.

DeMarcus Cousins has a torn quad, he would be wonderful in a Finals appearance as it seems like a lot to expect Boogie back for this round … Jonas Jerebko missed 1-5 threes against Houston and one of those hit the the side of the backboard, he’ll play against Portland because he’s nice to the refs … Jordan Bell might finally be in shape for the 2018-19 season, he worked up two fouls and two blocks in 10 minutes of important fun in Game 6, it would be a breeze for both sides if his minutes carried over.

Golden State can win if it handles the turnover battle. Portland takes care of its ball but the Blazers won’t ask opponents to cough it up.

The champs turned it over 17 times in Kevin Durant’s Game 6 absence in Houston, a slight uptick. Any screwups in this series (some necessary, as the Dubs get back to a pre-KD’eed style of silly) will be wholly Golden State’s fault.

The Warriors will freeball without Durant around, his placid half-court touch will be missed until he can play again.

If Golden State’s legendarily brazen balance returns, hardly a given considering the stakes, the team should roll.

TRAIL BLAZER STARTERS

CEnes Kanter — Any buckets you could get on your way toward the bench, Enes, that would be great.
PFAl-Farouq Aminu — With so much to mind already, can he also solve Draymond?
SFMo Harkless — Missed 8-10 threes against Denver but kept up his pokey interior game, could find holes in Oakland. 
SGC.J. McCollum — Just checked, Klay Thompson ain’t anything like Gary Harris.
PGDamian Lillard — Freed from scheduled bouts with Nikola Jokic’s armpits, Lillard could see his anxiety lessen even further against the familiar bums from Golden State.

PORTLAND ROTATION

Ahahahaha Zach Collins is defending missed shots like mad and the 21-year old has a JaVale-sized block rate in the postseason, he’s from Las Vegas like Greg Maddux and the Blazers can’t lose (until the World Series) … Rodney Hood only has a bone bruise, all those do is hurt like hell and not go away. Hood is “day-to-day” and likely out for Game 1.

A remark so able that we needed to be charmed by it twice:

Evan Turner is a delight and it was wonderful to see him barrel into Sunday.

Meyers Leonard has nearly as many fouls (18) in the postseason as he does rebounds (19). Remember that year when he hit 10-13 from long range in the playoffs, yeah, this is not that year … It’s not like Seth Curry (41.7 percent on threes in his first postseason) hasn’t played NBA games around his brother before, he’ll be fine.

Athletic small forward Jake Layman isn’t unplayable, the Blazers just don’t play him a hell of a lot. He’s kinda sidelined until he learns to hit a three-pointer, 32.8 percent this season in spite of 33 starts and 1300-odd minutes and a bunch of sweet dunks. Layman never gets to the free throw line and it wouldn’t matter if he did, I should stop now because we already saw what happened with Alfonzo McKinnie.

Portland can win if the same capability which earned that final trip to Denver sustains. You don’t have to shove an entire series into Game 7, that’s what makes them so easy to win, but you do have to shove an entire series into getting there.

The Blazers have proven sensible in times of stress, the team’s possessions can outlast Golden State’s best if it delivers one trip at a time — Houston’s 2018 trip to its own Game 7 should serve as strong-enough influence.

Portland still has horses.

STUFF THAT MADE SENSE AT THE TIME

“Portland is on a road trip, it struck an early lead but it couldn’t sustain its swing between the starting and backup shifts. The Blazers were sloppy, and a lot of them thought they could win this by dribbling into that disadvantage and taking a pull-up, that wasn’t the case.

“You can’t blame the Trail Blazers for wondering where the revs went, this team was in New York on Tuesday and Milwaukee on Wednesday, but you can remind the boys that you cannot beat Golden State — or most NBA teams — on touch alone.

“The second half of this game should have been played at an airport, Portland had no chance.” — Nov. 24.

“Golden State ran too cool and too sloppy yet still had enough — this can’t be right — defensively (??) to push Portland into thinking twice about those available looks.

“This was mostly a Dog Show from four angles but you could see the where the paws were supposed to come down. Portland wanted to make GSW pay dearly for its turnovers and Golden State was mad to rile the Blazer backcourt up: C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined for 14-42 on the night.

“Draymond Green was so good, setting those screens. Hit a three to nearly clinch it in regulation and the guy worked up gnatty defense all night (see preceding stat).” — Dec. 28.

GOLDEN STATE DRIVES GEORGE KARL OUTTA HERE

This isn’t a classic game, March 18, 1988. Only George Karl’s second-to-last game as Warrior head coach.

The Warriors were gutted, down stars from the seasons before due to trades and injury.

First-year team president Don Nelson dealt for Ralph Sampson a month into 1987-88, a deal Karl eagerly supported, yet the center missed his usual allotment of knee and back injuries and was long shelved by the Portland game.

There was also some other dumb stuff.

By the time of Portland’s victorious visit to Oakland, Chris Mullin was only 10 weeks back from his 50-day absence from the team. The 24-year old spent 31 weeks at a rehabilitation clinic midseason in order to treat an alcohol dependence.

“That season began strangely,” George Karl offered in the pages of 2017’s infamous ‘Furious George’ biography (that I bought with my own money).

“In the summer of 1987, Nellie resigned at Milwaukee and came to Golden State to be my boss and mentor and to improve our personnel.

The media wondered why the best coach in the NBA — Nelson — would move to administration. Sometimes I wondered, too.”

The champion Lakers waxed Oakland two nights after Golden State’s loss to Portland on March 18, less than a year removed from the Warriors’ remarkable Western semifinal against Los Angeles.

Golden State’s owners scheduled a meeting with Karl three days after the Laker loss, George maintains in the 2017 bio that this sort of “keeping track” — midseason coach and owner chats at a downtown hotel — “wasn’t unusual.”

After “an hour or so” of what Karl called “covering all the bases” with the two owners, Golden State’s side started to play baseball.

Then the conversation took a turn I didn’t expect and wasn’t ready for: my future with the team. It didn’t go well for me; I had no allies in the room. A young coach of a losing team is going to be looking over his shoulder, but what made things worse for me, I told our owners, was the feeling that everyone — including them — wanted Nellie to coach. No, that’s not true, they said.

True or not, I was asked to resign, but it was a firing.

And Don Nelson, the general manager of the damn team, wasn’t around for any of it.

From the UPI, the next day:

Karl resigned in the middle of his second season Wednesday following a lengthy mid-morning meeting in San Francisco, during which Karl asked team owner Jim Fitzgerald for a contract extension and was refused.

From Karl’s book:

Nellie acted innocent. He told the press that I’d asked for a contract extension during my meeting with the owners. Which is crap. I just wanted any sort of gesture from them that they weren’t about to replace me with my mentor.

The UPI:

“Fitzgerald has confirmed he wants former Milwaukee coach Don Nelson to take over next season. Nelson, currently a Warriors front-office official who has said he doesn't want to return to coaching, promised to give the matter some thought and said he would probably make up his mind 'in a week or two.’”

From Karl’s book, one of two written by him that I’ve paid money for:

The team announced that Nellie would be in charge of the search for my replacement. Ten days later, Nellie had his man: himself. Maybe he established a precedent.

(Karl then compared Gregg Popovich’s 1996 move to replace Spurs coach Bob Hill with Popovich to the time Dick Cheney convinced George W. Bush to let Cheney run as vice president. It’s a really fun book.)

Don Nelson, upon the news of his ascension, promised he’d “contacted two unidentified college coaches who turned down the job” alongside contacting “two other coaches with professional experience.”

Nellie also tried to lower his own bar a bit.

I'm a good basketball coach. But I don't feel I'm the best coach. There are many who are equally as good or better.

The people I was recommending and offering the job to, I felt, were better coaches.

Somehow, through all this plus 20 wins, the Golden State Warriors enjoyed the franchise’s best attendance in a decade during 1987-88.

I mean, they deserve at least a few good years.

THE SAD BAG OF SHAKY JAKE

This song rolls, Humble Pie was so dope.

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(More to come.)