NBA

Player grades as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Golden State Warriors repeat as champions

Jay Asser 9/06/2018
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Stephen Curry had 37 points in the clincher.

The Golden State Warriors are back-to-back champions as they claimed their third title in four years with a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Stephen Curry had 37 points while Finals MVP Kevin Durant recorded a triple-double, but the Warriors’ defence was just as impressive as they locked down LeBron James and Co in 108-85 win in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Here are our the player grades for both teams.

Cleveland Cavaliers

George Hill – Had a terrible series and finished it with another poor performance in which he was a complete non-factor. D

J.R. Smith – Did his part by hitting three triples and being an engaged defender, but also picked up a silly technical foul. B-

LeBron James – Uncharacteristically played his worst game of the series facing elimination and displayed zero confidence in his jump shot. C

Kevin Love – Thirteen points on 13 shots is simply not good enough for the Cavaliers’ number two offensive option. C-

Tristan Thompson – Converted a few shots in the paint but only saw the floor for 16 minutes as Cleveland prioritised offence. B

Rodney Hood – Carried over his play from the previous game to again give good minutes off the bench before it became a blowout. B+

Jeff Green – Too many Cleveland possessions ended on Green isolations or post-ups, which unsurprisingly didn’t work out. C-

Larry Nance Jr – Even when the game was getting out of hand, Nance was bringing his usual energy and scrapping. B+

Kyle Korver – Shot 0-of-6 from the field as he was neutralised again to cap off a rough series for him. D

LeBron

Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry – Splashed seven bombs from deep for 37 points and also played well on defence, coming up with three blocks and three steals. A

Klay Thompson – Got into foul trouble before the end of the first half and finished with a modest 10 points on 10 shots. B-

Kevin Durant – Wasn’t nearly as efficient scoring the ball as the past two games, but had a triple-double with an all-around effort. A-

Draymond Green – Was his usual disruptive self on the defensive end, while chipping in nine points and nine assists. B+

JaVale McGee – Continued to give the Cavaliers problems as a roll man and rim protector whenever he was on the court. B+

Andre Iguodala – Came off the bench to shoot 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, punishing Cleveland for leaving him open on the perimeter. A-

Jordan Bell – His ability as a versatile defender who can guard inside and out was on full display in his 18 minutes. B

Shaun Livingston – Only took one shot in his 14 minutes, but made an impact defensively as a stable presence off the bench. B-

David West – Wasn’t asked to do much, yet his eight minutes were useful in that they allowed the starters to get a breather. B-

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NBA

Golden State Warriors stars Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are dueling for Finals MVP

Jay Asser 8/06/2018
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Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry have each had their moment in the Finals.

The only suspense left in the NBA season is whether Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry will walk away with Finals MVP.

After three games, the two Golden State Warriors stars each have a case for the coveted honour, so it could come down to who performs better in Game 4 (if the Warriors clinch the title with a sweep).

Before breaking down the case for each player, let’s get this out of the way first: LeBron James should not win Finals MVP. Has he been the best player in a series in which he’s leading all players in scoring and assists with averages of 37.7 points, 10.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 52.5 per cent shooting? Yes. No one’s going to dispute that – or they shouldn’t, at least.

But to earn Finals MVP as a player on a losing team, you have to be so head and shoulders beyond the rest of the field that it’s criminal to not get the trophy. There’s a reason only once in NBA history has a losing player been the Finals MVP and that was the first ever edition of the award, given to Los Angeles Lakers icon Jerry West back in 1969.

If LeBron was doing what he did in Game 1 – 51 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and 59.4 per cent shooting – every night in this series, then sure, he would probably get the award. But he hasn’t and there are two players on the team that’s actually winning who are deserving.

Before Game 3, it seemed like Curry was comfortably on the way to securing his first Finals MVP – an achievement that has eluded him while he’s stocked with trophy cabinet with two championships and two regular season MVPs.

Curry’s career probably won’t be looked at any differently whether he has a Finals MVP to his name or not, but from a historical perspective, it would be fitting for a player of his stature and standing among the league’s all-time greats to have at least one on his resume.

After splashing down a Finals record nine 3-pointers and scoring 33 points in a signature performance in Game 2, Curry looked in line for the award. But the combination of him mightily struggling in Game 3 and Kevin Durant having his own memorable night has likely put Curry behind his teammate.

It’s not just that Curry was bad in Game 3, it’s that he had one of the worst shooting nights of his career, hitting just 3-of-16 from the field, including 1-of-10 from deep.

Durant, meanwhile, lit it up with 43 points on 15-of-23 shooting, to go with 13 rebounds and seven assists. Like last year, he also hit what may end up being the most memorable shot from the series with his clutch 3-pointer in the final minute.

Here are Curry and Durant’s averages up to this point in the Finals.

Curry: 24.3 points, 7.7 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 3.0 turnovers, 38.5 per cent overall, 39.5 per cent on 3s
Durant: 31.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.7 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 55.9 per cent overall, 47.4 per cent on 3s

There’s no doubt whose averages look better on paper. Durant is not only putting up more numbers than Curry, he’s doing it more efficiently with ridiculous shooting percentages.

He also has recency bias working in his favour, with his best game so far having been after Curry’s. Plus, however you want to account for defence, Durant has the edge in that department as well.

It’s fair to say if both players have somewhat similar performances to one another in Game 4 and the Warriors win, Durant will walk away with the hardware.

But it’s too late for Curry to jump back into pole position. Obviously if he plays well in the clincher and Durant struggles, the odds shift in his favour. But one thing working to his advantage is his importance to Golden State’s offensive identity, meaning that when he’s clicking, the Warriors attack is at its best. Compare that to Durant, who is more or less a backup option and a high-volume scorer only when the rest of the Warriors aren’t completely in rhythm.

Curry is the face and soul of the Warriors, so if he can dominate in such a way in Game 4 that the rest of the team feeds off that – like in Game 2 – then it might not matter what Durant does.

This is all based on the idea Golden State finish off this series with a sweep. The longer this goes, the more unpredictable the MVP choice will be.

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NBA

Bryan Colangelo resigns from Philadelphia 76ers after his wife admits to operating Twitter burner accounts

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Bryan Colangelo has resigned from his role with the 76ers.

Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations and general manager Bryan Colangelo resigned on Thursday after his wife admitted to operating Twitter burner accounts that were uncovered more than a week ago in a report by The Ringer.

The five Twitter accounts were used by Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, to defend him, while also criticising team members and releasing sensitive, team-related information.

Bottini admitted to operating the accounts, which was corroborated, along with Colangelo being the source of the information, through the findings of the investigation by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

“When interviewed, Ms. Bottini admitted establishing and operating the accounts. Forensic evidence corroborates her admissions,” the law firm said in a statement.

“Our investigation revealed substantial evidence that Mr. Colangelo was the source of sensitive, non-public, club-related information contained in certain posts to the Twitter accounts. We believe that Mr. Colangelo was careless and in some instances reckless in failing to properly safeguard sensitive, non-public, club-related information in communications with individuals outside the 76ers organisation.”

Colangelo refuted the information came from him, though he did call into question his wife’s actions.

“I vigorously dispute the allegation that my conduct was in any way reckless” Colangelo said in a statement. “At no point did I ever purposefully or directly share any sensitive, non-public, club-related information with her.

“Her actions were a seriously misguided effort to publicly defend and support me, and while I recognise how inappropriate these actions were, she acted independently and without my knowledge or consent. Further, the content she shared was filled with inaccuracies and conjecture which in no way represent my own views or opinions. While this was obviously a mistake, we are a family and we will work through this together.

“Although I am not directly responsible for the actions, I regret this incident occurred and understand that it has become a distraction for the team. Therefore, the organisation and I have mutually agreed to part ways.”

The 76ers accepted Colangelo’s resignation, saying in a statement it had “become clear Bryan’s relationship with our team and his ability to lead the 76ers moving forward has been compromised”.

Sixers coach Brett Brown will now handle basketball operations on an interim basis.

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