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    Klay Thompson’s Fix for His Shooting Woes? Unearthing His Alter Ego.

    The Golden State guard has turned to highlights of himself at his peak — in the mode of “Game 6 Klay” — to help emerge from a shooting slump in the N.B.A. finals.BOSTON — Klay Thompson might as well have spent Game 2 of the N.B.A. finals on Sunday launching the ball straight into swirling winds. His field-goal attempts veered left and right, fell short and carried long.Afterward, knowing Golden State would need him to be more productive as its series with the Celtics continued, Thompson sought to remind himself that he was good at basketball. So he fired up a laptop and watched old clips of a familiar figure: himself.“I remember being in college,” he said, “and when you’d go through a shooting slump, the video guys would pull up a great game when everything seemed in unison, and your body was working so well that the ball was just flowing off your fingertips.”All Thompson needed to do, he said, was search for “Game 6 Klay” on YouTube, and various high-profile reminders of his long-range acumen were readily available to him. Most recently, he scored 30 points and made 8 of 14 3-point attempts in Golden State’s Game 6 win over the Memphis Grizzlies last month to close out their Western Conference semifinal series. He also famously scored 41 points, in a performance that included making 11 of his 18 3-pointers, in 2016 in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.“There were some very high-pressurized situations I was in, and I ended up shooting the ball well,” he said. “When you can do it when your back is against the wall, you can do it at any given moment. It’s just about keeping that mental strong.”Thompson was just 1 of 8 from 3-point range during Game 2 of the N.B.A. finals. His career regular-season 3-point percentage is 41.7.Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesIf nothing else, Thompson is familiar with keeping, as he put it, that mental strong. His celebrated comeback after missing two full seasons because of injuries has culminated in another trip to the finals, his sixth with Golden State. But he was clearly disappointed with his effort in Game 2 against Boston, as he shot 4 of 19 from the field and finished with 11 points. On the bright side, he said, the Warriors drubbed the Celtics to tie the series ahead of Game 3 on Wednesday night in Boston.“It feels good going 4 for 19 and winning by 20,” said Thompson, referring to Golden State’s 107-88 win. “I’d rather do that than go 13 for 19 and lose by 10. Been there, and that’s never fun.”On Tuesday, Thompson arrived for his news conference wearing one sneaker while he worked to fit the other with an insole. He was, in his own way, a work in progress, and that has been the case since January, when he was finally back in uniform after a 941-day absence. In 32 regular-season games, he shot a career-low 38.5 percent from 3-point range, but he offered flashes of his familiar greatness, and his mere presence on the perimeter helped create more space for teammates like Stephen Curry.It has been more of the same for Thompson in the playoffs: some good, some great, some bad. His inconsistency should not be surprising given how long he was gone. His left knee and his right Achilles’ tendon are surgically repaired, so there were always going to be ups and downs as he sought to regain his rhythm and his conditioning. His teammates do not seem concerned.“If you saw him now, you’d think he’s averaging 50 in this series,” Curry said. “He’s got a very confident look about him. That’s the best thing about him. It’s all about the work you put in. It’s about the mind-set.”On Sunday, Thompson had a bit of a different look. He missed 9 of his first 10 field-goal attempts before he made a 3-pointer early in the third quarter that put Golden State ahead, 59-52. He pumped his fists, but was soon muttering to himself and shaking his head.“When I watched the film, I probably seemed a little rushed,” he said. “I wasn’t underneath my shot.”Even as the score grew more lopsided, Golden State Coach Steve Kerr left Thompson in the game against Boston’s reserves. But rather than unearth some confidence, Thompson missed his final four shots.“I think he’s just pressing a little bit,” Kerr said. “He just wants so badly to do well that he’s taking some bad ones. I’m not particularly concerned about it because this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Klay has a way of responding to mini-slumps or whatever you want to call them.”Thompson thought back to this year’s Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Over the first four games of the series, he shot just 29.2 percent from 3-point range. In Game 5, he scored 32 points and shot 8 of 16 from 3-point range to help eliminate Dallas.“I stuck to the process,” he said, “and eventually I blew the lid off.”Ahead of Wednesday’s game against Boston, Kerr said a point of emphasis would be to make sure that Thompson got some good looks early that were in rhythm.As for Thompson’s film study — which he apparently tries to be discreet about — Golden State’s Draymond Green said he had not caught Thompson watching old clips of himself on YouTube.“The reality is, if I did, we’d probably make fun of him,” Green said. “So it’s probably good that I haven’t.”To be fair, Thompson does not have much trouble staying grounded on his own. On Tuesday, he recalled where he was about a year ago: working out in an empty arena with Rick Celebrini, the team’s director of sports medicine and performance.“To be back here on this stage,” Thompson said, “you’ve just got to remind yourself to keep working because it’s a blessing and really an honor to be here.” More

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    Golden State Beats Boston Celtics in Game 2 of NBA Finals

    After collapsing in the fourth quarter of Game 1, Golden State turned an early lead in Game 2 into a big-time victory to even the series.SAN FRANCISCO — It was exactly the kind of release the fans at the Chase Center had been seeking — some reason to jump up out of their seats in a delirious celebration of this team they couldn’t believe had lost Game 1.It happened at the end of the third quarter. Jordan Poole took a few steps past midcourt, pulled up and launched a 39-foot shot that swished through the net. Poole hopped back the other way on his left foot and raised both his eyebrows while seemingly every Golden State fan leaped to their feet and started screaming with joy and perhaps a little relief.That shot gave the Warriors a 23-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, and finished the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the N.B.A. finals. Golden State won, 107-88, to tie the series at one game each. Game 3 is Wednesday night in Boston.The Celtics had a habit this postseason of playing well when they had to win and playing with less urgency when they could afford to lose. That worked for them in the first three rounds, but it meant that their second- and third-round series each went to seven games.Boston Coach Ime Udoka addressed that with his team before Game 2 of the finals.“It’s time to be greedy and go for two,” Udoka said.He had also addressed Golden State’s penchant for making big third-quarter runs, a major problem for a Celtics team that had made a habit this season of third-quarter struggles.In Game 1, Boston was able to overcome being outscored by 14 points in the third quarter because it dominated the fourth, outscoring Golden State 40-16.In Game 2, Golden State didn’t allow a recovery. Instead that was when the dam broke.The Warriors outscored the Celtics by 21 points in the third quarter on Sunday, and pushed their lead to 29 early in the fourth.In Game 1, Stephen Curry unleashed a quick barrage of 3-pointers early, scoring 21 points in the first quarter. In Game 2, Curry remained threatening to the Celtics, and scored 29 points, 14 of them in the third quarter.Celtics forward Jayson Tatum temporarily recovered from his Game 1 slump, but was eventually stymied in the third quarter.Tatum shot 3 of 17 from the field in Game 1, and rebuffed suggestions that his shooting may have affected the rest of his game. As for moving beyond the one-game slump, he was confident he would be able to do that.“You don’t let it creep into your mind,” Tatum said before Saturday’s practice. “I can’t do nothing about what happened last game.”He responded by scoring 21 points in the first half of Game 2, making 7 of 16 shots. But he took only two shots from the field in the third quarter, despite playing all 12 minutes.Al Horford, who led the Celtics with 26 points in Game 1, and blew a kiss to the Chase Center crowd when the game ended, took only four shots and scored 2 points in Game 2.The game was close early, and the Celtics even had a 9-point lead at one point in the first quarter. But Golden State never let Boston sustain any lead. Despite 21 points from Tatum and 15 from Jaylen Brown in the first half, Golden State led by 2 at halftime.By early in the fourth quarter, the game was so well in hand that most of Golden State’s starters rested for at least some of the final frame.Streamers and confetti fell from the rafters after time expired, and Curry, who sat for the fourth quarter, looked up at them briefly. He had ensured that the series would return to San Francisco and last at least until a Game 5. More

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    N.B.A. Finals: Boston Celtics Take On Golden State Warriors

    Golden State has been to the finals six times in eight years. But the young stars of the Celtics may finally be ready for their big moment.It would be Stephen Curry’s fourth N.B.A. championship, or Jayson Tatum’s first. It would be a comeback story for the ages for Klay Thompson, or a fairy-tale ending to the debut of the first-time head coach Ime Udoka.Much is at stake in the 2022 N.B.A. finals for Golden State and the Boston Celtics, two teams with something to prove. For Golden State, it’s a chance to defy the odds against reviving a dynasty after two seasons away from the spotlight. For Boston and its lineup of rising stars, this is, as they say, when legends are made.Here is a look at what to expect in the N.B.A. finals, which begin Thursday in San Francisco.Third-seeded Golden State has home-court advantage over second-seeded Boston because of its better regular-season record.Experience may not be everything.Golden State during the parade for its most recent championship, in 2018.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated PressAfter the Boston Celtics won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, their words about facing Golden State in the N.B.A. finals conveyed a blend of confidence and deference.“We know we’re going up against a great team with the Warriors. Great players, great organization,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “They have the track record to prove it. They know exactly what it takes. They’ve been here. They’re vets. We know we’ve got a long road in front of us, but we’re up for the challenge.”These finals are marked by a gap in experience, with one team well seasoned in championship basketball and another filled with newcomers to this stage. Golden State has five players who have made multiple finals appearances — Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney and Andre Iguodala. The Celtics have no players who have made it this far before now.Part of that is a function of age. Boston’s roster is filled with players in their 20s, while Golden State is a group of 30-somethings whose lives have changed since their first finals appearances.“Just being able to balance even just, like, family life,” Curry said after Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. “I’m blessed to have kids that are now 9, 6 and 3. Like, when I was back in ’14, ’15, chasing those playoffs, just a different vibe in terms of everything that’s going on in life.”Jayson Tatum, left, and Jaylen Brown, right are still finding themselves as the leaders of the Boston Celtics.Derick Hingle/Associated PressSmart was a 21-year-old rookie in 2015, the first time Curry, Green and Thompson won an N.B.A. championship. Jayson Tatum, who was named the Eastern Conference finals most valuable player this year, was in 11th grade. Their teammate Jaylen Brown had just finished high school and was headed to play college basketball at the University of California, Berkeley — just 11 miles from where Golden State played at the time.By the 2015 championship, with the exception of Looney, whom the Warriors drafted a few weeks after winning the title, Golden State’s return finals participants had all been through years of seasoning and early playoff exits.The 2021-22 Celtics have similarly spent the past few years learning how to win in the playoffs, and dealing with the bitterness of losing. Boston has been to the playoffs every year since 2015 and made it to the conference finals four times.But Golden State’s journey shows that finals experience isn’t everything.When the Warriors won the 2015 championship, they faced a Cleveland Cavaliers team led by LeBron James. James was making his fifth consecutive finals appearance and sixth overall. But he couldn’t stop Golden State from winning the series in six games.But James was also relatively new to that team. The depth of Golden State’s experience will help carry the team this month.Prediction: Golden State in six.Draymond Green is Golden State’s ‘emotional leader.’Draymond Green’s strength, and weakness, is his intensity.Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesStephen Curry has famously drained more 3-pointers than anyone in history. Klay Thompson is still basking in his triumphant return from two cataclysmic injuries. And Jordan Poole, out of the morass of Golden State’s two seasons on dynastic hiatus, has emerged as one of the most dynamic young scorers in the league.As the Warriors return to the N.B.A. finals, several players have fueled their run. But is it possible amid all the team’s pyrotechnics that Draymond Green — the team’s highly opinionated, referee-tormenting spokesman — is somehow being overlooked? OK, maybe not. But in his 10th season, Green is making his sixth trip to the finals, and it is no coincidence. He is the defense-minded, pass-first force who binds his teammates in more ways than one.“Our emotional leader,” Coach Steve Kerr said.And Green has seldom, if ever, played better basketball than he has this postseason. In Golden State’s closeout win over the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, he collected 17 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds while shooting 6 of 7 from the field. He quarterbacked the offense. He was a menace on defense. He used up five of his six personal fouls.He also avoided partaking in many of the extracurriculars that had hampered him in the past — at least until after the game, when he spoke about facing the Celtics with a championship at stake. The problem was that the Celtics were still playing the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. In fact, the Heat would force a Game 7 before falling short. But in Green’s mind, he was never wrong.“I thought they were the better team, and clearly I wasn’t far off,” Green said this week on San Francisco’s KGMZ-FM, Golden State’s radio broadcast partner.In his own way, Green was a source of stability for the organization as the team labored with injuries in recent seasons. He mentored his younger teammates. He was in uniform when Curry and Thompson were absent. He acknowledged that it wasn’t always easy: He was accustomed to competing for championships, and suddenly Golden State had the worst record in the league.Now, back alongside Curry and Thompson, Green has another title in sight.“I can’t say that I thought coming into this season, like, ‘Yo, we’re going to win a championship,’ or, ‘We’re going to be in the N.B.A. finals,’ ” Green said. “But I always believed with us three that we have a chance.”Prediction: More rested and more experienced, Golden State wins the series in six games.They’re both great on defense, but different on offense.Celtics Coach Ime Udoka, left, helped Boston become the N.B.A.’s best defensive team. Marcus Smart, right, won the Defensive Player of the Year Award.Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe connections between Celtics Coach Ime Udoka and Golden State Coach Steve Kerr — both former N.B.A. role players — are numerous. Both led their teams to the finals in their first seasons as a head coach, Kerr in 2014-15, when Golden State won the championship, and Udoka this year.They are also connected to San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich. Udoka was an assistant on the Spurs from 2012 to 2019, which resulted in a championship in 2014. Udoka also played three seasons for the Spurs, while Kerr played four seasons in San Antonio and won two championships. Both also worked with Popovich on the U.S. men’s national basketball team.Popovich’s influence is clear. Udoka and Kerr have preached the value of a staunch defense. Boston and Golden State were the two best defensive teams in the N.B.A. during the regular season. And like Popovich, the coaches are willing to bluntly criticize players publicly.Where they diverge is offensively.Udoka has installed a methodical, slower offense. The Celtics frequently run isolations, ranking near the top of the N.B.A. during the regular season, while Golden State was near the bottom.In part, that comes down to personnel: Boston’s two best players, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, are adept at getting to the rim and breaking defenses down one-on-one but less so at passing. In addition, the Celtics start Marcus Smart at point guard, and he isn’t a traditional pass-first guard.Kerr, meanwhile, has long preached an egalitarian offense hinging on ball movement — so much so that Kevin Durant, after leaving Golden State for the Nets in 2019, complained that Kerr’s offense had been limiting. This season, Golden State led the N.B.A. in scoring off cuts to the basket, while the Celtics were just around league average. Golden State also was second in the league in total passes.There’s another difference, too. Kerr is more willing to experiment with lineups. He has given significant minutes to rookies such as Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, shuffling them in and out of the rotation. In the playoffs, Kerr gave the 19-year-old Kuminga three starts in the semifinal series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Moody, 20, was in the rotation against the Dallas Mavericks in the conference finals.Udoka has preferred to keep his rotations fairly predictable, particularly in the playoffs, rarely reaching down the Celtics’ bench even in the case of foul trouble.Prediction: Celtics in six. Their defense is well designed to chase Stephen Curry around. More

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    Golden State Headed to NBA Finals After Beating Dallas Mavericks

    Injuries helped end a streak of five straight finals runs, but Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are back after beating the Dallas Mavericks in the West.SAN FRANCISCO — When the game ended and the celebration began, Klay Thompson’s emotions overtook him.He thought about the past three years of his life, the two serious leg injuries that required surgery, the days when he went to rehab even though he couldn’t bear it any longer. He thought about how this time last year he was just starting to jog again, and how his Warriors teammates sank to the worst record in the N.B.A. from the best in their conference while he couldn’t help. He thought about how lucky he was to have regained his explosiveness this season, how lucky he was to be able to play basketball for a living again.He thought about it all as he sat at the podium after the game, wearing a 2022 N.B.A. finals hat that bore Golden State’s logo and a T-shirt that said they were the Western Conference champions. He said it felt surreal.“I’m just grateful,” Thompson said.Golden State will return to the N.B.A. finals for the first time since 2019 after defeating the Dallas Mavericks, 120-110, in the Western Conference finals on Thursday.Golden State won the series with a victory in Game 5 behind 32 points from Thompson, and 10 points and 18 rebounds from Kevon Looney. They never trailed in the game, and staved off every Mavericks run.Klay Thompson missed two seasons with injuries, but had 32 points in Golden State’s Game 5 win over the Dallas Mavericks to advance to the N.B.A. finals.Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports, via ReutersBecause of injuries, the Warriors had spent a couple of seasons wandering through the N.B.A. wilderness. But their celebrated core — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — is together again and playing some of its best basketball, no small achievement considering the team’s triumphant past.“We are all extremely proud of what it took to get back here,” Curry said. “Yeah, it’s definitely sweet based on what we went through.”Golden State won three championships and advanced to five straight finals from 2015 to 2019, before it all began to come unglued. While falling to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 finals, Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and Kevin Durant ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon.It would get worse. A few weeks later, Durant, who had helped Golden State win two championships, left for the Nets. Four games into the subsequent season, Curry broke his left hand. Golden State finished with the worst record in the league, a humbling blow for a franchise that had seemed on the cusp of establishing itself as a dynasty.Earlier this season, in a podcast interview with the former player JJ Redick, Green acknowledged his uncertainty about the future — both the team’s and his own — as Golden State labored through that listless 2019-20 season. Without Thompson, who spent much of his time rehabilitating away from the team, and Curry, who appeared in just five games, Green did little to hide his frustrations. He mentored some of the team’s younger players, but he also sulked and shot terribly.“I couldn’t get myself going,” Green told Redick. “It was never a point where I felt that my window was closing because of my skills or because of what I bring to the table. But if we’re going to suck like this every year, then my window is closed because I can’t get up for these meaningless games.”Thompson suffered another misfortune when he tore his right Achilles’ tendon in a private workout before the start of the 2020-21 season.“You go through one injury: ‘All right, cool. We’ll get our guy back. We’ll pick up where we left off,’” Green said. “Then you go through another one. When I say you go through another one, I mean, Klay. Then there it is, it’s two years off. You realize how fragile it is.”Draymond Green holding the Western Conference trophy. Green has won three championships with Golden State.Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesBehind the scenes, though, Golden State’s decision makers were building toward a future — one they hoped would resemble the team’s not-so-distant past. In February 2020, General Manager Bob Myers traded for Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 draft pick in 2014, who had never quite fulfilled his seemingly vast potential with the Minnesota Timberwolves.With Golden State, Wiggins would prove he could do a bit of everything: shoot, pass, rebound, defend. On Monday, Kerr described the trade for Wiggins as “the key to all of this.” Golden State’s depth at the wing position had evaporated after the 2019 finals. Thompson was injured. Shaun Livingston had retired. And Andre Iguodala had been traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.“So the Wiggins trade allowed us to start to rebuild that wing defense,” Kerr said, “and Wiggs has just been so good. He’s gotten so much better over the last couple of years. He’s a perfect fit next to our guys.”Thompson said he told Wiggins after Thursday’s game how grateful he was to have him on the team.This season, Wiggins was a first-time All-Star as Golden State went 53-29, good for the third-best record in the West. There were other meaningful moments along the way. Curry broke the league record for career 3-pointers. Thompson, after 941 days away, made his long-anticipated return from injury, scoring 17 points — and even dunking — in a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.But Golden State did not exactly race into the playoffs. It took time for Thompson to regain his familiar feel for the game, and Curry missed the final 12 games of the regular season with a sprained foot. Over one particularly lean stretch at the end of March, the Warriors lost seven of eight games. It was far from assured that they were capable of making a deep run in the playoffs.They needed just five games to eliminate the sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets in the first round, then six to take care of the second-seeded Grizzlies in the conference semifinals.The Mavericks, despite the best efforts of Luka Doncic, were little more than a speed bump.Dallas stole Game 4 of the series behind 30 points from Doncic, then Golden State returned home on Thursday to close out the series.“It’s a beautiful story,” Wiggins said.Andrew Wiggins’s defense on Luka Doncic throughout the series was a key factor in Golden State’s victories.Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports, via ReutersKevon Looney, center, had 18 rebounds for Golden State in Game 5.Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports, via ReutersThe celebration began with about a minute and a half left in the game. Golden State took its starters out so the crowd could shower them with love. Curry sat on the bench looking almost like he couldn’t believe it, then the buzzer sounded and he jumped up and down waving a towel in the air.As streamers fell from the rafters, the Western Conference championship trophy was brought onto the court, along with the new Western Conference finals’ most valuable player trophy, which is named after Magic Johnson and was awarded to Curry. Thompson went around giving powerful hugs to his teammates. Green rushed into the stands with a stack of N.B.A. finals hats to give them to members of his family.After the trophy presentation on the court, Green walked toward the Warriors’ locker room yelling, “We back!”The core’s first playoff appearance together came in 2013, when they beat the Denver Nuggets in the first round before falling to the San Antonio Spurs in the second. They played in Oracle Arena in Oakland back then — all five of their prior finals series happened there.“It’s like kind of time stopped there where you kind of understand what real basketball is like in the playoffs,” Curry said. “We were pups at the time, but definitely great memories of playing in Oracle, the Warrior chants 25 minutes before a tipoff, the haze in the building, if you know what I mean.“To know where we’ve come from that year, everything that’s happened since — I can pretty much drop myself into any series and know what it felt like because we rely on those experiences so much.”Thompson remembers the 2013 playoffs well, too.“We were so young. We took an experienced and dynastic San Antonio team to a hard-fought series,” Thompson said. “After that I was like, gosh, we’re going toe-to-toe with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. If we build on this, we could have a great future.”If someone had told him then that he would spend more than a decade with this team and that they would make six finals appearances together?“I would have never believed you,” Thompson said.Now, he wants more. More

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    Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins Isn’t the Bust You Thought He Was

    Wiggins, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2014, had developed a reputation as a bust. Coming to Golden State has helped him finally tap his potential.SAN FRANCISCO — Reputations tend to stick if they ring true and, for a while, Andrew Wiggins’s reputation in the N.B.A. was that he was a bust.For years, the word on Wiggins, a former No. 1 pick, was that he was inconsistent. That he was bad at defense. That he didn’t care.The Cleveland Cavaliers had drafted him first overall in 2014 but traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves less than two months later. More than five seasons in Minnesota bore little fruit, and after the Timberwolves went to the playoffs only once during that period they sent Wiggins to Golden State.His latest stop, though, has changed things for Wiggins. Wednesday night offered one more example of his progression.Golden State made a statement in the opening game of the Western Conference finals, leading the Dallas Mavericks by 30 points in the fourth quarter and winning, 112-87. Golden State’s point total wasn’t exceptionally high, but its defense propelled its victory.Wiggins was a big part of that. The Warriors asked Wiggins to be their primary defender on the All-Star guard Luka Doncic, and Wiggins made sure Doncic didn’t hurt Golden State in the way he had hurt the Mavericks’ previous playoff opponents.“That’s why he was the No. 1 pick,” Golden State’s Klay Thompson said of Wiggins. “You can’t teach that athleticism. You can’t teach that length. You can’t teach his timing. I’m just happy the world is getting to see who he really is.”Wiggins 8 of 17 from the field on Wednesday, including three 3-pointers.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDoncic finished the game with 20 points, only one more than Wiggins and only 2 of them after the first half. He also committed seven turnovers and had only four assists. Doncic suggested after the game that an achy shoulder had played a role in his performance, saying it was causing him pain when he shot the ball, but added that he would be fine with some treatment.But part of Golden State’s plan was to wear him out, and it was Wiggins’s job to do it.“He took the challenge, and Luka’s tough,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “He still finds a way to control possessions. You’ve got to assume he’ll shoot a little bit better, but Wiggs was relentless. Every possession, he was out there on him. That’s all we really want. Even if Luka has his numbers, you just want to, at the end of the day, feel like he had to work for everything he got.”On Most possessions, Wiggins would start guarding Doncic in the backcourt, not allowing him to easily bring the ball up the court. Asked after the game if that all-court effort had tired him out, Wiggins shrugged and offered a half smile.“I feel like I’m still young,” said Wiggins, who is 27. “I don’t really get too tired. I’m locked in. I’m motivated. And when you see it work or I feel like it’s helping us play better, it just motivates me to do it more.”Said Thompson: “He just doesn’t seem to get tired.”Thompson appreciated the effort more than most: the way Wiggins has been playing, he said, took some pressure off him.“I don’t have to check the best player every night again,” said Thompson, who was known for his defense before missing the past two seasons with leg injuries. “Especially after what I’ve been through, it’s a nice change of pace.”The 87 points the Mavericks scored were the lowest opponent total against Golden State this postseason. The Warriors have held opponents below 100 points three other times during the playoffs this year; each time, they have won.The Mavericks had great success from 3-point range in earlier rounds, but made only 3 of 19 3-pointers in the first quarter Wednesday, and finished the game 11 for 48 from behind the arc. Those misses came from throughout their roster — it wasn’t only Doncic who struggled offensively. But Doncic is the player who drives the Mavericks, so his struggles loom larger.After the final buzzer, Doncic let out a long exhale as he walked through the tunnel toward the visiting locker room at Chase Center. He wore a T-shirt over his uniform because he hadn’t played the final five minutes; by then, the game was too far out of hand for playing him to be worth the risk. His face was marked by an inadvertent red scratch from Wiggins, several inches long, from the right side of his nose down his cheek.The Mavericks have a habit of losing big and recovering. They lost to the Phoenix Suns by 30 points in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals before beating them by 27 in Game 6 and by 33 in Game 7. Several Mavericks players on Wednesday spoke after the game about expecting a much better performance from Doncic during Game 2 on Friday.“We’re under no illusion we’ve figured anything out,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said.What they have figured out, and are glad others are seeing now, is that Wiggins has tapped into a part of his potential that might have been dormant, or at least less obvious in previous seasons.Thompson said being with Golden State has allowed Wiggins to be himself. Curry said he’s learning how to win.Wiggins said the winning culture of Golden State cultivated by players like Stephen Curry, center, has helped him “see a different side of the game.”Harry How/Getty Images“Wiggs is understanding the nuances of what winning basketball is and just how to key in on the little things in terms of consistent effort from the defense, taking those one-on-one challenges, being aggressive on the offensive end, using his athletic ability to get to the rim if he needs to, confidence shooting the 3; being comfortable in our offense,” Curry said. “So there’s a lot of different things that he’s understanding that this time, in terms of a playoff run, requires to win games and the joy that comes with it.”Wiggins passed the credit for that right back to Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green, who all won three championships and went to five straight N.B.A. finals together.“It helps me see a different side of the game,” Wiggins said. “Being here, the culture, the people, organization, most importantly, just being around winners.”A winner was not a label attached to Wiggins much at the start of his career, but during these playoffs he has showed more and more that it fits. 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    Against Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors Feel Range of Emotions

    A tense playoff series against the Grizzlies has Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green reliving the emotional roller coaster of their championship runs.MEMPHIS — The Golden State Warriors expected a physical fight in Game 2 of their second-round N.B.A. playoff series with the Memphis Grizzlies. But to lose that game, 106-101, and to lose a beloved defender to a fractured elbow? Those events they did not expect.It created a mélange of emotions after the game — anger, disappointment, frustration.Still, point guard Stephen Curry, the emotional center of the team, offered several reasons Golden State did not plan to panic.“It’s going to be a long three days with that feeling, but we understand what we need to do,” he said.And also: “We’ve been in a lot of different series that’s taken a lot of twists and turns.”And later: “Lot of adversity, a lot of adrenaline and emotion. We’ve just got to win four games somehow some way.”The loss, on Tuesday night, showed the challenge of the emotional balance the Warriors pride themselves on having. As they attempt to win another championship, they are finally getting to play in high-stakes games after a two-year postseason drought. With that comes the potential for highs, like their emotional 1-point win in Game 1 against the Grizzlies, but also lows, like the way they felt after their loss Tuesday. The series, which is tied 1-1, will continue in San Francisco with Game 3 on Saturday.“Everybody’s bummed out,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said. “But it’s the playoffs, so everybody will shower up and we’ll get on the plane and head home. We’re in a good spot.”Golden State forward Draymond Green raised his middle fingers toward a booing Memphis crowd as he left the court after an inadvertent elbow to the face left him bloodied.Brandon Dill/Associated PressThe two years during which Golden State missed the playoffs made those players who had been through the championship years that much more wistful for the thrill of playoff stakes.“I think it’s almost like a drug in some ways,” said the assistant coach Ron Adams, who has been with the team since 2014.Only six players from the last N.B.A. finals run, in 2019, remain, but they have returned to the playoffs with a deeper understanding of their emotions.“I got excited after Game 1 because it was such a hard-fought game, but as soon as I went back to the hotel that adrenaline wore off and I realized it’s just one game and it’s a marathon,” guard Klay Thompson, 32, said. “For me, I think I’m a lot more centered than I was our first time doing this.”He also believes some things haven’t changed, and shouldn’t.“I’ve been through the biggest battles with Dray, and he embraces those moments, he embraces being the villain,” Thompson said of forward Draymond Green. “We need that. He really makes us go, and without him, we’re not the Warriors.”On Tuesday morning, Kerr had said Golden State expected Game 2 to be the most physical game the team had played all season.It roiled their emotions, with the hostile Grizzlies crowd lifting the home team. Memphis guard Ja Morant scored 47 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies capitalized on Golden State’s mistakes late. But the opening minutes set a tense tone.Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks was ejected less than three minutes into the game, having received a flagrant-2 foul after swiping Gary Payton II across the head as Payton was in the air to try to make a basket. Payton fractured his elbow when he landed awkwardly.“I don’t know if it was intentional, but it was dirty,” Kerr said, later accusing Brooks of jeopardizing Payton’s career.Green also left the game in the first quarter after Xavier Tillman inadvertently elbowed him in the face. Hearing boos from the crowd, Green raised his middle fingers toward the fans as he left the court to get stitches above his right eye.“It felt really good to flip them off,” said Green, who answered other questions about the night in clipped sentences. “You’re going to boo someone that got elbowed in the eye and had blood running down your face? I could’ve had a concussion or anything. So if they’re going to be that nasty, I can be nasty, too. I’m assuming the cheers was because they know I’ll get fined. Great. I make $25 million a year. I should be just fine.”Green and Grizzlies fans were already on bad terms coming into the game. He had been ejected from Game 1 after a hard foul on Memphis forward Brandon Clarke. On Tuesday, Green returned to the game at the start of the second quarter with his right eye nearly swollen shut.All the while, Golden State was figuring out how to recover from a hot Grizzlies start and Payton’s injury.“It was like 8-0 at the time, so I was trying to get settled in the game,” Curry said. “That play happens. It pisses you off, you have a reaction, understand there’s 45 minutes left in the game. You’ve got to kind of settle back in emotionally. We did a really good job until the fourth quarter.”It was a marked change from Golden State’s demeanor following the Game 1 win, but that shift is typical in playoff series, particularly the closer they are to the finals.Curry’s signature emotion is happiness. Lately, as Golden State has advanced in the playoffs, as the games have become more crucial and challenging, those around him have seen more of that.“Just the simple phrase, ‘You got to love it’; heard him say that a few times,” Bruce Fraser, an assistant coach who works closely with Curry, said Tuesday morning. “You can feel his energy. He walks around with an energy around him. I know him so well it’s hard for me to describe what that is because I just feel it.”Golden State guard Klay Thompson. left, was riding high after beating Memphis in Game 1.Joe Rondone/USA Today Sports, via ReutersBeing able to prevent an emotionally taxing loss from changing that has been a part of Golden State’s success in the past.On Tuesday morning, Thompson spoke not just about his efforts to stay calm in exciting moments, but also about his improved ability to not worry too much in more negative moments. He said he loved to play in any game he could, given his two-year absence from the sport as he recovered from two leg injuries.He also spoke about his confidence that Golden State could handle anything, because in his years playing with Curry and Green, they have, he said, “been through everything.”He recalled a playoff series against the Grizzlies in 2015 and how aggressively that Memphis team played. Golden State also lost Game 2 of that series before winning it on the way to Thompson, Curry and Green’s first championship. That’s not to say the situations are identical. In 2015, Golden State was the top seed in the Western Conference, while Memphis was fifth. This season, the Grizzlies had the second-best record in the N.B.A., while Golden State was third.Those types of experiences, though, help keep emotions stable.After Tuesday’s game, Curry spoke with reporters before he even changed out of his game uniform. Still, he already seemed to be moving past the emotion of the game. He exhibited the cerebral quality that leads the rest of his team.“It’s in our DNA,” Curry said when asked how Golden State would recover from this loss. “We know what to do.” More

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    Draymond Green Leaves Early, but Golden State Shows Tenacity Late

    Jordan Poole came off the bench to score 31 points as Golden State overcame Green’s first-half ejection.MEMPHIS — Moments before they learned Draymond Green had been ejected from the game, Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr and guard Stephen Curry looked out at the crowd Green had enraged. Kerr and Curry laughed as fans chanted, “Throw him out.”But the longer the referees took to review Green’s hard foul on Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke, the more concerned they looked. Green sat on the scorer’s table, expressionless, until the referees delivered his fate.Chaos ensued.Kerr and Curry started shouting at the officials about how outrageous they found the call. Green leaped from his seat and ran to the opposite sideline, returning to the Golden State bench to say goodbye to his teammates. Fans cheered, and Green motioned for them to get louder. They were happy to oblige and jeered at Green as he skipped backward toward the tunnel to the locker room, where he watched the rest of the game.Golden State has experience with all this — with Green being ejected, with a hostile crowd, with a young opponent that isn’t afraid. So, at halftime, the team wasn’t concerned. In this game, the Warriors drew on their experience, their determination and their delight at being back in the playoffs after a two-year drought to beat Memphis, 117-116, in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series.“I just missed everything about this atmosphere and opportunity to play meaningful games that require everything,” Curry said. “I missed everything about it.”The Grizzlies got to this point with the second-best record in the N.B.A. this season, and reached the second round with a taxing win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. It took them six games, and they often saw big deficits. They closed games with enough ferocity that the Timberwolves ran out of steam.Memphis finished that series on Friday night, then traveled home to welcome the Warriors two days later.Golden State, which had the third-best record in the league, needed only five games to beat the Denver Nuggets. They ended the season of Nikola Jokic, a top candidate to win the N.B.A.’s Most Valuable Player Award and had a three-day break before Sunday’s game.They had missed the playoffs in the past two seasons because Klay Thompson had been hurt for both seasons entirely, and Curry for parts of each. Healthy once the playoffs started, Golden State had the luxury of combining seasoned youngsters like Gary Payton II, who started the game and helped on a game-saving defensive stop, and Jordan Poole, who scored 31 points off the bench, with three men who won three championships together in Curry, Green and Thompson. It gave Golden State an edge, but not one that scared the Grizzlies.Famously confident, particularly in front of its boisterous home crowd, Memphis punched first in the game, with back-to-back 3s by Ja Morant. Memphis led the Warriors by 10 points in the first quarter and had a 6-point lead at halftime, behind Morant’s 18 and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s 14. Jackson, who had struggled against a bigger Timberwolves team, finished with a season-high 33 points.Poole started throughout the first round, but needing Payton’s defensive presence, Kerr switched his lineup for this game.“Tonight is the rule rather than the exception,” Kerr said. “The Jordan we’ve seen now the last few months, this is what he looks like.”Golden State guard Jordan Poole, driving on Memphis’s De’Anthony Melton, had 31 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds on Sunday.Brandon Dill/Associated PressThroughout the first half, the Grizzlies looked capable of challenging the Warriors, even though this was their first time, as a group, to make it to the second round of the playoffs.When Green fouled Clarke, Memphis led by three.Green’s right and left hands struck Clarke, and a replay in the arena showed Green grabbing and pulling on Clarke’s jersey, then grabbing it to prevent him from hitting the ground too hard.“He’s been known for flagrant fouls in his career; I’ve watched him on TV my whole life it feels like,” said Clarke, who is seven years younger than Green. “So I wasn’t really shocked.”Green said on his podcast that he was trying to hold Clarke up, and hoped the league would reduce the foul from a flagrant-2 to the lesser offense of a flagrant-1. Each flagrant foul accumulates points, and during the 2016 N.B.A. finals, Green was suspended for a pivotal game because he accrued too many flagrant points. The Warriors lost the series.Golden State did not expect an ejection, but Green’s body language as he left the court during the replay indicated he knew he had erred. Kerr said the referees told him that Green’s ejection came because he hit Clarke in the face and threw him to the ground.“It’s unfortunate,” Thompson said. “We’re not the same team without him. But I’m incredibly proud of how we responded.”At halftime, Golden State steeled its resolve, but still needed late heroics to win the game. As young and inexperienced as they were, Memphis did not yield easily.With 39.7 seconds left, the Warriors secured a jump ball and Thompson hit a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 117-116 lead.Curry stripped Morant on the Grizzlies’ next possession, leaving Golden State seconds from a victory. Asked about the play after the game, Curry said he barely remembered it. In that moment, rather than looking pleased, the Warriors looked angry and defiant, with Curry sauntering across the court.“I played angry,” Thompson admitted after the game.Thompson missed two free throws with 6.7 seconds remaining, giving Memphis one last chance.“I’ve learned from so much experience that you have to move forward,” Thompson said. “We still had the lead, still had time on the clock. We had to get a stop.”Said Curry, when told of Thompson’s quote: “That’s just championship DNA and being able to focus on what helps win games.”Morant backed away from the basket as his team set up a play.“They put him in the backcourt, and we knew they were going to try to get him to go downhill,” Poole said. He added: “Seen that play a couple times.”The game ended with a miss by Morant, who was guarded by Thompson and Payton.“I was actually beat on the play,” Payton said. “Thank God Klay Thompson had my back and sniffed it out.”Thompson ran to midcourt screaming “Come on!” as the fans filed out.“It feels really good to know that these guys have been in the fight and they have championship experience,” Poole said. “They know how important specific possessions are. It was huge. Just being able to follow in those guys’ footsteps and watch the way that they move was huge for us today.”Curry joined Thompson at midcourt after the game, shouting in celebration. Television cameras caught Green celebrating in the tunnel, waiting for them. More

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    Golden State’s Playoff Reappearance Doesn’t Quite Feel Like Old Times

    The heart of the roster — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — is back in the N.B.A. playoffs, a world away from the team’s soul in Oakland.SAN FRANCISCO — The scene felt both comfortingly familiar and oddly askew.Warming up before Game 1 of the Golden State Warriors’ first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, Klay Thompson launched orbital jump shots beside his longtime teammate Stephen Curry. The nets singed with swishes, same as they ever had.This was a home game for Golden State, which in the not-too-distant past — let’s just say anytime during the five straight N.B.A. finals appearances and three championship titles that began in the 2014-15 season — would have meant Oakland, inside the madhouse bandbox known as “Roaracle,” the worn-at-the-heels arena long known as one of the loudest in sports.But that was the past.This was San Francisco. The present. Chase Center. The first Golden State playoff game since 2019. A crowd full of new fans who can afford the astronomical ticket prices. A crowd still learning how to love its favorite team.At Oracle, fans rarely left their seats during the heart of the action.At Chase, there are so many amenities — lounge-like lobbies, $25 lobster rolls — that plenty of seats were open as the first half wound to a close Saturday with Golden State on a scintillating run that propelled it to a 123-107 victory.At Oracle, fans often broke out into a loud chants that seemed to spell doom for opponents.At Chase, fans chanted, but the sound seemed comparatively diminished, the cadence, strength and timing not quite right.What a difference nearly three years makes for two great American cities and one great global brand of an N.B.A. team.On June 13, 2019, Golden State played its final game at Oracle Arena in the heart of Oakland. Presaging the dark days ahead, the Toronto Raptors won Game 6 of the N.B.A. finals, snatching the title from the defending champion, closing the building and ending Golden State’s run as this century’s most dominant N.B.A. team. Thompson tore up his left knee in that game. Kevin Durant, felled by an Achilles’ tear in that series, signed with the Nets within weeks.A mural of Curry adorned the rear wall of a gym complex near Jack London Square in Oakland in 2019.Jim Wilson/The New York TimesGolden State now plays in a three-year-old crown jewel of a waterfront stadium nestled across the bay, tucked within a high-priced neighborhood of gleaming shops, offices and condominiums.But the longtime, nearly spiritual bond between Oakland and its famed basketball team remains. Emblazoned on Curry’s shoes Saturday was the word “Oakland” in a gold font. The players still speak of the city as if it is sacred. “The soul of our team comes from Oakland,” Draymond Green said this year.To get a sense of the city and gauge how residents feel about losing a team that bonded with its home community as few franchises do, I spent a few days in Oakland last week. I walked the downtown streets and the working class neighborhoods near the old Oracle, now known as Oakland Arena. I visited a mosque and an old church, several tiendas, a shopping mall, a soul food joint and several homes.I trudged around the old arena, which looks sad and forlorn. It is primarily a concert venue now. Maxwell, the silky-voiced R&B singer, had been set to play on Saturday night, but his concert was postponed.That seemed symbolic. Nothing seems certain in Oakland these days. As the city struggles to recover from the worst of the pandemic, its connection with professional sports — a history that includes 10 league championships won in Oakland among its N.B.A. franchise, the A’s of M.L.B. and the Raiders of the N.F.L. — hangs by a thread.The Raiders followed the Golden State blueprint and left for Las Vegas in 2020.The A’s remain, but for how long? On Monday, when they play their 2022 home opener against the Baltimore Orioles, they will take the field at a decrepit old stadium that looked marvelous when it was built in the 1960s but now has the charm of a concrete coffin.With the team’s plan to build a waterfront stadium along the busy Oakland port at a standstill, the city again in financial distress and the A’s team owner flirting with Las Vegas, nobody can say that professional baseball will stay put.“Very soon, we might have no teams here,” said Paul Brekke-Miesner, a historian of the Oakland sports scene who has lived in the city’s hardscrabble eastern flats for decades. Brekke-Miesner grimaced, thinking of Oakland and its long heritage of professional sports greatness now fading.Seeing Golden State play a postseason series at the Chase Center, “it’s more than a gut punch,” he said, echoing a sentiment I heard often. The wound remains raw. “And it’s so ironic because we have the legacy here as far as basketball, but that doesn’t matter to the owners anymore. They don’t understand.”Perhaps this should not surprise. The relocation of teams tears at the fabric of a community, but it is nothing new.The Raiders started in Oakland, moved to Los Angeles, came back to Oakland and now have a Las Vegas address.Both the A’s and the Warriors were born in Philadelphia.When the basketball franchise came west in 1962, it played in San Francisco. Oakland didn’t become home until 1971. What’s old is new again.More than once last week, I heard Oakland residents describe going to Golden State games at the arena in their city as akin to a spiritual undertaking. When the team was in Oakland, through lean years and world titles it oozed with the town’s vibe — soulful, tough, while also willing to break old norms and throw jabs at the status quo.Oakland birthed the Black Panthers and became one of the most diverse and progressive cities in the nation. It produced a slew of trailblazing athletes, iconic and unafraid. Bill Russell, Frank Robinson and Curt Flood to name three. That Curry changed how basketball is played while suiting up in Oakland felt perfect.“Oracle was like my cathedral,” one longtime fan told me, thinking back to all the games he watched from the rafter seats while Curry strung together mind-bending 3-pointers as if touched by grace. “Chase Center? Hmm. Definitely not.”It’s not anyone’s cathedral just yet.“Oracle, especially during the playoffs over the years, was just an incredible atmosphere,” Steve Kerr, Golden State’s coach, said before Game 1. “Those are amazing memories that will last a lifetime. Now it’s time to start some new ones.”Getting out to a 1-0 series lead was a good beginning. Even if the home crowd, still learning how to rise with raucous chants, made three years seem like eons and Oakland feel far, far away. More