LOS ANGELES — The Golden State Warriors followed a familiar flow chart through almost all of last season’s up-and-down campaign that resulted in a second straight year without a playoff appearance. If star guard Stephen Curry shot well, the Warriors had a chance to win. If he didn’t — they didn’t. Even when the 33-year-old sat on the bench for his usual rest in games, the team looked like a shell of itself, unsure how to function without his brilliance.
During an impressive second-half comeback in Tuesday night’s 121-114 season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Warriors appeared to turn over a new leaf. Curry still managed to register a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but the fact that the Warriors were able to win with him going just 5-for-21 from the field showed signs of growth and promise at the start of an unpredictable season.
“It’s a huge lift,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “We’ve relied on him so much, and we’re still going to rely on him a lot. When he can have a night like he did tonight, not get it going, we still come out with a win, that’s great. He still continued to do everything else. Still continued to draw the double, rebounded the ball, he did everything he needed to do to help us win except what we’re accustomed to, which is making shots. But I don’t know, that will happen.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr pointed out after the game that even though Curry wasn’t hitting shots like usual, he was impacting the game in other ways, especially by dragging defenders around the floor and creating space for his teammates. Curry seemed impressed by the fact that his teammates were able to pick up the slack when he wasn’t able to get things going from the field.
“It means a lot to know that you can make the right play, see the attention, and whether it’s a double-team, triple-team, get rid of it,” Curry said. “And everybody is either a threat to shoot or is going to make the right play, move the ball, high IQ, it’s huge. … I think we always talk about the strength-in-numbers mentality, and how we play and try to create offense is predicated on me drawing attention, moving the ball. If everybody buys into the fact we don’t know who it’s going to be every night, we don’t know [whether] it’s going to be their game, but everybody is going to contribute to that style, it should be a good season.”
The Warriors came into their debut with optimism because they believe the depth on this roster is stronger than it was a year ago — and that’s without former All-Star Klay Thompson (ACL and Achilles rehab) and 2020 No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman (meniscus rehab), who are expected to be back at some point in the next couple of months.
The veteran depth of players such as Andre Iguodala, Nemanja Bjelica and Damion Lee, and the inspired play of a potential breakout candidate, third-year guard Jordan Poole, helped lift the Warriors to a win that likely wouldn’t have occurred last season with a similar Curry performance. The Warriors’ bench outscored the Lakers’ bench 55-29, paced by an unexpected 15 points each from Bjelica and Lee.
“I think we have a really good trust factor with our team,” Poole said. “And it’s not even group-oriented, it’s just us as a whole. We trust everybody who is out there. No matter what the lineup is, no matter what the group is.”
It’s a trust that Kerr could see coming together during an undefeated preseason in which the Warriors were meshing with a rhythm they didn’t see much of a year ago.
“I think we were building confidence in the preseason,” Kerr said. “Obviously we go 5-0 in the preseason and all that goes out the window because records don’t matter. But we felt in the preseason — I really like this team. But you still have to go out and prove it, and I think when you go out there for the first time every year opening night, there’s just some nerves and you got to get over that hump.
“The first half I did not recognize the team I was watching. They were not the team I’ve watched the last three weeks in camp. The second half, that’s who we are — floor spacing, ball movement, hitting singles, nothing crazy, solid defense, so a really good win.”
A good win made even more impressive by the fact that they did it with Curry having an unexpected off night. Curry came into the game averaging just 20.4 points a game against the Lakers at Staples Center, which is the second-worst mark against any team in his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Curry couldn’t help but smile a little when asked whether he had an explanation for his struggles in the building through the years.
“No idea,” Curry said. “If you have any ideas, please let me know because I still ain’t figured it out. I like to learn those lessons [in] winning, though. That helps.”
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis a game-time decision vs. Miami Heat on Sunday after 16-game absence
MIAMI — Anthony Davis, out for the last five weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee, has been upgraded to questionable for the Los Angeles Lakers‘ game against the Miami Heat on Sunday and is considered a game-time decision, according to the team.
“Whenever AD is ready, we’re going to love that, that’s for sure,” LeBron James said of Davis on Friday. “I mean he’s one of our biggest guns that we have, and having him on the floor, it just creates so much for us offensively and defensively, able to do so much more. But his health is what’s most important, and once we know that he’s healthy, he knows that he’s healthy, we get him back on the floor, and then we start getting his wind and his rhythm.”
Davis was averaging 23.3 points on 52.1% shooting, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.2 steals this season prior to the injury. His jump shot, however, had been off. Davis is shooting just 60-for-185 (32%) on shots outside the paint this season, according to NBA.com.
Davis has used the rehabilitation to work on not only his knee but his shot mechanics as well, sources told ESPN.
Davis had been eyeing the Lakers’ six-game road trip to return, as ESPN reported last week, and his presence could certainly help his team that has absorbed reports about Frank Vogel’s job security and Russell Westbrook‘s role in his absence.
If Davis makes his return against Miami, it could evoke warm memories for the Lakers big man. Davis averaged 25 points and 12.8 rebounds in the 2020 NBA Finals, downing the Heat in six games en route to his first championship.
Damian Lillard, content to ‘make decisions that suit you for the long haul,’ slowly works his way back to Portland Trail Blazers’ lineup
Lillard finally took his fellow Olympian’s advice and had the procedure Jan. 13. The Portland Trail Blazers‘ star point guard spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since the injury sidelined him on Jan. 3.
Holiday, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, had similar core surgery during the 2018-19 NBA season when he was with New Orleans. He and Lillard were teammates in Japan last summer on the gold-medal-winning U.S. team.
“He was the first person that pretty much confirmed that I needed to have surgery, because I sat out of practice one day and I was like, ‘I can’t move,’ and I was kind of just holding it. And he just started describing every single symptom,” Lillard said. “And he was like, ‘I had it.'”
Lillard, a six-time All-Star, averaged 24 points and 7.3 assists in 29 games this season for the Blazers. It was clear from the start that the injury — lower abdominal tendinopathy — was bothersome.
“It was just one of those things where I’ve always had control over how I moved and everything, and it had reached a point where my body couldn’t do what my mind wanted it to do and go places that I wanted it to go,” he said. “At some point you’ve got to play chess; you’ve got to make decisions that suit you for the long haul and not just right now.”
While the injury flared up in Tokyo, Lillard said he first felt the abdominal pain in 2015, and it had been gradually getting worse ever since.
The Blazers have struggled without Lillard, the undisputed leader of the team. Playing under first-year coach Chauncey Billups, Portland is 19-26 and in 10th place in the Western Conference.
Anfernee Simons has taken over as Portland’s point guard and has averaged 15.1 points per game. Portland was also playing for an extended period without Lillard’s backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, who had a collapsed right lung before becoming a father for the first time.
There was no timeline for Lillard’s return, but he’s already been doing yoga. The team previously said he would be reevaluated in six weeks.
“I’m just a week from surgery. We said we’ll reevaluate my situation weeks out, six to eight weeks, and we’ll talk about it then. But I’m not in a rush,” he said. “My No. 1 goal is to win a championship. I’ve got to be in the best form of myself to make that happen and to be a part of that. So I’m not in a rush. We’ll talk about whatever that timeline is when we get to that point.”
The Trail Blazers, as play began on Saturday night, occupied the 10th spot in the Western Conference race. They were two games ahead of the Sacramento Kings.
Lillard was asked if he’d play if the Blazers decided to forgo a playoff push and play for a draft pick.
“I mean, if we’re gonna play for a draft pick, it wouldn’t make sense to me. Because I’m not gonna play for no draft pick. I’m just not capable of that,” he said. “So it’d be best if that was what we were doing, or what was decided, then it wouldn’t make sense for me to play.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Chicago Bulls G Alex Caruso to have surgery for fractured wrist, out 6 to 8 weeks, says team
Caruso suffered the injury during the Bulls loss to the Bucks Friday night in Milwaukee. Caruso was fouled hard by the Bucks’ Grayson Allen who was assessed a flagrant two foul and ejected from the game.
Caruso will miss six-to-eight weeks, the team announced
Caruso went up for a layup on a fast break with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter, but Allen hooked Caruso’s right arm, turning Caruso in the air and sending him hard to the floor on his right wrist. Caruso said his wrist was “a little banged up” after the game, but X-rays came back negative.
“Dude just grabbed me out of the air,” Caruso said after Friday’s game. “It’s kind of bulls—. I don’t know what else you can do about it. I’m just glad that I didn’t have any major scary injuries right away.”
Caruso said his wrist continued to bother him in the second half, especially while shooting. He finished 1-of-6 from the field for 3 points in the second half, but said he did not think the injury would linger long term.
Caruso added that Allen did not come to check on him following the play.
The foul particularly irked Bulls coach Billy Donovan, who is normally mild-mannered and rarely singles out players. But following Friday’s game, Donovan called Allen’s actions dangerous and cited his history playing college basketball at Duke.
“For Alex to be in the air and for [Allen] to take him down like that, he could’ve ended his career,” Donovan said. “He has a history of this. That to me was really — it was really dangerous. I hope the league takes a hard look at something like that because that could have really, really seriously hurt him.”
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