Giannis cements legendary status with dominating NBA Finals performance

Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Vincent Frank  |  Last updated 7/21/21

Two NBA MVP awards. An NBA title. The 2021 NBA Finals MVP. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks has now officially ascended the ladder in the Association and has to be considered one of the best players of this generation.

Tuesday night’s win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to wrap up the series represented that coming-out moment for the Greek Freak.

We already knew what Antetokounmpo had in him. From the moment Milwaukee made him a mid first-round pick in 2013, something special was brewing in Wisconsin. A lanky 6-foot-11 frame with elite athleticism. Rawness, that if ever fulfilled, would make him among the most-dominating figures in the NBA.

Within just a couple seasons, the Athens native showed us that his trajectory and ceiling was about as high as anything we’ve seen in the known universe — the NBA’s equivalent of the cosmos.

Fast forward less than a half-decade, and Antetokounmpo is on top of the NBA mountaintop. It came via an otherworldly 50-point performance en route to helping Milwaukee close out the Suns in Game 6 Tuesday evening. The dude was unstoppable. He was unflappable. He was a freight train that ran over everything in his path.

Through the first three quarters Tuesday evening, the Greek Freak had tallied 37 points. The rest of his Bucks teammates combined for 40. That performance allowed Milwaukee to keep the game tied heading into the fourth quarter.

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Once NBA season resumes, Finals to end on or before Oct. 12?

Last Friday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ramona Shelburne and Zach Lowe reported that on Thursday, the NBA Board of Governors is expected to approve a proposal submitted by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to resume the 2019-20 season halted on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

It appears fans might get live basketball back on their televisions on the last day of July. 

On Tuesday, Wojnarowski tweeted that the league wants clubs back on courts for meaningful action on July 31 and that the last game of the NBA Finals could be scheduled for Oct. 12. 

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By Zac Wassink | Last updated 6/2/20

Raptors roar: Winners and losers from Game 1 of the NBA Finals

The long-anticipated 2019 NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors tipped off Thursday night in Canada.

Coming into the series, Toronto found itself as the overwhelming underdog. Though, Kawhi Leonard and Co. were favored to win the opener at home.

From pretty much the start, Toronto played like the better and more hungry team. Pascal Siakam dominated all four quarters. Leonard came through when it counted the most.

Meanwhile, the Warriors couldn’t get any secondary scoring behind Stephen Curry. Klay Thompson struggled and was visibly frustrated. Draymond Green found himself in foul trouble.

Here are the biggest winners and losers from Toronto’s 118-109 Game 1 win over the defending champs in the 2019 NBA Finals.

Winner: Marc Gasol 

A lot was made of Gasol’s struggles on offense in the Eastern Conference Finals. He also didn’t seem to have a great matchup against Golden State’s bigs in the NBA Finals. If Game 1 is any indication, that was nothing more than narrative.

Gasol led Toronto in scoring with 14 points in the first half, finishing that span plus-11 in the process. Showing improved defense, his all-around game was excellent. In the end, the borderline future Hall of Famer scored 20 points and grabbed seven boards before fouling out.

Loser: Klay Thompson

 With Kevin Durant out of action, it was rather apparent that Thompson needed to step up behind Stephen Curry. That certainly wasn’t the case in Game 1.

Klay just didn’t have it on either end of the court. His frustration boiled over with a dumb technical in the final stanza. Thompson was ultimately minus-10 on the court and didn’t show the same long-range sniper ability that has defined his career. Maybe he should start listening to Drake music again.

Winner: Danny Green 

This NBA champ entered Game 1 having hit on just one of his past three 15 three-pointers. But proving himself to be the solid veteran we saw in San Antonio, Green did not hesitate to take big shots at big times.

Still getting the starting nod for Nick Nurse, Green drained 3-of-7 three-point attempts and played some absolutely great perimeter defense against the likes of Curry and Thompson. Green could very well be an X-factor moving forward in the series.

Loser: Draymond Green

The aggressiveness we saw from Green during Golden State’s four-game sweep of Portland in the Western Conference Finals just wasn’t there Thursday night. He attempted three shots in the first half, committing as many fouls and turnovers in the process.

Green might have finished the evening with a triple-double (10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists), but he was not the same overall presence we’ve seen through the playoffs. That’s magnified by the performance Siakam put up on him offensively.

Winner: Pascal Siakam 

Not enough can be said about this youngster. He might not be the best player in Toronto, but Siakam continues to perform like a king. Thursday night’s action was no different.

At one point that spanned the final three quarters, Siakam hit on 11 consecutive shots. He did so with elite defenders such as Draymond and Kevon Looney on him. With Kawhi laboring a bit, Siakam’s 32 points were the difference in this game.

Loser: Warriors other bigs

While DeMarcus Cousins was performing well in limited action, the likes of Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell did not do their thing. Bell got the start over his counterparts, playing a combined 12 minutes and scoring two points. Meanwhile, a previously impressive Looney scored nine points but was negative-four in 28 minutes of action.

We’re highly intrigued to see how Steve Kerr employs his bigs in Game 2. The rotations clearly did not work Thursday evening. There’s now a good chance that Cousins will get the start over the others Sunday evening.

Winner: Stephen Curry 

Pretty much the only member of the defending champs to do anything on offense Thursday night, Curry was hassled by both Toronto’s defense and some bad officiating. Despite this, the two-time former MVP was still able to do his thing.

Curry scored 34 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including a ridiculous 14-of-14 mark from the free-throw line. He continued to display aggressiveness while not settling for threes. That’s what the Warriors need with Durant sidelined.

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By: Vincent Frank

 

Dubs Win Second Championship In Three Years

Written by Scott Davis at Business Insider.com

The Golden State Warriors avenged their 2016 Finals collapse with a 129-120 championship-securing win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 on Monday night.

The title was the Warriors’ second in three years and potentially marks the beginning of a dynasty.

After going up 3-0 in the series, and 15-0 in the postseason, the Warriors ran into a Cavs team with perhaps more fight left than anyone expected. Following a Game 4 trouncing in Cleveland, the Cavs once again gave the Warriors a test in Game 5, buoyed by the one-on-one magic of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and some hot shooting from J.R. Smith.

But in the fourth quarter, leading by five, the Warriors turned to the man they brought in to get them back over the hump: Kevin Durant. He was nearly flawless in Game 5, scoring 39 points on 14-of-20 shooting with seven rebounds and five assists.

He wasn’t alone, of course. Stephen Curry chipped in 34 points on 10-of-20 shooting with six rebounds and 10 assists. The Warriors also got a huge game from Andre Iguodala off the bench, as he contributed 20 points in 38 minutes and dutifully locked down Irving and James.

In the process, the Warriors may be looking at the beginning of a dynasty. They face a big offseason, with the free agencies of Durant, Curry, Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston. But Durant is reportedly willing to take less than the max to re-sign with the Warriors. If that happens, the Warriors will not need cap space to re-sign Iguodala and Livingston. And Curry, after years of being underpaid, will be eligible for a max contract worth approximately $205 million over five years.

The Warriors have a core of four All-NBA stars, in their primes, eligible to be locked up long term. Odds are, this is not the last we see of them.

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Warriors Battle Back, And Still Beat Cavs. Lead Series 3-0

Written by the AP at FoxNews.com

Kevin Durant drained the shot of his professional life — a 3-pointer with 45.3 seconds left — and scored 31 points as the Golden State Warriors moved within one win of postseason perfection and payback by rallying to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-113 on Wednesday night to take a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors trailed by six with three minutes left before Durant, who signed with Golden State last summer to win a championship, brought them back, scoring 14 in the fourth.

With their 15th straight win, the Warriors have the longest postseason streak for any team in the four major professional sports.

And with a victory in Game 4 on Friday night, Golden State can exorcise those haunting demons from last June when the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals to the Cavaliers. Not team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit.

Klay Thompson added 30 points and Stephen Curry had 26 for this California Dream Team now one win from its second title in three years.

LeBron James shook off a knee-buckling blow to the chin while scoring 39 and Kyrie Irving added 38 for the Cavs, who took a 113-107 lead with 3:09 left on J.R. Smith’s 3-pointer.

Curry hit a layup and after both James and Irving missed for the Cavs, Durant dropped his 3 — a shot that could be the one most remembered in this magnificent run by the Warriors.

“All I was looking at was the bottom of the net,” Durant said. “I’ve been working on that shot my whole life. To see that go in, that was liberating, man. We’ve got one more to go.”

After the Warriors went up, Irving missed a 3 from his favorite spot on the right side and the Warriors closed it out with four free throws in the final 12.9 seconds before celebrating briefly on the floor and then charging down the hallway to their locker room.

After winning Games 1 and 2 by a combined 41 points at home, the Warriors had to scrap for all 48 minutes to take down the Cavs, who will need a similar effort to avoid being swept by a team with few weaknesses.

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Steve Kerr Returns As Warriors Win 132-113. Two Game Lead

Written by Joe Garza at YahooSports.com

Inspired by the return of head coach Steve Kerr, the Golden State Warriors ran away with Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 132-113 to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“It was just great to be on the sidelines again,” said Kerr, who plans to coach the remainder of the series after struggling with a serious back condition. “That’s what makes it so much fun, to feel the energy of the Finals. And so it’s really nice to be back.”

It certainly was for the Warriors, who scored 40 first-quarter points – including 10-of-10 free throws by Stephen Curry – to take a six-point lead and never looked back.

The rapid pace played right to the Warriors’ strengths, but they were far from perfect in the first half, turning over the ball 13 times – which led to 17 Cavs points – and having some trouble with cheap fouls. Draymond Green had three fouls, and Curry and Klay Thompson had two each by halftime with the Warriors leading 67-64.

“We’re just trying to just stay in the moment,” Kevin Durant said. “But for the most part we just try to play hard and try to play smart every possession down. Can we do that? We could play hard every possession, but can we play smart? That’s the question sometimes.”

Durant, the hero of Game 1, was once again excellent, hitting four 3-pointers, grabbing 13 rebounds, blocking five shots and scoring 33 points, but the gaudy stats weren’t what impressed Kerr.

“I thought that Kev’s defense was unreal, and it was probably the key to the whole game,” Kerr said. “His defense was amazing, and we needed it. Especially with Draymond out [because of foul trouble].”

Curry did his best to keep up with his fellow former league MVP with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but he did have eight turnovers – six in the first half.

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Warriors Dominate Game One, Winning by Over 20 Points

Written by Benjamin Hoffman at New York Times.com

In a postseason in which they have seen little to no competition, the Golden State Warriors kept right on rolling and tied the N.B.A. record for consecutive postseason wins at 13 with a 113-91 drubbing of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the N.B.A finals.

The Warriors’ Big Four lineup only got significant offensive contributions from two of its members, but that was still far too much for LeBron James and the Cavaliers’ other stars. Looking like they had something to prove, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry put on a show in Game 1, combining for 66 points, 18 assists and 14 rebounds.

On defense the Warriors employed the strategy that worked so well in 2015, letting James operate as a one-man show. The game’s best player hardly disappointed with 28 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists despite being guarded closely by Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala all game, but he did not get nearly enough help from any of his teammates outside of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and did plenty of damage to his own team’s chances by committing 8 turnovers and 4 personal fouls.

What We Learned in Game 1

■ Much was made of Kevin Durant’s explosion in his return to the finals, but Stephen Curry was nearly as impressive, scoring 28 points to go with 8 assists and 6 rebounds. As he did all season, and throughout the playoffs, Curry led his team in plus/minus, with the Warriors outscoring the Cavaliers by 20 points in his 34 minutes of playing time. Durant was second on the Warriors with a plus-16 while every single member of the Cavaliers recorded a negative score in that category.

■ The Warriors gave playing time to 13 players, but only Durant and Curry scored in double figures. While Draymond Green and Klay Thompson provided plenty of value on the defensive end, the team will likely need more than their 9 and 6 points going forward. Thompson was especially bad on offense, shooting just 3 of 16 from the field and missing all five of his 3-point attempts. When Thompson is playing well, opposing defenses get spread dangerously thin, but if Cleveland decides Thompson is truly not a threat they may be able to put more pressure on Curry and Durant.

■ The Cavaliers got plenty of production from LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but the Warriors’ stifling defense completely eliminated the rest of the Cavaliers. Chief among the missing contributors was Kyle Korver, the sharpshooter that Cleveland acquired mid-season to create floor-space. At this stage of his career Korver is on the court almost entirely for his shooting, but he was a ghost in the game, chewing up 20 minutes while taking just three shots and missing all of them. If the Cavaliers cannot find open looks for Korver they need to replace him on the court with someone who contributes more in terms of defense or playmaking.

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LeBron James Brings Championship Home to Cleveland

Written by Rodger Sherman at SB Nation.com

LeBron James needed to make the impossible happen to win the NBA Finals.

He needed to beat the Golden State Warriors, the team that broke Michael Jordan’s supposedly unbreakable regular season wins record. They the best shooting team in a sport that depends a lot on shooting, and they’re elite defensively too. They beat teams without Stephen Curry and they trounced teams with him. Even when Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder backed them into a 3-1 hole, the Dubs found a bunch of silver bullets and perfectly launched them from about 27 feet into the hoop. They seemed unkillable, and LeBron had to kill them.

LeBron needed to beat them with a team that, quite frankly, was outmatched. The Warriors’ strength was their depth, from the unanimous MVP Steph Curry to his Splash Brother Klay Thompson to pivotal role players like Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa. Not to take away from Kyrie Irving, who is an undeniably great scorer and showed it in the latter half of this series, but the Cleveland Cavaliers’ strength was … LeBron.

LeBron needed to win three straight games in the NBA Finals after falling into a 3-1 deficit. Nobody had ever done this before.

LeBron needed to beat the Warriors in three straight games. They didn’t lose two games in a row all regular season.

LeBron needed to beat Golden State twice in Oracle Arena. They went 39-2 there in the regular season and lost just once to date in the playoffs.

LeBron needed to win a Game 7 of the NBA Finals on the road. The last time a team did this, it was the Washington Bullets on the road against the Seattle SuperSonics. There is not an NBA team with either of those names now.

LeBron needed to win an NBA Finals as a player on a sports team from Cleveland. CLEVELAND, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY. CLEVELAND. We had over 50 years of evidence that this city was a sports sinkhole. The cosmic force field surrounding Northeast Ohio made sports hopes disappear like planes in the Bermuda Triangle. LeBron was born near this place, he learned how cursed it was and was smart enough to leave. And then, like an idiot in a horror movie who runs back into the haunted house and bravely gets murdered, HE RETURNED. He chose to go back to this place where winning was impossible, and he won.

James found himself at the foot of this mountain of impossibilities. The various narratives about James’ career imply that this is when he would’ve quit. He’s been called not clutch, with his critics seizing on moments when he missed shots or passed in critical moments. He’s been called a frontrunner who leaves when things get bad. He’s been called a baby, including by players on the Warriors in the middle of this series.

But instead of running, he climbed that mountain.

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LeBron’s Cavs Forced Game 7 With Win Over Dubs


Written by Jeff Zillgist at USAToday.com

Remove the asterisk.

Game 7 is necessary.

And one gigantic – potentially epic – basketball game remains in the 2015-16 NBA season.

Game 7 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors for the whole kit and caboodle? It’s on.

Will the Warriors put the finishing touches on their remarkable season? Or, will the Cavaliers do what’s never been done before and comeback from the 3-1 Finals deficit and win the championship, a championship the city has craved for five decades?

Game 7 is Sunday at Oracle Arena (8 p.m. ET, ABC) because the Cavaliers dominated Game 6 from the start, forcing a final contest with a 115-101 victory on Thursday.

LeBron James dazzled again following up his 41-point performance in Game 5 with 41 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocks.

“I thought he was great,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “He said he felt good. With our season on the line, at the end of the third quarter he said, ‘I’m not coming out.’ I didn’t have any intention on taking him out anyway. I don’t care what y’all say. We’re going to ride him. He had another unbelievable game. That’s what we expect of LeBron, and that’s what he’s been doing his whole career. So, one more game, and we need another one out of him.”

Kyrie Irving was fantastic again, too, with 23 points and four rebounds and three assists.

James directed and scored 18 consecutive Cleveland points at the end of third quarter and beginning of the fourth. In 17 elimination games in his career, James averages 32.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.9 assists.

Win or lose Sunday, James is a serious Finals MVP candidate.

“I give a lot of credit to my teammates and my coaching staff to put me in position to be successful,” James said. “I mean, without the ball moving, without the screens being set, without the coaching staff putting out the game plans for us offensively then, what I’ve been able to do, it doesn’t happen. So those guys definitely get the credit.”

The Warriors were not at their best and were flustered. Steph Curry was in early foul trouble, and not only he did he foul out for the first time this season, he picked up five fouls in a game this season. He finished with 30 points and was ejected arguing the sixth foul called against him.

The Cavaliers jumped to a 31-11 lead after one quarter, and Golden State’s scoring total was the fewest first-quarter points a team has scored in a Finals game in the shot-clock era.

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Bogut Out Rest of Finals, Doesn’t Need Surgery


Written by Michael Lee at YahooSports.com

As the Golden State Warriors spent the preseason explaining (and apologizing for) the good fortune (or luck) that contributed to their title run last season, Andrew Bogut provided the response that would become the unofficial theme for their leave-no-doubt season when he declared that he was getting his championship ring fitted for his middle finger.

With the Warriors one victory from completing a historic, brazen run to back-to-back titles, Bogut won’t be around for the possible completion. The Warriors announced on Wednesday that an MRI revealed that Bogut has a multiple bone bruises in the knee and will be out six to eight weeks. The injury will not require surgery.

The Warriors lead the NBA Finals 3-2, with Game 6 Thursday in Cleveland.

Bogut was forced to exit Golden State’s 112-97 loss after blocking a J.R. Smith layup and landing awkwardly on his left knee. With the Warriors trailing by three points in the third quarter, Bogut’s leg bent backward and Smith exacerbated the injury by inadvertently rolling into him. After writhing on the floor in pain, Bogut had to be assisted to the locker room, unable to apply pressure on his leg, and did not return.

Already without big man Draymond Green – who was serving a one-game suspension after receiving his fourth flagrant foul of the postseason for swiping at LeBron James’ groin – the Warriors wound up getting outscored 45-33 the rest of the game without one of their best defensive players around to protect the rim.

Bogut has scored only six points in the past four games but has averaged two blocked shots in the Finals, recording five blocks in the Warriors’ 33-point blowout in Game 2 and three more rejections in just eight minutes of Game 5. An 11-year-veteran, Bogut played 70 games this season, the most since his third season in the league. He sustained an adductor injury in the final game of the conference semifinals against Portland but returned to play the next 12 games.

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