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Warriors-Thunder Game 5 Recap

The Golden State Warriors avoided being eliminated with a victory in Game 5, and now head back to Oklahoma City for Game 6 on Saturday.

Jabari Davis



The defending champion Golden State Warriors lived to fight another day with an impressive bounce-back victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Oracle Arena on Thursday night.

Game 5 began with the Warriors whipping the ball around with five passes on the first possession and ended with a Harrison Barnes three from the corner. The entire building was electric from the start, with the crowd appearing to sense the urgency with which Golden State needed to maintain throughout the hard-fought contest.

Draymond Green’s block of a Russell Westbrook drive ignited a fastbreak that led to a long two from Steph Curry. Not long after, Klay Thompson utilized his size on a turnaround just above the free throw line over Dion Waiters to give the Warriors a 13-7 lead. Westbrook then introduced himself to the game with a deep three-pointer in response.

Even though Westbrook and Durant started the game just 3-16 from the field combined, OKC was able to stay within range of Warriors team collectively playing inspired basketball with consistency for the first time in several games. In one sequence, even though they didn’t ultimately score, the Thunder managed to get four attempts at the basket due to a frenzied effort from Westbrook, Enes Kanter and Waiters.

Durant’s coast-to-coast drive with just under 30 seconds in the quarter pulled the Thunder to within four as Golden State took that same lead (25-21) into the break.

Marreese Speights’ energy gave the Warriors another jolt to start the second quarter. His three-point play gave Golden State a 33-29 lead at the 9:45 mark, but Durant found an open Anthony Morrow behind the arc to bring the Thunder within a point and caused a Steve Kerr timeout.

Steven Adams was limited in the first quarter due to foul trouble, but returned to provide some physicality on both sides of the quart in the second. One Adams stretch included an offensive rebound and dunk, followed by a defensive rebound and eventual finish at the rim at the other end.

Curry’s seven-point run, which included a deep three and an impressive driving layup over several OKC big men, gave the Warriors a 47-39 lead. Regardless of whether Curry is technically “100 percent healthy” at this stage, it was the first burst of this type since Game 2 and something Golden State sorely missed.

Durant’s jumper and Westbrook’s step-back in the lane pulled the Thunder to within four points at the 4:30 mark. An Andre Iguodala find of Green in the lane in transition gave the Warriors a 53-45 lead just 90 seconds later. Thompson’s three from the corner gave the Warriors a 56-48 lead. The two teams then exchanged buckets to head into halftime with Golden State leading 58-50.

The second half started with a Serge Ibaka three-pointer and an exchange that resulted in Durant earning three shots from the free throw line and Green’s fifth technical foul of the postseason. Four points later, Durant ran his total up to 19 for the game and pulled the Thunder to within three.

Curry’s three from the corner put the Warriors up 63-59. OKC then got some good big-to-big action coming out of a timeout with Ibaka driving to find Adams open in the key for a bucket. Durant then tied the game at 65 the next time down the court. Westbrook’s third three-pointer of the game gave OKC a 68-67 lead a couple possessions later.

After a Westbrook turnover, Andrew Bogut found Green for a long outlet and finish plus the foul on Ibaka, bringing sudden energy to the crowd yet again. Green’s rebound of a missed transition three by Thompson and finish that followed gave the Warriors a 74-70 lead heading into a timeout. Curry’s third three-pointer of the game made it a seven-point game.

Durant finished the quarter with a contested three over Andre Iguodala and driving dunk off an Anthony Roberson steal along the perimeter. The Warriors saw their halftime lead cut in half, taking an 81-77 lead into the fourth.

Golden State opened the fourth with a 5-0 run causing head coach Billy Donovan to call for timeout just 58 seconds into the quarter. They kept the run going and actually pushed the lead out to 12 before Durant was able to hit a jumper in the lane. Westbrook struggled with turnovers (seven on the night), but his drive and finish at the rim pulled OKC back to within 10 at the nine-minute mark.

Speights really provided a boost off the bench for the Warriors, with 14 points in nine minutes of action. Andrew Bogut also had his most effective game of the series, with 15 points and 14 rebounds (both were postseason-highs). Ibaka connected on three deep balls of his own, with the last pulling the Thunder back to within 10 with five minutes left in the game. Durant’s two free throws and three-pointer in transition following a turnover by the Warriors pulled them to within just five points, but Curry responded with a driving layup and free throw to push Golden State’s lead back to 106-98 with four minutes left.

Roberson’s sixth foul came on an ill-advised foul of Curry along the perimeter, as the back-to-back MVP knocked down two free throws to extend the Warriors’ lead back to 109-101, and then followed that up by picking Durant’s pocket and driving the length of the court for another bucket. After a Donovan technical foul, Curry ran his total to 31 points to go along with his seven points, six assists and five steals on the night.

In the end, the Warriors did just enough to hold on for the 120-111 win to send the series back to Oklahoma City for Game 6 on Saturday night. Durant ended up with 40 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Westbrook overcame a rough shooting start to finish with 31 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals (but the duo also combined for 10 turnovers on the night). They also combined to shoot just 23-59 (38.9 percent) from the field.

Game 6 Prediction: Although the Warriors are almost guaranteed to bring the same type of effort that ultimately led to their Game 5 victory, OKC comes up with a lineup and scheme to offset the zone while getting a cleaner game from the usual suspects and more production from Waiters and Kanter. The Thunder close it out and earn their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2012.

Jabari Davis is a senior NBA Writer and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the Pacific Division and NBA Social Media activity.


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NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics

The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.

Moke Hamilton



Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.

Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.

As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.

Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.

Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by

“I’m tired of not playing.”

Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.

As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.

Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.

Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.

In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.

Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.

With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.

As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.

But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.

And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.

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Winslow and the Miami HEAT Are “Believing in Each Other”

Justise Winslow discusses the all-around team effort of the Miami HEAT with Basketball Insiders.

Dennis Chambers



The days of LeBron James in Miami are over. Chris Bosh isn’t there anymore, either. No more Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is back, but he’s not “Flash” nowadays.

Actually, check the entire Miami HEAT roster; there’s no superstar. They have an All-Star in Goran Dragic, even if he was the third alternate. But during this most recent playoff push, the HEAT don’t have a worldwide household name to plaster all over billboards as a reason for their success.

With 10 games remaining until the playoffs, Miami doesn’t have a player averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Instead, they have 11 players who average at least 20 minutes a contest. Their approach is that of a deep rotation, and its led them to a 39-33 record and the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. All while the rest of the league is star-driven.

One of those key cogs to the Miami machine is third-year wing, Justise Winslow. A former top-10 pick out of Duke, Winslow is enjoying most efficient season so far for the HEAT. To him, the fact that his squad isn’t littered with names like LeBron and Steph doesn’t make a difference.

“I think our team is extremely confident in each other,” Winslow said. “I think that’s a big thing is that we all believe in each other. We play to each other’s strengths, and most importantly we’re a defensive-minded team. We hang our hats on the defensive end, and that’s really what gets us going as a team.”

Winslow isn’t exaggerating. The HEAT is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. Head coach Erik Spoelstra harps on the team’s defensive scheme and preparation. Without a go-to scorer capable of getting the team 30 any given night, Miami needs to do their job as a collective unit on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out.

“Each night the coaching staff preaching to us that we have enough, no matter who is in the lineup,” Winslow said. “So it’s just about going out there and executing and putting together a good game of 48-minute basketball. I think our belief in each other that we have enough to get the job done is key.”

In the current NBA landscape, a lot of the playoff contenders are centered around players with big resumes and bigger names. As a result, the HEAT get lost in the shuffle of the national conversation from time to time. Their culture of togetherness and slight from the media outside of their city could make for the perfect “chip on the shoulder” recipe. Or so you would think. Winslow doesn’t believe the chatter, or lack thereof, matters any to Miami.

“We don’t pay too much attention to that,” Winslow said. ‘We’re so focused, and locked in on our team, and each other, and trying to win each game. For us, it’s about having the respect of your peers, of the other team. I think every night no matter who we have or who’s healthy, I think teams know we’re going to be a tough, physical team. Guys in this league don’t want that, you don’t want to have to play against a Miami HEAT team that’s going to be physical, that’s going to get into your body, that’s going to make you play a hard, 48-minute basketball game.”

Because of the HEAT’s brand of basketball, an 82-game season can be grueling. For Winslow, keeping his body right throughout the grind is important to him. After dealing with a few injuries last season, and ultimately being shut down for the year last January to undergo right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, Winslow was determined to make sure he kept his body in check throughout his comeback so he would be available for a long playoff run.

While his numbers aren’t flashy, Winslow is showing improvement. His 49.3 true shooting percentage is the highest of his career, along with shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc, Winslow made strides in arguably the biggest knock against his game since coming out of college.

Because NBA players have the freedom to form partnerships with whichever companies they’d like, Winslow made the choice to strike up a partnership that he felt would not only help him off the court but more importantly, on it as well.

“My partnership with MET-Rx has been great,” Winslow said. “They’ve really helped take my game to the next level with all their nutritional supplements, and the Big 100 bar. So, for me, I’m always looking for ways to stay off my feet, but also get in the best shape possible and this was just a great way to help.”

The grind of the NBA season is also eased for playoff teams by a veteran presence. So, when the HEAT brought back franchise legend Wade at the trade deadline, their locker room suddenly had a face and feel of someone who’s been there before. A player who reached the pinnacle, with the very team that traded for him nonetheless.

Getting Wade back to Miami was crucial for the team’s playoff run down the stretch, and more importantly for Winslow, who benefited greatly from his time with the future Hall of Famer when he was fresh out of college.

“First and foremost, it was great to get him back,” Winslow said. “Just the role that he played in my career as a rookie, and everything I learned from him. But then also, just the energy and positivity that he brought to the locker room, and also the community of Miami, the city of Miami as a whole. It was a much-needed energy boost, and good vibes that he brought back for that post All-Star break push for playoffs. So, it’s just been great having him back, and it’s kind of rejuvenated the team and the locker room, and just the city in general.”

Wade is the MVP-caliber player he once was this time around, though. But that’s okay. This version of the Miami HEAT is charging toward the postseason with a team-first mentality.

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NBA Daily: The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. is an elite prospect, but questions surrounding his back will determine his landing spot in the NBA.

Steve Kyler



The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

While some of the highly thought of college players have made their intentions on declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft known, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr still hasn’t made his proclamation. Most people in NBA circles believe he’ll be in the 2018 NBA Draft class—you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s in.

Back in November, the Missouri staff was somewhat vague and guarded about Porter’s condition until it was announced that he’d have back surgery on a couple of problematic discs in the lumbar area of his spine. The procedure is called a microdiscectomy and by all accounts was a success.

Porter missed virtually all of his college season but opted to play in the post-season for Missouri, who got eliminated fairly quickly.

There were certainly a lot of ugly things about Porter’s game. He looked out of shape, and certainly wasn’t the overwhelming dominating force he’d been in high school. Some executives applauded his decision to play, even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent. Some pointed to that fact that too many college players play it safe and that’s not always viewed positively. Almost no one Basketball Insiders spoke with was holding the less than stellar outing against him. In fact, most had far more positive things to say than negative. There was one resounding theme from the NBA executives who spoke about this situation—none of it matters until they see his medical.

Assuming Porter does as expected and hires an agent and enters the draft, the next challenge he’ll face is how open he wants to be to teams looking at drafting him.

In recent years, NBA teams have not shied away from using high draft picks on injured or recently injured players. Once a team can get a sense of how the player is recovering, they can make a value judgment.

Agents often use this information and access to the player to help steer their client to the situation they deem most favorable. While fans and outsiders often get caught up in the pick number a player ultimately lands at, more and more agents are concerned with fit, especially for a player that may need time to get back to 100 percent.

Most agents would want to steer their client to a team with favorable medical staff, a team with a proven track record of patience or more importantly, a team with the best chance at a long and fruitful career.

This won’t be good news for some team that could end up in the top 10, as it’s more likely that Porter isn’t made available to everyone. NBA executives will tell you, they can certainly draft him if they wanted to, but most teams won’t draft a player if their medical staff doesn’t sign off, and without information and access how can they do that?

There is a significant financial difference in going third in the draft ($5.47 million) and 10th ($2.964 million) – but several agents commented that the short-term money shouldn’t drive the long-term decision, especially if the player isn’t 100 percent. The fit and situation typically trump everything in these situations.

Another concept to consider is while Porter did play, there are questions about whether he’ll host a pro-day, take part in private team workouts or simply let his body of work drive his draft value.

Almost no one who spoke about this situation believed Porter would take part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, as he’d have to subject himself to the medical testing that’s part of that event.

The common perception on Porter is he’s a top-five talent, although it seems more likely that his camp is going to try and work the process to ensure he lands in a favorable situation. That could mean he falls out of top-five selections, simply because he and his agents choose to.

There is still a lot that needs to play out for Porter, including his announcement that he will enter the draft. But given where things stand with him, it’s more likely than not he’s coming into the draft, and it’s more likely than not he’ll have a lot of questions NBA teams will want to understand before his real draft position is clear.

The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago this year and is scheduled for May 15th. The annual Draft Combine, also in Chicago, gets underway on May 16th.

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