The Wildcats were more than just Anthony Davis

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The Wildcats were more than just Anthony Davis

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- There's so much more to Kentucky than Anthony Davis. These were the collaborative Cats, and that's what made them so tough to beat. Davis' supporting cast made the most of their turns in the spotlight Monday night, picking up the scoring slack for their freshman star and overwhelming Kansas for a 67-59 victory in the NCAA title game that gave the Wildcats their eighth national title. "No one cared who got the accolades," forward Terrence Jones said. "The main goal was getting to this point and winning. That's what we focused on." Michael Kidd-Gilchrist set the tone a minute in, staying in the game after a hard foul that looked as if it might have dislocated his shoulder, and Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb hit clutch shots that held back a late rally by the Jayhawks. "That's why we came here, to finally get it done," forward Kyle Wiltjer said. "We are all just super excited." Jones and Darius Miller also made their marks in the type of team effort coach John Calipari has gotten out of the Wildcats (38-2), who had averaged six players in double figures for most of the season. The Wildcats' other NBA prospects handled things on the offensive end while Davis went 1 for 10 from the field. The AP player of the year remained his dominant self in every other phase of the game with 16 rebounds, six blocks and five assists. Lamb, who finished with 22 points, said his only goal when he returned for a second year at Kentucky was to win a national championship. The sophomore has been a steady force all year for the Wildcats and he was the only Kentucky player who shot well in last year's national semifinal loss in Houston. He brought his shot to the Superdome this weekend, too. "He really carried us," Wiltjer said. "He made some big shots down the stretch and our depth really helped us tonight because no one really knows who's going to step up and he stepped up tonight." After Kansas (32-7) cut it to 10 midway through the second half, Lamb squared up and hit a pair of 3-pointers in a 23-second span to snap the Cats back after they'd been 3 of 14 from the field with six turnovers to start the second half. He finished 7 of 12 from the field. Then it was Teague's turn. The point guard was considered the key to keeping the Wildcats playing together and followed in the shoes of past Calipari prodigies such as John Wall, Brandon Knight, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans. He finished with 14 points, three assists and two turnovers, making his biggest impact late. With Kansas closing, Teague buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:50 left that pushed the lead back to double digits, then hit two free throws inside a minute that helped seal the victory and finish Kentucky's eighth title run. "Marquis Teague's 3 and those two free throws were huge," Calipari said. Kentucky also set the tone early. Kidd-Gilchrist, who had 11 points and six rebounds, went down hard after being fouled by Elijah Johnson just over a minute into the game. He stayed down for a few tense moments, then got up, got to the line and made his first free throw even though his right shoulder was clearly bothering him. "We don't stop here," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I want to be great." Jones, who had nine points and seven rebounds, also had an injury scare when he crumpled to the court in the first half, appearing to badly roll his right ankle. He got up with a limp but stared at the bench with a look that said there was no way he was coming out of this game. He was still hobbling at the half, but never asked out because this was the game he wanted to play in when he surprised many by returning for his sophomore year. "Having that meeting with coach," Jones said, "trying to come back and win, getting myself better, rewarding myself and my whole team with having a successful season is just a great way to finish." The Wildcats never had a more serious injury this season than when Jones missed two games in December with a dislocated left pinkie. Miller, the senior leader, set a school record with his 152nd appearance early in the first half, and then quietly provided five points and six rebounds in 25 productive minutes. "I can't really explain it or put it into words. All the hard work that we put in this year, the sacrifices that people have made on this team means a lot," Miller said. "We've grown as brothers. We've had a lot of fun with this."

Green: Wins over Cavs, OKC and Rockets 'our best week of the season'

Green: Wins over Cavs, OKC and Rockets 'our best week of the season'

It may have helped that they had been at home for roughly three weeks.

It surely was to their benefit that the NBA schedule provided three days without a game before they confronted perhaps one of the most rigorous weeks of the season.

The Warriors, however, still had to do the work. They still had to finish.

They still had to beat the team that had roughed them up 22 days earlier, and then squelch another squad coming into Oracle Arena on a wave of emotion and, finally, take to the road and get back at a team that handed them a loss in Oakland.

Done, done and done. And in such a fashion that forward Draymond Green referred to it as “our best week of the season.”

In putting away the Rockets 125-108 on Friday in Houston, the Warriors closed out the traditional worker’s week with a 3-0 record against three teams they could see in the postseason. They’d already routed the defending champion Cavaliers 126-91 on Monday and struck down the Thunder 121-101 on Wednesday.

“It’s three good teams in a row,” Kevin Durant told reporters in Houston. “We definitely wanted to come out and make a nice statement, and I think we did that.

“We always can get better. We can’t relax against Orlando, Miami and Charlotte, teams that can creep up on you and have been playing well lately.”

The Magic, Heat and Hornets -- all dreadful to mediocre -- are the kinds of teams that force the Warriors to compete. They don’t stir the senses like the Cavs or the Thunder or the Rockets, three teams with credentials that demand attention from a Warriors team that sometimes cruises against lesser competition.

So this week was not just about winning games. These weren’t just wins, they were emphatic statements, profound evidence that the team remodeled last summer around the addition of Durant is coming together in the heart of the season.

The defense was tight, with Cleveland shooting 35.2 percent, OKC 42.2 percent and Houston 20.0 percent from beyond the arc, which is the only place that matters for the Rockets.

The Warriors resorted to one of their signature turbocharged third quarters to separate from the Rockets. Shooting 61.9 percent and scoring 9 points off Houston turnovers, the Warriors outscored Houston 37-22 in the third, stretching a five-point halftime lead to 20 going into the fourth quarter.

The Warriors now have an NBA-best differential of plus-250 points in the third quarter this season.

“It’s just something that we put an emphasis on,” Green said. “Coming out and getting off to a good start in the second half. Not coming out flat and giving another team life or letting them go on a run and then trying to make it up. And once we go on our run, we can get rolling pretty well and make it tough on other teams.”

That was the case this week, as the Warriors topped 50 percent from the field in all three victories.

Durant scored 32 points against Houston and averaged 31 points over the last three games. Stephen Curry put in 24 points and averaged 22.7 for the week. Green, meanwhile, averaged 12.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 3.7 blocks.

“It was our best week of the season because we’ve gotten better each time we’ve stepped on the floor this week,” Green said. “And that’s what’s most important. It’s not about blasting these three teams. It’s about getting better, and trying to reach our end goal. In order to do that, you have to get better each and every time you step on the floor.

“We did that these three games, so that’s the most important thing. That’s why it’s been a good week, not because of the margin of the wins that we had.”

Instant Replay: Warriors ground Rockets, run win streak to six games

Instant Replay: Warriors ground Rockets, run win streak to six games

BOX SCORE

The Warriors avenged yet another loss Friday night, rolling into Houston and laying a 125-108 beating on the Rockets at Toyota Center.

All five Warriors starters scored in double figures, with Kevin Durant totaling 32 points to lead the way. Stephen Curry finished with 24 points, Klay Thompson with 16, Draymond Green with 15 and Zaza Pachulia added 10.

The Warriors (37-6) suffocated Houston’s high-powered offense, which is predicated on 3-point shooting, holding the Rockets to 20 percent (7-of-35) beyond the arc. The Warriors forced 15 turnovers, off which they scored 19 points.

Backup center Clint Capela scored 22 points to lead Houston (33-13). MVP candidate James Harden was held to 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 0-of-5 from 3-point distance.

Having beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, the Warriors this week evened the ledger against two elite teams. They lost to Houston on Dec. 1 in Oakland, 132-127, in double overtime that accounted for one of only three losses at Oracle Arena.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

The entire starting lineup played well, but Durant proved too much for anything the Rockets threw at him.

Durant’s line: 32 points (12-of-19 shooting from the field, including 2-of-7 from deep, 6-of-7 from the line), seven assists, four rebounds, two blocks and two steals. He played 34 minutes and was plus-25 for the game.

TURNING POINT

After Houston trimmed their lead to five (64-59) with 11:39 remaining in the third quarter, the Warriors responded with a 23-8 run, punctuated by a 28-foot 3-pointer by Curry to go up 87-67 with 5:58 left in the quarter.

The Warriors led by 20 entering the fourth quarter, and the Rockets got no closer than 15 over the final 12 minutes.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: C/F David West (L thumb fracture) was listed as out.

Rockets: F Ryan Anderson (flu) was listed as questionable but upgraded to available. He was in the starting lineup, but played only nine minutes before leaving for good.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors return to action Sunday in Orlando, where they face the Magic at Amway Center. Tipoff is scheduled for noon Pacific.