Kobe's 39 leads Lakers past Warriors, 97-90

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Kobe's 39 leads Lakers past Warriors, 97-90

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LOS ANGELES -- The Warriors, playing without Stephen Curry and Andris Biedrins, lost for the 16th time in 17 games at Staples Center to the Lakers, 97-90. They finished their road trip at 0-3, and have now lost four in a row and are 2-5 on the season.Star of the game: Kobe Bryant did most of his work in the second half, scoring 26 of his game-high 39 points and helping the Lakers bounce back after being down to the Warriors 39-35 at half.

Key stretch: The Warriors were hanging in late in the third quarter, down just 57-56. But the Lakers finished the period on a 10-2 run, and took a 67-58 lead into the fourth quarter.The Warriors made a run or two in the fourth and cut the deficit to 85-82 with three-plus minutes remaining, but the Lakers ripped off six straight to put an end to that.Hes playing great, Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. Very aggressive, carrying that team offensively and hes their lone playmaker. Hes playing great, but thats no surprise. Thats who he is.
The real hurter was Bryants 27-footer at the buzzer over an outstretched hand that gave the Lakers big momentum.Its not enough to hang in there, Jackson said. Were not surprised about that You shoot that ball on the road, you outscore them three out of four quarters, you battle. Another tough loss but we did some very good things out there on the floor.Tale of two halves: Bryant seemed to be letting the game come to him in the first half, but he appeared to have enough of that once the third quarter came around. Bryant had 13 points at halftime going 5-for-10 from the field. Bryant took 11 shots in the third quarter alone knocking down six and just like that he had 30 points heading into the fourth quarter.Corner turn coming?: Warriors guard Monta Ellis, who finished 18 points, 10 assists and five steals, was pretty upbeat after the game, all things considered. He said he is no less optimistic about the Warriors after their 2-5 start than he was at the beginning of the year.This is a long season. Weve got a lot more games to play. Were going to turn that corner eventually. This is just a learning experience for this team. I still feel great about (this team).Jacksons first T: Jackson earned his first technical foul of the season with 2:27 remaining in the fourth quarter. He didnt get it for profanity, we know that. Jackson doesnt swear. So, what happened?I asked for a technical foul because my guys were working their tails off, Jackson said. And I refuse to watch them fight and come up on the short end.Bench play: Jackson went to his bench early on Friday and they produced. Nate Robinson, Ekpe Udoh, Klay Thompson and Brandon Rush helped lift the Warriors to an early 27-21 lead.Robinson was the teams leading scorer at halftime with nine points and thats what he ended up with. Thompson finished with 14 points, a career-high.I still have a long ways to go, Robinson said. Coach said play your game, have fun and be yourself. Its easy playing off Monta. Its fun. Were energetic and we play hard.
No Biedrins: Warriors center Andris Biedrins missed Fridays game against the Lakers because of a right ankle sprain and toe injury. Biedrins sustained the injury early in the San Antonio game on Wednesday.Kwame Brown started in Biedrins place against the Lakers.

Don't tell David West Cavs-Warriors means nothing: 'We need to win this'

Don't tell David West Cavs-Warriors means nothing: 'We need to win this'

OAKLAND -- Don’t tell David West that the game between the Cavaliers and Warriors on Monday is without significant consequence. He has played too long, seen too much. He knows better.

“This is a very important game for us,” West said Sunday, “because this is the last time we’re going to be able to measure ourselves against these guys.

“The only other time we’d get to face them would be in The Finals.”

Reaching The Finals was in the back of his mind when West signed with the Warriors last July. After scanning his options and doing his research -- including conversations involving Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and coach Steve Kerr -- he chose to come to the Bay Area to continue his quest to reach the NBA’s ultimate series.

At age 36, West has gone 933 games, and another 83 counting the playoffs, and gotten no closer to The Finals than back-to-back dismissals in the Eastern Conference Finals. West in both instances was a member of the Indiana Pacers, and the team that stood in the way both times was the Miami Heat.

That would be the Heat featuring LeBron James, who has since returned to Cleveland.

So, yes, Warriors-Cavs is is a big deal to West. It’s why he’s here.

“Obviously, it’s a regular-season game,” he said. “But for us, every game means something. That’s probably another driving force of why I wanted to be a part of this team. And why I chose San Antonio last year. When you’re playing with a group of this caliber, with these types of expectations, every game, every night, means something. There’s no dropoff or letdown and no room to let up. That’s a vital part of being in the NBA.

“But right now in the NBA, there are distinct levels of basketball. And I just wanted to be a part of the highest level.”

It gets no higher than the Warriors and Cavs. They’ve met in The Finals in each of the past two seasons, with each team winning one, and most conceivably will meet again in June.

Meanwhile, the sights and sounds on the road to the playoff is unlike that which he experienced with the former New Orleans Hornets or the Pacers or the Spurs. Those were good teams. The Warriors, coming of an NBA-record 73-win season, not only are favorites to win it all but perceived as the league’s super team.

It’s as if the Warriors have a bounty on their heads every time they take the court.

“When we play against younger teams, or teams with guys that don’t have a lot of experience, the point guard wants to prove he can stay on the floor against Steph,” West said. “Small forwards want to prove they can hang with KD. Same thing guys coming after Draymond; he’s a target. Then you have a bunch of Klay (Thompson) clones out there. You can see the guys that are modeling themselves after Klay. So when they play against him, they measure themselves against him.

“We all feel that. When you’re a part of this kind of group, that’s what makes the challenge so much fun.”

With Warriors-Cavs, the fun is in knowing that you’re facing the best, the reigning champs from Cleveland, who dethroned the Warriors. And on Monday, the Warriors will be trying to defend their turf.

“We need to win this; we need to win them all,” West said. “We know it's a high-intensity, emotional game. There will be a lot of people watching and a lot of energy in the building. We will have to control our energy and be the more fundamentally sound team.

“We have to be the team that hits more singles and doubles than they do. We don’t need home runs.”

Prepping for Cavs, Curry returns to roots on and off the floor

Prepping for Cavs, Curry returns to roots on and off the floor

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry turned back the clock a few days ago, returning to Davidson College.

Not in person but in spirit.

His latest haircut is, Curry says, the shortest he has allowed in at least a couple years and reminiscent of the close-cropped look he sported at Davidson. What’s different now is the beard. Invisible until a few years ago, it’s longer and fuller than desire and genetics had previously allowed.

“Proud of this beard,” Curry said Sunday, 50 minutes after the Warriors concluded practice. “Very proud.”

In the days running up to Warriors-Cavaliers II on Monday at Oracle Arena, Curry has transformed his dome. He is, once again the baby-faced assassin, only this time the look is accompanied by grown-man facial hair.

Curry’s new look comes on the heels of making alterations to his game. He’s playing with more force, being more assertive with the ball and taking a few more shots. His aggression has shifted into a higher gear.

“Lately, he’s been getting the rock and being aggressive and playing his game,” teammate Kevin Durant said of Curry. “Since that Cleveland game, he’s been playing on another level.”

Since that Cleveland game. That’s what it comes back to for the Warriors and for Curry. That Cleveland game, played on Christmas Day, is three weeks behind them yet the single-most eye-opening experience of the season. The Warriors led by 14 with 9:35 left and by 13 with 8:17 remaining and by 3 with 1:14 to play.

And lost, again, as in Game 7 of The Finals, on a late shot by Cavs guard Kyrie Irving.

“That was definitely a moment,” Curry said. “The Memphis game (Curry scoring 40 points but the Warriors blew a 24-point lead in a 128-119 loss on Jan. 6) was a moment. The Lakers game earlier in the year (a 117-97 loss on Nov. 4) was a moment. You’ve got to understand what went wrong in those kinds of games and figure it out as you go through, knowing you’re going to have some more slipups.”

Curry since the Christmas Day loss has advocated for more pick-and-roll action and gotten it, most notably with Durant as his partner. Curry wanted more time at point guard, and he's gotten it. His numbers have improved, and his overall effect has been more noticeable.

In eight games since Christmas Day, Curry has averaged 20 shots and 27.1 points per game. In the eight games up to and including the loss at Cleveland, he averaged 15.6 shots and 19.9 points.

Yet the real test comes when Curry sees the Cavaliers, against whom recent games have not been pretty. His last four games against Cleveland -- Games 5-7 of the NBA Finals and Christmas Day -- have produced 21.7 points on 36.6-percent shooting, 2.5 assists and 3.7 turnovers.

There’s another reason Curry wants to kill his Cavs demons, which began forming as the Warriors became the first team in league history to go up 3-1 in the NBA Finals and lose the series. That was mere months after Curry mentioned that the visiting locker room at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland still smelled of the champagne with which Warriors celebrated after winning The Finals in 2015.

Curry is tired of hearing about, well, his Cavs demons, whether the noise is coming from fans or players or folks he barely knows.

Playing golf in the Safeway Open pro-am at Silverado in October, Curry got an earful from playing partner Harold Varner III, who happens to be an Ohio native and, of course, a Cavs fan.

“He waited until the ninth hole because he was a little unsure about how I’d take it, how much of a good sport I would be,” Curry recalled. “And then, once he tested the waters, he didn’t hold back the rest of the round. But it was all in good fun.”

This is not the kind of “good fun” Curry cares to hear any more. As the Cavs come to town, he’s back in a familiar place, with folks doubting him, wondering if he has what it takes.

And he’s playing as if he has something to prove, just as he did at Davidson.