NBA Gameday: Big test, opportunity for JaVale McGee vs Nikola Jokic

NBA Gameday: Big test, opportunity for JaVale McGee vs Nikola Jokic

Programming note: Warriors-Nuggets coverage starts tonight at 5pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

Klay Thompson will be on the bench nursing a sore right heel, and Shaun Livingston will be back in the Bay Area awaiting the birth of his first child Monday night when the Warriors face the Nuggets at Pepsi Center.

Suddenly, the Warriors backcourt is thin again. Patrick McCaw likely will start at guard alongside Stephen Curry, with Ian Clark and Briante Weber, both barely 6-foot-2, being the only true guards in reserve.

The Warriors (46-8) will be chasing their ninth win in 10 games.

Denver (24-30) also will be without a couple key players, as forwards Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari are out with injuries.

The Nuggets, even when healthy, have been awful on defense. Seven of their last eight opponents have rung up at least 117 points.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 12

MATCHUP TO WATCH

JaVale McGee vs. Nikola Jokic: Some of McGee’s best moments came during his two-plus seasons in Denver. He’ll want to show well. Jokic will make that difficult. Six days from his 22nd birthday, the highly skilled Serbian already is one of the league’s most dangerous big men; his 26.96 PER is eighth in the NBA and tops among centers. If he has his way in and around the paint, the Nuggets keep it close.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: G Shaun Livingston (personal), C Zaza Pachulia (R rotator cuff strain), G Klay Thompson (R heel soreness) and F/C David West (L thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Nuggets: F Wilson Chandler (illness) is listed as questionable. G Emmanuel Mudiay (low back pain) is listed as doubtful. F Darrell Arthur (L knee soreness), F Kenneth Faried (R ankle sprain) and F Danilo Gallinari (L groin strain) are listed as out.

LAST 10

Warriors: 8-2. Nuggets: 5-5.

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors won the first two meetings this season, the first in Denver and the second in Oakland. They have won eight of the last 10 overall.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE ROTATIONS: The absence of Thompson and Livingston will create havoc on the player rotations employed by coach Steve Kerr. Livingston typically starts the second and fourth quarters, allowing Curry to rest. Thompson is the designated shooter when Kevin Durant and Curry are on the bench. Much will be needed from swingman Andre Iguodala. Expect longer minutes from Weber.

TIME TO EAT: The Warriors are No. 1 in offensive rating. The Nuggets are No. 30 (dead last) in both defensive rating and opponents’ field-goal percentage. The numbers suggest whoever is on the court for the Warriors will have a chance to feast.

THE PACE: The thin air in Denver generally affects visiting teams more than the Nuggets, but the light rosters are bound to make both teams vulnerable. Both teams like to play fast, but that will be a particularly daunting challenge under these circumstances.

Source: Warriors assistant GM on verge of becoming Hawks GM

Source: Warriors assistant GM on verge of becoming Hawks GM

Success leads to flattery, which begets mimicry. Tremendous success leads to breathless flattery and ceaseless mimicry.

That’s where the Warriors are these days, a model franchise with a brain trust has gained respect across the NBA.

That’s why personnel executive Travis Schlenk is being recruited away by the Atlanta Hawks.

A superb talent evaluator who doesn’t stalk the spotlight, Schlenk is in negotiations to become Atlanta’s general manager and it is anticipated an agreement will be reached within 24 hours, NBCSportsBayArea.com confirmed through league sources on Wednesday.

That the Hawks targeted Schlenk as their next general manager was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski The Vertical.

Schlenk, 43, has served in various capacities for the Warriors since joining the franchise 2004, becoming assistant GM in 2001 and most recently serving as vice president of basketball operations and assistant GM.

He has had considerable input in Warriors drafting decisions in recent years and was a particularly vocal advocate for such selections as Draymond Green and Pat McCaw, among others.

Much of the appeal of the Atlanta job stems from the team having 11 picks over the next three drafts.

Schlenk, whose scouting instincts will be missed, is set to become the first key departure from the staff and roster that have been together throughout this season.

Assistant coach Luke Walton, who served as acting head coach for 43 games last season, was recruited away a year ago to become head coach of the Lakers. Assistant coach Alvin Gentry was recruited away in May 2015 to become head coach of the Pelicans.

Irving fuels Game 4 comeback, Cavs take 3-1 lead over Celtics

Irving fuels Game 4 comeback, Cavs take 3-1 lead over Celtics

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving gritted his teeth, tightened up his left sneaker and hopped to his feet.

The pain didn't stop him. The Celtics didn't either.

Irving took over in the second half and finished with 42 points, LeBron James added 34 and the Cleveland Cavaliers moved within one win of an almost inevitable third date in the Finals with Golden State by rallying to beat Boston 112-99 on Tuesday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

With James in foul trouble, Irving stayed on the floor despite rolling his left ankle in the third quarter, when he scored 19 points in less than five minutes.

"He put us on his back and carried us," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.

The defending NBA champions, who shot 71 percent in the second half to open a 3-1 lead in the series, can wrap up their third straight conference title - and a "three-match" against the Warriors - with a win in Game 5 on Thursday night in Boston.

But if Games 3 and 4 are any indication, it won't be easy.

Fighting to keep their season alive, the Celtics aren't giving an inch despite playing without All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who may need surgery on a hip injury.

The Cavs, meanwhile, wouldn't be on the cusp of the Finals without Irving.

With Cleveland in jeopardy of dropping its second game in a row after James followed an 11-point Game 3 by picking up four first-half fouls, Irving put on a breathtaking one-man show in the third quarter.

Freezing Boston defenders with his dribble and driving to the basket whenever he wanted, Irving made six layups, two 3-pointers and a free throw in a dizzying span of 4:48. He capped his blistering 19-point outburst with a 3 in the final second of the quarter and celebrated at mid-court by pretending to put two pistols back in his holster.

"Coming out of halftime I just wanted to be aggressive, lead my guys and leave it all out there on the floor," Irving said.

When the horn sounded to end the third, Cleveland's players poured off the bench to greet him. They had to be careful not to knock him off his feet after Irving had put a scare through the frenzied Quicken Loans Arena crowd moments earlier when he stepped on the foot of Boston's Terry Rozier.

Irving stayed on the floor for several seconds before sitting up and re-tying his sneaker. Nothing was keeping him out.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens was disappointed with his team's defense on Irving, who was able to spread the floor while surrounded by shooters.

"There's choices," Stevens said. "I'm not sure there are good choices. When he gets going like that, he's tough to stop. The ones we gotta look at are the ones he got at the rim."

Kevin Love added 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Cavs, now 11-1 in the postseason.

Avery Bradley scored 19 and Jae Crowder 18 for Boston.

Lue chuckled before the game when he was asked if he planned to say anything to James following his sub-standard performance in Game 3.

"No message," Lue said. "Just come out, be aggressive, in attack mode like he has been over the last four or five months. Nothing has changed."

Lue should have warned James to be careful, too, as the superstar picked up four fouls and spent the final 6:46 of the first half watching from the bench, unable to help his team.

But beyond James' foul trouble, the Cavs were having other issues as the Celtics outplayed them at both ends while opening a 16-point lead.

Irving kept Cleveland within striking distance while James was out by scoring 12 points over the final 5:11 of the second quarter.

And in the third quarter, the All-Star guard had James' back again, keeping the Cavs on their collision course with the Warriors.

TIP-INS:
Celtics: Thomas spoke to coach Brad Stevens and told him that he has visited one hip specialist and plans to see more before it's decided if he needs surgery. Thomas initially injured his hip in March and played the final two months of the regular season before aggravating it during the playoffs. ... Stevens started Kelly Olynyk, who had 15 points. ... Before the playoffs began, the Celtics were 22-5 at home since Jan. 1. They're 5-4 in the postseason so far.

Cavaliers: Irving scored 41 in Game 5 of last year's Finals. ... J.R. Smith and his wife, Jewel, brought their daughter home after more than five months in the hospital following her premature birth. Smith posted photos on his Instagram account of the couple leaving Hillcrest Hospital with their baby in a stroller. "We Walked In Together We Walked Out Together!!" Smith wrote. ... Deron Williams played 18 minutes after sustaining a shoulder "stinger" in Game 3.

UP NEXT:
The Celtics lost Game 2 at home by 44 and the first two games of the series by a combined 57.