Turned up another notch, Warriors-OKC rivalry isn't going away anytime soon

Turned up another notch, Warriors-OKC rivalry isn't going away anytime soon

Having beaten the Clippers into relative harmlessness, the Warriors have moved on to a new antagonist. It’s abundantly clear that team is the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The animosity generated during the 2016 Western Conference Finals was cranked up to outright bitterness when Kevin Durant left OKC last July to join the Warriors. Eight months later, the blood of competitive warfare runs rampant through the veins of both rosters.

The latest came Monday night, late in the second quarter of a 111-95 Warriors victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

While the players were positioning for a jump ball between Warriors forward Andre Iguodala and Thunder forward Taj Gibson, Stephen Curry’s attempt to step in front of OKC guard Semaj Christon was met with a push from Christon. Curry pushed back, after which Thunder guard Russell Westbrook stepped in front of Christon and gave Curry a shove.

“I was just trying to get in between Russ and (Christon),” Curry told reporters in Oklahoma City. “And I felt him push me. I kind of let that first one go, then as I kept going there was another little push. And at that point, I just wanted to hold my position.”

Westbrook, naturally, saw things differently.

“Curry tried to get into it with Semaj, tried to push him,” he said. “And I stepped right between, and that’s it. Once I see something going down with my teammates, I’m hopping in.”

As words were exchanged, Curry confronted Westbrook and within seconds, a scrum had formed near the OKC bench. There were no punches, but Draymond Green went after Westbrook and Christon in an effort to shoo them away.

With Gibson standing in the middle of it all, playing peacemaker with his arms around Curry, coaches and security personnel from both teams stepped onto the court to separate the players.

Order was restored, in part because Zaza Pachulia whisked Curry away from the crowd while referee Eric Lewis turned away Westbrook.

Double technical fouls were assessed, first to Curry and Christon and then to Green and Westbrook.

“Nothing surprises me at this point, when it comes to anything like that,” Green said of being hit with the technical foul. “I actually knew it was going to happen. I didn’t do any thing. But I knew it. If I’m anywhere in the area, it’s expected.”

Play resumed with the jump ball with 5.3 seconds left in the half. As the ball was tapped toward the Thunder bench, it was gathered by Klay Thompson, who flung it to Curry, who grabbed it and, without dribbling, launched and drained a 30-footer as the buzzer sounded.

To punctuate the theatrics, Curry broke into a full sprint toward the locker room the instant the ball went through the net to give the Warriors a 59-39 lead at the half.

“That was dope,” Green said. “A heads-up play by Klay, to get the pass out to Steph, and a great shot.”

There were other moments when things turned testy, suggesting that these teams are competing beyond the game.

They are. It’s about last May, when OKC took a 3-1 series lead and the Warriors came back to win in seven. It’s about last July, when Durant made his seismic move. It’s about Pachulia’s iron screen on Westbrook earlier this season that prompted the OKC guard vow revenge.

It’s also about the natural rivalry between point guards Curry and Westbrook, something Westbrook inflamed as recently as last week. That’s not going away any time soon.

Neither is the Warriors-Thunder beef, which very easily to live as long as Durant is wearing either jersey.

 

Warriors' championship-level defense may never get recognition it deserves

Warriors' championship-level defense may never get recognition it deserves

The Warriors talk defense from sunup to midnight, and maybe beyond. They explain why defense is essential to their offense, which gets universal praise -- accolades that should go to their defense.

The latest example came Monday, when the NBA announced its All-Defensive teams.

Warriors forward Draymond Green was voted to the first team, one vote short of unanimously, and none of his teammates joined him on the five man first team.

Or the five-man second team.

Guard Klay Thompson finished 12th in the balloting, with 45 votes, including 16 for first place. He was omitted from 71 of 100 ballots.

Forward Kevin Durant finished 23rd, with six votes, all second place. He was omitted from 94 ballots. Guard Stephen Curry finished 29th, with three votes, omitted from 97 ballots.

Forward Andre Iguodala finished 30th, with three votes, including one for first place, and was omitted from 98 ballots.

As always, there was some dubious voting, including the omission of Green from one ballot and the inclusion of Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas -- who ranked 410th among the league’s 411 defenders with a rating -- on one ballot.

But the Warriors continue to be identified by their No. 1-ranked offense while being more accurately defined by their defense, which ranked No. 2 in defensive rating.

It ranked No. 1 in practically every other category that matters. The Warriors were tops in field-goal percentage defense (overall and from 3-point distance), fewest points per shot, blocks and steals.

But if they were hoping for more recognition for the primary reason why they’ve won two championships in three seasons -- and more regular-season games in a three-year span than any team in NBA history -- that’s not happening.

Not now, and maybe not any time soon when folks are so mesmerized by the offensive fireworks provided by Curry, Durant and Thompson.

Draymond Green receives most votes on 2016-17 NBA All-Defensive Team

Draymond Green receives most votes on 2016-17 NBA All-Defensive Team

For the third straight season, Draymond Green is considered one of the best five defenders in the NBA.

The NBA announced Monday that Green was named to the 2017 NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Of the 100 ballots submitted, according to the NBA, Green received 99 first-place votes, but no second-place votes, meaning one voter left Green off their ballot.

Green is joined by Utah's Rudy Gobert, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles' Chris Paul and Houston's Patrick Beverley.

Gobert and Leonard also recieved 99 of a possible 100 First or Second team votes.

Green, Leonard and Gobert are the three finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year, which will be announced Monday night during the NBA Awards Show in New York.

Green is the first player in Warriors franchise history to earned All-Defensive First Team honors three years in a row.

In a season when he had several game-saving plays, Green averaged 10.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.38 blocks and a league-leading 2.03 steals in 76 games. Green was also the first player in franchise history with at least 150 steals and 100 blocks in a season.

Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson received eight First-Team votes and 29 Second-Team votes for a total of 45 points. NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant received six Second-Team votes. Sixth Man of the Year candidate Andre Iguodala received one First-Team vote and one Second-Team vote. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry received three Second-Team votes.

Below are the voting results for the 2016-17 NBA All-Defensive Teams. The balloting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm of Ernst & Young LLP. Complete media ballots will be posted at NBA.com/official tomorrow (Tuesday, June 27).