Livingston

Livingston slideshow

Young 2-pts Made, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist - GSW @ HOU - 01/20/2018

Young 2-pts Made, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist - GSW @ HOU - 01/20/2018

Young 2-pts Made, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist - GSW @ HOU - 01/20/2018

Young 2-pts Made, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist, Livingston Assist - GSW @ HOU - 01/20/2018

Cleveland Cavaliers' Dwyane Wade (9) passes against Golden State Warriors' Shaun Livingston (34) and David West (3) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Steph Curry Injury News: Warriors Guard to Miss Second Straight Game With Ankle Sprain

Steph Curry will miss the Warriors' game against the Grizzlies on Friday, per ESPN's Chris Haynes, marking the second straight game the two-time MVP will miss after spraining his left ankle during shootaround on Wednesday. He did practice with the team on Thursday, so it appears that this is more a precautionary measure than anything.

Curry should be back soon and could return for Saturday's game in Toronto or Sunday's marquee matchup at the Cavaliers.

It's the same left ankle that forced Curry to miss 11 games in December. He was fantastic in the five games he played earlier this month before re-injuring the left ankle, averaging 35.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists and draining 33 of 62 three-point attempts.

Sean Livingston started at point guard in Curry's place on Wednesday and scored 8 points with four assists in 25 minutes of action. The Warriors were blown out 125-106 by the Clippers and Lou Williams torched Golden State for 50 points.

George Mason Beats Saint Joseph's at the Buzzer

Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph's on Wednesday.

George Mason Beats Saint Joseph's at the Buzzer

Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph's on Wednesday.

George Mason Beats Saint Joseph's at the Buzzer

Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph's on Wednesday.

George Mason Beats Saint Joseph's at the Buzzer

Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph's on Wednesday.

VIDEO: Otis Livingston II buries contested 30-footer to lift George Mason over Saint Joseph’s

George Mason junior Otis Livingston II buried a ridiculous buzzer-beater to knock off Saint Joseph's.

VIDEO: Otis Livingston II buries contested 30-footer to lift George Mason over Saint Joseph’s

George Mason junior Otis Livingston II buried a ridiculous buzzer-beater to knock off Saint Joseph's.

VIDEO: Otis Livingston II buries contested 30-footer to lift George Mason over Saint Joseph’s

George Mason junior Otis Livingston II buried a ridiculous buzzer-beater to knock off Saint Joseph's.

George Mason's Otis Livingston II: Great name, greater buzzer beater

Throughout the season, Otis Livingston II has put George Mason on his shoulders on more than one occassion. On Wednesday night in Fairfax, he went one step further. 

The Warriors' Death Lineup Is on Ice

The Warriors are changing. No team can be any one thing forever, least of all a team that keeps the focus of the entire league. Golden State is at the heart of most every parlor game between league personnel, and most every thought exercise bandied about in coaches meetings. We're now in year three of teams wondering how the hell they're going to beat the Warriors, and the fermentation of those ideas—coupled with some organic shifts in the way the Warriors play—have made this team distinct from versions past. Let's examine how:

Kevin Durant is scoring differently

As expected, Durant's arrival in Golden State last season sharpened every edge of his game. No defense could properly account for his size, speed, and shooting as it was—even in the most predictable isolation scenarios. Golden State took that same suite of basketball attributes and honed it against the rhythm of the league's most unstoppable offense. Durant had been more prolific, but never more devastating.

That hasn't exactly changed, though the manner in which Durant scores subtly has. Last season, Durant drove headlong to the rim at every opportunity, enjoying the open air of a spread offense after years of playing with questionable shooters. The newest Warrior also seemed eager, at times, to prove that he was capable of exactly the kind of dynamic off-the-dribble attacking that Golden State seemed to lack in the 2016 Finals. Those days are over. The Warriors are champions again and Durant has fully settled in.

With that comes one notable change to his shot profile: Durant is rooting more of his offense in the mid-range. Watch Durant in action and you can see his evolving approach: the way his first dribble has become more of an evaluation than an explosion, how he sets up his defender and what shots that allows him to create. Around 7% of Durant's shot attempts have moved from the restricted area to the mid-range, according to NBA.com, and with that his free throw rate has dipped to career-low levels.

One might take this as a natural byproduct of Stephen Curry's absences this season. Take Curry out of the lineup, after all, and the scope and direction of Durant's contributions must change. Yet the trend holds both when Durant plays with Curry and without. No matter the circumstances this season, Durant is finding more of his offense at a moderate distance. It works just the same because Durant is an aberration. The same kinds of shots that would feel like a compromise for other players and offenses fly in this case because Durant is converting mid-range shots at a 49% clip. Whatever the cost to his individual efficiency, the Warriors benefit from the diversification and Durant himself better preserves his body for a long season.

The death lineup is on ice

Weirdly enough, Golden State's best theoretical lineup—of Durant, Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala—has been a clear net negative this season. Necessary caveats apply. Various injuries have kept that unit to 58 total minutes this season, hardly enough to make any definitive claims. That said, the evidence has been striking enough to take note.

Early in the season, we saw the Warriors roll out this lineup in the seeming expectation of a run. The players may have gotten ahead of themselves; this lineup only really goes when everyone is running and cutting and switching and scrambling at full speed. When they commit at that level, this group is still the most ruthless in the league. Anything less and they risk painful mistakes on both sides of the ball.

Thus far, this group has played in exactly the style you'd expect but with none of the substance. It might be the clearest casualty of Golden State's relaxed commitment to defense on a possession-to-possession basis.

Jordan Bell changes the shape of the rotation

Clearly the Warriors thought enough of Bell to fork up $3 million—more than triple Bell's salary—for the chance to select him at No. 38 overall in the draft, but even that understates his increasing importance to the Warriors. Bell could easily be one of the team's most important contributors by season's end. His presence alone almost makes JaVale McGee redundant; Bell poses a similar vertical threat (though at less extreme dimensions, in McGee's defense) but with only a fraction of the headaches.

We've seen Bell start for Green in a pinch and play minutes at center in high-leverage situations. Results have been mixed. Opponents will continue to test Bell as a roller and cutter, challenging him to find ways to contribute when he can't immediately catch and finish. Sometimes Bell makes smart reads out of those situations, throwing just the sorts of passes that Green would. In other cases, he halts the flow of the offense entirely by freezing up when he needs to make a move.

The reps are what matter most at this point. Bell will see time in the playoffs out of matchup necessity. Zaza Pachulia and David West aren't cut out for every opponent and every series, leaving Bell as one of the most appealing options on the board. Some plus-minus magic is well within his reach.

Golden State is better surviving its minutes without Steph

While it wasn't quite a Westbrook-level effect, last season's Warriors—an all-time titan of a team—essentially played their minutes without Curry to a wash. They've been much more successful since. The Steph-less Warriors are outscoring opponents by six points per 100 possessions, a net rating that would otherwise rank third in the league.

It goes without saying that Golden State's style of play changes without Curry. So it goes when the best shooter of all-time exits the stage. But where last year's team plugged in Ian Clark (who played over 1000 minutes last season) as a sort of Curry surrogate, these Warriors have leaned into their weirdness. Patrick McCaw, a second-year defender and slasher with an inconsistent jumper, has stepped in for Curry situationally. Durant has run the offense with Green and/or Iguodala facilitating. Shaun Livingston, who is really more of a natural wing at this stage of his career, nominally plays the point but shares creative responsibilities with ease. Few other teams, if any, could operate this way. In Oakland, it works.

Andre Iguodala fell back to earth

The league is wise to Iguodala, who—all things considered—would prefer not to shoot very often. Last season, that served him well. Defenses so readily left Iguodala to guard against other threats that they left the door open for clean looks and a surprisingly efficient campaign. Iguodala was as confident as he's looked in years while shooting 53% from the field and 36% from three.

That Iguodala is gone. The current version is again reluctant to even attempt layups. His shooting percentages (42% overall, 23% from three) have cratered. Within the arc, Iguodala is whiffing on long twos—a shot he made at an unsustainable 55% clip last season. Beyond it, Iguodala has been forced into more makeshift offense than is comfortable. Some of that is a situational byproduct. Curry and Green, the creators historically responsible for many of Iguodala's open looks, have both missed enough time to warp Iguodala's production. Still it's strange that Iguodala is attempting fewer corner threes than he has in years, floating out instead toward the top of the floor.

The offense is still better with Iguodala than not, as is Golden State overall. If he continues to shoot this poorly, however, the calculus of guarding the Warriors—how overtly opponents can abandon Iguodala and what that means for the playing rotation on the whole—could begin to shift.

The Warriors' Death Lineup Is on Ice

The Warriors are changing. No team can be any one thing forever, least of all a team that keeps the focus of the entire league. Golden State is at the heart of most every parlor game between league personnel, and most every thought exercise bandied about in coaches meetings. We're now in year three of teams wondering how the hell they're going to beat the Warriors, and the fermentation of those ideas—coupled with some organic shifts in the way the Warriors play—have made this team distinct from versions past. Let's examine how:

Kevin Durant is scoring differently

As expected, Durant's arrival in Golden State last season sharpened every edge of his game. No defense could properly account for his size, speed, and shooting as it was—even in the most predictable isolation scenarios. Golden State took that same suite of basketball attributes and honed it against the rhythm of the league's most unstoppable offense. Durant had been more prolific, but never more devastating.

That hasn't exactly changed, though the manner in which Durant scores subtly has. Last season, Durant drove headlong to the rim at every opportunity, enjoying the open air of a spread offense after years of playing with questionable shooters. The newest Warrior also seemed eager, at times, to prove that he was capable of exactly the kind of dynamic off-the-dribble attacking that Golden State seemed to lack in the 2016 Finals. Those days are over. The Warriors are champions again and Durant has fully settled in.

With that comes one notable change to his shot profile: Durant is rooting more of his offense in the mid-range. Watch Durant in action and you can see his evolving approach: the way his first dribble has become more of an evaluation than an explosion, how he sets up his defender and what shots that allows him to create. Around 7% of Durant's shot attempts have moved from the restricted area to the mid-range, according to NBA.com, and with that his free throw rate has dipped to career-low levels.

One might take this as a natural byproduct of Stephen Curry's absences this season. Take Curry out of the lineup, after all, and the scope and direction of Durant's contributions must change. Yet the trend holds both when Durant plays with Curry and without. No matter the circumstances this season, Durant is finding more of his offense at a moderate distance. It works just the same because Durant is an aberration. The same kinds of shots that would feel like a compromise for other players and offenses fly in this case because Durant is converting mid-range shots at a 49% clip. Whatever the cost to his individual efficiency, the Warriors benefit from the diversification and Durant himself better preserves his body for a long season.

The death lineup is on ice

Weirdly enough, Golden State's best theoretical lineup—of Durant, Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala—has been a clear net negative this season. Necessary caveats apply. Various injuries have kept that unit to 58 total minutes this season, hardly enough to make any definitive claims. That said, the evidence has been striking enough to take note.

Early in the season, we saw the Warriors roll out this lineup in the seeming expectation of a run. The players may have gotten ahead of themselves; this lineup only really goes when everyone is running and cutting and switching and scrambling at full speed. When they commit at that level, this group is still the most ruthless in the league. Anything less and they risk painful mistakes on both sides of the ball.

Thus far, this group has played in exactly the style you'd expect but with none of the substance. It might be the clearest casualty of Golden State's relaxed commitment to defense on a possession-to-possession basis.

Jordan Bell changes the shape of the rotation

Clearly the Warriors thought enough of Bell to fork up $3 million—more than triple Bell's salary—for the chance to select him at No. 38 overall in the draft, but even that understates his increasing importance to the Warriors. Bell could easily be one of the team's most important contributors by season's end. His presence alone almost makes JaVale McGee redundant; Bell poses a similar vertical threat (though at less extreme dimensions, in McGee's defense) but with only a fraction of the headaches.

We've seen Bell start for Green in a pinch and play minutes at center in high-leverage situations. Results have been mixed. Opponents will continue to test Bell as a roller and cutter, challenging him to find ways to contribute when he can't immediately catch and finish. Sometimes Bell makes smart reads out of those situations, throwing just the sorts of passes that Green would. In other cases, he halts the flow of the offense entirely by freezing up when he needs to make a move.

The reps are what matter most at this point. Bell will see time in the playoffs out of matchup necessity. Zaza Pachulia and David West aren't cut out for every opponent and every series, leaving Bell as one of the most appealing options on the board. Some plus-minus magic is well within his reach.

Golden State is better surviving its minutes without Steph

While it wasn't quite a Westbrook-level effect, last season's Warriors—an all-time titan of a team—essentially played their minutes without Curry to a wash. They've been much more successful since. The Steph-less Warriors are outscoring opponents by six points per 100 possessions, a net rating that would otherwise rank third in the league.

It goes without saying that Golden State's style of play changes without Curry. So it goes when the best shooter of all-time exits the stage. But where last year's team plugged in Ian Clark (who played over 1000 minutes last season) as a sort of Curry surrogate, these Warriors have leaned into their weirdness. Patrick McCaw, a second-year defender and slasher with an inconsistent jumper, has stepped in for Curry situationally. Durant has run the offense with Green and/or Iguodala facilitating. Shaun Livingston, who is really more of a natural wing at this stage of his career, nominally plays the point but shares creative responsibilities with ease. Few other teams, if any, could operate this way. In Oakland, it works.

Andre Iguodala fell back to earth

The league is wise to Iguodala, who—all things considered—would prefer not to shoot very often. Last season, that served him well. Defenses so readily left Iguodala to guard against other threats that they left the door open for clean looks and a surprisingly efficient campaign. Iguodala was as confident as he's looked in years while shooting 53% from the field and 36% from three.

That Iguodala is gone. The current version is again reluctant to even attempt layups. His shooting percentages (42% overall, 23% from three) have cratered. Within the arc, Iguodala is whiffing on long twos—a shot he made at an unsustainable 55% clip last season. Beyond it, Iguodala has been forced into more makeshift offense than is comfortable. Some of that is a situational byproduct. Curry and Green, the creators historically responsible for many of Iguodala's open looks, have both missed enough time to warp Iguodala's production. Still it's strange that Iguodala is attempting fewer corner threes than he has in years, floating out instead toward the top of the floor.

The offense is still better with Iguodala than not, as is Golden State overall. If he continues to shoot this poorly, however, the calculus of guarding the Warriors—how overtly opponents can abandon Iguodala and what that means for the playing rotation on the whole—could begin to shift.

The Warriors' Death Lineup Is on Ice

The Warriors are changing. No team can be any one thing forever, least of all a team that keeps the focus of the entire league. Golden State is at the heart of most every parlor game between league personnel, and most every thought exercise bandied about in coaches meetings. We're now in year three of teams wondering how the hell they're going to beat the Warriors, and the fermentation of those ideas—coupled with some organic shifts in the way the Warriors play—have made this team distinct from versions past. Let's examine how:

Kevin Durant is scoring differently

As expected, Durant's arrival in Golden State last season sharpened every edge of his game. No defense could properly account for his size, speed, and shooting as it was—even in the most predictable isolation scenarios. Golden State took that same suite of basketball attributes and honed it against the rhythm of the league's most unstoppable offense. Durant had been more prolific, but never more devastating.

That hasn't exactly changed, though the manner in which Durant scores subtly has. Last season, Durant drove headlong to the rim at every opportunity, enjoying the open air of a spread offense after years of playing with questionable shooters. The newest Warrior also seemed eager, at times, to prove that he was capable of exactly the kind of dynamic off-the-dribble attacking that Golden State seemed to lack in the 2016 Finals. Those days are over. The Warriors are champions again and Durant has fully settled in.

With that comes one notable change to his shot profile: Durant is rooting more of his offense in the mid-range. Watch Durant in action and you can see his evolving approach: the way his first dribble has become more of an evaluation than an explosion, how he sets up his defender and what shots that allows him to create. Around 7% of Durant's shot attempts have moved from the restricted area to the mid-range, according to NBA.com, and with that his free throw rate has dipped to career-low levels.

One might take this as a natural byproduct of Stephen Curry's absences this season. Take Curry out of the lineup, after all, and the scope and direction of Durant's contributions must change. Yet the trend holds both when Durant plays with Curry and without. No matter the circumstances this season, Durant is finding more of his offense at a moderate distance. It works just the same because Durant is an aberration. The same kinds of shots that would feel like a compromise for other players and offenses fly in this case because Durant is converting mid-range shots at a 49% clip. Whatever the cost to his individual efficiency, the Warriors benefit from the diversification and Durant himself better preserves his body for a long season.

The death lineup is on ice

Weirdly enough, Golden State's best theoretical lineup—of Durant, Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala—has been a clear net negative this season. Necessary caveats apply. Various injuries have kept that unit to 58 total minutes this season, hardly enough to make any definitive claims. That said, the evidence has been striking enough to take note.

Early in the season, we saw the Warriors roll out this lineup in the seeming expectation of a run. The players may have gotten ahead of themselves; this lineup only really goes when everyone is running and cutting and switching and scrambling at full speed. When they commit at that level, this group is still the most ruthless in the league. Anything less and they risk painful mistakes on both sides of the ball.

Thus far, this group has played in exactly the style you'd expect but with none of the substance. It might be the clearest casualty of Golden State's relaxed commitment to defense on a possession-to-possession basis.

Jordan Bell changes the shape of the rotation

Clearly the Warriors thought enough of Bell to fork up $3 million—more than triple Bell's salary—for the chance to select him at No. 38 overall in the draft, but even that understates his increasing importance to the Warriors. Bell could easily be one of the team's most important contributors by season's end. His presence alone almost makes JaVale McGee redundant; Bell poses a similar vertical threat (though at less extreme dimensions, in McGee's defense) but with only a fraction of the headaches.

We've seen Bell start for Green in a pinch and play minutes at center in high-leverage situations. Results have been mixed. Opponents will continue to test Bell as a roller and cutter, challenging him to find ways to contribute when he can't immediately catch and finish. Sometimes Bell makes smart reads out of those situations, throwing just the sorts of passes that Green would. In other cases, he halts the flow of the offense entirely by freezing up when he needs to make a move.

The reps are what matter most at this point. Bell will see time in the playoffs out of matchup necessity. Zaza Pachulia and David West aren't cut out for every opponent and every series, leaving Bell as one of the most appealing options on the board. Some plus-minus magic is well within his reach.

Golden State is better surviving its minutes without Steph

While it wasn't quite a Westbrook-level effect, last season's Warriors—an all-time titan of a team—essentially played their minutes without Curry to a wash. They've been much more successful since. The Steph-less Warriors are outscoring opponents by six points per 100 possessions, a net rating that would otherwise rank third in the league.

It goes without saying that Golden State's style of play changes without Curry. So it goes when the best shooter of all-time exits the stage. But where last year's team plugged in Ian Clark (who played over 1000 minutes last season) as a sort of Curry surrogate, these Warriors have leaned into their weirdness. Patrick McCaw, a second-year defender and slasher with an inconsistent jumper, has stepped in for Curry situationally. Durant has run the offense with Green and/or Iguodala facilitating. Shaun Livingston, who is really more of a natural wing at this stage of his career, nominally plays the point but shares creative responsibilities with ease. Few other teams, if any, could operate this way. In Oakland, it works.

Andre Iguodala fell back to earth

The league is wise to Iguodala, who—all things considered—would prefer not to shoot very often. Last season, that served him well. Defenses so readily left Iguodala to guard against other threats that they left the door open for clean looks and a surprisingly efficient campaign. Iguodala was as confident as he's looked in years while shooting 53% from the field and 36% from three.

That Iguodala is gone. The current version is again reluctant to even attempt layups. His shooting percentages (42% overall, 23% from three) have cratered. Within the arc, Iguodala is whiffing on long twos—a shot he made at an unsustainable 55% clip last season. Beyond it, Iguodala has been forced into more makeshift offense than is comfortable. Some of that is a situational byproduct. Curry and Green, the creators historically responsible for many of Iguodala's open looks, have both missed enough time to warp Iguodala's production. Still it's strange that Iguodala is attempting fewer corner threes than he has in years, floating out instead toward the top of the floor.

The offense is still better with Iguodala than not, as is Golden State overall. If he continues to shoot this poorly, however, the calculus of guarding the Warriors—how overtly opponents can abandon Iguodala and what that means for the playing rotation on the whole—could begin to shift.

The Jim Rome Show: Shaun Livingston on Steve Kerr's comments

Shaun Livingston calls Jim Rome to talk about comments made by Steve Kerr after the Warriors 125-122 win over the Mavericks.

The Jim Rome Show: Shaun Livingston on Steve Kerr's comments

Shaun Livingston calls Jim Rome to talk about comments made by Steve Kerr after the Warriors 125-122 win over the Mavericks.

The Jim Rome Show: Shaun Livingston on Steve Kerr's comments

Shaun Livingston calls Jim Rome to talk about comments made by Steve Kerr after the Warriors 125-122 win over the Mavericks.

The Jim Rome Show: Shaun Livingston on Steve Kerr's comments

Shaun Livingston calls Jim Rome to talk about comments made by Steve Kerr after the Warriors 125-122 win over the Mavericks.

The Jim Rome Show: Shaun Livingston on Kobe Bryant

Shaun Livingston calls Jim Rome to talk Kobe Bryant's mental toughness.

The Jim Rome Show: Shaun Livingston on Kobe Bryant

Shaun Livingston calls Jim Rome to talk Kobe Bryant's mental toughness.

The Jim Rome Show: Shaun Livingston on Kobe Bryant

Shaun Livingston calls Jim Rome to talk Kobe Bryant's mental toughness.

The Jim Rome Show: Shaun Livingston on Kobe Bryant

Shaun Livingston calls Jim Rome to talk Kobe Bryant's mental toughness.

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) of Germany reaches for the ball against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Warriors bury Jazz with big third quarter, win 126-101

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 27: Shaun Livingston #34 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the Utah Jazz on December 27, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

LeBron James, Cavs Have More Problems Against Warriors Than Late No-Calls

Twice LeBron James turned to the referees with legitimate grievances on Christmas, and twice he came up empty.

It’s a bad sign when the most dramatic moments of the season’s most highly-anticipated game to date find the NBA’s two best players—James and Kevin Durant—bogged down in lengthy replay reviews and officiating controversies. There was no signature moment to the latest chapter between these two franchises, no chase down block or pull-up three to loop endlessly on highlight reels. Instead, there was James losing his balance and then losing possession—with help from Durant on both—as the Cavaliers lost their chance to spring a holiday upset.

With a little over a minute to go, James drove left on Durant, drawing contact across his body before losing the ball out of bounds without a whistle. With less than 30 seconds remaining, he drove right on Durant, who bumped his body and then appeared to come across his left shoulder to dislodge the ball without provoking a call. That pair of empty possessions helped Golden State close on a 7-0 run to seal a 99-92 win over Cleveland at Oracle Arena on Christmas.

“He got me a little bit [on the first one]. I lost that one,” James said. “He fouled me twice [on the second one]. But whatever. What are you going to do about it?”

Durant, for his part, suggested that armchair referees stick to social media. “Felt clean,” he told reporters afterwards. “If they didn’t call it, it’s not a foul. … Keep that [complaining] on Twitter.”

For the Cavaliers, there is far more to mull than the no-calls, as they look ahead to a potential fourth straight Finals showdown with the Warriors.

After all, Golden State, who was without Stephen Curry due to an ankle injury, prevailed despite starting Jordan Bell, a rookie center, and Patrick McCaw, a second-year wing who barely played in the 2017 Finals. The Warriors never truly found their rhythm, hitting just 10 threes in a contest that was choppy from the start. Yet they found easy pickings in the open court (33 fast-break points) and played much more soundly in the game’s closing minutes.

Before James turned to the referees with pleading eyes, he stared and pointed at his teammates during a series of fourth-quarter defensive breakdowns. Shaun Livingston leaked out for a dunk after Dwyane Wade missed an ill-advised three. Durant blocked a shot and took off in transition, racing end-to-end for an uncontested dunk when no one stopped the ball. James lost track of Draymond Green in the half-court, setting up an easy lob to the hoop. A wide-open Klay Thompson cashed in a second-chance three when the Cavaliers forgot about him.

Seeing so many unforgivable mistakes in quick succession was a reminder that Cleveland’s defense currently ranks among the NBA’s five worst. And seeing so many different links in the chain break begged an obvious question: What happens once the scheme-busting Curry reenters the fray?

“They kicked our butts in transition,” James admitted. “That was basically the tell-tale sign of the game.”

In fairness to the Cavaliers, they really could have used Isaiah Thomas, their own injured point guard. James labored through an off night, scoring 20 points on 7-18 shooting and committing seven turnovers. Thomas’s shot-creating and offensive creativity would have come in handy during an extended second-quarter lull and again during the game’s closing minutes. Kevin Love was sensational in five-out lineups, scoring 31 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, but Cleveland suffered through empty offensive minutes from half of its rotation, including starting guards J.R. Smith and Jose Calderon. A B+ from James and an A+ from Love simply wasn’t enough.

If the Cavaliers entered the holiday hoping that one of their many new faces would prove to be helpful come June, they left with more questions than answers. The 36-year-old Calderon will be targeted constantly if he sees minutes in a hypothetical Finals match-up. Although Wade had multiple savvy steals and energy plays, his lack of shooting closes the court for James and his flashes of inattentive defense will be put under the microscope. In a very bad sign, the perpetually inconsistent Jeff Green was nearly invisible. And despite playing well, Jae Crowder looked wholly overmatched against Durant, who tallied 25 points on 19 shots even though Curry wasn’t around to generate a constant stream of open looks.

While this loss was hardly a crisis for the Cavaliers, their off-season movement hasn’t really closed the gap. They still don’t have a great defensive match-up for Durant. They still have trouble getting productive minutes out of Tristan Thompson and Kyle Korver against Golden State. They are still stuck riding the hit-or-miss wave with Smith. They still have major depth concerns in a series format. And they are still left hoping that James and an electric offense can paper over that laundry list of issues.

Even a tremendous night from Love, one of the league’s most unheralded stars this season, came with an obvious caveat: Curry’s absence. Without their lead ball-handler, the Warriors have turned to the likes of Durant, Green and Andre Iguodala for more initiation. While those players present their own challenges for defenders, Curry is a much trickier cover for a big man like Love to defend in space. With both teams at full health, it’s safe to say that Love’s life will be made more difficult, not less.

Rewind 365 days, and it was Durant on the wrong side of a disputed no-call, bodied by Richard Jefferson late during a road loss to Cleveland. That Christmas defeat, which came as Durant was still integrating into Golden State’s framework, hardly foreshadowed Finals doom. By June, Durant was playing the best basketball of his life on his way to his first title and first Finals MVP.

James, with a transitioning roster that is at talent and chemistry disadvantages, will have a tougher time mimicking that Christmas-to-June turnaround should these two teams meet again in June. He needs Thomas back and fully healthy, he needs peak Love, and he needs significantly better focus and more productive minutes from a supporting cast that might need to be bolstered by midseason moves.

Without more help and improved discipline around him, James surely knows that a better whistle won’t be able to save him.

Kevin Durant's Masterful Job of Moonlighting as Stephen Curry

The Warriors have gone to great lengths to avoid relying on pick-and-roll basketball. Steve Kerr seems to find it all a bit formulaic—functional enough, but predictable in a way he would prefer his teams not to be. Instead, Golden State whirls in a concert of cuts and curls, calling most every defender into action simultaneously rather than putting two on the spot. This system—one that produces beautiful basketball as an almost incidental byproduct—leans on the idea that defenses will have to respond to the movements of two of the best shooters in the world.

At present, the Warriors are without one. Stephen Curry has missed five straight games due to an ankle injury, an absence that limits the potency of what the Warriors typically run. Draymond Green, an essential defender and playmaker, has missed four of those five games with a troublesome shoulder, cutting Golden State's All-NBA core in half. The Warriors are hardly without talent, but in Curry and Green, specifically, they lack those players who typically give them shape.

They've gone 5–0 regardless, changing shape at times between the Warriors we know and the Warriors they try not to be. With Durant at the helm, this is a pick-and-roll team—not to the extent of the Rockets or the Hornets, perhaps, but noticeably more so than when Curry is active. Defenses are kept at bay by inversion. Durant assumes control of the ball in the absence of the team's point guard and point forward, often working around screens set by his shortest teammates.

It is already impossible to consistently deny Durant, a seven-footer who stops and shoots with alarming ease, access to his lethal pull-up jumper. Adding a ball screen to the equation devastates even sharp execution and best efforts. It takes favorable circumstances for a defender to even scramble his way into Durant's line of sight, should he decide to fire on the go. The Lakers learned this the hard way on Monday night, as the 6'6" Lonzo Ball watched Durant's game-winning shot soar over his head.

Durant, without question, is Golden State's best candidate to absorb the responsibilities that Curry and Green leave behind. Solid as Klay Thompson may be, his iffy handle doesn't allow his game to scale. More shots may come his way by nature of Curry's usual load dissipating, but Thompson is ultimately doing slightly more of the same. Durant is living in a different world—still curling and posting and isolating as the Warriors want him to, but also running the offense and setting the stage for everyone involved. To average 34.2 points per game—most in the league over the past two weeks—on 61.3% true shooting is madness. Bolstering that line with with 10.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists a night takes that lunacy to an entirely different level.

Durant had previously done a masterful job in moonlighting as Green on defense, where his length could mimic some of what the NBA's most versatile defender does so well. Now he seems to be modeling Green's playmaking just as deftly—somehow walking the line between go-to scorer and willing passer. Considering how easily Durant could hunt down a shot of his own, the lack of hesitation to his passing game is admirable. Durant wants to hit a teammate ahead of him on the break. He wants to draw two defenders on the catch and skip the ball to the open man. He wants to stride through the open floor and kick a pass to second-year guard in the corner, playing on a two-way contract:

The Warriors could win some games without Curry and Green no matter how they chose to play. They're running the table because Durant is dominant without strangling the life out of the underlying system. Kerr's principles of movement and passing still apply, only differently. Certain allowances are made for Durant to give this injured team its own way of creating playmaking momentum. As a result, nearly every member of the Warriors ensemble has had their moment. If it weren't enough that Golden State were so star-rich, they support some of the best players in the game with impressively functional depth.

None of Andre Iguodala, Omri Casspi, David West, or Shaun Livingston is a volume scorer, but each is so adaptable as to stumble into 15 points on a given night by playing in the flow of the game. Durant will do the heavy lifting. Thompson produces reliably and the team defense—even without Green—has been stout. All that's left is for the role players to find whatever organic means to contribute a particular game allows:

Short two of their best players (and their starting center, though that seems less consequential given that it's Zaza Pachulia), the Warriors are structurally in line with much of the league: there's one superstar, one supporting All-Star, a handful of veterans, and a selection of prospects. But this team is in such a state that on Monday they started second-round picks from the past two drafts along with JaVale McGee for good measure ... and won. It's not difficult to discern that all-time talent is what gives Golden State their dynastic potential. This run without Curry and Green, however, bears reminders of both how exceptional Durant can be and how much better the Warriors are at the nuts and bolts of basketball than almost everyone else.

NBA DFS Picks for December 18

The NBA takes a backseat to the NFL on Sunday, but it returns with a vengeance on Monday with 10 games and plenty of intriguing matchups. The big story is how injuries and resting players will affect teams like the Warriors, 76ers, Heat and more. It's shaping up to be a stars-and-punts kind of night. Think about using some of these plays, along with our NBA Lineup Optimizer, to give you an edge on FanDuel and DraftKings.

Team Stack Alert

How many Warriors is too many Warriors?

Kevin Durant (FD: $12,000, DK: $11,600)

Projected Points: FD: 56.17, DK: 56.34

Klay Thompson (FD: $7,200, DK: $7,000)

Projected Points: FD: 35.92, DK: 37.64

Omri Casspi (FD: $4,500, DK: $4,100)

Projected Points: FD: 30.79, DK: 31.43

Patrick McCaw (FD: $3,500, DK: $3,400)

Projected Points: FD: 19.25, DK: 18.98

Jordan Bell (FD: $4,700, DK: $4,500)

Projected Points: FD: 34.97, DK: 32.46

Andre Iguodala (FD: $4,400, DK: $4,200)

Projected Points: FD: 24.55, DK: 24.24

Opponent: Lakers

It’s extremely rare to see this many players from one team come in as value plays on a single slate, but it’s definitely the case with the Warriors on Monday. Stephen Curry is still at least a week away from returning with the ankle injury, and Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston and Zaza Pachulia have all been ruled out early. That leaves the Warriors very thin from top to bottom. We will likely see a starting lineup of McCaw, Thompson, Durant, Casspi, and Bell, with Iguodala logging heavy minutes off the bench as a secondary ball-handler. Even playing at less than full strength of late, the Warriors have handled their business. They've won their last eight, but often without the cushion of a typical Golden State blowout. Opponents have kept games close, helping to consolidate minutes around the starters.

Durant is the clear play alpha here. In the last four games without Curry he’s averaged 34 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks per game. These are superstar numbers and should continue Monday in what projects to be a high-scoring affair against the Lakers.

Each of the other five guys is a value play at his respective price point. Thompson’s defense and much-needed scoring have kept him on the court for around 37 minutes a game over the last four, and he’s averaging 20 shots a game in his last three.

Casspi has shifted to starting power forward over the last two games and played his most minutes of the season. He’s versatile and can spell Durant at small forward in certain Warrior rotations.

In his only other start this season, McCaw played 33 minutes and finished with 16 points and seven assists. With both reliable point guards hurt, we could see major minutes out of a guy priced at near minimums on both sites.

And then there’s the Lakers, who are running at the league’s fastest pace (104.7 possessions per game) and playing about average defense. This is a fantastic matchup for the Warriors core unit, especially if Los Angeles can keep the game close. The only question is which three or four of these guys do you roster?

Point Guard

Russell Westbrook, vs. Nuggets (FD: $11,300, DK: $11,200)

Projected Points: FD: 56.07, DK: 59.17

With the Warriors, and some other cheap value, opening up so much salary cap flexibility, we should be fine paying top dollar for Westbrook on Monday. After an epic, three-overtime win against the Sixers on Friday in which Westbrook logged an unfathomable 52 minutes, the Thunder couldn’t muster enough energy to beat a Kristaps Porzingis-less Knicks team on Saturday. But Westbrook still managed 25 points, seven assists and seven rebounds which seemed Herculean considering what he did the less than 24 hours prior. On Monday, he’ll match up against a Nuggets team allowing 3% more scoring and 6% more assists than league average to opposing point guards. He and Durant represent the clear big money plays of the night, and both will likely see plenty of ownership.

Kemba Walker, vs. Knicks (FD: $8,000, DK: $7,100)

Projected Points: FD: 38.6, DK: 39.86

Walker struggled on Saturday, finishing 7-of-26 from the field, which continues his recent swoon. In fact, during the month of December, he’s shooting only 37% overall and 29% from three. It’s led to a season-low salary on DraftKings, and also a terrific time to buy. Walker is a scoring-dependent point guard, and when the shot isn’t falling he’ll see a short-term dip in price. Player shooting tends to regress to the historical mean over the long term, and on the season he’s good for 42% from the field and 34% from three. His scoring should bounce back sooner rather than later. The slow-paced Knicks aren’t a fantastic matchup, but it’s mostly Walker’s price point that draws interest. Don’t be discouraged by the recent game log, the points will come around.

Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Victor Oladipo, vs. Celtics (FD: $9,300, DK: $8,700)

Projected Points: FD: 44.83, DK: 45.16

That the Paul George trade doesn’t feel like the total disaster it did over the summer is as much about Oladipo as anything else. He’s been a revelation since leaving Westbrook and the Thunder behind, blossoming into a top-flight scorer with a usage rate well beyond any reasonable expectation. He’s averaging career bests in scoring (24.4 points per game) and rebounding (5.4 per game) and shooting the lights out from beyond the arc at 43%. This isn’t a great matchup against a defensively sound Celtics squad, but expect major minutes from Oladipo if he’s tasked with guarding Kyrie Irving. Oladipo’s scoring gives him a solid floor, but the defensive stats add a layer of upside that few other shooting guards enjoy. He’s expensive, but still a solid play if the game stays close.

Wesley Matthews, vs. Suns (FD: $4,800, DK: $4,700)

Projected Points: FD: 24.84, DK: 25.66

Monday is so loaded with cheaper value plays that we made it this far without even mentioning anyone from the team playing Phoenix. The Suns are a dream matchup considering they run at the third-fastest pace and rank the worst in defensive efficiency. That means high-quality, high-volume possessions for their opponent. Matthews is coming cheap after a brutal three-game stretch in which the Mavericks faced the Warriors once and San Antonio twice. It gets a lot easier here, and we’ve seen Matthews dial up the scoring when he’s knocking down threes. Bad defenses like the Suns allow for plenty of open looks, and this game projects to stay close because both teams are pretty bad.

Power Forward/Center

Kelly Olynyk, vs. Hawks (FD: $6,200, DK: $5,000)

Projected Points: FD: 34.35, DK: 35.04

Bam Adebayo, vs. Hawks (FD: $5,000, DK: $4,100)

Projected Points: FD: 25.66, DK: 24.57

Hassan Whiteside won’t play this week, and on Saturday the Heat lost James Johnson for the next 7 to 10 days. That leaves an already thin frontcourt with very few options beyond Olynyk and Adebayo. They get a great matchup against a Hawks team ranking near the bottom of the league in defending big men. Atlanta gets beat up on the glass, where they allow worse than league-average rebounding rates to power forward/center types. On Saturday, after Johnson went down, Olynyk and Adebayo logged 34 and 28 minutes, respectively, and should see similar court time on Monday. On the season, Olynyk goes to a 25% usage rate from 20% when Whiteside and Johnson are off the court, with a bump up in rebounding, as well. Of the two, he’s definitely the safer bet to see minutes in the mid-to-high-30s in this game, because the Heat will be able to run smaller lineups against an undersized Atlanta frontcourt.

Amir Johnson, vs. Bulls (FD: $3,500, DK: $3,500)

Projected Points: FD: 24.76, DK: 24.1

Richaun Holmes, vs. Bulls (FD: $4,500, DK: $4,100)

Projected Points: FD: 26.76, DK: 26.33

One or both of these guys stand to benefit with Joel Embiid and, to a lesser degree, Trevor Booker already ruled out for Monday. When Embiid sat out two games last week, Johnson drew the starts, though foul trouble burned him in both games. Those were against the Pelicans and Cavaliers, with superstars like Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins and Lebron James getting to the rack early and often. It’s much less of a concern against the Bulls, who don’t boast anywhere near the offensive firepower. Johnson was still serviceable at these salaries, and if he can avoid the fouls could hit value even with mid-20s minutes.

Holmes is much more a fantasy asset, and even off the bench has double-double potential. Without Embiid last week he averaged 13 points and six assists in only 22 minutes per game. If he were to draw the start he’d instantly become one of the best values on the entire slate.

Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) smiles as he congratulates forward Kevin Durant (35) after the team's 102-98 win over the Detroit Pistons in an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson, center, is stopped by Golden State Warriors guards Klay Thompson (11) and Shaun Livingston (34) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Detroit. The Warriors defeated the Pistons 102-98. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Dominic Livingston commits to LSU

The LSU football program has grabbed another top-flight linemen for a total of two in 48 hours.

Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) argues a call with referee Courtney Kirkland before he was called for a technical foul and was ejected, during an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) argues a call with referee Courtney Kirkland before he was called for a technical foul and was ejected during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins Ejected For Jawing

Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins were tossed from Monday night’s Warriors-Pelicans game after getting two technical fouls and their dispute continued backstage following the game.

Durant and Cousins had been barking back and forth all game long but tensions boiled over as they jawed with each other late in the fourth quarter and were quickly ejected.

Tempers were apparently still running high after the game was over, as the two players reportedly had to be separated when they rekindled the dispute near the locker rooms.

This is the second time in three days that Durant has been ejected. He was tossed from Friday’s win over the Magic for arguing a call. Monday also marks the third consecutive game in which a Warriors player has been ejected, after Shaun Livingston was run from Sunday’s game for making contact with an official. Livingston and the referee in question Courtney Kirkland were both suspended as a result.

Steve Kerr applauds how NBA handled Livingston-Kirkland suspension

NBA official Courtney Kirkland, Warriors' Shaun Livingston suspended for altercation

NBA official Courtney Kirkland, Warriors' Shaun Livingston suspended for altercation

NBA official Courtney Kirkland, Warriors' Shaun Livingston suspended for altercation

Kirkland and Livingston bumped heads Sunday, when the Warriors played the Heat.

NBA official Courtney Kirkland, Warriors' Shaun Livingston suspended for altercation

NBA official Courtney Kirkland, Warriors' Shaun Livingston suspended for altercation

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