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Klay and Steph save Warriors season, stun Thunder to force Game 7 (Ball Don't Lie)
(Sat, 28 May 2016 21:40:44 PDT)

AP Source: Rockets, D'Antoni agree on 4-year deal (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 26 May 2016 20:34:25 PDT)
Mike D'Antoni is taking his ''Seven Seconds or Less'' offense to Houston, where James Harden is waiting to give his new coach the kind of weapon that could be a perfect fit for his system. D'Antoni reached agreement with the Rockets on a four-year deal on Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. In some ways, both D'Antoni and the Rockets are looking for redemption.

Sources: Mike D'Antoni finalizing contract to coach Rockets (Yahoo Sports)
(Thu, 26 May 2016 14:46:30 PDT)
The former Suns, Knicks and Lakers coach will get a four-year contract in Houston.

Stephen Curry and LeBron James headline the 2015-16 All-NBA Team (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 26 May 2016 13:24:07 PDT)

Kermit Washington indicted for embezzling charitable donations (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 25 May 2016 18:08:54 PDT)

Kermit Washington accused of stealing from his charity (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 25 May 2016 15:44:04 PDT)
Prosecutors have filed charges against former NBA forward Kermit Washington, accusing him of embezzling about a half-million dollars in charitable donations meant to help the needy in Africa and spending it on jewelry, vacations and other things. Washington, who was best known for his bone-shattering punch to the face of Houston Rockets player Rudy Tomjanovich during a 1977 game, was charged in an indictment filed in Kansas City on Monday. Washington, who was released on $75,000 bond, is charged with interfering with internal revenue laws, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obstruction of justice and aggravated identity theft.

Former NBA, NFL players charged in tax fraud scheme
(Wed, 25 May 2016 14:29:33 PDT)
A former National Basketball Association player famed for delivering a devastating punch during a 1977 on-court fight has been arrested and charged with fraud in conspiracy with a National Football League Hall of Famer, U.S. prosecutors said on Wednesday. A grand jury indictment alleges retired basketball player Kermit Washington, 64, defrauded donors, eBay, PayPal and the Internal Revenue Service for nearly three years by persuading people, including former professional athletes, to make donations to Project Contact Africa, a charity he had founded. Ron Mix, a professional football Hall of Famer who played most of his career with the San Diego Chargers, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of filing a false tax return in connection with the case, prosecutors said in a statement.

Warriors facing long odds down 3-1, but it has been done (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 25 May 2016 05:06:26 PDT)
MIAMI (AP) -- Here's good news for Golden State: It's not over.

Craig Sager to receive Jimmy V Perseverance Award at 2016 ESPYs (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 24 May 2016 18:12:43 PDT)
While the TNT crew was offering outfit-based tributes to colleague Craig Sager, who's at Chesapeake Energy Arena to broadcast Game 4 of the Western Conference finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, ESPN was announcing its own very special nod to Sager's fortitude: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] BREAKING: Craig Sager will be the recipient of this year’s Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. #SagerStrong pic.twitter.com/tHEK7M4gg7 — ESPYS (@ESPYS) May 25, 2016 Congratulations to Craig Sager, the 2016 @ESPYS Jimmy V Recipient! #SagerStrong https://t.co/6YVDnJ3Ntk — NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 25, 2016 Sager was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014 , and has gone through multiple courses of treatment, including chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, to try to beat back the illness. After missing nearly a year, he was cleared to return to television in March of 2015 , only to see the illness return , forcing him to once again step away from his duties. After several more months of treatment, including a transplant of bone marrow donated by his son, Craig II, Sager came back for the NBA's 2015-16 Media Day in September , returned to work on Opening Night a month later, and had his first televised post-treatment tete-a-tete with Pop in December. Sager has continued to make monthly trips to Houston for treatment throughout the season, and was healthy enough to resume his responsibilities at the NBA's annual All-Star Weekend in Toronto . His status took a turn shortly thereafter, though, and Sager revealed in a March interview with HBO that his leukemia was no longer in remission. Undaunted, he continued to work , juggling treatment through clinical trials, travel and broadcasting responsibilities in an effort that inspired many, including Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard . He continues to press on, working through TNT's postseason coverage with the support of his colleagues, his family and an NBA community that has opened its heart to him over the years. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, like so many other people, my life changed forever,” Sager said in an ESPN statement released Tuesday . “Over the last two years, I’ve done everything in my power to live my life as normally as possible. But at times, you need support and I’m so thankful to everyone who has been there for me.” More from ESPN: The Jimmy V Perseverance Award was named after, and inspired by, the late Jimmy Valvano who became the award’s raison d’ętre at the 1993 ESPYS. While battling cancer, Valvano gave an emotional acceptance speech that included his famous words “Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up!” Valvano passed away less than two months later, but his words were never forgotten. The Jimmy V Award is given to a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. In 2007, Women’s College basketball coach Kay Yow became the very first recipient of the Jimmy V Award. Past recipients include Eric LeGrand, Anthony Robles, George Karl, Dick and Rick Hoyt, Stuart Scott, and Devon and Leah Still. "It just shows it's not about me; it's about something bigger than me," Sager told The Associated Press on Tuesday, one day after he went to an Oklahoma City hospital to undergo blood transfusions he needs as part of his ongoing leukemia treatment. ''What I represent is somebody who, like Jimmy V said, 'Don't give up. Don't ever give up.' I refuse to give up. I refuse to give in." Sager will receive the award at the 2016 ESPYs on July 13. More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Ex-NBA player Kermit Washington arrested in Los Angeles (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 24 May 2016 16:09:17 PDT)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kermit Washington, a former NBA player who notoriously gave a bone-breaking face punch to the Houston Rockets' Rudy Tomjanovich during a 1977 Lakers game, has been arrested by federal agents.

Sources: Portland’s Nate Tibbetts to meet about Warriors’ top assistant job (Yahoo Sports)
(Mon, 23 May 2016 10:33:55 PDT)
Tibbetts traveled to Oklahoma City to meet with Steve Kerr and Warriors officials on Monday night.

The painful history of groin shots involving 2016 NBA Playoff stars (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 23 May 2016 08:10:25 PDT)
Surely you've seen the nut shot heard 'round the world  by now. As the NBA mulls Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green's status for Game 4 — following his leg's second straight unwelcome visit to Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams' groin — we need look no further than hours earlier for the last disciplinary measure to protect the NBA's crown jewels. After all, seldom-used Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dahntay Jones earned himself a one-game ban for a tap to Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo's testicles that was tough to detect, unless you're Biyombo.  But Green is far from seldom-used. He's Golden State's most important player not named Stephen Curry, and his loss for Game 4 could spell a third loss in four tries against Oklahoma City. In which case, uh-oh . So, let's dive a little deeper into whether Green warrants a suspension for kicking Adams' rocks, and if that means we have to keep a straight face while exploring the exploits of a different form NBA cherry picking, then so be it. And we're not talking about Dwight Howard giving former Houston Rockets teammate Isaiah Canaan an unexpected love tap  on the bench or erstwhile Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer accidentally treating referee Danny Crawford's sore spot like a speed bag during a celebration . (Some celebration, bemoans Crawford.) [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr:  The best slams from all of basketball] We're strictly discussing the sort of mano-a-mano cojone contact that occurs between two basketball players in the heat of battle. The NBA history of huevos barbaros is a storied one , and we could regale you with tales of every tater tap in league lore — like Dwyane Wade's kick to Ramon Sessions' cobblers , Shane Battier's knee to Roy Hibbert's nads and Marcus Smart's punch to Matt Bonner's plums — but we'll limit our discussion to groin grabs involving players from these playoffs who lived to tell their story. Jan. 28, 2011 : Kevin Garnett taps Channing Frye's twins. Garnett got ejected for bumping Frye's bag during a regular-season meeting, but did not get suspended. While KG left without speaking to reporters that night, Doc Rivers did offer up an explanation of his own. “That would only be the 20th time that it probably happened in the game,” said Rivers, who was also ejected that night for arguing with officials. “You see it all the time, guys poking at your stomach. If that is what happened, then he is really a tough guy.” Nov. 4, 2014 : J.R. Smith jabs Glen Rice Jr.'s juniors. It was a heck of a way to welcome in 2014-15, and Smith earned a one-game suspension for this blow to Rice's boys just four games into the season. He was rewarded with a trade to Cleveland two months later. "I was trying to clear space to get as close to the basket as I could to get the shot off," Smith told reporters in the aftermath. "It definitely wasn't anything intentional. I saw him on the floor. I was trying to figure out what happened. Was he bleeding or something or what? The ref didn't call it. The ref called a foul on him. I didn't really see what happened." March 1, 2014 : James Harden kicks LeBron James' coin purse. Harden received a Flagrant 1 foul and a one-game suspension for this after-the-whistle foot to LeBron's family jewels during a regular-season meeting in which the two superstars scored a combined 70 points. "It's a reaction," Harden told the media . "They called a flagrant. Next play we moved on." March 3, 2013 and  May 11, 2014 : Serge Ibaka's smacks to Blake Griffin's spuds. Ibaka received a Flagrant 1 foul for this jackhammer to Griffin's jawbreakers. The call was later upgraded to a Flagrant 2, and Ibaka got himself a $25,000 fine, but avoided suspension in the regular season. "He hit my hands away,” Ibaka said after his first meeting with Griffin's goolies. “He’s strong, so when he grabs you, your jersey or whatever, and you try to defend yourself and rebound. So maybe you can do some move, not to hurt, (but) just to get good position, but then something happens where you get hurt in the paint. It’s not anything where I want to try to hurt him. I’m not that kind of person. I just try to play hard, and that’s it." Ibaka again avoided suspension — and even a foul this time around — for walloping Griffin's watermelons as a result of Kendrick Perkins push to his back in Game 4 of a Western Conference semifinals series. "No punch thrown," explained Ibaka . "I was in traffic and one of my teammates pushed me from the back. Then I tried to fall and [Griffin] was already up. It was nothing like that." May 29, 2014 : Russell Westbrook goes Bruce Lee on Tim Duncan's beans. In Game 5 of another Western Conference finals series, this time against the San Antonio Spurs two years ago, the Thunder again found themselves on the opposite side of the on-ball defense. Only, Duncan was actually whistled for finding himself on the receiving end of Westbrook's karate kick to the klackers, and the only explanation offered afterwards was the Spurs star's straightforward explanation to the referees: "He kicked me in the nuts," said Duncan.  April 4, 2015 : Shaun Livingston dings Dirk Nowitzki's doodads. Livingston's uppercut to Dirk's under region also received a Flagrant 1 foul and a one-game suspension. "He kind of sat back to create space with his lower area, and it was just bad timing," Livingston said afterward . "Eleven years in the league, I haven't had a dirty play. I haven't made a name in this league by playing that way. It looked worse than it actually was. It's Dirk Nowitzki. It's a Hall of Fame player. You don't do that to somebody like that." March 9, 2016 : Chris Paul's push to Kevin Durant's pods. Somehow, Paul escaped any discipline for backhanding Durant's stepchildren, even scoring as a result. So, the L.A. Clippers star needed no explanation, even if Durant's apricots could've used an apology. *** As you can see, the NBA's discipline measures for a groin greeting is as varied as the offenses themselves, and the league has shown no bias toward stars or altered its policy during the postseason. Harden earned a one-game ban for a clearly intentional sneaker to LeBron's sweetmeats during the regular season, and Livingston got the same for a less blatant tug on Dirk's teabag in the playoffs. These few blows to the ballocks spanned three league executives in charge of doling out the discipline, the most recent of which was on the desk of current NBA vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe, who let Paul's swipe at Durant's swingers slide, so perhaps that's reason for optimism in Golden State. But let us not forget the real victims, and say a prayer for Adams' apples before Game 5. - - - - - - - Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

David Blatt: Get along with your star, or else 'you’re going to be in trouble' (Ball Don't Lie)
(Sun, 22 May 2016 15:05:35 PDT)

Sources: Stephen Silas to meet with Steve Kerr about Warriors' top assistant job (Yahoo Sports)
(Sun, 22 May 2016 10:57:25 PDT)
Silas is traveling to Oklahoma City to meet with the Warriors’ coach on Monday.

Sources: Warriors pursuing Stephen Silas for top assistant job (Yahoo Sports)
(Fri, 20 May 2016 14:20:33 PDT)
Silas was an assistant for the Warriors from 2006-10 and has a strong relationship with Stephen Curry.

Report: Frank Vogel is the new head coach of the Orlando Magic (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 19 May 2016 13:40:02 PDT)

Adidas sets sights on football stars in big U.S. drive
(Thu, 19 May 2016 11:46:51 PDT)
By Emma Thomasson BERLIN (Reuters) - Adidas wants to sign dozens of deals with U.S. sports stars in coming years, hoping that will provide a more lasting boost to sales than the current fashion fad for its retro sneakers, its North America head told Reuters. Since falling into third place in the United States behind Nike and Under Armour, the German firm has regained some ground in recent months after raising marketing spending in the world's top sportswear market. Mark King has put a big focus on signing top athletes in sports like American football, basketball and baseball since he took over as president of the region for Adidas in 2014, after more than a decade running the company's golf business.

Dwight Howard on his reduced role in Houston: 'Why am I here?' (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 19 May 2016 11:01:19 PDT)

Sources: Rockets bring in Stephen Silas for second interview (Yahoo Sports)
(Thu, 19 May 2016 09:05:10 PDT)
Silas is the lone candidate standing between frontrunner Mike D’Antoni and Houston’s head-coaching job.

How the wrath of Curry brought the Thunder back to earth (Yahoo Sports)
(Thu, 19 May 2016 07:32:50 PDT)
The Thunder's overly physical play angered Steph Curry, and he and his swollen elbow buried them.

NBA-National Basketball Association roundup
(Wed, 18 May 2016 16:46:08 PDT)
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are living up to the top spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. After drubbing the Toronto Raptors in Game One of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night, the Cavaliers are looking downright unbeatable with a 9-0 record this postseason to show for it. The Cavs are rolling, and James and Kyrie Irving are a big reason why.

Sources: Jeff Van Gundy out of running for Rockets job (Yahoo Sports)
(Wed, 18 May 2016 12:03:19 PDT)
Van Gundy had serious interest in the coaching opening, but things didn’t work out between the sides.

NBA China to open basketball-themed Playzone in Shanghai (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 17 May 2016 13:29:00 PDT)
NEW YORK (AP) -- The NBA is opening a basketball-themed entertainment center in China, another effort to connect with fans where it enjoys huge popularity.

After long overseas career, Nets coach Atkinson back in NY (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 16 May 2016 14:24:26 PDT)
Long before playing in Europe or coaching in Mexico, Kenny Atkinson was a ballplayer from New York. Atkinson was introduced as the Brooklyn Nets' coach, his newest address on a lengthy basketball journey bringing him not far from his original one of Huntington, New York. The sixth Nets' coach since they moved to Brooklyn in 2012, Atkinson had to pause to regain his composure in his opening remarks as he talked about his connection to the area and the people who helped him get back here.

Conference Finals Preview (Rotoworld)
(Mon, 16 May 2016 12:59:00 PDT)
Ryan Knaus previews the Eastern and Western Conference finals before discussing recent coaching news in a playoff-themed edition of the Numbers Game.

BDL's NBA 2015-16 Playoff Previews: Warriors vs. Thunder (Ball Don't Lie)
(Sat, 14 May 2016 16:09:38 PDT)
How They Got Here • Golden State : By knocking off both the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers in five-game sets that featured similar scripts: stomp through a couple of games, come up short in a Game 3 without injured back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, author extremely impressive Game 4 wins keyed by monster post-halftime runs , and take care of business in Game 5 to advance. (One very important difference: the Blazers earned a ton of respect by going down swinging, while the Rockets largely laid down and died .) In Curry's absence, Klay Thompson (who's averaging 27.2 points per game in the playoffs and shooting 47.5 percent from 3-point land on 9.9 attempts per game) and Draymond Green (17.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.3 blocks per game in the postseason, a line nobody's ever put up before ) reminded everybody just how awesome they are and how big a load they're capable of shouldering, with or without Steph. Now, after missing four games with a sprained knee ligament, Curry is back — like, seriously, staggeringly back. The Warriors were the best regular-season team ever, and they've outscored their opposition by nearly 15 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. They're about to meet a much more formidable opponent, though, in what should prove to be the toughest test Golden State's faced since the 2015 Finals. • Oklahoma City: By making liars of an awful lot of prognosticators, including this one . After looking alternately discombobulated and dominant in a five-game first-round victory over the Dallas Mavericks, the Thunder faced a much sterner challenge: a 67-win San Antonio Spurs team that boasted the NBA's No. 1 defense, and that had just swept through the injury-ravaged Memphis Grizzlies. San Antonio appeared to have the upper hand after a Game 1 blowout , but significantly harder, more committed and more active Thunder play — and, of course, the craziest playoff game ending in recent memory, featuring no fewer than five confirmed incorrect calls in the closing seconds — wrested home-court advantage away from the Spurs, serving notice that this was likely to be a much closer contest than the series opener indicated. The Spurs got back on the good foot in Game 3, getting enough little things right down the stretch to regain the lead and instill at least a little concern that Oklahoma City's season-long struggles with fourth-quarter execution could rear its head again at an inopportune moment. The Thunder answered back with a reminder that late-game minutiae don't matter nearly as much when you vigorously smack your opponent around, riding 41 points from superstar Kevin Durant, a dynamite defensive effort and key contributions from Steven Adams, Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter to a Game 4 win. Nuclear point guard Russell Westbrook starred in Game 5, leading OKC to a four-point win that, once again, featured some closing-seconds officiating intrigue (and, eventually, another mea culpa from the NBA). The Spurs entered Game 6 needing a stellar performance to stay alive; instead, the Thunder ripped their hearts out early, opening up a 24-point first-half lead behind suffocating defense en route to a convincing closeout victory that left San Antonio's legends contemplating their futures , and the rest of us wondering if this might really be the year that a healthy Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka have enough help and firepower to make a return trip to the Finals. — Dan Devine Head to Head: The Warriors swept the season series, 3-0, with all three contests coming in the span of a month on either side of the All-Star break. There was the 116-108 Golden State win at Oracle on the night before the Super Bowl, which saw Durant pour in 40 points on 25 shots in 40 minutes but fall to a Warriors team featuring nine players who chipped in at least eight points, with Curry sparking a 12-4 fourth-quarter run to ice the game. There was the 121-106 Dubs win in March that saw Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka combine for 74 points, 22 rebounds and 16 assists, but still get buried beneath the weight of a 24-7 Warrior run that tilted the game. And then there was the Feb. 27 game , which you might remember from this: Two and a half months later, I still can't believe that shot went in ... until I remember that Curry was sitting on 43 points and 11 3-pointers before pulling up from the "R" in the Thunder halfcourt logo, and then I believe all over again. While Golden State swept the season series by an average margin of 8.4 points per game, it's worth remembering a few things: • that Durant ran rampant on the league's No. 4 defense, averaging 36.3 points, 12 rebounds and 6.3 assists (albeit against 6.3 turnovers) per game on 53/48/96 shooting splits against the Warriors this season, making more than half his shots against whichever defender head coach Steve Kerr and defensive coordinator Ron Adams threw at him; • that the jumbo Adams-Kanter-Durant frontcourt shared the floor for just two minutes in one game against the Warriors, which could change after Billy Donovan watched it pulverize San Antonio on the boards, especially if Kanter can hold up as well defensively against Golden State as he did against the Spurs (which is very much an open question); • and that Oklahoma City either led or was tied in the fourth quarter of all three of the regular-season games, before falling prey to both the Warriors' steamrolling excellence and the infamous late-game offensive stagnation and lapses in focus that led to the Thunder losing an NBA-high 15 games in which they led in the final frame. OKC seemed to solve, or at least mitigate, some of those execution issues in taking three straight from San Antonio. Whether that carries over into the conference finals remains to be seen. — DD Likely Starting Lineups The Warriors attack starts with Curry, who is thankfully healthy after playing all of 39 minutes over the team's first eight playoff games. Although Curry's knee is not yet 100 percent, his performances in Games 4 and 5 vs. the Blazers made it very clear that he's in good enough shape to decimate the rest of the league. Four days of rest before taking on the Thunder should put him at or close to top form, and it's safe to assume that he'll be one of the defining players of this series. It's great to have him back.

Summer agenda: Houston Rockets (Yahoo Sports)
(Fri, 13 May 2016 10:10:19 PDT)
Houston needs a coach, a long-term philosophy and an intelligent plan for its potential cap space.

Curry scores 29 as Warriors eliminate Blazers
(Thu, 12 May 2016 00:53:02 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - Stephen Curry bombed in a 3-pointer with 24.9 seconds remaining on Wednesday as the Golden State Warriors held off the Portland Trail Blazers 125-121 to seal the Western Conference semi-final playoff series four games to one. The Warriors, who advanced to the Western finals for the second year in a row, await the winner of the Oklahoma City Thunder-San Antonio Spurs semi-final. The fifth-seeded Trail Blazers gave the Warriors a battle in Game 5, leading early by as many as 11 and hanging within 118-116 with the basketball inside the final 50 seconds.

Warriors eliminate Blazers, Raptors take 3-2 series lead
(Thu, 12 May 2016 00:11:38 PDT)
Stephen Curry was honoured with his second-consecutive league MVP award and then led Golden State to a 125-121 victory over Portland as the Warriors advanced to back-to-back conference finals. The night started with Curry being awarded the first unanimous MVP trophy and ended with the superstar capping his 29-point performance with a four free throws in the final 18 seconds to give the Warriors a 4-1 series victory over the Trail Blazers.

Curry's crazy dagger takes Warriors past Blazers, into West finals (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 11 May 2016 23:20:15 PDT)
Stephen Curry's return from injury in Monday night's thrilling Western Conference Semifinals Game 4 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers was always going to be tough to top. After three quarters of decent but largely inhibited play, the Golden State Warriors superstar exploded in crunch time to set a new NBA record with 17 overtime points. His Game 5 encore was going to be appointment viewing regardless — especially coming on the night he accepted his second-straight (and first-ever unanimous ) MVP trophy — but it would have been a little much to expect it to measure up to the preceding contest. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr:  The best slams from all of basketball] In general terms, Curry was not quite as incredible as he was on Monday in Portland. But he still pulled off the most dramatic moment of a thrilling Game 5 victory at Oracle Arena. With the Warriors up 118-116 with under 30 seconds remaining in regulation, Curry faced off against Al-Farouq Aminu at the top of the key and pulled off one of his signature pull-up three-pointers for the series-ending dagger: In truth, the game and series did not end right that moment. Curry nailed two free throws after a quick Allen Crabbe two on the next possession, but Blazers star Damian Lillard then coaxed Klay Thompson into fouling on a three-point attempt and made all of them. Yet the Warriors were able to get the ball to Curry on the ensuing inbound, and he made the final two of his seven points in the last 24 seconds to finish the scoring in a hard-fought 125-121 win . Curry finished the night with an efficient 29 points (10-of-20 FG, 5-of-11 3FG, 4-of-4 FT), 11 assists, and five rebounds. Yet he arguably didn't look like his MVP self until the fourth quarter, when he scored 14 of Golden State's 32 points. As in Game 4, Curry looked somewhat inhibited early on, opting to set up teammates and avoid his patented perimeter dribble-moves. It's not apparent that he was restricted by discomfort in his right knee, but the player who dominated looked to be playing at full capabilities. While the Warriors have some issues to work on and more injuries to consider heading into the conference finals, they can at least proceed with confidence that their best player is in good enough healthy to perform on the sport's biggest stage. That next series will now come against either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs, who play Game 6 of their conference semifinal Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena with the Thunder up 3-2. Both teams rank among the league's elite, and it's fair to say that the Warriors will have to up their own form to avoid a prolonged series. For now, though, they have defeated a capable and fearless underdog that gave them all they could handle. Wednesday's close-out win did not come easily for Golden State. Portland came out determined to prove wrong Draymond Green's Tuesday claim that they were done , going 4-of-5 from three-point range to open the game in another display of tough shot-making. That form cooled slightly to 6-of-11 from deep by the end of the first quarter, but the Blazers still managed to enter the second with a 30-27 lead. That advantage looked precarious if only because the Warriors had shot poorly and the Blazers seemed due for a regression, particularly from role players like Allen Crabbe, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Moe Harkless. The first part of that equation worked out for Golden State, because Klay Thompson emerged from two early fouls to set the net aflame. He became the clear focus of the Warriors offense and finished the first half with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting, which ended up as merely his best stretch in an excellent performance (33 points on 17 shots). With Draymond Green struggling early and Curry less than dominant, Thompson kept the Warriors humming. Despite trailing at the half and losing Andrew Bogut to a right adductor strain , they looked in very good shape to control the second half and close out the series. Good teams have fallen victim to incandescent individual shooting performances like that before, but the Blazers countered with a few of their own. Damian Lillard was terrific to put up 21 points before the break, and starting forwards Harkless and Aminu combined for 20 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep to punish several missed Warriors rotations. It was the same formula that kept the Blazers close in four of five games this series, and it was arguably most impressive facing elimination on the road. Lillard cooled considerably to score only four points on 11 attempts before his aforementioned free throws, but C.J. McCollum stepped up to fill the void. The shots didn't get any easier for the Blazers, which occasionally made it seem as if they were on the brink of getting blown out. However, they answered every run, matched the Warriors at nearly every opportunity, and were in the game until Curry's late heroics. They pushed the defending champions as far as any team has this season. The trouble for Portland and any other team is that Golden State is very comfortable living on the edge. Although their play was not nearly as crisp as it could have been, the Warriors experienced true playoff intensity this series after a lackadaisical showing from the Houston Rockets in the first round and should emerge stronger for it. The Thunder or Spurs will present different and likely tougher challenges moving forward, but the Warriors should be prepared for them. Plus, no other team has the confidence that Curry brings. If there were any doubts as to his condition after a two-week layoff, these last two games answered them. He hasn't had a 48-minute stretch of dominance yet, but he looks like the MVP. That's enough to make the Warriors overwhelming championship favorites once again. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric

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