Holiday, Turner prove they can play together

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Holiday, Turner prove they can play together

CHICAGO Jrue Holiday looks smooth, if not in slow motion when he is orchestrating the Sixers offense.

Evan Turner is quite the opposite. He attacks the basket with reckless abandon and pulls up for mid-range jumpers with bravado.

Both young players had a huge hand in the Sixers evening their first-round best-of-seven series with the Bulls at 1-1.

The starting backcourt combo combined for 19-for-30 shooting for 45 points and they handed out 12 assists. Furthermore, they played in perfect tandem, Holiday making his first six shots, Turner scoring 11 points in a decisive third quarter.

I think we feed off each other, Holiday said. He is a facilitator and makes plays. I make plays too. His vision is really good so if I am cutting back door or am open on a fastbreak he always sees that. One thing I learned at UCLA is playing without the ball and getting to open space.

Jrue, during intros, was really excited, Turner recalled. Hes a scorer so once he gets the ball and attacks hes all good. He felt good and I just kept attacking. I figured I was just going to battle the whole time whether I missed shots or not.

Doug Collins appreciated both players contributions.

The one thing with Jrue is he has to stay on the attack. I dont want him to think like a true point guard, Collins said. I want him to think like a scoring point guard, like a Deron Williams or somebody like that because with our starting unit I need he and Dre Iguodala and EB Brand to get that group off to a good start.

He has been in a really good attack mode and the thing I am happy about is that he didnt have a great shooting night in Game 1 and he came out and he shot the ball, Collins said. Thats what I tell our guys: shoot the ball. You are playing for a coach who would shoot the ball. Pistol Pete Maravich was my hero and I heard him say once if you missed 10 in a row and you are a 50 percent shooter somewhere along the way you are going to make 10 in a row. Jrue was spectacular. He had six assists, no turnovers, 26 points.

It is really whatever helps the team, Holiday said. I know there are times when other guys get off, like when Jodie Meeks is playing and shooting well and Dre is shooting well, then I am more of a facilitator and that is OK. But today was my day. The basket was as big as the ocean and everything fell in.

Holidays 26 points were a career playoff high for the third year guard. Meanwhile Turners 19 points and six assists were playoff career highs. Turner enjoys the bright lights on the big stage.

People always tell you about guys who always disappear in big moments and I never ever wanted to be that type of guy, Turner said. When it comes to big games, I just want to play good, be there and help my teammates as much as I can.

Evan played great, Brand said. He is an all-around player. He can rebound for us, score the ball for us, pass the ball, distribute the ball and play defense. He did it all tonight and that is what we needed out of him.

Its what I love about Evan, he feels like he is the best player in the gym and I love that, Collins said. I know he made some ill-timed comments and he has been booed every time he catches the ball and it is like he is using that in a very positive way. Some guys maybe would cower away from that but Evan has risen to the challenge. I am not big on guys doing a lot of talking but I like the way he is playing.

The talking Collins referred to was Turner saying before the playoffs began that the Bulls would be an easier opponent than the Heat. Chicago natives are still booing him whenever they can during the course of the games.

Boos dont bother me, Turner said. It bothers the people that care about me like my mom, my family and my best friend. It really bothered them but giving them an opportunity to cheer meant more to me. Actually, none of that stuff bothers me at all.

Collins inserted Turner and Spencer Hawes back into the starting lineup on Tuesday. They had been reserves in the previous 11 games, including Game 1 of the series. Prior to that, Turner had started 18 straight games, in which the team went 7-11.

Turner wasnt happy when he was taken out of the starting lineup but for the most part, he played the role of a good soldier with the exception of bad body language, though when times were tough he was hardly alone in wearing his emotions on his sleeve.

I just kept working, Turner said. I wanted to have an impact in the playoffs. I knew I could play in the playoffs. I couldnt worry about it. I just wanted to get better as a basketball player whether I played another minute in April or not. I just wanted to get better as a basketball player. I understand its a career. Its not like a one-year thing so I just wanted to keep working as a basketball player.

Maybe it is the matchup with Chicago or maybe Turner really did get better in certain areas over the last three weeks but if the question is still: can Iguodala, Turner and Holiday be a formidable productive perimeter unit? The answer on Tuesday was an absolute yes.

More then anything, Evan and myself are lengthy on the defensive end, Iguodala said. Rip Hamilton is pretty quick and he might be able to get the same type of looks out there with Meeks or Evan but Evan is a little bit longer and Evan tries to pressure him a little bit so we try to use that to our advantage and rebound the ball.

What had been a problem in the regular season and Game 1 turned into a positive in Game 2, with the Sixers winning the rebounding battle by six, which led to their lopsided fastbreak points margin of 25-8.

When we rebound the ball, Evan and myself, we can push the ball and get out on the break and finish pretty well and it started with that in the third, Iguodala said.

The Sixers have an opportunity in front of them. They can win this series and advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in five tries over the last nine years.

Coming into this series the topic that dominated conversations was how the Sixers were going to handle the unbelievably talented play of Derrick Rose. Now that conversation has shifted, what can the Bulls do to slow down the guard play of the Sixers, who, including Lou Williams, scored 65 of the teams 109 points?

E-mail Dei Lynam at dlynam@comcastsportsnet.com

Warriors complete comeback, oust Thunder in Game 7

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The Associated Press

Warriors complete comeback, oust Thunder in Game 7

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry knocked down yet another 3-pointer in the waning moments, pulled his jersey up into his mouth and yelled to the rafters in triumph once more.

A special, record-setting season saved for the defending champs, with a memorable comeback added to the long list of accomplishments.

Splash Brothers Curry and Klay Thompson carried the 73-win Warriors right back to the NBA Finals, as Golden State rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-88 on Monday night in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

Now, Curry and Co. are playing for another NBA title -- just as they planned since Day 1 of training camp in September.

Bring on LeBron James again.

"You appreciate how tough it is to get back here," Curry said. "You've got to be appreciative of this accomplishment, and look forward to getting four more wins."

The MVP scored 36 points with seven 3-pointers to finish with an NBA-record 32 in a seven-game series, and also had eight assists. Thompson added 21 points and six 3s, two days after his record 11 3-pointers led a Game 6 comeback that sent the series home to raucous Oracle Arena for one more.

The Warriors became the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit and win a postseason series. They return to the NBA Finals for a rematch with James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost the 2015 title in six games as Golden State captured its first championship in 40 years.

Game 1 is Thursday night in Oakland.

"We survived by the skin of our teeth," coach Steve Kerr said. "We were able to pull it out, and we're moving on."

His signature mouthpiece dangling out and the game ball cradled in his left hand, Curry pumped his right arm as yellow confetti fell through Oracle Arena once the final buzzer sounded.

With the Thunder trailing 90-86, Serge Ibaka fouled Curry on a 3-point try with 1:18 to go and the shot clock running out. Curry made all three free throws, then that 3-pointer to seal it.

"This is who he is. Having a clutch performance in a Game 7, that's Steph Curry," Kerr said.

And Golden State's beloved "Strength In Numbers" catchphrase coined by Coach of the Year Kerr was needed in every way.

"No one ever had any doubt that we could get this done," Draymond Green said. "People have seen teams down 3-1 before but they ain't seen many. They've definitely never seen a 73-win team down 3-1."

Andre Iguodala joined the starting lineup for just the second time all season and the 2015 NBA Finals MVP hung tough against Kevin Durant, who scored 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Shaun Livingston's breakaway, one-handed dunk late in the third provided a big lift off the Warriors bench.

Oklahoma City won Game 1 108-102 at deafening Oracle Arena, so Golden State never envisioned this one coming easily. Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds for the Thunder.

"It hurts losing, especially being up 3 games to 1," Durant said.

It took a quarter and a half for Thompson to warm up after his 41-point performance in a 108-101 win Saturday at Oklahoma City that sent the series back to the East Bay.

He missed his initial seven shots before hitting a 3 6:02 before halftime, energizing the Warriors in their first Game 7 at home in 40 years.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Thompson and Iguodala pulled the Warriors within 54-51 with 7:57 left in the third. They tied it on Curry's 3 at 7:21 and he followed with another 3 to give his team the lead.

Curry and Thompson each topped the previous record for 3s in a seven-game series, 28 by Dennis Scott and Ray Allen. Curry hit one over 7-foot Steven Adams in the third, and Thompson wound up with 30 3s.

Iguodala replaced Harrison Barnes in the starting lineup and what a move by Kerr, who did the same thing last year in crunch time. Iguodala made a pretty bounce pass through the paint to Green for Golden State's first basket, and his smothering defense on Durant kept the Thunder star without a shot until his 3 at the 5:45 mark in the first. Durant had just nine points on five shots in the first half.

But Oklahoma City dictated the tempo with snappy passes and the hard, aggressive rebounding that had been such a part of its success this season. The Thunder couldn't sustain it.

"They won a world championship last year, and they've broken an NBA record, and people are already talking about it before the playoffs started, this may be the greatest team to ever lace them up in the history of the NBA," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

The Warriors, who fell behind 35-22, lost their last Game 7 at home: 94-86 to Phoenix in the Western Conference finals on May 16, 1976.

Tip-ins
Thunder: The Thunder's 12 third-quarter points were the fewest allowed by Golden State in a playoff third quarter during the shot clock era. ... Durant took nine shots in the first 33:25. ... Oklahoma City led by as many as 13 in the first half. ... Donovan celebrated his 51st birthday. ... The Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State's opponent the previous round, are the only teams to beat the Warriors twice this season.

Warriors: The Warriors are 4-4 all-time in Game 7s -- 3-1 at home. ... Iguodala earned his first since Jan. 2 against Denver. ... Golden State wasn't whistled for its first foul until 2:34 in the first. ... The Warriors' 42 first-half points were their fewest at home this season. ... Curry hit a 3 in his 51st straight playoff game.

P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

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P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

Thirty-five years is more than enough time to get a sense of who a person is and how they do their job. That is how long Brett Brown has known P.J. Carlesimo, which made it easy for the Sixers' head coach to have interest in adding him to the staff. 

With Mike D’Antoni leaving to coach the Rockets, the Sixers had a vacancy at the associate head coach position. On Sunday, though, Carlesimo decided not to join the Sixers’ staff and remain a television analyst.

“He was a natural fit for me,” Brown said Monday following a pre-draft workout. “For family reasons, he just couldn’t do it. We talked a lot and it was an emotional thing from P.J.’s perspective. 

“P.J. is a very close friend of mine and he made that decision for family reasons and I understand it. The phone call really didn’t surprise me knowing what I know of him and how he views his family, having to travel across the country the whole time.”

Like D’Antoni, Carlesimo has a lengthy résumé on the NBA sidelines. He was a head coach for parts of nine seasons and worked five as an assistant coach. Brown called working with D’Antoni “a real learning experience,” and an ideal candidate would have similar experience to help both the staff and the young roster.

“That role will be filled with maybe that type of flavor,” Brown said. “I know this, we are still in a complete development mode. We still have a bunch of 20-year-olds, guys that could be with us for a long time, but they’re not old, that we have to make sure that the city and me, we remember that. We still need people and teachers that can teach and coach and establish relationships. 

“So you tick boxes on relationships, teaching, development, those still rule the day. If you can do that with some veteran wisdom and some type of experiences like Mike’s, say, or P.J. had, well then you’re really knocking it out of the park.”

Coaching vacancies are coveted at this level. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, a revamped front office, and a 125,000-square foot training facility under construction, the Sixers have enhanced the appeal of the role. 

"My phone is very active, as you can imagine," Brown said. "I think it’s a highly attractive position. … Like our draft picks, I too spend a lot of time studying who will be the best fit for me and our program."

NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

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NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 210

School: Kentucky

It's tough for a Kentucky star freshman to fly under the radar, but that's exactly what Murray did last season. While Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine dominated the spotlight, Murray was quietly as good as anyone in the country for the second half of the season.

In Kentucky's final 14 games, Murray averaged just under 24 points and shot better than 46 percent from three-point range. For the season, he averaged an even 20 points and connected on 41 percent of his three-point attempts. He also chipped in an impressive 5.2 rebounds. 

Kentucky lost some games early and fell toward the bottom of the Top 25 rankings. But Murray continued to produce and played his best basketball down the stretch, lifting the Wildcats to 27 wins and SEC regular season and tournament titles. 

As good as he was during his only college season, Murray projects to be an even better pro. He's the best guard prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft. 

Strengths
Shooting the ball. He has the best shooting stroke of any prospect in this year's draft. Murray's form on his jump shot is textbook with the results to match. He's able to get his shot off quickly and has range well beyond the NBA three-point line. Murray's outside shot is his greatest asset. Shooters are always in high demand and have never been more valuable in the NBA. The defending champion Warriors offer all the proof you need of that.

However Murray isn't a one-dimensional player. He can get to the basket off the dribble and is a terrific finisher around the basket. He also developed a polished mid-range game during his time at Kentucky. Murray also plays hard — a characteristic that NBA executives monitor closely. He rarely takes a possession off and competes hard on the glass for a perimeter player, as evidenced by his five rebounds per game last season.

Weaknesses
Murray doesn't have a defined position on the NBA level. He's not a true point guard and isn't quite big enough to be considered a prototypical shooting guard. While NBA talent evaluators are concerned by this, I don't necessarily view it as a weakness. Murray projects as a combo guard, capable of playing point guard but also comfortable away from the ball. He's similar to the Trail Blazers' C.J. McCollum in that regard.

Murray isn't an elite-level athlete and by no means is he a great defender. He'll struggle to stay in front of the more dynamic perimeter players in the NBA. But he has a very good work ethic and should be able to improve defensively.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Extremely well. The 76ers need shooters. That need will only become exaggerated if and when they draft Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick. With Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, the Sixers have a significantly frontcourt-heavy nucleus. They need quality guards to balance out their lineup.

The much-discussed hypothetical trade that would send Okafor to the Celtics for the No. 3 pick makes a ton of sense for the 76ers. They could clear out space in their frontcourt rotation as well as acquire Murray with that third pick. Murray would flourish playing alongside Simmons, knocking down the open jump shots that Simmons creates.    

NBA comparison
I see a mix of Bradley Beal and Eric Gordon in Murray's game. Beal and Gordon have similar builds to Murray and both entered the NBA as exceptional shooters. All three are natural scorers who have no problem getting their own shot on the NBA level.

Draft projection
Murray will be a high-end lottery pick. He could go as high as No. 3 to the Celtics and shouldn't fall any lower than No. 6 to the Pelicans.