Brown is a good backup

The for­mer Lak­ers coach is 11-0 with the War­riors in the playoffs while fill­ing in for ailing Kerr.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Ta­nia Gan­guli ta­nia.gan­guli@la­times.com

OAK­LAND — Coach Steve Kerr sat watching from the scorer’s ta­ble as the Golden State War­riors fin­ished up prac­tice the day be­fore Game 1 of the NBA Fi­nals. He was present but de­tached.

Kerr is thought to be strongly con­sid­er­ing a re­turn for Game 2 on Sunday. For now, though, Mike Brown con­tin­ues as the War­riors’ act­ing head coach.

“I’m go­ing to coach un­til they tell me it’s dif­fer­ent,” Brown said. “So I haven’t heard any­thing from him. The plan is I’m go­ing to con­tinue to coach un­til ei­ther he or [gen­eral man­ager] Bob My­ers tells me any­thing dif­fer­ent.”

It’s been this way for months. For two sea­sons Kerr has been the head coach of one of the best teams in NBA his­tory and through­out those two sea­sons, de­bil­i­tat­ing spinal pain has kept him from truly be­ing able to en­joy it.

“My heart goes out to him,” NBA Com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver said. “I think, as he and I talked about, it puts this all into per­spec­tive. I think for those who have dealt with long-term phys­i­cal ail­ments or had fam­ily mem­bers or oth­ers, all those cliches are true, that noth­ing is as im­por­tant as your health. And I think that, as Steve said, this should be one of the great mo­ments of his sto­ried basketball ca­reer, and in­stead he’s go­ing to be sit­ting in the locker room rather than be­ing out on the floor coach­ing his team.”

Kerr had two back surg­eries in 2015 to com­bat pain caused by a spinal fluid leak. He missed the first 43 games of the 2015-16 sea­son, with Luke Wal­ton play­ing sub­sti­tute coach. The War­riors went 39-4 and Wal­ton earned his first NBA head coach­ing job, with the Lak­ers.

The War­riors brought in Brown — for­merly head coach of the Lak­ers and the Cleveland Cava­liers, Golden State’s op­po­nent in these Fi­nals — know­ing his coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence would give the War­riors a safety net were Kerr to be side­lined again.

Kerr be­gan the playoffs, but couldn’t do much more. He has missed ev­ery game since Game 2 of the first round, his sys­tem, his phi­los­o­phy and his ad­vice car­ried on by Brown, who is 11-0 in this post­sea­son.

In the War­riors’ Game 1 blowout win, that in­cluded a plan for Kevin Du­rant, who played ex­cep­tion­ally well in his first Fi­nals in five years.

“Steve sug­gested we try to get the ball in his hands right away and put him in po­si­tion where he can at­tack down­hill,” Brown said. “So we tried to do that early on, and K.D. didn’t set­tle. When he had an op­por­tu­nity, he went down­hill, and it worked out well.” De­fense f irst

It should come as no sur­prise that the two teams with the best of­fen­sive rat­ing in the playoffs are the War­riors and Cava­liers.

The Cava­liers av­er­age 118.3 points per 100 pos­ses­sions, the War­riors 115.4. In the month of May, the Cava­liers were even more pro­lific, with an of­fen­sive rat­ing of 122.9, 6.2 bet­ter than the sec­ond-ranked War­riors.

That makes what Golden State did Thurs­day night all the more im­pres­sive. The Cava­liers’ of­fen­sive rat­ing was just 89.2. It was the first time all post­sea­son they failed to reach triple dig­its.

“They’ve been killing peo­ple the last three years with the three-ball,” War­riors guard Klay Thomp­son said of the Cava­liers. “Us and them prob­a­bly have been the best in the league at it . . . . They’ve got great one-onone play­ers, but you’ve got to make them beat you one-onone. Over the course of the game, it’s hard to do. I think that wears guys out.”

While im­pres­sive, the War­riors’ de­fen­sive per- for­mance wasn’t al­to­gether un­ex­pected. Their de­fen­sive rat­ing has been the best in the playoffs — 98.3 points al­lowed per 100 pos­ses­sions.

Draft, lottery fixes

Dur­ing his an­nual Fi­nals news con­fer­ence, Sil­ver was asked about tank­ing among teams jock­ey­ing for draft sta­tus late in the sea­son.

“It drives me crazy,” he said. “But it’s an is­sue that the league has been deal­ing with for many decades.”

The draft lottery was in­tended to take away the in­cen­tive for tank­ing. In­deed, the Phoenix Suns rested sev­eral veteran and healthy play­ers late in the sea­son and se­cured the league’s sec­ond-worst record, but were not re­warded in the lottery and dropped out of the top three.

The Lak­ers went on a five-game win­ning streak late in the sea­son and fin­ished with the third-worst record in the league, but they won the sec­ond over­all pick in the draft lottery. Had their pick fallen out of the top three, they would have lost it al­to­gether.

“It’s not work­ing ex­actly the way we would like it to, and I think it’s some­thing we have to turn back to,” Sil­ver said. “We’re not at the point where we’re go­ing to have rel­e­ga­tion to the [NBA Devel­op­ment] league and the way they do in Europe. That would stop it, but we’re not pre­pared to do that.”

Marcio Jose Sanchez As­so­ci­ated Press

GOLDEN STATE COACH Steve Kerr, right, has not been on the War­riors’ bench since Game 2 in the first round of the playoffs be­cause of back pain. As­sis­tant Mike Brown, left, has coached the team in his ab­sence.

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