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Finality in Oakland

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NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Finals are finally back a few days after that gnarly Game 5 experience, the most universally unsatisfying Finals game in memory (despite a team fending off elimination with a furious late run). Hopefully Game 6 can be competitive, clean, and free of all Achilles ruptures and fandom heel turns.

The Raptors have won both games in Oakland in the series, and pretty convincingly. But this is Oakland’s last stand: the last NBA game at Oracle Arena before the Warriors move across the Bay to San Francisco’s Chase Center next fall. It’s hard to imagine the proud Warriors failing to defend their home court with such high stakes and symbolism. But then again, it was hard to imagine them losing Games 3 and 4 in Oakland, and we all saw it! We know it is possible. All things are possible through Kawhi Leonard.

There are so many little storylines to watch. How will Pascal Siakam play after being benched for most of the fourth quarter on Monday? Will the Raptors continue to attack DeMarcus Cousins mercilessly on defense? Will the Splash Brothers change the calculus on the Raptors’ aggressive defense? Will Nick Nurse or Steve Kerr have killer tricks to lay out? Who will be the best player on the court?

On paper, it sounds like a great set-up for a game, just like on paper, the Finals sounded really compelling. We just need that to actually happen now, and for all of the misfortune of Game 5 to stay far away.

Game 6 is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Another Crack in the Wall

The Cavaliers hired Lindsay Gottlieb as an assistant coach on Wednesday. Gottlieb joins a small cadre of women coaching in the NBA, but is the first to make the leap from high-level women’s college basketball directly to an NBA bench. Woj reports that Cavs GM Koby Altman and head coach John Beilein agreed to pursue a high-level women’s college basketball coach, and honed in on Gottlieb, who has had some big success at Cal.

Progress won’t really be made until we stop having firsts all the time. We’re getting there, slowly but surely.

The next step, of course, is for a team to name a woman as the associate head coach or the full-on head coach. That could happen in a couple years (yes, everyone notices that Spurs assistant coaches not named Becky Hammon are taking jobs elsewhere as Gregg Popovich nears retirement) or it could take a long, long time. It’s up to the NBA -- the powerful people who together make up the NBA -- on what it’ll be.

Links

Michael Pina on defense as the Warriors’ true path to coming back and winning the Finals.

Kyrie Irving has switched representation, apparently over to Roc Nation. DUN DUN DUN.

Big blowout Sports Illustrated feature on Rich Paul, which is sure to make all sorts of crusty curmudgeons pleased as punch.

Ricky O’Donnell explains why R.J. Barrett was rated a better recruit than Zion Williamson. By the way, we are ONE WEEK from the NBA Draft.

Kristian Winfield on the perils of playing through injury. It indeed ended up being a ruptured Achilles for Kevin Durant.

Zach Lowe on how Game 5’s biggest moments will shape Game 6.

Marc Stein juxtaposes Willis Reed with Kevin Durant.

Hilarious conceit by Haley O’Shaughnessy: what would the NBA look like if Stephen A. Smith were always right?

Ime Udoka reflects on his rise as a coach and, importantly, shares a Tim Duncan wisecrack.

Rudy Gay with words of encouragement and experience for Kevin Durant post-Achilles tear. We don’t talk enough about how decent Rudy Gay is. Good dude.

NetsDaily caught up with Caris LeVert, still the third best name in the NBA just behind Mo Bamba and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

The Grizzlies basically announced they are fully rebuilding during Taylor Jenkins’ press conference on Wednesday. Drafting Jaren Jackson Jr. and (soon) Ja Morant and trading Marc Gasol and (soon) Mike Conley kind of made that clear, but the new front office was quite explicit on Wednesday!

The Warriors are going to have the most Oracle Arena-est halftime show starring E-40, Too $hort, and Mistah F.A.B. No offense to Beads, Billups, Jalen, and The Truth ... but can we just run that live please?

And finally: Nick Van Exel, ‘90s legend and Grizzlies assistant coach, has discovered the immense joy of iced coffee, so our resident iced coffee enthusiast James Dator gave him (and really, all of us) some tips on perfecting it. Service journalism!

Be excellent to each other.