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    September 13, 2018 7:14 AM PDT
    By Golden State standards Dalvin Tomlinson Jersey , this season was downright bumpy.

    The Warriors won only 58 regular-season games, by far their fewest in this four-year run of excellence. They went 7-10 in their final 17 games of the regular season. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala all got hurt. They needed to win a Game 7 on the road to reach the NBA Finals, and they could have easily lost two of the first three games of this series.

    Yet here they are.

    Golden State is on the cusp of another NBA championship, holding a 3-0 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers going into Game 4 of the finals. The Warriors could be champions again as early as Friday night, and this crown – after experiencing plenty of turbulence this season – would most definitely be one to savor.

    ”Going into this season, I don’t think anybody could have guessed or predicted the ups and downs and the roller coaster we’ve been on,” Curry said Thursday as the Warriors prepped for the possible clincher. ”So, definitely a different year, just overall, personally with injuries, as a team with dealing with injuries, dealing with the kind of expectations that have been placed on us from the outside and the noise around us as a team.”

    They went 67-15 on the way to the NBA title in 2015, matched that record on the way to another title last season and went 73-9 – the best record in league history – in 2016 only to fall short in the finals against Cleveland. That series, one where the Warriors led 3-1 Doug Flutie Jersey , changed when they couldn’t finish the job while being presented with serious adversity.

    This year, there’s been a toughness to go along with the finesse.

    They overcame deficits of 17 and 15 points against Houston in the final two games of the Western Conference finals, the second of those on the Rockets‘ home floor. They overcame an 11-point deficit in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Cleveland, and rallied from 13 points down to beat the Cavaliers in Game 3 on Wednesday.

    They needed 27 starting lineups in the regular season, and five so far in the playoffs. But they’re one win away from getting their fingerprints all over another Larry O’Brien Trophy.

    ”You can never count out a champion, no matter what’s going on in the course of their season,” Cleveland star LeBron James said, lauding the Warriors. ”It’s impossible to do that, because they’re built from a different cloth, and I know that firsthand. When you win a championship and you’re around guys for a long period of time, and you know what you’re capable of doing, all you need is to get healthy.

    ”If you can get healthy and guys are playing at the right level at the same time, then you can feel like you can beat anybody.”

    They got healthy.

    And they’re about to beat everybody.

    They did it the hard way, without question. Houston finished seven games ahead of the Warriors in the regular season, earning the right to be the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. If the Rockets had Chris Paul for Game 6 or Game 7 of that series, if Paul’s hamstring hadn’t betrayed him at the worst possible time, then the Warriors could very well be on vacation right now.

    ”Every season is very different Cameron Meredith Jersey ,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ”Every journey is a new one each season. Yet the cumulative effect on multiple journeys adds up, and we have felt that this year. I think it’s been our most inconsistent season. It’s been our most difficult season. But our guys sense the finish line, and they turned it on right from the beginning of the playoffs defensively.”

    The finish line is now within sight.

    If the Warriors finish this off – no team in NBA history has blown a 3-0 series lead – then all the hiccups of the regular season will be forgotten. There will be a parade in the Bay Area before long, championship rings to hand out and another banner to unfurl on opening night next season, and more free agents likely will take a look at signing with Golden State in an effort to add to their own jewelry collections.

    But if things get rocky next season, the Warriors will also have the experiences from this year to draw upon. In short, not looking their best at times this season might ultimately make them better.

    ”It’s been a crazy ride,” Curry said. ”So now we’ve just got to finish the job.”

     

    Frank Vogel was brought to Orlando two years ago with hopes he could get the Magic back to the playoffs, and stop the spinning of the revolving door to their coaches’ office.

    Neither of those things happened.

    Vogel was fired by the Magic on Thursday about 10 hours after the team wrapped up a 25-57 season, its sixth consecutive losing year. Vogel, who had one year left on his contract, went 54-110 in his two years with Orlando.

    The Magic haven’t been to the playoffs since Stan Van Gundy’s final season with the team in 2012. Vogel, who had some successful years coaching the Indiana Pacers before going to Orlando, simply didn’t have the roster to change that.

    ”I have nothing but the utmost respect for Frank Vogel as a coach and a person,” said Magic basketball operations president Jeff Weltman, who met with Vogel to deliver the news. ”I know he’ll be a head coach again shortly.”

    Weltman didn’t give a timetable for finding a new coach.

    ”We just have to find that right guy,” he said.

    Clearly Alex Cappa Jersey , another season of struggle was not all Vogel’s fault. The Magic used 27 starting lineups this season, none for more than 11 games, 18 for three games or fewer. There was no continuity to the lineup, and only three players appeared in 70 games. In all, injuries and illness robbed the Magic of 227 player games this season – thwarting key parts of Vogel’s plan.

    ”It was very hard to evaluate it and I’m not sure we were able to get the complete look that we wanted to,” Weltman said. ”But that’s sports. … I wish we were blessed with more health this season, but that’s not the way it panned out.”

    Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic were the team’s three leading scorers; they combined to miss 74 games, and Gordon will now become a restricted free agent. Bismack Biyombo was the only Magic player to appear in all 82 games, and most of those were as a reserve. And while the season ended with a win, the irony is that the victory hurt Orlando’s draft-lottery chances.

    Vogel’s status has been the source of some speculation for weeks. Weltman is part of a new front-office regime in Orlando, and it’s expected that the big changes next season won’t be limited to the coach.

    ”It comes with the territory,” Vucevic told the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday before the season finale. ”When a team struggles, obviously the front office is going to look at what’s been working, what hasn’t, what can be done for the team to be improved. So there’s a lot of possibilities. I try not to think about it too much. I try to focus on what you can control, which is on the basketball court.”

    The firing came even though Vogel saw signs the team was headed in the right direction. He spoke often about the culture he thought the Magic were building Adam Butler Jersey , and after the finale indicated he was excited to add another lottery pick to a team that he insisted had promise.

    ”They made the best of a tough situation by playing with great effort, positive energy, enthusiasm, all throughout a difficult season,” Vogel said.

    The next step in Orlando will now be someone else’s task.

    Vogel was the second coach fired Thursday, with the New York Knicks dismissing Jeff Hornacek.

    The Magic will have no shortage of coaching candidates. Jerry Stackhouse is likely to get at least a real chance at an NBA job this offseason, after two successful years leading Toronto’s G League affiliate. And he and Weltman have history; Weltman came to the Magic as president 11 months ago after serving as the No. 2 in command of basketball operations under Masai Ujiri with the Raptors.

    This will be the Magic’s fifth coach in just more than three years. The replacement for Van Gundy was Jacque Vaughn, who was fired in February 2015. Vaughn was followed by interim coach James Borrego (now a San Antonio assistant), then Scott Skiles (who lasted one season), then Vogel.

    The Magic weren’t good enough to win under any of them. The team’s best record since Van Gundy left was 35-47 in 2015-16, and no NBA team has won fewer games over the past six seasons than the Magic.

    ”We’re not good enough,” Weltman said. ”We have a lot of areas to improve upon.”

    Associated Press freelancer Dick Scanlon in Orlando, Florida, contributed to this report.

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