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How the Warriors embrace innovation of Silicon Valley

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Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob

Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob

OAKLAND, Calif. (Diya TV) — The Golden State Warriors are undoubtedly the best team in basketball — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson & Co. proved it last year after capturing the team’s first world championship in four decades, and reinforced it this season while winning a regular-season record 73 games.

Now, the Warriors are facing off again in the NBA Finals against a familiar foe, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While Golden State’s success has been heavily contingent on the skills of their players, some of it can also be attributed to a five-year bet the franchise hedged on technology. A wager which has likely transformed co-owner Joe Lacob’s team into a perennial NBA contender for years to come.

Lacob and the Warriors were among the league’s first to install cameras at Oracle Arena that track each time a player touches or shoots the ball during a game. During practice, Warriors players wear monitors that measure their heart rates, movement and stamina. And as days pass, the team is continuously implementing new technologies into their everyday routines, including a new “smart” sleeping mask.

In the world of sport where the old adage of not trying to reinvent the wheel is still a fixture, the Warriors are trendsetters in the technology of sports as much as Curry is shooting the three.

“You can play on the probabilities or just stand pat,” says Kirk Lacob, an assistant general manager who oversees the team’s analytics staff and is the son of Joe Lacob. “We choose to take the risks.”

The official transformation began in 2010, when the elder Lacob, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, and Peter Guber bought the team for a record $450 million. Their purchase coincided with the same time basketball teams had just begun exploring new analytics options for the sport.

Along with the Warriors, the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks began collecting data that stretched far beyond the basic metrics basketball had relied upon since its inception: how many points a player scored and how many rebounds he collected.

Golden State kicked off their efforts by installing SportVU, a six-camera motion-tracking system which hung from the rafters of the arena. The system allowed the Warriors to analyze every dribble and pass each of their players made during a game, along with his speed, distance between teammates and miles run in a game. Reigning two-time MVP Stephen Curry, for example, runs about 2.4 miles during the 34 minutes he averages per game.

Now, all 30 NBA teams use SportVU, and every team additionally keeps a specialist on staff who can summarize the data collected — a privilege the Warriors didn’t have when they first implemented the system, they had to learn on the job as they went along. During their first two years using the system, Golden State won fewer than half their games.

In the days since Golden State has learned how to properly collect the data, the team’s winning percentage began to climb consistently. They won 57 percent of their games in 2013, and 62 percent in 2014. Last season, the Warriors won 82 percent of their games, and 89 percent of the regular season which just ended.

Head coach Steve Kerr with players during practice.

Head coach Steve Kerr with players during practice.

The Warriors have been complimented for their unselfish style of play on the court, “Strength In Numbers” is the team’s slogan, and everyone has a common job and role in winning another championship. While the Splash Brothers have been pegged as the league’s premiere marksmen, the Warriors dish the ball so often that forward Draymond Green is considered to be a nightly threat to collect another triple-double.

In sports, the most minuscule movements of a player can speak volumes to his fatigue or potential for injury. The Warriors consider this information as important as any other piece of information they collect on their players.

During practices, players wear a small monitor produced by Catapult Sports that tracks their movements during the session. The monitor is worn underneath a compression shirt between the shoulders, and detects pressure on the knees and ankles, and if players are moving at their usual fitness levels.

“Back in the day, we were just able to say, ‘He’s breathing hard, he might need to rest,'” says the Warriors’ Thompson. “Now [coaches] can actually see if you need a day of rest or you need to go harder.”

Lacob says the information is vital in allowing coaches to monitor workloads and prevent injury to their players.

“You may come to the gym one day and want to say, ‘I’m sore, I really don’t feel like working out,'” says Warriors forward Harrison Barnes. “This will tell you how [you’re] feeling because the data says it all right here.”

Daniel Brusilovsky, who leads the team’s digital and technology initiatives, sometimes takes a lead role in the constant testing and implementation of new products. The Neuroon is a new sensor-equipped sleep mask that helps to combat jet lag.

“I sleep with it every single night,” says Brusilovsky. “We’re talking with the company each day to provide feedback on what’s working, not working and what features they could possibly add.”

Several players on the Warriors D-League team in Santa Cruz often serve as guinea pigs in the testing of new products — the team won the league’s championship last season, as well.

Last season, the Warriors tested smart clothing by Athos, which measures breathing, heart rates and muscle use. The team is currently piloting headphones by a company named Halo Neuroscience that send electrical impulses to the brain to improve muscle memory.

Basketball

Bucks win 4 straight to claim second NBA Title

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The Bucks win their first NBA championship in 50 years.

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (Diya TV) — The Milwaukee Bucks clawed back from deficits and injuries to win their second NBA championship and their first in 50 years. Their resilience shone through as they made extraordinary comebacks and jaw-dropping plays. Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo won his first championship, which he can add to his arsenal of 2 MVP awards and numerous other accolades. Giannis, Khris Middleton, and the entire Bucks’ team have much to celebrate after being crowned NBA champions.

The Series & the Game

This series could only be described as a roller-coaster. Runaway leads were suprisingly prevalent, but comebacks were always queued in what would always be a competitive game till the end. In Game 6, similarly, the Bucks claimed an early lead in the first quarter, but the Suns raged back in the second quarter to lead at halftime. Milwaukee only pulled away in the second half to seal the deal.

The Suns had a rocky late series; rarely, if ever, did we see the Booker, Paul, and Ayton we saw against the Lakers and Clippers. Moments of magic were clouded by slumps and deficits. Against the Bucks, they lost three in a row, something that hadn’t happened since January. As a bright spot, emerging star Devin Booker had monster nights, with two back-to-back 40 point games. Chris Paul, despite underperforming for most of the series, had a star night in Game 1 and another one tonight. However, throughout the series, the Suns struggled with foul trouble, which stunted their performance and momentum.

The Bucks took a while to find their groove, with 2 losses to start the series. However, they bounced back in Game 3, blowing the Suns out at home. The Bucks then won 3 more to be where they are today. Antetokounmpo averaged 35 points and 13 rebounds throughout this entire series, a magnificent feat. Middleton also heavily contributed, with 29 points in Game 1 and 5. Where Milwaukee took their real victory, however, was their defense: most notably Jrue Holiday’s crucial steal in Game 5 and Giannis’s timely block in Game 4. They stifled Phoenix’s defense and left them little room to score.

The Journey

These historic moments came after years of toil from players and others. The Bucks have been vying for a title for the longest time. They’ve played at the top of their game for years, but just fallen short in the playoffs. This year, they finally made it to the top.

Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks’ coach, elevated the Bucks to a whole new level. With Khris Middleton and Giannis, he tapped into their potential and allowed them to shine on the court. Budenholzer credited the Bucks’ GM Jon Horst for his constant work in constructing a championship team. He remarked, “What Jon Horst has done to put together a team, he’s the greatest GM in the league. I’m a little bit biased, but to be his partner, for him to go out and get Jrue Holiday, to have the guts to make that [trade], to recruit guys, to get P.J. Tucker midseason, Bobby Portis in the offseason…”

Giannis commented, “In order for me to be in this position, how much my parents sacrificed. How much my parents sacrificed. I saw that every day. My mom, she worked extremely hard every day for me to be in this position and she never pressured me to do other things.” From humble beginnings in Greece, he has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, an elite player like no other. He joined LeBron James as the only Finals player to average 30+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 5+ assists, even being the first player to do that with 60% shooting. And with 40+ points and 10+ rebounds in 3 games of the series, he has joined Shaquille O’Neal as the only players to do that. These historic feats have cemented Giannis’s place as one of the greatest players of all time.

With sheer determination and grit, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have triumphed yet again in the NBA.

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Basketball

Bucks edge past Suns 123-119 in Phoenix, one win away from Championship

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PHOENIX, Arizona (Diya TV) — After falling to a 2-0 deficit early in the series, the Milwaukee Bucks have won their third straight game against the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix got off to a raging start in the first quarter, creating a 16 point lead within 12 minutes of the start. However, the Bucks responded accordingly in the second quarter, outscoring the Suns 43-24 to lead at halftime. They only expanded this lead in the third quarter, and despite a rallying Suns’ comeback in the fourth, the Bucks snagged a win in the Suns’ home court.

The Bucks

After a slow first quarter, the Bucks pushed back in the second quarter, led by Jrue Holiday’s 14 points. In fact, Holiday had a marvelous game with 27 points and 13 assists. More than half of Jrue’s points came in the second quarter, but according to Mike Budenholzer, that wasn’t where he shone most. Budenholzer commented about Holiday, “[It’s] his ability to impact the ball, just make everybody uncomfortable. You never know when he might get a steal, get a deflection.” In fact, with 18 seconds left in the game and the Bucks leading 120-119, he stripped the ball from Devin Booker and alley-ooped it to Giannis. This widened the Bucks lead and just about wiped any chance for a Suns comeback.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had a killer night as well, with 32 points and 9 rebounds. Despite being below average at the free-throw line, a repercussion of playing on the road, he had 5 offensive rebounds, giving the Bucks a chance to make many second-chance points. And the Bucks’ other main scorer, Khris Middleton, came through as well with a whopping 29 points. The evenness of scoring on the Bucks allowed each of them to rest and come in the game refreshed without a complete loss of the lead. On these same lines, Middleton remarked, “We have lineups that are in rhythm and making runs, and he [coach] kind of lets us ride. Oftentimes Giannis is in the game for those runs, but it just shows that we’ve got a true team and we have Giannis’ back just like he has our back.”

The Suns

The Suns’ early first quarter start was picturesque. A field goal percentage of 73.7% and a 3-point percentage of 83.3% propelled them to a 16 point lead to conclude the quarter. However, it all came crashing and burning in the second quarter, with percentages of 35.7% and 33.3% respectively. This comparison illustrated the Suns’ game tonight: stunted and choppy, while lacking prolonged momentum. DeAndre Ayton described it aptly, “It felt a little on and off.”

Devin Booker had 40+ points for the second night in the row. Despite scoring 10+ points in every quarter but 1, the Suns were unable to make up deficits and come back when needed. His support was lackluster, with Chris Paul putting up 21 and Ayton putting up 10. Indeed, Chris Paul has not scored above 30 since the first game of the series. A lot of that can be attributed to the Bucks’ defense, which was ever-prevalent in today’s game. However, it can also be attributed to ball movement, which was lacking — as seen by the scoring discrepancy in the Suns’ lineup.. Monty Williams, the Suns’ coach, stated, “[T]o make that defense work we got to move it around and in order to beat this team that’s what you got to do.”

Finally, Phoenix’s foul trouble has been a recurring problem for them throughout the series, and today was no less. Devin Booker and Chris Paul had 5 fouls apiece, each one away from fouling out. Their aggression, especially in the fourth quarter, translated to these fouls. This made it harder for them to gain momentum and wipe out the Bucks; it stunts their game.

Looking Ahead

As we approach Games 6 and 7, chatter about the Finals MVP has arisen. If the Bucks win, it will most likely be given to Giannis, who has had killer nights each game (except Game 1). He has been the Bucks’ rock throughout this entire season. On the Suns’ side, however, the situation is a bit more complex. Devin Booker is definitely in the lead, with back-to-back 40 game points and immense scoring. However, if Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton work wonders in Games 6 (and possibly 7), they could be thrust into contention.

Looking ahead at Game 6, the series could not be more tight. The Bucks won on the Suns’ home court, giving them a slight advantage heading into the game. With a 3-2 lead, Milwaukee only has to win 1 game out of the 2 remaining. They’ll hope to do that at home in Game 6, where they are undefeated this series and overall stronger. If they bring the championship home, it will be the second time in the playoffs where they’ve come back after a 2-0 deficit. The Suns, on the other hand, have to win 2 straight games to get the title, a big shift from their 2-0 lead earlier in the series. They haven’t lost 3 in a row since January, so their handling of this immense pressure is yet to be seen. Game 6 will be on Tuesday at 6 PT/9 ET.

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Basketball

Bucks Snatch Game 4 Win 109-103, Tie Series 2-2

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MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (Diya TV) — Going on a 10-4 streak during the last 2 minutes of the fourth quarter, the Bucks emerged victorious in Game 4 against the Phoenix Suns. Throughout the game, the Suns’ had a minuscule lead, which gave the Bucks the ability to pounce at any moment. Milwaukee took advantage of this at crucial times, tying the game up at halftime and eventually winning the game by 6 points.

The Bucks

The Bucks greatly benefited from timely plays and a clean game. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ star forward, had a magnificent block with 1:15 left in the game; with that block, he ensured that Phoenix couldn’t tie up the game and potentially pull ahead. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee’s coach, commented, “Giannis just made a spectacular block, spectacular play. His ability to cover ground and get to that point, get to the top. That’s an NBA Finals special moment right there, and we’re going to need more of them.” Along with that beautiful block, Giannis put up 24 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists, shy only 2 assists from a triple-double.

The Bucks’ main scorer tonight was none other than Khris Middleton, who put up a substantial 40 points. Most notably, Middleton played a monumental role in the Bucks’ comeback, scoring 8 points in the 10-4 run to end the fourth quarter. Nothing can better express his amazing performance than his teammates’ reactions, pictured below.

The Suns

On the Suns side, Devin Booker was no doubt the highlight. Scoring 42 points, he thrust himself back into Finals MVP contention. Moreover, he tied for second place for most points in 3 quarters of a finals game with 38: first place being Stephen Curry and second place Allen Iverson. His lackluster 4 points in the 4th quarter, however, stemmed from foul trouble. Both Jae Crowder and Booker had 5 fouls this game; as a result, the Suns’ performance in the fourth quarter was stunted. Monty Williams commented, “It’s hard, because he’s — he could have gone for 50-plus tonight. I wanted to get him in maybe a minute earlier than I did, you’re just holding on trying to get as many stops and solid possessions as you can, but it’s not an ideal situation.”

Others on the Suns had dismal nights: Chris Paul had 10 points, DeAndre Ayton had 6, and Jae Crowder had 15. Other than Booker, no one on the Suns broke 15 points. While these are certainly less than usual, what tells the true story are the team statistics. Phoenix had 17 turnovers, in comparison the Bucks’ 5. In fact, Chris Paul had 5 turnovers, matching the Bucks’ total. Moreover, the Bucks had an astounding 17 offensive rebounds while Phoenix had 5, beating the Suns in second-chance points. And finally, the Bucks had 15 fast-break points compared to none from the Suns, which gave them an edge in both momentum and points. These factors culminated in a Suns loss and tied series.

Looking Ahead

Phoenix won both games at home, as did Milwaukee. The teams seem better-performing on their homecourt, and if this trend continues, we could have a nail-biter Game 7 in Phoenix. The Suns were in their groove in the first two games, but lost it and haven’t been themselves since — the turnovers, lack of offensive rebounds, and slumps uncharacteristic for a team of this caliber. The Bucks got off to a slow start, but gained momentum as the series moved to Games 3 and 4, with timely plays as their signature throughout the games.

With two days to rest, both teams will have plenty of time to watch the tape and make vital improvements before Game 5. The Suns will try to regain their mojo at home in hopes of a lead going into Game 6 and possibly 7. The Bucks, on the other hand, will hope to continue their momentum to win on the road. The stakes are so high in part because the loser of Game 5 needs to win two consecutive games if they want a chance at the title; both teams want the cushion of a lead to aid them later. All the action will be on Saturday at 6 PT/9 ET.

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