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Warriors celebrate NBA crown with street parade

June 16, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The Golden State Warriors celebrated their latest NBA championship, waving to the crowd from atop double-decker buses as their victory parade weaved through the streets of downtown Oakland.

Golden State Warriors

The jubilant players hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy and gave high fives to their fans as confetti filled the air.

The parade ended on the shores of Lake Merritt where coach Steve Kerr and the players addressed the crowd during an 80-minute rally.

“We need to enjoy this to the fullest,” star guard Stephen Curry said. “This whole day, this whole atmosphere, is unbelievable.”

The Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games to win the title, capping a brilliant 15-1 post-season run. It was the second parade in three seasons for the Warriors.

“There is nobody having more fun than me,” Warriors owner Joe Lacob said. “This is the best job in the world.”

The championship was the first of forward Kevin Durant’s career, and the NBA finals MVP took in the moment.

Durant’s decision to depart the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Warriors was criticized by many, but winning the title provided redemption for the NBA star.

“It means the world for me to win the championship,” Durant told the crowd. “Hopefully we can keep it going. Thank you for the support.

“It has been a crazy year for me. Going through this year was so much fun. You come into work each day and it is more like fun.”

Golden State went 40 years between titles after winning the crown in 1975. Three of the franchise’s five titles were secured after the team moved to the Bay Area from Philadelphia.

Irving, James lead Cavaliers over Warriors to avoid sweep

June 10, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Kyrie Irving and LeBron James unleashed a historic scoring spectacle Friday to power defending champion Cleveland over Golden State 137-116 in the NBA Finals, ending the Warriors’ bid for a perfect playoff run.

Cavaliers

Irving scored 40 points, hitting 15-of-27 shots from the floor and 7-of-12 3-pointers, while James added 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to pull the Cavaliers within 3-1 in the best-of-seven championship series.

“The magnitude of the game, it hit me in a very deep place,” Irving said. “You want to play extremely well and you understand that’s a do-or-die game.”

No team has escaped a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series in 126 tries and the Warriors can claim the crown by winning game five at home on Monday in Oakland, California, but the Cavs made the greatest NBA Finals comeback last year from 3-1 down to beat the Warriors.

“The job is still far from over,” Irving said. “We’re still in a hole. But this is a good start.”

Opening the game with the highest-scoring quarter and half in NBA Finals history, the Cavaliers became the first finals team trailing 3-0 to force a fifth game since the 1996 Seattle SuperSonics.

“At the end of the day we’ve just got some resilient guys,” James said. “We’re battle tested, they’re battle tested. And getting swept is something that you never want to have happen. You hate to get swept, lose two games on your home floor. So I think a lot of guys had that in their mind today, and they came out and played like it.”

The defending champion Cavaliers snapped Golden State’s NBA-record post-season win streak at 15 games. The Cavaliers shot 24-of-45 from 3-point range, setting a finals record for 3-pointers and ending one shy of matching the league’s all-time record.

“We were in attack mode,” James said. “It’s going to be even tougher in game five. But we look forward to the challenge.”

The ninth career NBA Finals triple-double by James broke the all-time record he shared with Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson. No one else has more than two.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 35 points while Draymond Green added 16 points and 14 rebounds and Stephen Curry had 14 points, but the Warriors — who never led — could not manage the ninth sweep in finals history.

“It would have (been special),” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “You can’t hold on to it. It’s gone. It’s over with — 16-1 sounds pretty damn good anyway. Forget about that undefeated talk. It’s time to put on a show for our fans.”

Cleveland led 49-33 after the first quarter and 86-68 at half-time, the Cavaliers setting scoring records for any half or quarter in finals history. Irving had 28 points at half-time with 22 from James and 17 from Love.

The old mark of 81 points in a half was set by the 1982 Philadelphia 76ers.

A physical third quarter featured five of the game’s seven technical fouls, two from heated talk between Durant and James after Love fouled Durant, another on Green that appeared to see him ejected before it was revealed that an earlier technical on him had instead been issued to Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

“It was just an incredibly physical game,” Kerr said. “Ton of fouls called early, a lot of holding and grabbing and pushing and shoving. It got out of hand a little bit, and the third quarter it seemed like the game was stopping every time.”

Asked about the weight of trying for playoff perfection, Kerr said, “I don’t think there was any concern or thoughts about history. I think it was we played a desperate team on their home floor, a great team, with great players, and they came out and handed it to us.”

A James 3-pointer put Cleveland ahead 115-96 entering the fourth quarter. James rested for the first 97 seconds of the fourth quarter but two quick Warriors’ 3-pointers hastened his return as Golden State surged within 115-104.

But they never got closer.

Cavaliers fans were chanting, “Cavs in seven” in the final minutes. It’s the same phrase J.R. Smith had posted on his Twitter feed, which he said was hacked.

Now he says that’s not an impossible notion, a comeback to outdo the greatest comeback they made a year ago.

“I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question,” he said. “If we play like we did tonight, it’s very possible.”

Durant’s late heroics power Warriors over Cavaliers

June 8, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Golden State, powered by Kevin Durant’s clutch scoring in the closing minutes, rallied to beat defending champion Cleveland 118-113 Wednesday in the NBA Finals, moving one victory from the first perfect playoff run in league history.

 Kevin Durant

Durant scored seven of his 31 points in the Warriors’ game-ending 11-0 run, the biggest of them a 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining that put Golden State ahead to stay at 114-113.

“K.D. made some huge plays down the stretch,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He took over. You can tell he knows this is his moment. He’s been an amazing player in this league for a long time and I think he senses this is his time, his moment, his team… and I think he’s having the time of his life out there.”

Klay Thompson scored 30 points and Stephen Curry added 26 for the Warriors, who seized a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and stretched their record playoff win streak to 15-0.

They will make the first unbeaten playoff run in NBA history with a victory in game four on Friday at Cleveland.

“To find a way to win was an amazing accomplishment and set us up for hopefully a great night Friday where we can back it up,” Curry said.

“We want 16 wins. It doesn’t matter how we get there. But now that we’re in this situation, why not take care of business and finish the job.”

The Warriors set the North American sports playoff win streak mark with their 15th consecutive triumph, moving past the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins’ 14-game run from the 1992 and 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs.

LeBron James scored 39 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and passed off nine assists while Kyrie Irving added 38 points to pace the Cavaliers, but James said he has never faced a “juggernaut” like the Warriors.

“It’s probably the most firepower I’ve played in my career,” James said. “I played against some great teams but I don’t think no team has had this kind of firepower. So even when you’re playing well, you’ve got to play like A-plus-plus.”

No team in NBA playoff history has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, although the Cavaliers did become the first team in NBA Finals history to rally from a 3-1 hole to swipe the crown over Golden State last year.

“We had a game that we had won that we let slip away,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Of course, you’re deflated from losing a game that you should have won. But you’ve got to get back to the drawing board. If we come out with the same fight and intensity… we got a good chance of winning on Friday.”

Irving and James each played about 45 minutes on the court, leaving them fatigued when it mattered most.

“Kyrie and LeBron had it going the whole game, but that’s pretty taxing to go one-on-one the whole game,” Kerr said. “Both those guys were amazing. But that takes a lot out of you.”

Cleveland’s J.R. Smith sank a 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers a 113-107 lead, but the Warriors scored 11 points in the final 2:20 for the fightback triumph while the Cavs missed their last eight shots.

“It’s definitely tough. It hurts,” Irving said. “Did some great things. Came down to the stretch, and they made some big time plays. K.D. comes down, hits a big three… I’ll probably be replaying that play for a while. But it definitely hurts.”

Durant, seeking his first career title after joining the Warriors from Oklahoma City last July, and Curry scored on drives to the hoop to pull Golden State within two.

Durant then followed a Kyle Korver 3-pointer miss for Cleveland with a tension-packed 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining that put the Warriors ahead 114-113.

“That was liberating right there,” Durant said. “All I was looking at was the bottom of the net and I made sure my feet were behind the 3-point line.”

Irving missed an off-balance 3-pointer and Durant and Curry each made two free throws on the next Golden State possessions to seal Cleveland’s fate.

The win moved Durant one win from the title he sought when he left Oklahoma City for the Warriors last July, one he failed to get in 2012 when his Thunder lost to Miami and James won his first career crown with the Heat.

“It’s an exciting time. I’ve never been in this position, being up in the finals and trying to close it out,” Durant said. “But the job’s not done. We’ve still got a lot of work left to do.”

Durant, Curry spark Warriors win, record win streak at 14

June 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Golden State charged within two triumphs of becoming the first unbeaten NBA playoff champions Sunday by routing reigning trophy-holders Cleveland 132-113 to seize command of the NBA Finals.

Cavaliers

Kevin Durant scored a game-high 33 points while Stephen Curry unleashed his first NBAFinals triple double with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to power the Warriors, who set an playoff win streak record of 14 games.

“We’re young. We’re hungry. We’re playing great basketball,” Curry said. “We’ve got a great opportunity in front of us and we’ve got to seize it.”

The Warriors, who welcomed back coach Steve Kerr after he missed 11 games with health issues following 2015 back surgery, grabbed a 2-0 edge in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Cleveland for games three and four on Wednesday and Friday.

“To see him back on the bench was huge,” Curry said. “For him the whole priority was his health and I think he’s in a good place right now.”

Golden State had won a record 73 regular-season games last year and led 2-0 only for Cleveland to make the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history and swipe the title. So the perfect playoff mark wasn’t overly lauded.

“It has been a great run, but none of that matters unless we can finish the job,” Kerr said. “We know, trust me, we know. It was 2-0 last year and we lost.”

LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists to match a record with his eighth career NBA Finals triple double. Only former Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson had eight prior finals triple doubles. No one else has more than two.

“Right now, it means nothing,” James said minutes after the loss. “But it will mean something. He’s one of the greatest to play this game. When I’m done, I’ll probably look back on it and say it was a cool feat.”

It was only the second time in playoff history that rivals managed triple doubles in the same game, the other in 1970 by New York’s Walt Frazier and Milwaukee’s Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Curry was excited for his statistical feat on a night of fast-paced playmaking and spectacular moves, but disappointed in his eight turnovers, twice what the team had in game one.

“There’s an eight on the stat sheet that I need to correct,” he said. “That’s something that I can control, just being smarter with the ball.”

Kevin Love scored 27 points for Cleveland while Kyrie Irving added 19. Klay Thompson added 22 points for the Warriors.

Durant, seeking his first NBA crown after leaving Oklahoma City last July to join Golden State, became only the third player in NBA history to score 25 points in his first seven NBA Finals appearances, joining Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.

He, too, shrugged off individual glory.

“We know this is far from over. We know how hard it is to be the best team in the league,” Durant said. “So we got to just keep going, keep our foot on the gas and keep getting better every day.”

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said his team must stay tougher longer defensively after letting the game slip away in the third quarter and the start of the fourth.

“We’ve got to be better as far as not relaxing, not falling asleep, the 50/50 balls, we got to get to those. Every mistake you make defensively, they make you pay, and you saw that,” Lue said.

“We get a chance to go home now to our crowd where we play well. So they won two games. Now we got to go home and regroup.”

Curry seized command in the third quarter with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Warriors stretched a 67-64 half-time lead to 102-88 entering the fourth quarter.

From there, Golden State steadily pulled away, the Cavaliers having no answer for the Warriors speed and outside shooting.

“The second half, we settled in and just tried to play better and played tougher on defense,” Durant said.

The game turned when Curry sank a 3-pointer and two free throws, then dribbled impressively around James for a layup to cap a 10-3 run that put the Warriors ahead 83-73 early in the third.

“He’s a great defender,” Curry said. “You know you have to do something pretty special to score. But for the most part, you can’t focus like you’re on the playground.”

James had 10 first-half assists, the most in any playoff half of his career, while Curry had 15 points as Golden State took a 40-34 lead in the highest-scoring NBA Finals first quarter in 50 years and the second-highest ever.

Cavs vow more aggressive, decisive play against Warriors

June 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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LeBron James and his Cleveland teammates will need quicker decisions and more aggressive play in Sunday’s second game of the NBA Finals after the Cavaliers were routed by Golden State in the opener.

Cavaliers

The Warriors ripped defending NBA champion Cleveland 113-91 on Thursday behind 38 points from star forward Kevin Durant, many of them on slam dunks, and 28 by guard Stephen Curry, who sank six 3-pointers as the best-of-seven championship series began.

“I know we’ll play better come Sunday,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “But we have to take away the easy baskets. We did a poor job of taking care of the basketball and they were able to get out in transition and get easy baskets.”

Lue won’t make any changes in the starting lineup after watching a horror show game film, but he does want to see quicker decision making, saying hesitation led to turnovers, and more assertive moves.

“We have to just do a better job of being direct with what we want to do,” Lue said. “We can’t be caught in between. That’s when turnovers happen. We have to be aggressive getting to the basket or making the right passes and right play. We can’t play in between.”

The Cavaliers committed 20 turnovers, eight of them by playmaker James on a night where he had 28 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. Golden State had only four giveaways, matching a finals record low.

“Take away those easy baskets and them having 20 more shots than we did, it’s a different ball game,” Lue said.

Warriors acting coach Mike Brown expects a better showing Sunday from the Cavaliers.

“Definitely somebody will have to do a better job at stopping the dribble drive,” Warriors acting coach Mike Brown said.

“We all knew and saw that they were very concerned with the three-point shooters, and Kevin Durant (was) able to drive to the rim with uncontested dunks.”

There is a chance Warriors coach Steve Kerr, out since game three of the playoffs with complications after 2015 back surgery, could return Sunday. But Brown is calling the shots for now.

“They’re a good team. They’re going to make adjustments,” Brown said. “We expect them to play better. They’re going to be more focused in terms of what they want to accomplish on both ends of the floor.

“Having film to go back and watch, make adjustments from, get used to the tempo and so on, will allow them to come in feeling better about their game plan.”

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love says execution, not effort, is what must improve.

“Defensively our schemes were there. We just need to execute them,” Love said. “That’s ultimately what showed up on the tape and what Ty continues to preach to us.

“Guys just need to settle in. Now that certain guys have gotten a taste of it, I think you’ll see a lot better showing in game two. It’s not for lack of effort. Guys are competing very hard. It’s just us focusing that much more on the game plan and knowing how we have to play.”

Cleveland’s renewed focus on stopping Durant should open opportunities for Curry and Klay Thompson.

“We’re going to have to help him out as far as knocking shots down from the perimeter,” Thompson said. “We have to have the mindset of a must win, because (Thursday’s) great game almost means nothing if we lose on Sunday.”

Thompson said he expects a more physical game from Cleveland on Sunday and Love said the Cavs will try to be more forceful in hopes of creating more turnovers.

“Just make them feel us. At certain points we did that, but we have to do that throughout,” Love said. “The onus is definitely on us. That’s a mindset. We need to be super assertive, super aggressive on the defensive end.”

And they can’t commit 20 turnovers.

“We can’t turn the ball over,” Lue said. “We have to take good shots. We have to get the matchups we like and take advantage. It’s just a lot of things that we can correct and we will correct them going into game two.”

Irving, James lead the way as Cavs down Celtics

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Kyrie Irving and LeBron James combined for 76 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers battled to a 112-99 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday to move within one game of a place in the NBA Finals.

Celtics

The win gives Cleveland a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and leaves them firmly on track for a third consecutive NBA Finals showdown against the Golden State Warriors.

Cleveland, stunned by Boston in Game 3 after romping two blowout wins in the opening two games of the Eastern Conference series, looked to be heading for another shock as the Celtics dominated the first half.

Boston powered into a 29-19 first quarter lead and maintained their 10-point cushion through to half-time, leading 57-47 at the break.

But as tension among Cleveland’s home fans mounted at the Quicken Loans Arena, it was left to Irving to ride to the rescue with a sensational, momentum-changing display in the third quarter.

Irving piled on 21 points in the third period as Cleveland turned their 10-point half-time deficit into an 87-80 lead at the end of the third quarter. Irving eventually finished with 42 points.

“Coming out at half-time, I just wanted to be aggressive and lead my guys and leave it all out there on the floor,” Irving said.

“We understand the goal out here and we want to accomplish something bigger than ourselves. It’s going to take a full 48-minute game to do it.”

James, determined to bounce back after a poor 11-point haul in Game 3, then steadied the Cleveland nerves in the fourth quarter, bringing the Cavaliers home for the win as Boston’s brave effort came up short.

James, who finished with 34 points, was joined in double figures by Kevin Love, who scored 17 points with 17 rebounds and five assists.

James, Irving and Love were the only three Cavs players to make double digits.

But it was Irving who was the undeniable star of the show for his spellbinding third quarter masterpiece that transformed the game.

“The kid is special,” James said. “He was just waiting for an opportunity to blossom. I’m just happy and blessed that when I decided to come back that I was able to help him blossom.

“I’m just happy to be able to sit back, with four fouls, and see him do what he’s always been built to do. He was born for these moments.”

Love meanwhile revealed that the Cavaliers had not panicked at half-time when they trailed by 10.

“We’ve been in that position before,” Love said. “It’s just an effort all around. We’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of playoff minutes who’ve been in situations like that before.

“But while I can sit here and say that, Kyrie Irving was very special tonight.”

Boston, missing the injured Isaiah Thomas, had four players in double figures, with Avery Bradley scoring a leading 19 points.

Game 5 takes place in Boston on Thursday.

Irving said Cleveland would benefit from having been put under pressure by Boston in Game 4.

“We need to hit adversity in order to grow,” Irving said. “The only thing that matters now is to get a win back in Boston.”

Asked to give a reason for Boston’s second half problems, Celtics coach Brad Stevens had a simple answer: “Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. That’s the answer. Kyrie Irving was incredible.

“We played as well as we’d played in the entire playoffs in the first half and then for various reasons that didn’t happen in the second half. But they deserve credit. They were incredible.”

Cavaliers, Warriors eye third NBA finals showdown in a row

May 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Defending champion Cleveland and powerhouse Golden State enter Sunday’s start of the playoff semi-finals pushing toward an unprecedented third consecutive NBA Finals showdown, adding more sparks to an already historic rivalry.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Golden State entertains San Antonio in Sunday’s best-of-seven Western Conference final opener while the LeBron James-led Cavaliers await Monday’s game-seven winner between Boston and Washington in an Eastern Conference final that begins Wednesday in Cleveland.

No two teams have ever met for the title in three consecutive seasons, as the Cavs and Warriors could, and only a handful of players have made the NBA Finals seven years in a row, as James could do.

The Warriors beat Cleveland for the 2015 crown and were one win shy of capping a repeat title run last year after a record 73-win campaign only to have James spark the Cavaliers from a 3-1 deficit to the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, taking the trophy in seven games.

So it’s no wonder that Warriors guard Stephen Curry, the two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, can ponder a matchup with the Cavs even as he admits Golden State has plenty of work ahead to oust the Spurs.

“We’ll hammer it out when we get there but we’ve got four more wins to go,” Curry said. “We’ll be keeping an eye on them.”

Both the Warriors and Cavaliers have swept through the first two playoff rounds without dropping a game. Golden State forward Draymond Green said he had hoped to see more from Cleveland’s East rivals.

“I thought teams would compete a little harder,” Green said. “When you watch Cleveland play, you only watching one side of good basketball. That’s kind of weak.”

James does not diminish Cleveland’s strong start in eliminating Indiana and Toronto, saying, “It’s rewarding when you can advance. It’s not just given to you. You have to go out and earn it.”

But even “King James” admits: “We have another level and we believe we can get there.”

In the playoffs, James is averaging 34.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game. And last year, he became the first player in NBA history to lead the finals in every major statistical category.

“I’m going to let you guys talk about that as far as if this is the most complete I’ve been in my career,” James told reporters.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who played on two championship teams with the Los Angeles Lakers, sees no problem with a “Three-peat” Cavs-Warriors final, comparing fan interest to the 1980s finals that often pitted the Lakers against Larry Bird-led Boston.

“I think nowadays a lot of people want to see Golden State-Cavs. It’s two of the teams playing some of the best basketball right now,” Lue said.

“Why not want to see it again? I think last year had some of the best (TV) ratings in NBA history. The way they are playing, we are playing, it can be even higher.”

The 30.8 million US viewers for last year’s final game were the most for any NBA Finals contest since Michael Jordan’s 1998 farewell game for Chicago.

And it doesn’t hurt that the Warriors added former NBA MVP Kevin Durant this season.

“You have that third player (Durant) who is definitely one of the top three players in this league, that can go get his own shot at any time,” Lue said. “And that’s what makes them more dangerous.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his team’s basic defensive approach to the Warriors is “Pray” and Argentine guard Manu Ginobili played up Golden State’s favored role.

“We are playing one of the best teams, like, almost ever,” Ginobili said. “They’re tough and they added to that incredible offensive talent and good, solid defense. They have the whole package. It makes complete sense for them to be the favorites.”

The Warriors won an NBA-best 67 games this season but the Spurs were next with 61.

“Anything can happen in a playoff series,” Ginobili said. “But for anything to happen, we’ve got to play our best.”

Curry leads Warriors to complete NBA Western Conference sweep

May 10, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Stephen Curry scored 30 points as the Golden State Warriors wrapped up a series sweep with a 121-95 rout of the Utah Jazz on Monday.

Curry

The Warriors advanced to a Western Conference finals showdown against either Houston or San Antonio after overcoming a fleeting Utah rally to take the series 4-0 at Salt Lake City’s Vivint Smart Home Arena.

It was a second consecutive 4-0 series victory for the Warriors, who also notched a sweep against Portland in the opening round of the playoffs.

“We gotta good thing going, we’re playing well,” Curry said afterward.

“Tonight we had an opportunity to seal the deal and thankfully we came out on top,” added Curry, praising the Warriors all-round offensive display.

“That’s our approach to every game. We don’t know who’s going to have a hot night. We want to keep that going,” he said.

The Warriors laid the foundation for the win with a devastating first quarter performance which saw them pour on 39 points to open up a double-digit lead against a shellshocked Utah.

“Guys really came out focused,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green, who had a triple-double. “We knew what the game plan was and executed that game plan. I think the most important thing, though, is we imposed our will on the game. We had the game at our pace.”

The Jazz battled back to reduce the deficit to eight points at half-time at 60-52.

Utah remained in touching distance throughout the third period but the Warriors always looked capable of finding an extra gear when it mattered.

The decisive period came at the end of the third period when both Curry and Andre Iguodala both hit three-pointers in quick succession to help the Dubs pull away to 93-79 heading into the fourth quarter.

That burst of scoring was a foretaste of what was to follow in the fourth quarter, with the Warriors pulling further clear to wrap up victory by a 26-point margin.

Curry was one of five Warriors players to hit double figures, with Klay Thompson adding 21 points and Kevin Durant 18. Green added 17 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for a triple-double.

For Utah, Gordon Hayward top scored with 25 points while Shelvin Mack had 18 and Dante Exum 15.

Curry meanwhile played down the suggestion that the Warriors may suffer deeper into the playoffs after romping through the first two rounds without dropping a game.

“Every team that we’ve played had a lot of pride,” Curry said. “We haven’t lost but within these games we’ve really had to check ourselves.

“You can learn lessons through winning and that’s what we’ve done.”

Jazz star Hayward, who may have played his last game for the team as he prepares for free agency, said Utah had been defeated by a “historically great team.”

“They make you pay for your mistakes,” Hayward told reporters. “You have to be almost perfect every possession, or else they turn it into a 9-0 run or 10-0 run.

“You can’t have one mental lapse against them. This was a great learning experience for us. They showed why they are who they are, and we’re not quite there yet. But you have to take positives from it.”

Cavaliers sweep past Raptors into conference finals

May 8, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers powered into the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday, downing the Toronto Raptors 109-102 to complete a four-game sweep of their playoff series.

Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James scored 35 points with nine rebounds and six assists as the Cavaliers subdued the desperate Raptors to remain unbeaten in eight games in these playoffs.

They’re the first team to win eight games in a row over consecutive post-season runs.

“It’s never easy especially in a close-out game,” said Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, who scored 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and added nine assists. “There’s desperation at their end and desperation at our end.”

In the Eastern Conference finals, the Cavaliers will play either the Boston Celtics or Washington Wizards for a place in the NBA Finals.

John Wall tallied 27 points and 12 assists as the Wizards defeated the Celtics 121-102 Sunday to level their series at 2-2.

Kyle Korver scored 18 off the bench as his 16 first-half points helped the Cavaliers erase an 11-point first-quarter deficit and take a 61-49 half-time lead.

With their backs against the wall, down 16 points early in the third quarter, the Raptors responded, taking a 93-92 lead with 6:38 to play.

“The closeout game is always tough,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “They came out and competed, took an early lead, went up 11.

“It was a tough game for us. We knew it would be, coming into a hostile environment.”

But it marked the second straight year that the Cavs eliminated the Raptors from playoffs on their home floor. They beat them in six games in the Eastern Conference finals last season.

Serge Ibaka scored 23 points for the Raptors. DeMar DeRozan added 22 with eight assists.

But with Kyle Lowry on the bench for a second straight game with a sprained ankle, the Raptors couldn’t match the Cavs’ firepower.

Irving put Cleveland in front with a three-pointer with 5:34 to play and made two free throws.

His lay-up with four minutes left had Cleveland up by eight. The Cavs out-scored Cleveland 17-9 over the final 6:15, Irving producing all 11 points in one key 11-2 Cavs run.

James played the entire fourth quarter — but he’ll have plenty of time to rest since the conference finals won’t start before May 15.

In a closeout game, Lue said, “he tries to go as far as we need him in that fourth quarter.”

“I tried to get him out for a couple of minutes, but he said, ‘No, I’m fine,'” added Lue, who did make sure that James got a bit of a breather by calling a timeout on the heels of a Toronto 20-second timeout.

James will be playing for a seventh consecutive NBA Finals appearance, having had four in a row with Miami and the past two with Cleveland, and his eighth overall. James is 3-4 in his trips to the championship series.

Cavaliers, Rockets romp in NBA playoff second-round openers

May 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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LeBron James sparked defending NBA champion Cleveland over Toronto while James Harden powered the Houston Rockets to an epic rout of San Antonio in second-round playoff openers on Monday.

Lebron James

James scored 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Kyrie Irving added 24 points and 10 assists and Kevin Love had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Cavaliers ripped the visiting Raptors 116-105 in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference matchup.

“The energy was phenomenal,” James said. “We pushed the ball, passed the ball like we wanted.”

Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James hit 13-of-23 shots from the floor and 7-of-8 from the free throw line while Tristan Thompson contributed 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who James warned will be better in game two.

“I feel like I’ll be a lot better on Wednesday,” James said. “Little bit of rhythm here and conditioning there, I think a lot of our mistakes we were able to cover up for because our energy level was high.”

Harden had 20 points and 14 assists while Trevor Ariza scored 23 points and Clint Capela contributed 20 points and 13 rebounds as the Rockets dumped the host Spurs 126-99 to start their best-of-seven Western Conference series.

“It’s just one win,” Harden said. “It’s a good win but we’ve got to be ready for game two. They’ve got a lot of fight in them. We missed a few shots. We’ve got to play better in game two.”

The Rockets sank a team playoff record 22 3-pointers on 50 attempts, inflicting the most 3-pointers allowed by the Spurs in playoff history.

San Antonio trailed by as many as 39 points in the team’s largest game-one defeat in playoff history. The Spurs 69-39 half-time deficit was their worst in playoff history.

“We lost and they won and they played better,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We competed but I don’t think we executed in a very wise manner.”

The Spurs and Rockets, in their first playoff meeting since 1995, were two of the three winningest teams in the NBA this season, both trailing Golden State, which opens the second round Tuesday against Utah.

A 15-2 run to open the second quarter put Houston ahead 49-25. The Rockets had 30 assists on 40 baskets, their passing and fast pace humbling the veteran Spurs.

“There are no individual efforts here,” Harden said. “I’ve been proud of that all year.”

The Rockets went 12-of-27 from 3-point range in the first half, already hitting more shots from beyond the arc than in any first-round contest.

Kawhi Leonard led San Antonio with 21 points and 11 rebounds but the Spurs made only 31-of-84 shots from the floor.

In Cleveland, the Cavaliers scored 10 consecutive points to grab a 22-11 edge and stretched it to 38-20 early in the second quarter. Up 62-48 at half-time, they led by as many as 25 points on the way to victory.

“I thought they were the quicker team and we have to match that,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.

Irving scored 16 first-half points while James had 13 and Love 11.

“We want to continue to move the ball, share the ball and make everybody feel comfortable with what we’re trying to do,” James said.

The Raptors, who fell to 1-12 in playoff series openers, were led by 20 points from Kyle Lowry and 19 from DeMar DeRozan.

“They get big spurts and we fight back. We have to find ways to eliminate the spurts,” Lowry said. “We know they are going to be a high-flying team that likes to get up and down. But we have to find a way to not let them get going.”

Cavaliers, Warriors well rested as NBA playoffs round two opens

April 30, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Defending champion Cleveland and season win leader Golden State, each seeking a third consecutive NBA Finals appearance, are well rested as the second round of the playoffs begins Sunday.

James

They were the only clubs to advance through the first round without dropping a game and are again favored in their best-of-seven second round matchups.

Cleveland superstar LeBron James, trying to reach the NBA Finals for a seventh consecutive year and eighth overall, led the NBA in minutes played while averaging 26.4 points, 8.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds. He powers the Cavaliers against Toronto, a team they beat in last year’s Eastern Conference final.

“Doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to win this year,” James said. “We’ve got to go out and make it happen. We have to worry about game one first.”

Boston faces Washington starting Sunday in the other East matchup, the Celtics having taken the conference top seed over the Cavs.

“The sky is the limit for this team,” Boston guard Avery Bradley said. “Anything can happen as long as we continue to stay positive and play as hard as we can.”

The Warriors, one win from back-to-back NBA titles last June before Cleveland made the greatest comeback in finals history to deny them a repeat, wait until Tuesday to open round two at home against Sunday’s winner between Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Golden State has been nagged by injuries, including a calf injury to star forward Kevin Durant, and health issues with coach Steve Kerr, who has missed two games and is uncertain for the remainder of the playoffs.

The other Western Conference semi-final showdown matches Texas rivals San Antonio and Houston, their first playoff meeting since 1995 after a season where their four meetings all went down to the final minute.

James has won at least once on the road in 27 consecutive playoff series dating to 2009 and in 35 of 38 over his 14-year career.

“I just like the adversity of the road,” James said. “I love the ‘Tonight is not the night’ LeBron slogans. I love the ‘You’re overrated’ and all those things.”

He might hear it a lot. Despite 31 home wins, second best in the NBA this season, the Cavaliers won’t have the home-court edge again in the playoffs if form holds.

Cleveland and Toronto each went 51-31 this season and while Cleveland went 3-1 against the Raptors to gain the home-court edge, three meetings were last year and the last had many key players sitting out to rest.

The Raptors pushed Cleveland to six games last year and won’t likely vanish easily this time.

“I know what we have in that locker room, and that’s some fighters and scrappers,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.

The Celtics, 2-2 against Washington this season, expect to have guard Isaiah Thomas for game one after her attended his sister Chyna’s funeral Saturday. She was killed in an auto accident two weeks ago, but Thomas has not missed a game.

“I don’t know (how he played),” Bradley said. “It’s truly amazing.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens is more concerned about the man than the games.

“If he decides when he gets there that it’s too much, that’s OK. That’s fine,” Stevens said. “This (grieving) is a lot more important.”

Thomas averaged 27.8 points a game against the Wizards this season while Washington guards John Wall and Bradley Beal together averaged almost 40 points against Boston.

Washington led the NBA with 20.7 fast break points and 9.2 steals a game in round one.

“It’s playoff time,” Beal said. “It’s winning time and we’re going to do whatever it takes.”

While Durant has rested his calf, Kerr missed practice again Saturday as he battles nausea, headaches and neck pain related to back surgery two years ago.

Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown guided Golden State in his absence and could be pressed into duty throughout the playoffs. He’s a former Cleveland coach who 10 years ago guided James and the Cavs into their first NBA Finals, where they lost to San Antonio.

The Spurs are powered by Kawhi Leonard while James Harden sparks Houston. Harden averaged 29.8 points, 12.5 assists and 9.0 rebounds against the Spurs, who boast the NBA’s top defense and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Leonard.

San Antonio was 3-1 against the Rockets but three games were decided by two points and the other by only six.

Wizards, Celtics back on top in East playoffs

April 27, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The Washington Wizards regained control of their first round NBA playoff series, defeating the Atlanta Hawks 103-99 Wednesday with the help of a 27-point performance by Bradley Beal.

Washington Wizards

John Wall delivered 20 points and 14 assists as the fourth seeded Wizards lead the best of seven Eastern Conference series three games to two.

In the later game, the Boston Celtics used a fourth quarter run to defeat the Chicago Bulls 109-97 and take a 3-2 lead in their series.

Otto Porter scored 17 points and sank nine of 10 free throws for the Wizards, who offset another poor shooting night from the three point line by making 22 of 27 free throws.

The Hawks, who won games three and four at home by an average margin of 14 points, host game six on Sunday.

The Wizards are seeking to become the first road team to win a game this series.

“We know that we just gave up two games (in Atlanta),” Beal said. “At home we have a different edge about ourselves and we’re more locked in. We have to have the same approach down in Atlanta.”

Dennis Schroder had 29 points and 11 assists for the fifth-seeded Hawks.

Paul Millsap finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds and Tim Hardaway scored 15 points for the Hawks, who shot 41 percent from the field and 14 of 21 from the free throw line.

The Wizards game plan was to double team Millsap, who still managed to score at least 19 points for the fifth straight game.

“We tried to put pressure on him,” Porter said. “We definitely wanted to get it out of his hands early and go from there.”

Schroder’s fifth three-pointer cut the Wizards’ lead to 101-99 with 70 seconds remaining, but Wall answered with a jump shot on Washington’s next possession. The Hawks missed their final two attempts from the field.

In Boston, Isaiah Thomas scored 11 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and Avery Bradley also scored 24 for the Celtics who won their third consecutive game.

Al Horford finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the top seeded Celtics.

After losing the first two games Boston can advance with a win Friday in Chicago.

Dwyane Wade had 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler and Robin Lopez added 14 points apiece for the Bulls, who were without injured point guard Rajon Rondo.

Isaiah Canaan got the start in only his second career playoff game and finished with 13 points for the Bulls.

Rockets oust Westbrook’s Thunder, Spurs and Jazz close in

April 26, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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James Harden scored 34 points and the Houston Rockets withstood a furious effort from Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook to oust the Thunder from the NBA playoffs on Tuesday.

Harden

The Rockets beat the Thunder 105-99 to win their best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series four games to one.

Rockets reserve Lou Williams scored 10 of his 22 points early in the fourth quarter as the Rockets responded to a sensational third quarter from Westbrook, who carried his team to a 77-72 lead going into the final period.

Westbrook scored 10 straight points in one stretch and finished with 20 points, five rebounds and three assists in the third.

But Williams opened the fourth with two free throws, and added three more from the line along with a three-pointer as the Rockets regained the advantage with Westbrook on the bench – and they held on even after Westbrook re-entered the game as the Thunder missed a string of shots.

Westbrook finished with 47 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, but connected on just two of his 11 shots in the final period.

The defeat brought a close to a historic season for Westbrook, who joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average a triple-double and beat Robertson’s 55-year-old record for most triple-doubles in a regular season with 42.

In withstanding Westbrook, the Rockets showed they have plenty of defensive ability to go with their free-wheeling offense.

“We’re not just a three-point shooting team,” said Harden, who scored 13 of his 34 points in the final eight minutes.

“We get after it on the defensive end. We’re overlooked. We have been all year. But we’re not really worried about it. We go out there and compete at a high level on both ends of the floor.”

Thunder coach Billy Donovan agreed, calling the Rockets defense “underrated.” That included their defense on Westbrook, said the Rockets’ Patrick Beverly, who took exception to Westbrook’s taunt that “no one can guard me.” The two received double technical fouls for jawing at each other during the game, but Beverly said the Rockets did what they set out to do against Westbrook.

“We did a great job on him,” Beverly said. “We tried to make him take a ton of tough shots.” In the second round the Rockets will face either the San Antonio Spurs or Memphis Grizzlies.

The Spurs, seeded second in the West behind the Golden State Warriors, seized a 3-2 lead in their series Tuesday with a 116-103 victory in San Antonio.

Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, Patty Mills added 20 and Tony Parker chipped in 16 as the Spurs bounced back from a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Grizzlies in game four.

Reserve point guard Mills made five three-pointers, four of them in the fourth quarter en route to his career-high playoff scoring total.

The effort from Australia’s Mills helped thwart a Grizzlies rally. Memphis trailed by 18 with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter, but a 17-3 scoring run saw them pull within four points with nine minutes to play.

“We made shots, that’s what we didn’t do the last game,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team will try to wrap up the series in game six on Thursday in Memphis.

The Utah Jazz are also closing in on a second-round berth after a 96-92 victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles.

Gordon Hayward scored 27 points and pulled down eight rebounds for the Jazz, who took a 3-2 series lead with game six in Salt Lake City on Friday.

Rodney Hood scored 16 points and Joe Johnson produced nine of his 14 in the fourth quarter for Utah, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds from French big man Rudy Gobert.

Chris Paul scored 28 points for the Clippers, who played their second game without standout scorer Blake Griffin, who will miss the rest of the playoffs with a right big toe injury.

The winners of the series will face the Warriors, who swept the Portland Trail Blazers in four games.

Warriors put Blazers on brink, Gasol’s floater sinks Spurs

April 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Stephen Curry scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and the Golden State Warriors stormed back from a 16-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 119-113.

Curry

Klay Thompson tallied 24 points on Saturday for the Warriors, who seized a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round Western Conference playoff series.

CJ McCollum scored 32 points and Damian Lillard added 31 for the Blazers, who will try to stay alive with a win in game four on Monday.

“They had a lot of adrenaline but we were able to withstand their runs and get back in the game,” said Curry. “I love these kind of moments. I have confidence in myself to make those shots.”

Elsewhere Saturday, Marc Gasol lifted Memphis to a 110-108 overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs with a clutch jump shot at the buzzer that allowed the Grizzlies to level their playoff series at 2-2.

Golden State was without forward Kevin Durant (calf injury), guard Shaun Livingston (finger) and forward Matt Barnes (ankle).

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also did not attend the game because of illness. His was replaced by assistant coach Mike Brown.

After the final buzzer, Curry collected the game ball and said he planned to deliver it to Kerr.

“Our coach is going through a lot right now,” Curry said. “He told us to go out and ‘win one for the Gipper.'”

Lillard scored 22 points and McCollum 17 as the Blazers went into halftime leading 67-54.

Curry and Thompson were a combined eight for 25 from the field at halftime.

In Memphis, Gasol’s floater over Spurs defender LaMarcus Aldridge with 0.7 seconds left capped a thrilling back and forth first round playoff contest Saturday in front of a crowd of 18,100.

Kawhi Leonard scored a playoff career high 43 points for the Spurs, including San Antonio’s final 16 points in the fourth quarter.

“Both teams played their hearts out,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Just a fantastic basketball game. The fans got their money’s worth. Marc made a great shot. L.A. (Aldridge) contested it very well, it (went) down.”

Leonard added eight rebounds, six steals and three assists. Leonard’s fade-away jumper with 12 seconds left in regulation gave San Antonio a 96-94 lead.

But Leonard’s brilliant performance was in vain as Mike Conley led Memphis with 35 points and had nine rebounds and eight assists.

Conley, who had 11 points in the final quarter, answered with a floater in the lane with four seconds left to tie the game at 96.

Leonard then missed a 21-footer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

Memphis won despite making a franchise postseason record 23 turnovers that led to 31 San Antonio points.

Elsewhere, DeMar DeRozan, held scoreless from the floor a game earlier, struck for 33 points and nine rebounds to lead Toronto over Milwaukee 87-76.

The visiting Raptors pulled level with Milwaukee at 2-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series, which continues Monday in Toronto.

In Atlanta, the Atlanta Hawks led wire-to-wire en route to a dominating 116-98 victory over Washington, cutting the Wizards lead in the playoff series to 2-1.

Forward Paul Millsap registered his second consecutive double-double by finishing with 29 points and 14 rebounds as the Hawks clawed their way back into the Eastern Conference series.

Millsap was 12 of 20 from the floor and had five assists. The only blemish on his night was missing four-of-nine free throws.

Game four of the series is Monday in Atlanta.

After the game, Millsap and Washington’s Markieff Morris continued to fire verbal jabs at each other.

Morris called Millsap a “crybaby”.

“He’s a crybaby. You get all the calls when you’re a crybaby. That’s how I look at it,” Morris said.

Millsap added: “It definitely got personal now, yes.”

Atlanta also got 27 points and nine assists from Dennis Schroder. Rookie Taurean Prince scored 16 points.

Warriors cut down Blazers, Westbrook runs out of gas

April 20, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The Golden State Warriors clamped down on defense as they cruised to a 110-81 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, taking a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Warriors

Playing without injured star Kevin Durant, Golden State held Portland to just 12 points in the third quarter Wednesday to post their 11th straight home win over the Trail Blazers in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference semi-final series.

Durant missed the game with a calf strain.

“You got to be aggressive. Tonight we didn’t really get it going and we had some dry spots but we won the game with our defense,” said Warriors star Stephen Curry. “We asserted ourselves in first quarter that set the tone for the game.”

Curry had 19 points and Klay Thompson added 16 as the Warriors won easily despite scoring 11 fewer points than in their 121-109 win in the opening game of the series.

JaVale McGee said they miss not having Durant in the lineup but they also know how to adjust when he is not there.

“We have confidence. We have had to play without KD for a lot of games earlier so we are used to it. But we need KD. We need his scoring,” said McGee, who came off the bench to score 15 points.

The teams will travel to Portland for the next two meetings in the best-of-seven series, with the Warriors taking their lead into game three on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams caught fire in the fourth quarter as the Houston Rockets rallied for a 115-111 playoff win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, who lost despite another historic 50-point night by Russell Westbrook.

The Rockets erased a 15-point deficit to take a 2-0 lead after game two of their Western Conference series.

Westbrook delivered a triple-double of 51 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds but couldn’t get the ball to drop when it counted. He shot a dismal four of 18 in the fourth quarter.

His scoring total was the highest for a postseason triple-double in NBA history.

Despite the historic night, Westbrook failed to find his teammates with passes as he appeared to run out of steam in the final quarter.

He missed 14 shots in the fourth, the most misses in any quarter in the last 20 NBA playoffs.

“I wasn’t tired,” Westbrook said. “I don’t care about the (personal stats). We lost.”

“It’s not like it is going to be a surprise to anybody. We know what we have to do,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni of stopping Westbrook.

Gordon gave the Rockets their first lead with his three-pointer at the 8:07 mark of the fourth quarter at 96-94.

Gordon delivered another clutch basket with 1:48 remaining, drilling a 28-footer off a James Harden pass to extend the lead to eight.

Harden finished with 35 points and eight assists and was a perfect 18 for 18 from the free-throw line.

Game three is Friday in Oklahoma City.

In Washington, Bradley Beal scored 16 of his 31 points in the final quarter as the Washington Wizards seized a 2-0 lead in their first-round series with a 109-101 win.

John Wall delivered a team high 32 points as he and Beal tallied 20 of the Wizards’ final 21 points in a penalty filled contest.

Game three is in Atlanta on Saturday as the Wizards have won five in a row over the Hawks.

Paul Millsap had 27 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks. Dennis Schroder scored 23 points and Tim Hardaway had 19. Atlanta committed 18 turnovers.

After game one, Millsap made a point of calling out what he considered overly aggressive play from the Wizards — “They were playing MMA,” he said.

In game two, the teams were whistled for 55 fouls and took a combined 71 free throws. Atlanta was 33 of 38 and Washington finished 24 of 33.

Washington’s Marcin Gortat easily controlled the head-to-head matchup as Dwight Howard’s struggles in the playoffs continued. Hawks center Howard had just six points and seven rebounds.

Cavs, Spurs march on in NBA playoffs

April 18, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a bout of fourth quarter jitters to take a grip of their NBA playoff series against the Indiana Pacers on Monday as San Antonio seized control of their duel with Memphis.

Indiana Pacers v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Two

Cleveland appeared to be coasting to victory after opening up an 18-point lead at the end of the third quarter at the Quicken Loans Arena.

But the Cavs put the home fans through the ringer in a nervy finale as the Pacers punished a litany of mistakes to cut the gap to four points with 18 seconds remaining.

It mirrored a similar shaky finish in Game 1, when Indiana wiped out a 10-point fourth quarter lead before Cleveland ground out a win. They also blew a 26-point fourth quarter lead in a defeat to Atlanta earlier this month.

But the NBA Champions just about held their nerve on Monday, eventually winning 117-111 thanks to a 37-point haul from Kyrie Irving as well as 27 points from Kevin Love and 25 from LeBron James.

James was unfazed by the Pacers’ fourth quarter fightback after the Cavs held on to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 takes place in Memphis on Thursday.

“We’re right there,” said James, who also had 10 rebounds and seven assists. “We’re right there of what we know we can become, and we’ll figure it out.” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue blamed fatigue for the high turnover count that allowed San Antonio to claw their way back into the contest in the fourth quarter.

“I just saw turnovers,” Lue said. “We’ve gotta take care of the basketball. We turned the ball over and it hurt us. Nineteen turnovers for 24 points. It’s hard to win playoff games like that.”

The victory came at a cost for Cleveland however, with guard J.R. Smith limping off with a hamstring injury. However Smith’s replacement, Iman Shumpert, impressed from the bench with five points.

“We have so many pieces on this team, but everyone has to stay ready,” Irving said of Shumpert’s cameo.

“He had that mindset, came in and executed, and it’s hard to come off the bench right after halftime. We just need Shump to stay focused and understand the task at hand and I think he did a good job of that tonight.”

In San Antonio, Memphis coach David Fizdale was left fuming after watching his team slide to a 96-82 loss against the Spurs in their Western Conference showdown.

Kawhi Leonard finished with 37 points as the Spurs took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series at AT&T Center.

But Fizdale unleashed a spectacular post-game tirade against the officiating crew, which is almost certain to bring disciplinary action from the league.

Fizdale complained bitterly that officials had unfairly skewed the free throw count against his players.

“It was a very poorly officiated basketball game,” Fizdale fumed. “First half we had 19 shots in the paint and had six free throws. They shot 11 times in the paint and had 23 free throws.

“I’m not a numbers guy but that doesn’t seem to add up. Overall we shot ball in the paint 35 times and we had 15 free throws – for the game. They shot 18 times and had 32 free throws. Explain it to me.” Officials had shown “disrespect” to his team, Fizdale added.

“I’m not going to let them treat us that way. That’s unacceptable. That’s unprofessional. My guys dug in that game and earned the right to be in that game — and they did not even give us a chance,” Fizdale told journalists.

The series now moves to Memphis for Game 3 on Thursday.

Warriors rout Portland, Butler shines for Bulls in NBA playoffs

April 17, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The Golden State Warriors clamped down in the fourth quarter to pull away to a 121-109 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday in game one of their NBA playoff series.

Warrios

Golden State, aiming to get back to the NBA finals for a third straight year and regain the crown they surrendered last season to the Cleveland Cavaliers, had 32 points from Kevin Durant in his first playoff game as a Warrior.

Stephen Curry added 29. Draymond Green was everywhere, finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, five blocked shots and three steals for the Warriors.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the Chicago Bulls held on to beat the Boston Celtics 106-102 in the opener of a first-round Eastern Conference series.

Golden State withstood 75 combined points from the Trail Blazers duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to triumph in a game that saw 22 lead changes.

They were tied at halftime and knotted at 88-88 after three quarters.

But the Warriors opened the fourth frame with a 15-2 scoring run to seize control.

Backup point guard Ian Clark contributed seven points in the flurry, but it was increased defensive pressure that really turned the tide.

“We let them get to their spots in the first half,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “they still made some tough shots, which they’re going to do. I thought we did a better job in the second half of being a little more physical.”

The Trail Blazers pulled within 105-99 with 5:16 to play. But Green tipped in a Curry miss and Durant produced three straight baskets to stretch Golden State’s lead to 113-99 with 3:36 remaining.

Durant, acquired as a free agent after the Warriors’ loss to the Cavs in last year’s finals, connected on 12 of his 20 shots and also pulled down 10 rebounds.

Game two of the series, a rematch of a Western Conference semi-final last season, is on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the West, the Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder tipped off in a series featuring the top contenders in the Most Valuable Player race — Thunder star Russell Westbrook and the Rockets’ James Harden.

Sunday’s Eastern Conference action got under way in Washington, where John Wall scored 15 of his 32 points in a dominant third quarter to lead the Wizards to a 114-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in their series opener.

Wall also handed out 14 assists while teammate Bradley Beal scored 22 points and Markieff Morris added 21.

German guard Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 25 points and Paul Millsap had 19. Atlanta made 32 of 39 free throws, but connected on just 43.6 percent of their shots from the floor and turned the ball over 21 times.

In Boston, Butler scored five points during an 8-0 run midway through the final period that put the Bulls in control on an emotional night at the Boston Garden.

Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas played the day after his younger sister, Chyna, was killed in a car accident.

Thomas led the Celtics with 33 points, hitting a layup with seven seconds left to cut Chicago’s lead to 104-102.

But Butler dribbled off a few seconds and sealed the victory with a two free throws with just three seconds on the clock.

Game two of the series is Tuesday at the Garden.

Heat down Cavaliers to stay alive, Jazz halt streaking Warriors

April 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The Miami Heat kept their NBA playoff hopes alive on Monday with a 124-121 overtime victory over Cleveland that dropped the reigning NBA champion Cavaliers to second in the Eastern Conference.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs, locked in a duel with the Boston Celtics for the top seed in the East, nevertheless rested stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Miami.

“The most important thing is for us to give those guys a rest,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “They have carried the load all season.”

Cleveland suffered their second overtime defeat in as many days, having squandered a 26-point fourth-quarter lead in a stunning loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

Against the Heat, they took a 91-80 lead into the fourth, but Miami stormed back to force overtime and claim the win.

Tyler Johnson had 24 points and Hassan Whiteside added 23 and 18 rebounds as the Heat snapped a three-game home losing streak.

Deron Williams, starting at point guard in place of Irving, led Cleveland with 35 points. Kevin Love added 25 with 10 rebounds before he fouled out with 34 seconds left in overtime.

With the Celtics beating the Brooklyn Nets 114-105, the defeat dropped the Cavs one game behind Boston for first place in the conference.

James has said he isn’t concerned about the top seed, and teammate Kyle Korver said Monday that the Cavs just want to get the post-season underway.

“I think we’ve shown that when we’re focused we’re a really good team,” Korver said of the Cavs, despite a ragged end to the regular season.

The Celtics, however, are eager to go into the post-season as the top team in the East.

“Trying to finish the season with the number one seed, that means a lot to me, personally, so hopefully we can get that,” said Isaiah Thomas, who scored 27 points against the Nets.

For the Heat, the victory means they will be fighting with the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls for the last two playoff spots in the East when the regular season concludes on Wednesday.

The Pacers, with 27 points from Paul George, defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 120-111 on Monday and lie second in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls crushed the Orlando Magic 122-75 and at 40-41 have the same record as Miami with one game remaining for each.

But Chicago own the tiebreaker, so if they finish with the same record as the Heat, the Bulls will claim the eighth and final playoff spot.

Robin Lopez scored 18 points and Jimmy Butler and Jerian Grant had 17 apiece to pace the Bulls. Nikola Mirotic added 16 points and veteran Dwyane Wade chipped in 13 as Chicago won by their biggest margin of the season.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he didn’t try to keep track of what the Bulls and Pacers were doing on Monday.

“Our game was enough,” he said. “I don’t need the ancillary stress.”

In Oakland, Golden State starts Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were watching from the bench in the fourth quarter as the injury depleted Utah Jazz completed a 105-99 victory that ended the Warriors’ 14-game winning streak.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr opted to play safe with his key players, resting Curry, Durant and Draymond Green late while Klay Thompson sat out altogether.

The Warriors are already assured of top seed in the West and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

For the Jazz, however, the win kept them level for fourth place in the West with the Los Angeles Clippers, who thumped the Houston Rockets 125-96 for a sixth-straight win.

Chris Paul scored 19 points and handed out nine assists and Blake Griffin added 18 points for the Clippers.

The Portland Trail Blazers, headed to a first-round playoff series against the Warriors, stunned the San Antonio Spurs 99-98 on Noah Vonleh’s layup as time expired.

All five starters scored in double figures for Portland, starting with Shabazz Napier’s career-high 32.

Suns steal Westbrook’s Thunder

April 8, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook is still chasing history after finishing just shy on Friday of his 42nd triple double of the NBA season.

Suns

Westbrook missed his first 12 shots and finished with eight assists to go with 23 points and 12 rebounds in a lopsided 120-99 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

It marked the second straight game Westbrook failed to break the record as he remains stuck on 41 triple-doubles with Oscar Robertson who did it with the Cincinnati Royals in 1961-62.

He can find solace in Friday’s assist total as his sixth assist of the game ensured he would average a triple-double for the season, joining Hall of Famer Robertson as the only players to do so.

Westbrook’s chance at history was hampered by a miserable first half. He had five turnovers in the first quarter, including three in the first three minutes.

When it came down to crunch time late in the fourth quarter his teammates either missed shots or the Suns intentionally fouled, sending a message that the record wasn’t going to be broken in their building.

Westbrook came within one rebound of breaking the record Wednesday night in Memphis in a 103-100 win in which he contributed 45 points and 10 assists.

Westbrook’s triple-double quest began on opening week, when he posted 51 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists against the Suns on October 28.

Until Friday, the Suns had put up little resistence as Westbrook averaged 41 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in three previous contests against Phoenix this season.

Westbrook ties NBA triple-double record, Cavaliers and Warriors win

April 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Russell Westbrook tied Oscar Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in an NBA season on Tuesday, his 41st triple-double of the campaign fueling the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 110-79 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Westbrook

Westbrook drained a three-pointer just before halftime to finish the first half with 12 points.

Minutes into the third period he notched his 10th rebound and within seconds had delivered a 10th assist on Taj Gibson’s basket that put the Thunder up 67-42.

Fans in Oklahoma City went wild, and chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” rang out for Westbrook, who raised an arm in acknowledgement as the feat was recognized by the arena announcer when play was stopped.

“It’s something I could never have dreams of growing up,” said Westbrook, who can break the record Robertson set in the 1961-62 season on Wednesday night against the Grizzlies in Memphis.

“To be able to be on this stage with this group of guys, it’s unbelievable and a blessing.”

Westbrook finished the game with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists and the playoff-bound Thunder snapped a two-game skid.

“It was a special night,” Westbrook said. “Something I’ll definitely never forget. I am truly honored to do it here in Oklahoma City.”

With a seventh straight triple-double, Westbrook matched his career-high streak fashioned earlier this season.

Westbrook’s 41 triple-doubles this season are more than 10 NBA teams have amassed in their club histories.

Cavaliers great LeBron James took his career tally of triple-doubles to 54 on Tuesday with his 12th of the season, scoring 18 points with 11 rebounds and 11 assists in Cleveland’s 122-102 victory over the Orlando Magic.

The reigning champion Cavs limbered up for a Wednesday duel with the Boston Celtics for the Eastern Conference lead. Their victory pulled them level with the Celtics atop the East.

Cleveland, coming off a double-overtime home victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, got off to a slow start and trailed 55-53 at halftime.

The Cavaliers produced nine three-pointers as they seized control in the third quarter.

J.R. Smith made four of his five three-pointers in the third and Kyle Korver made two of his three from beyond the arc in the third.

“No one can survive that,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said.

Kevin Love led Cleveland with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Kyrie Irving added 24 points and Smith scored 19. Korver, back in action after a four-game absence with a left foot injury, scored 11 off the bench.

While James downplayed the significance of Wednesday’s showdown with the Celtics, Love said it would be a good test with the playoffs fast approaching.

“It will be good for us,” Love said. “I think it will get us even more prepared, even more locked-in, win or lose.”

There were wins for the top two teams in the West as the Golden State Warriors cruised to a 121-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves while the San Antonio Spurs battled to a 95-89 overtime victory over the Grizzlies.

Klay Thompson poured in 41 points for the Warriors, who won their 12th straight game.

Thompson’s second 40-point game of the season featured seven three-pointers in 14 attempts. Stephen Curry drained three three-pointers on his way to 19 points and handed out a game-high nine assists.

The Spurs and Grizzlies were tied 86-86 with 2:15 to play in overtime before Pau Gasol and Patty Mills nailed three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to put the Spurs ahead for good.

Kawhi Leonard made three free throws in the final minute to seal it, finishing with 32 points and 12 rebounds.

The lead had changed hands three times in a frantic final minute of regulation, with San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, fed by a crisp inbounds pass from Gasol, scoring with 1.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Elsewhere in the West, the Portland Trail Blazers were left clinging to a half-game lead over the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff seed after they were dominated 106-87 by the Utah Jazz.

The Nuggets pulled off a crucial 134-131 victory in New Orleans that eliminated the Pelicans from playoff contention.

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