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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.

Westbrook eyes history, LeBron leads Cavaliers in OT thriller

April 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Russell Westbrook edged closer to NBA immortality with his 40th triple-double of the season on Sunday as LeBron James dug deep to help Cleveland clinch a double-overtime thriller against Indiana.

Westbrook

Westbrook scored 40 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and provided 10 assists as the Oklahoma City Thunder fell to a 113-101 home loss against the Charlotte Hornets.

The Thunder guard is now one triple-double away from tying Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson’s single-season record of 41, set in 1961-62 for the Cincinnati Royals.

With six games left in the regular season, Westbrook can match the record when the Thunder host the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.

Westbrook however was more focused on the Thunder’s defeat than the latest chapter in his remarkable season.

Asked for his thoughts about the possibility of tying Robertson’s long-standing mark on Tuesday, Westbrook replied: “We gotta win. That’s my thoughts.”

“We were just making bad mistakes, bad decisions,” Westbrook said after a game that saw the Thunder hand over 24 turnovers. “Starting with myself, we have to take better care of the ball.”

Oklahoma City now lie in sixth place in the Western Conference standings at 43-33.

In Cleveland, the Cavaliers looked to 2016 NBA Finals MVP James once again to secure a pulsating 135-130 win over the Pacers in double-overtime.

James finished with 41 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists for his 11th triple-double of the season and the 53rd of his career in a crucial win for the Cavaliers.

Pacers star Paul George led the scoring with 43 points including 19 in the two periods of overtime, adding nine rebounds and nine assists.

But James lost his cool in an on-court shouting match with team-mate Tristan Thompson, the two trading barbs over a blown coverage.

“I had good intentions but I was a little bit too demonstrative at that point in the game,” James said. “I can’t show up my teammates, that’s for sure, especially Double T (Thompson) worked hard for our team, he’s a big-time player for our team so I had good intentions of what I wanted to happen, but the way it came out was … it didn’t look good on TV.”

The Cavs moved to 49-27 to stay a half-game behind the Boston Celtics, who are 50-27. The Pacers meanwhile fell to 37-40, leaving them in a tie for eighth place with the Miami Heat.

Cleveland’s win sets the stage perfectly for what promises to be a titanic battle with Boston on Wednesday.

The Celtics brought up their 50th win of the season, downing the New York Knicks 110-94, to maintain their grip on first place.

“A couple of years ago I would have thought that would be something we would have to build for a while for,” admitted coach Brad Stevens, now in his fourth year with the rebuilding Celtics.

“Obviously we have been lucky to strike on a couple of guys. Everyone has a like mind, trying to compete every night. We look forward to the playoffs, then we will look back to what we have accomplished this season.”

Stevens has overseen a steady rebuilding job in Boston, who finished 25-57 in his first season in charge in 2013-2014.

Sunday’s blowout meant Stevens could rest his starters in the fourth quarter, including late-game powerhouse Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas led the Celtics with 19 points and six assists in just 23 minutes on the floor.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape from a legs standpoint,” Stevens said.

“There may be a point or two in the next 10 days where we sit guys a little more, but right now we’re focused on playing good basketball.”

Back in the Western Conference, Stephen Curry scored 42 points as the leading Golden State Warriors moved to within three wins of clinching the best record in the league.

The Dubs thrashed the Washington Wizards 139-115 to improve to 63-14.

Butler brilliance sparks Bulls, Clippers down Lakers

April 2, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Jimmy Butler scored 33 points to maintain Chicago’s push for the playoffs on Saturday as the Los Angeles Clippers overcame a late wobble to subdue the Lakers.

Bulls

Butler scored the final nine points for the Bulls in their 106-104 win over the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center as Chicago overcame a nine-point deficit to seal the win.

The victory saw Chicago improve to 37-39, lifting them into a virtual three-way tie with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers for the seventh playoff spot on offer from the Eastern Conference.

“Nobody picked us to be in the playoffs, nobody picked us to win,” Butler said.

“I’m just out there playing basketball. I want to win — I think everybody knows that.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg could not hide his admiration for Butler.

“He was phenomenal,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy did everything again. He just found a way to get to the basket … obviously, he was a huge part of that win.”

Butler was backed by Rajon Rondo, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Denzel Valentine weighed in with 13 and Paul Zipser added 10.

Hoiberg meanwhile praised his team’s never-say-die attitude as they prepare to embark on a demanding four-game road trip which starts Sunday.

“It’s an important step when you can fight through adversity and find a way to come back from a big deficit like that,” Hoiberg said.

“It’s a couple of times in a row when we’ve fought back. We haven’t put our heads down and we continue to compete — that’s what it’s all about.”

In the Western Conference meanwhile, the fifth ranked Clippers were too strong for their city rivals the Lakers, who are languishing at the foot of the table at 21-55.

Blake Griffin scored 36 points in a 115-104 victory that gave coach Doc Rivers his 800th career win as the Clippers improved to 47-31.

Rivers side are now within one game of the Utah Jazz in the race for the fourth seed slot in the Western Conference.

But Griffin — who topped 10,000 career points in the first quarter — was unhappy with an inconsistent display which saw the Lakers (21-55) reduce a 21-point lead to eight during the closing stages.

Griffin later admitted that the Clippers’ failure to kill off opponents was a concern.

“It’s still something that needs to be worked out,” said Griffin. “I thought at times we came out to start the game the right way and then we took our foot off the gas.

“I thought we let our offense dictate our defense, had some bad turnovers early in the first quarter and it got them going a little bit.

“I thought we came out well in the third quarter, but we just haven’t put the lid on games very well,” added Griffin, calling on his team-mates to sharpen up for the playoffs.

“You can’t win games in the playoffs playing inconsistently, so it is concerning,” Griffin said. “How much concern? I’m not really sure. I just know we can’t do this in the playoffs and win games because every team that makes the playoffs is a good team and knows how to play and knows how to finish games. We have to do better.”

Magnificent Westbrook hits 57 as Thunder edge Orlando

March 30, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Russell Westbrook conjured a spectacular 57-point triple double to edge closer to history as the Oklahoma City Thunder scored a thrilling overtime victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.

Westbrook

Westbrook finished with 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists as the Thunder rolled to a 114-106 win in overtime at Orlando’s Amway Center.

It was Westbrook’s fourth consecutive triple-double and his 38th of an incredible season.

The 28-year-old is now just three shy of equalling Oscar Robertson’s longstanding NBA record for triple-doubles in a single season.

The win helped the Thunder improve to 43-31 while the Magic are now at 27-48 after a second consecutive defeat.

Evan Fournier led scoring for the Magic with 24 points while Nikola Vucevic had 11 points and 16 rebounds. Terrence Ross added 23 points and made five of 11 3-point attempts. Bismack Biyombo scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Aaron Gordon had 13 points.

Westbrook meanwhile received offensive back-up from Enes Kanter with 17 and Victor Oladipo, who weighed in with 13 points.

The highlight of Westbrook’s masterclass was a devastating late burst of scoring which saw him net 19 points in the final six minutes of regulation time, draining a three-pointer with seven seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.

Oladipo then sank a 3-pointer early in overtime for a 107-105 lead and the Thunder held on to the lead to claim a pulsating win.a

Curry leads Warriors fightback in Spurs defeat

March 30, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Stephen Curry scored 29 points as the Golden State Warriors fought back from a 22-point deficit to land a psychological blow against the San Antonio Spurs with a 110-98 road victory on Wednesday.

Spurs

The Warriors — who could ultimately end up facing San Antonio for a place in the NBA finals when the playoffs get under way — looked to be in deep trouble as the Spurs raced into a 29-7 first quarter lead.

But Curry and Klay Thompson led a magnificent team effort to haul the Warriors back into contention in the second quarter, gradually chipping away at San Antonio’s lead to close within three points at halftime.

The Warriors then turned on the style in the third quarter, piling on the pressure to open up an 84-77 lead heading into the final period.

From there the Warriors were always able to keep San Antonio at arm’s length, and picked off the Spurs to claim an ultimately convincing win.

Curry’s points haul included four three-pointers, a tally matched by offensive partner Klay Thompson who had 23 points.

Andre Iguodala (14) and David West (15) also posted double figure tallies for the Dubs, who improved to 61-14 to head the Western Conference comfortably from San Antonio, who are 57-17.

San Antonio’s scoring was led by Kawhi Leonard with 19 points while Spanish star Pau Gasol had 18 points. LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green also made double figures.

Reigning NBA MVP Curry was satisfied with a victory that gives the Warriors a huge boost as the playoffs loom, with injured star Kevin Durant still to return to their ranks.

“We’re on the right track,” Curry said. “We don’t win a championship in this game but we understand we’re getting better as we get to the playoffs and that’s really the only focus right now. We want to keep it up.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn’t mince his words about the quality of his team’s opponents, describing the Warriors as the best team in the NBA.

“They played great, they all played great,” Popovich said. “They just played better. Curry, Thompson — they all made shots. That’s why they’re the best team in the league.”

Wizards shine; Clippers, Raptors clinch playoff spots

March 26, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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John Wall tallied 37 points as the Washington Wizards defeated LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115, tightening the race atop the Eastern Conference standings on Saturday night.

Wall

The Wizards now trail the Boston Celtics by two games and the defending NBA champion Cavaliers by 2 1/2 for first place. Also, Cleveland’s lead over Boston is now just a half-game.

Wall delivered 18 of his 37 points in the first quarter shooting eight-of-eight from the field.

“You don’t want to go into the playoffs knowing you have to face those guys and you never won against them in the regular season,” Wall said. “To come here and win in a tough place, it’s definitely a boost.”

Bradley Beal added 27 points for the Wizards, who are now 19-7 when all five starters score in double figures.

Superstar James shook off the eye injury suffered Friday night to score 24 points, grab 11 rebounds, and hand out eight assists.

“I haven’t been in too much light the last 24 hours, I mean all day since I got home last night and today I stayed away from it because it was bothering me a little bit too much,” said James, who suffered a corneal abrasion to his right eye.

“But I kind of warmed up to it, so that’s a good sign.”

James started Saturday’s contest wearing plastic goggles but took them off with about three minutes left in the first quarter.

James needed seven assists to pass Maurice Cheeks (7,392) for 12th place in NBA history, which he reached with his first assist in the fourth quarter.

Elsewhere, Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score a game-high 28 points and power the Los Angeles Clippers over Utah 108-95.

The Clippers improved to 44-30, moving within one-half game of the Jazz (44-29) for fourth place in the Western Conference and clinching a playoff berth for the sixth season in a row.

The teams would be first-round playoff foes if they keep their spots with the superior record conveying a home-court edge in the series.

French centre Rudy Gobert scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Jazz, who lost to the Clippers for the third time in four meetings so far this season and the 18th time in the team’s past 20 meetings.

Gobert also stretched his streak of games with at least one blocked shot to 41.

Blake Griffin had 15 points, Chris Paul added 14 and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 15 rebounds for the Clippers. Joe Johnson came off the bench to score 17 for the Jazz.

- Selfish players hurt Jazz -

After the game Gobert blasted some of his teammates for putting more importance on padding their scoring stats than trying to win games. He did not mention any names.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring,” Gobert said of Utah’s fourth loss in its past five games. “That’s what it is.

“I think everybody needs to think about making plays for the team, making winning plays, before thinking about how many points we’re going to score and stuff like that.”

“There’s going to be some games where you don’t score. But are you going to take a charge for a teammate?”

In Dallas, the visiting Toronto Raptors clinched a playoff spot with a 94-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center arena.

Toronto won their 44th game of the season and their fifth in a row as they head home to begin an important string of four games at Air Canada Centre.

DeMar DeRozan, coming off consecutive 40-point games, and forward Serge Ibaka each scored 18 points to lead the Raptors. DeRozan was eight of 17 from the floor with six assists.

Westbrook’s 35th triple double powers Thunder win

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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NBA scoring leader Russell Westbrook unleashed his 35th triple double of the season Wednesday, powering the Oklahoma City Thunder over visiting Philadelphia 122-97 and moving closer to league history.

Westbrook

Westbrook scored 18 points, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and passed out a game-high 14 assists to spark the Thunder, who were led in scoring by 24 points from Turkish reserve center Enes Kanter, who hit 8-of-9 from the floor and free throw line.

Westbrook needs six more triple doubles in the final 11 games for the Thunder (41-30) to match the all-time one-season record of 41 triple doubles set by Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 campaign.

That was the season Robertson became the only player in NBA history to average a triple double for the entire season, a feat Westbrook is on pace to match.

Westbrook leads the NBA with 31.4 points a game and averages 10.5 rebounds and 10.3 assists a game as well. he ranks third in the league in assists this season and 10th in rebounds.

Oklahoma City opens a three-game road trip Sunday at Houston that also includes stops at Dallas and Orlando. In all, seven of the last 11 for the Thunder are away from home.

Bouncing back after scoring only 15 points Monday against Golden State, Westbrook went 6-of-6 from the floor and free throw line. He didn’t attempt a 3-pointer for the first time since March 14, 2016 — a span of 83 games.

Westbrook weighed in on the growing issue of stars being benched by coaches for games when healthy so they can rest, saying he prefers to play, having missed only one game for rest his entire NBA career.

“I like to play basketball so I like to go out and compete and have fun,” Westbrook said. “I look at it differently from being hurt and missing a lot of games, I embrace everything moment I have to play basketball and enjoy the time I can play.”

The losing 76ers confirmed that center Joel Embiid would have surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus. He had already been ruled out for the remainder of the season. The Cameroon standout averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots a game this season but has not played since January 27.

Gary Harris netted 21 points to lead seven double-figure scorers for the Denver Nuggets in a 126-113 home victory over the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving scored 33 points, Deron Williams added 19 and LeBron James had 18 for the Cavaliers (46-24), whose lead over Boston in the Eastern Conference shrank to only one game.

Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points and Avery Bradley added 18 points as the Boston Celtics (46-26) cruised over visiting Indiana 109-100. Paul George led the Pacers (36-35) with 37 points.

Charlotte reserve forward Frank Kaminsky scored 13 of his 18 points in the decisive fourth quarter to power the Hornets over host Orlando 109-102. At 32-29, the Hornets, led by 22 points from Kemba Walker, improved their slim playoff hopes while beating the Magic for the fourth time this season.

Led by Nikola Mirotic’s 28 points, the Chicago Bulls boosted their playoff chances with a 117-95 home rout of Detroit. Without suspended center Robin Lopez and injured big man Cristiano Felicio, the Bulls matched Detroit at 34-38 for ninth in the Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games behind Miami for the final playoff spot.

Washington’s Bradley Beal scored 28 points and teammate John Wall added all 22 of his points in the second half to power the Wizards over Atlanta 104-100.

Thompson, Curry outshine Westbrook as Warriors down Thunder

March 21, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry outgunned Russell Westbrook as the Golden State Warriors scored an emphatic 111-95 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.

Westbrook

Thompson poured on 34 points while Curry finished with 23 on a below-par night for Westbrook, who was restricted to 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Thompson made 12 of 21 from the field and sunk seven of 15 attempts from three-point range, reviving memories of his heroics in last season’s playoffs when he blitzed the Thunder with a stream of three-pointers.

“I don’t think it’s anything particular,” Thompson said when asked about his habit of delivering against Oklahoma City.

“I’ve been playing well the last few games. Got a lot of great looks today. It’s as simple as knocking them down.”

Curry meanwhile drained seven three-pointers as the Warriors improved to 56-14.

Victor Oladipo led the scoring for Oklahoma City with 17 points. Enes Kanter made 11 points from the bench while Taj Gibson added 10 as the Thunder fell to 40-30.

Curry had his radar finely tuned from the get-go, shrugging off the attentions of man-marker Westbrook to score 11 points in the first quarter.

Westbrook meanwhile struggled to find his range, making only one from six from the field.

“Just one of those nights, Westbrook said. “Shots didn’t fall. They made shots as well. A few mishaps defensively. But we’ll be all right.”

The Thunder star was unable to find a way past some vigilant Warriors defense, with the visitors comfortable soaking up pressure before countering effectively.

The frustration got the better of Westbrook late in the second quarter, when he engaged in a shoving match with Curry that led to a prolonged melee.

The scuffle ended with technical fouls against Westbrook, Curry, Draymond Green and Oklahoma City’s Semaj Christon.

“Ain’t nothing going through my mind but to protect my teammates,” Westbrook said when asked about the scrap. “That’s what was going through my mind.”

When play resumed, the Warriors won the tap and found Curry, who unfurled a trademark long-range effort to make it 59-39 at the half.

Westbrook and Oladipo inspired a 13-5 Oklahoma run at the start of the second half to give the Thunder hope.

But Curry and Thompson responded with a slew of three-pointers to halt the Thunder’s momentum.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was satisfied by the way his team responded after Westbrook’s rally early in the second half.

“We knew it was coming,” Kerr said.

“We’re on their home floor. Russell did not have a great first half. We knew he would come out attacking. He attacked the rim a couple of times. We just weathered the storm,” added Kerr, singling out JaVale McGee for praise.

“(He) came in and had a huge impact. Getting his hands on a lot of rebounds, deflections. He just got his hand on the ball and created extra deflections for us. Obviously, we had Steph and Klay going from 3-point land,” he said.

Westbrook posts 34th triple-double in Thunder win

March 17, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Russell Westbrook delivered his 34th triple double of the season as the Oklahoma City Thunder won their fourth straight with a 123-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

Westbrook

Westbrook also had 16 assists and 10 rebounds for the Thunder who led by as many as 32 after grabbing a 30-point advantage early in the final quarter.

“I thought we did a good job defensively, just playing 48 minutes on both sides of the ball,” Westbrook said.

“They are an aggressive team and they like to trap and stuff, so my job was able to use that to my advantage and take on two people and make sure the other guys get open.”

Victor Oladipo added 23 points as the Thunder improved to 39-29 on the season.

The Raptors dropped to 29-29 and have lost four of their past seven games.

The Thunder had a 10-point cushion at the half and stretched that to 27 at the end of the third.

“(Westbrook) was a one-man wrecking crew,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.

“He caused a lot of chain reactions. It starts with him. We had multiple breakdowns in terms of getting him under control because he is a great player.”

Enes Kanter contributed 14 points off the bench for Oklahoma City. Andre Roberson had 13 points, and Steven Adams and Taj Gibson each scored 10.

DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 22 points. Norman Powell added 13 points off the bench and Cory Joseph had 11 points. Serge Ibaka and Delon Wright each scored 10 points.

The Thunder led 58-48 at the intermission. Westbrook had 12 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in the first half.

DeRozan led Toronto with 14 first-half points.

Westbrook edges closer to triple record as Thunder roll Nets

March 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Russell Westbrook edged closer to Oscar Robertson’s long-standing triple-double record after leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a comfortable 122-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Westbrook

Westbrook brought up his remarkable 33rd triple-double of the season with 25 points, 19 assists and 12 rebounds as the Thunder improved to 38-29.

The Oklahoma City talisman is now just eight shy of Robertson’s record season tally of 41 triple-doubles.

The Barclays Center crowd enjoyed a love-hate relationship with Westbrook on the night, subjecting him both to boos and chants of “MVP” in recognition of his stellar season.

The crowd united in a standing ovation however when he grabbed a defensive rebound with 4:40 left in the fourth quarter to complete his latest triple.

Westbrook later admitted he had been taken aback by the reception of the crowd after sealing his triple.

“They were loud. I thought something happened,” Westbrook said. “I was wondering why they were screaming so loud. I thought they were giving something out in the crowd or something.”

Thunder coach Billy Donovan paid tribute to Westbrook’s “incredible poise.”

“I thought he generated shots for everybody,” Donovan said. “He made the game easy for everybody. He rebounded the ball, he scored when he needed to. He’s always surveying the game. … He put his fingerprints all over the game in so many ways different ways in my opinion.”

It was a third consecutive victory for Oklahoma City, who also saw guard Victor Oladipo finish with 21 points and center Enes Kanter add 17 off the bench.

The win was also Oklahoma City’s first on the road since a defeat of New Orleans in late January – a fact that pleased Westbrook.

“As a team, if you want to win a championship, you have to win on the road, regardless of who you play, where you play, the situation, the weather, whatever it is you have to win on the road,” Westbrook said.

“I made it very clear this morning that it was a key for us.”

Brook Lopez top-scored for the Nets with 25 points, with guard Jeremy Lin adding 24 points and Randy Foy 13.

Harden on fire as Rockets down Cavaliers

March 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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James Harden exploded for 38 points as the Houston Rockets jolted LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 117-112 victory on Sunday.

HArden

Harden led the scoring and completed his 16th triple-double of the season with 10 rebounds and 11 assists as the Rockets improved to 46-21 to strengthen their grip on third spot in the Western Conference standings.

Harden was one of six Houston players to make double figures, with Ryan Anderson the next top scorer with 16 points while Patrick Beverley and Eric Gordon both weighed in with 13 apiece.

Cleveland, who fell to 43-22, were reliant of James and Kyrie Irving to provide the bulk of their points.

James led the Cavs scoring with 30 points while Irving weighed with 28. Only one other Cleveland player — Richard Jefferson with 16 — made double figures at Houston’s Toyota Center.

With the exception of James and Irving, a weary Cavs line-up looked to be suffering after-effects from Saturday’s road game in Orlando, where no fewer than seven players had posted double figures.

Harden’s virtuoso display ultimately tipped a back-and-forth battle Houston’s way.

The 27-year-old point guard’s 11-point third quarter was crucial as Houston wiped out a nine-point halftime deficit to haul the Rockets back into the contest.

A high-quality game saw both teams exchange a series of long-range field goals in the opening period.

Cleveland looked to have taken a grip on the game with a red-hot shooting spree which saw them drain six consecutive three-pointers.

Jefferson was responsible for three of those efforts as Cleveland went 57-45 ahead early in the third period.

But Harden led Houston back into the game and the Rockets’ superior depth of scoring ultimately told in the fourth quarter.

Curry comes alive as NBA Warriors end losing skid

March 6, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Stephen Curry moved into 10th place on the all-time three-point list as the Golden State Warriors rebounded from back-to-back defeats with a 112-105 NBA win over the struggling New York Knicks on Sunday.

Curry

The Warriors had dropped two straight games since losing Kevin Durant to injury and one factor was a lack of production from Curry.

But the reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player found his scoring touch on Sunday.

The 28-year-old point guard tallied 31 points, hitting five three-pointers at Madison Square Garden to move ahead of Chauncey Billups for 10th place overall.

“We haven’t been playing our best. It was showing as we lost two in a row,” said Curry. “Just the way we were playing wasn’t great so we wanted to get back to who we are.”

Curry and Klay Thompson did just that. They combined for 60 points which marked the 42nd time in their careers they have both scored at least 25 or more points in a game and the seventh time this season.

Derrick Rose scored 28 points and Kristaps Porzingis contributed 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Knicks, who fell to 25-38 on the season.

“For most of the game we were there. We came out ready to play,” said Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. “They hit a couple of threes which opened it up. Two threes from Steph was a big thing. Once they got (the lead) up to seven or eight we just tried to fight from that time.”

The Warriors improved to 51-11 and avoided a three-game losing streak.

A pair of free throws from Thompson extended the Warriors’ lead to 96-83 with 9:04 to play, but the Knicks put together a 13-1 run shortly after to make it 97-96 with just under six minutes remaining.

An 8-2 surge helped seal the victory for the Warriors giving them a 110-101 lead with 69 seconds remaining.

“Some ups and downs tonight but at the end of the game we were moving the ball, finding the open guy and finished the game strong,” Curry said.

The Warriors are in the midst of one of their longest road trips of the season with all five games coming against Eastern Conference opponents.

Golden State travels to Atlanta on Monday and Boston on Wednesday to conclude the swing.

Pistons bounce back in a big way against 76ers

March 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The Detroit Pistons shook off a disappointing NBA defeat in emphatic style Saturday, pummelling the Philadelphia 76ers 136-106.

Pistons

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 26 points and Marcus Morris added 22 for the Pistons, who notched a season-high points total three days after falling 109-86 to the Pelicans at New Orleans.

“I thought we had good energy throughout,” Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said after his team shot a season-high 56.8 percent from the floor. “We had a lot of respect for them. That’s all we talked about for two days, how hard Philadelphia plays and the energy they bring to the game and (how) we would need to match that.”

Reggie Jackson contributed 21 points and Tobias Harris chipped in 20 off the bench for the Pistons. Andre Drummond collected 14 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots.

Van Gundy said he’d considered bringing Jackson off the bench and starting backup Ish Smith at point guard, but decided to remain with Jackson as the starter and play him in six-minute segments. Jackson shot 9 of 14 from the floor, and Smith contributed 11 points and 13 assists.

“The energy in that first unit has not been very good,” Van Gundy said. “It’s certainly not all on (Jackson) but they sort of follow the point guard, so let’s get the pace up a little bit and attack. He was better with that tonight.”

Jackson said the new rotation proved helpful.

“It’s only one game, one sample size,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes the next couple of games. Whatever the man says, we’re going to compete.”

The Pistons, currently occupying the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, seized control when they out-scored the 76ers 19-4 in the final 4:19 of the first half.

The 76ers, who coughed up 20 turnovers, trailed by as many as 33 in the second half.

Nik Stauskas scored a career-high 24 points and Dario Saric added 19 points and a career-high eight assists for Philadelphia, but the short-handed Sixers, who had just nine players available, couldn’t match the Pistons’ firepower.

Jahlil Okafor did not play because of a sore right knee and Gerald Henderson missed his second straight game with hip trouble. Tiago Splitter remains out with a strained right calf.

“It’s just embarrassing to get beat like that, especially on our home floor,” Stauskas said, adding it was especially disappointing since the 76ers beat the Pistons in Detroit in December.

“I thought we had a really good win against them, and we just didn’t bring the energy and effort today.”

Bulls hand Warriors second straight defeat

March 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Golden State, adjusting to life without injured Kevin Durant, fell to the Chicago Bulls, just the second time in nearly two years the Warriors have suffered back-to-back NBA regular-season defeats.

Bulls

Jimmy Butler scored 22 points to lead four Bulls players in double-figures in the 94-87 triumph.

The Warriors’ points total was their season low, and they lost a second straight regular-season contest for the first time since April of 2015.

The Warriors had fallen 112-108 to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, when Durant limped out of the game in the first quarter with what was later diagnosed as a left knee ligament sprain and bone bruise.

The former NBA Most Valuable Player will be sidelined indefinitely, although the Warriors, who have already secured a playoff berth, have not ruled out a return before the end of the regular season.

“Obviously, you feel for him and want him to get healthy as fast as possible but not rush it because we have a long journey ahead of us going into the playoffs,” two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry said. “Next man up mentality, but obviously it will be tough to replace a guy like KD.”

Curry led the Warriors with 23 points, but he and “Splash Brother” teammate Klay Thompson combined to make just three of 22 three-point attempts.

Overall, the Warriors were six-for-30 from three-point range in the defeat. Thompson added 13 points and Draymond Green contributed a dozen in the defeat.

The Warriors had led 51-47 at halftime, and erased a five-point deficit with 9:09 to play thanks to three baskets from Curry and a driving layup from David West that gave Golden State an 85-84 lead with 5:43 to go.

But Golden State couldn’t maintain the momentum.

“A couple of shots we normally make did not fall,” said Curry, who was 10 of 27 from the field. “That’s not the reason we lost.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team didn’t play with enough urgency to make up for their cold shooting.

“You are not always going to shoot well,” Kerr said. “When that happens, the ball is gold. You have to value each possession. Our intensity and focus was not there.”

Veteran Dwyane Wade scored 12 points for Chicago, putting the Bulls up 88-85 with 2:16 remaining.

Bulls reserve Paul Zipser closed out a 7-0 scoring run with three-pointer that stretched Chicago’s lead to six points with 1:41 to play.

With the Warriors struggling from the floor, Chicago closed out the victory with a series of free-throws.

The Bulls won for the fifth time in six games improving to 31-30 — sixth in the Eastern Conference.

“Our defense hasn’t been good of late,” Wade said. “I thought today, our attention to detail was phenomenal. They missed some shots — even some of them open. But that’s part of the game.”

The Warriors slipped to 50-11 — still the best record in the league.

Elsewhere, Damian Lillard scored 33 points as the Portland Trail Blazers used a 16-0 surge late in the game to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-109 at Moda Center.

Lillard led a half dozen Blazers in double figures as the Portland improved to 25-35 on the season and won for only the third time in 10 games. Jusuf Nurkic tallied 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Blazers.

Russell Westbrook scored 45 points for Oklahoma City but made only 12 of 36 shots from the field. He added eight rebounds and four assists.

Enes Kanter came off the bench for 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder, who saw their four-game winning streak end.

Westbrook scored 28 first-half points, and Oklahoma City closed on a 12-0 run in the final 1:17 to take a 60-57 lead at halftime.

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