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Irving, James lead the way as Cavs down Celtics

May 25, 2017 by · 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.”

LeBron ties record with 11th All-NBA pick, Harden unanimous

May 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James matched a record with his 11th All-NBA First Team selection while Houston guard James Harden was a unanimous choice, the NBA announced Thursday.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook, San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans center Anthony Davis were other selections to the select squad, chosen in a global media vote.

None of the Golden State Warriors roster were included in the first team.

James joined Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone as the only players in NBA history to make the First Team 11 times.

Harden was selected to the First Team on all 100 ballots while Westbrook, who joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average a triple double for a full season, and James, who set career highs in rebounds and assists and led the league in minutes played, were chosen on 99 ballots with Leonard on 96.

Davis had the narrowest call with 45 First Team votes to 43 for Utah’s Rudy Gobert, edging him 343-339 in total points with five for first team votes, three for second and one for third team selections.

Harden made the First team for the third time in four years while Davis, Westbrook and Leonard each made their second appearance on the list.

Harden averaged career highs of 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds a game, leading the NBA in assists and finishing second in scoring to propel the Rockets to the NBA’s third-best record at 55-27. Harden led the NBA by making 746 free throws and hit 262 3-pointers, third in the league.

James, in his 14th NBA campaign, ranked eighth in the NBA with 26.4 points a game and averaged career highs of 8.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds.

The All-NBA Second Team included Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, Gobert and two members of the Warriors, guard Stephen Curry and forward Kevin Durant.

The All-NBA Third Team consisted of Chicago forward Jimmy Butler and Golden State forward Draymond Green, center DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan and Washington guard John Wall.

Other NBA awards, including Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year, will be revealed June 26 at the new NBA Awards Show in New York.

Cavaliers, Warriors eye third NBA finals showdown in a row

May 14, 2017 by · 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.”

Cavaliers, Rockets romp in NBA playoff second-round openers

May 3, 2017 by · 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 by · 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.

Westbrook eyes history, LeBron leads Cavaliers in OT thriller

April 3, 2017 by · 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.

Wizards shine; Clippers, Raptors clinch playoff spots

March 26, 2017 by · 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.

Harden on fire as Rockets down Cavaliers

March 14, 2017 by · 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.

James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Knicks

February 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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LeBron James recorded his sixth triple-double of the season on Thursday as the Cleveland Cavaliers maintained their mastery over the New York Knicks with a 119-104 NBA triumph.

Lebron

James scored 18 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and handed out 15 assists for the 48th regular-season triple-double of his career.

Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 23 points, while Kyle Korver added 20 off the bench to help the Cavs get off to a solid start in the wake of the All-Star break.

New York’s Courtney Lee led all scorers with 25 points. Carmelo Anthony added 20 and Derrick Rose scored 13 as both Knicks stars, the subject of persistent trade rumors, were still on board as the Thursday afternoon trade deadline passed.

The reigning champion Cavaliers won their fourth straight and are 8-1 this month. It was their 10th straight win over the Knicks, who have lost six of their last seven.

Making the defeat more painful, Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis hurt his ankle and didn’t return for the second half. He finished with eight points in 16 minutes before the injury, which was diagnosed as a sprain.

Tristan Thompson posted his fourth straight double-double for Cleveland with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Irving saw two personal scoring streaks end. As he sat out the entire fourth quarter, he fell two points shy of scoring at least 25 points for a sixth straight game.

He also saw his string of 29 made free throws snapped when he missed his first attempt from the line at 3:25 of the second quarter.

LeBron’s Cavs, Warriors set sights on Finals rematch

February 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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LeBron James resumes his bid for a seventh consecutive NBA Finals appearance Thursday while the Golden State Warriors plan their third consecutive finals trip and Russell Westbrook takes aim at history.

James

And with the NBA trade deadline Thursday along with the resumption of play following the mid-season NBA All-Star Game break, the championship chase swings into high gear.

Only six players have reached the finals more consecutive years than James, who led the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Warriors last year in the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history after the Cavs lost to Golden State in 2015.

James, who also guided Miami to two NBA crowns in four finals appearances, says being the player others measure themselves against feeds the hunger for more success.

“It’s motivating. It’s great. To know that everyone is trying to build their team or wanting to get their team to try to get to where you are and try to knock you off, it’s a motivating factor,” James said.

“It’s also a humbling factor that to know that I’ve been in this position for so long. I want to continue to work my habits, train my body, train my mind, and work on my game every day to put me in a position to be successful.”

The Cavaliers are 39-16, three games ahead of Boston atop the Eastern Conference with Washington five back.

James is playing nearly 38 minutes a night and starters J.R. Smith and Kevin Love are sidelined by injuries, but James has faith the team can keep improving even without trade deadline moves.

“As the leader of the team, I’m fine with what we have, and we’ll continue to push forward,” James said.

“I’m comfortable with whatever coach wants me to do out on the floor. Whatever he gives me to do, I can figure it out.

“We haven’t been healthy pretty much all season, but I feel like if I’m in the lineup and I’m healthy, I’m feeling good, then we’re going to have a chance.”

The Warriors like their chances as well after adding superstar Kevin Durant to the core of a squad that went an NBA-record 73-9 last season. Golden State is off to a 47-9 start this season, four games ahead of San Antonio atop the Western Conference.

“Win a championship. That’s it. That’s why we play, to realize that dream,” two-time NBAMost Valuable Player Stephen Curry said. “We know, having won before, exactly what it takes. Having been on the losing side, we know how thin the line is between winning and losing. That’s what it’s all about.”

Curry has had to share a scoring spotlight with fellow 3-point sharpshooter Klay Thompson and forward Durant, but after early struggles the combination has come together in devastating fashion.

“Whether we shoot a lot of jumpers or find other ways to score, everybody is just focused on winning. It doesn’t matter how you characterize it,” Curry said.

Durant has adapted to his new teammates and the results have been impressive and at times overpowering.

“It has been fun,” Durant said. “It has been a great season. We’re winning games. Chemistry is good. City is nice. Coaches are cool. It’s pretty simple.”

And Golden State’s defense, sparked by forward Draymond Green, has found top form despite losing key players in order to find salary cap money to sign Durant.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say anything really surprised me other than how fast this team has really come together,” Green said. “We just play within the flow of the game and let everything figure itself out.”

When it comes to winning a title, Golden State is mindful that Cleveland might be the last obstacle once again.

“I know who’s at the top of their game and who you potentially have to go through to win a championship,” Curry said. “We’ve had two good battles against Cleveland the last two years. Who knows how this year will play out. It’s a different year.

“(LeBron) is playing well. There are guys in the Western Conference that are playing well that we know we’re going to have to beat to get back the finals. The way I approach it, worry about our team and getting back to the finals and whoever we play, we will be ready for them.”

Oklahoma City star Westbrook could become only the second NBA player to average a triple double for an entire season after 1960s legend Oscar Robertson. He is averaging an NBA-best 31.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.1 assists over 57 games.

“Finish the All-Star break right and come back and do good things,” Westbrook said of his plans for the final 25 games of the campaign.

LeBron leads Cavaliers into break with win over Pacers

February 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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LeBron James scored 31 points, Kyrie Irving added 26 and Kyle Korver had 22 to spark defending NBA champion Cleveland over the visiting Indiana Pacers 113-104.

Cavaliers

In their final game before Sunday’s 66th NBA All-Star Game, the Cavaliers won their third game in a row and seventh in eight starts to stand 39-16 and atop the Eastern Conference. At 7-1 in February, the Cavs matched their win total from a 7-8 January.

“We’ve played some good ball,” James said. “Obviously we know January wasn’t such a good month for us, but overall, for the season, we’re in a good place.”

Korver came off the bench to become only the seventh NBA player with 2,000 career 3-point baskets. He made 6-of-8 3-point shots, netting 13 points in the fourth quarter.

“It means something to me for sure,” Korver said. “I’ve always taken a lot of pride in shooting and studying it and thinking about it and trying to be better, and obviously I’m working on it every day.”

Klay Thompson scored 35 points and Kevin Durant added 21 as the Golden State improved the NBA’s best record to 47-9 by routing visiting Sacramento 109-86.

San Antonio, with the second-best record in the NBA behind Golden State, never trailed in routing host Orlando 107-79 behind 23 points from LaMarcus Aldridge and 22 by Kawhi Leonard.

Boston’s Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points, matching John Havlicek’s 45-year-old Celtics record with a 40th consecutive 20-point game, to spark the hosts to their fourth win in a row, a 116-108 victory over Philadelphia.

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook scored 38 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and passed out 12 assists to power the host Thunder over New York 116-105. Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 30 points while Derrick Rose added 25 for New York.

Detroit never trailed in a 98-91 victory over visiting Dallas, with Reggie Jackson scoring 22 points and Jon Leuer adding 20 points and eight rebounds. German star Dirk Nowitzki had 24 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Mavericks, who lost both games against the Pistons in a season for the first time since the 1997-98 campaign.

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside had 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots in powering the Heat over host Houston 117-109. Miami never trailed as Dion Waiters added 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. James Harden led the Rockets with 38 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.

Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held off a late rally to defeat host Brooklyn 129-125, inflicting the Nets’ 14th loss in a row and stretch their home losing skid to 16 games.

Kyle Lowry scored 21 points and sparked a Toronto rally from 17 points down to defeat visiting Charlotte 90-85. Lowry’s 3-point play late in the fourth quarter gave the Raptors the lead for good.

New Orleans forward Solomon Hill scored a season-high 23 points to power the Pelicans past host Memphis 95-91. Vince Carter closed the Grizzlies within 92-91 on a 3-pointer in the final minute, but Anthony Davis sank a jumper and Langston Galloway made a free throw to seal the victory.

Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe had his third career triple double with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists as the host Suns took their most lopsided win of the season by routing the Los Angeles Lakers 137-101. It was Phoenix’s most lopsided victory over the Lakers in 240 all-time meetings, surpassing a 135-100 win in 1973.

Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins scored 40 points, cracking the mark for the fourth time this season in a 112-99 Timberwolves’ victory at Denver. Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points and a season-high 19 rebounds for the winners.

Utah’s Gordon Hayward scored 22 points, passed off seven assists and grabbed six rebounds to lift the Jazz over visiting Portland 111-88, while Blake Griffin scored 17 points to lead the Los Angeles Clippers over visiting Atlanta 99-84.

Korver finds his rhythm, Cavs dominate Pacers

February 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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The reigning NBA champion Cavs beat the Indiana Pacers 132-117 in Indianapolis with a key contribution from Korver, who arrived in Cleveland last month from the Atlanta Hawks, where he had played since 2012.

Korver

Korver scored 29 points — his most in a game since February 21, 2007 — connecting on eight of his nine three-pont attempts and pulling down five rebounds.

Korver needed five three-pointers to pass Jason Kidd (1,988 three-pointers ) for seventh on the NBA’s all-time list, which he reached in the third quarter.

His 29 points matched teammate Kyrie Irving’s for most scored in the game.

Cleveland star LeBron James added 25 points for the Cavaliers, who won their fourth straight and snapped the Pacers’ seven-game winning streak.

Kevin Love contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland.

Down by six at halftime, Cleveland broke open the game by out-scoring Indiana 40-18 in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers drained 13 of their 20 attempts and all 10 of their free throws in the third period.

The Pacers closed the deficit to 114-107 with 4:23 to play, but would get no closer.

Korver hit two three-pointers as Cleveland rebuilt the lead.

Kings topple Warriors, James hits milestone in Cavs win

February 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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The Sacramento Kings stunned the Golden State Warriors 109-106 in overtime on Saturday to snap a 13-game skid against their league-leading Western Conference rivals.

Kings

Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins scored six of his 32 points in overtime and also contributed 12 rebounds and nine assists.

Matt Barnes produced a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds as Sacramento handed the Warriors their eighth defeat of the season against 43 victories.

Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 35 points and nine assists.

He made eight three-pointers, but in the waning seconds of overtime missed two contested layups that could have given the Warriors the lead.

After Darren Collison’s two free-throws with 2.5 seconds left gave the Kings a 109-106 lead, the Warriors had one more chance.

Draymond Green, wide open for a three-pointer at the top of the arc, bounced one off the rim.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr wasn’t around to see it. He erupted in anger in the third quarter when Green was handed a technical on the heels of a personal foul call against teammate Kevon Looney.

Kerr stormed toward mid-court, where assistant coach Mike Brown held him back, but he was thrown out of the game.

The episode ratcheted up the intensity, but the Warriors couldn’t find their usual offensive flow.

All-Star Kevin Durant endured a difficult shooting night, connecting on just two of 10 from the floor and finishing with only 10 points.

Klay Thompson scored 26 and Green, who left the game briefly with a right knee contusion, finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

“We got what we deserved, before I was tossed and after,” Kerr said. “It was one of the worse games we’ve played all season. We had no purpose, the ball didn’t move… I didn’t even recognize our team out there tonight.

“Maybe we were due for one.”

LeBron James scored 32 points and handed out 10 assists to lead the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers to a 111-104 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

James, 32, took his career total points to 28,020, becoming the youngest player to score 28,000.

James connected on 12 of 20 shots and directed the offense with teammate Kyrie Irving sidelined by a sore quadriceps.

Stand-in DeAndre Liggins scored five points without any assists, while Kay Felder added four points and three assists backing him up.

“It’s hard (playing without Irving), but guys have to step up,” James said. “Kyrie is more than just a playmaker or a scorer. He is one of our leaders.

“D Ligs (Liggins) and Kay (Felder) did as good as they could do,” James added. “They made some mistakes, but as veterans we have to pick them up.”

It was a milestone night for San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich as well.

Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker scored 18 points each, combining to make 13 of 14 of their shots from the floor in a 121-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets that put Popovich atop the list of coaching wins with one club.

Popovich, in his 21st season at the helm in San Antonio, notched his 1,128th win, moving past former Utah coach Jerry Sloan.

Legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach is third on the list with 795.

“Growing up, Jerry Sloan was one of the big names, watching the (NBA) Finals and stuff like that,” Parker said. “To have Pop up there, he’s going to keep it going. It looks like he’s not getting tired at all. He’s not going to stop anytime soon.”

Parker and Ginobili are displaying some impressive longevity themselves.

Popovich wasn’t surprised at the energy provided off the bench by 39-year-old Ginobili.

“You can’t make someone that’s competitive non-competitive,” Popovich said. “You can’t extract that juice from them.”

Parker, 34, said staying productive was a matter of adjusting.

“It’s a different stage in your career,” he said. “I try to do the best I can with the guys around me.”

Cavs open February with convincing win over Timberwolves

February 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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The Cleveland Cavaliers broke out of their January doldrums in a big way on Wednesday, crushing the Minnesota Timberwolves 125-97 with the help of 27 points from superstar LeBron James.

James

James added 12 assists and teammate Kyrie Irving handed out a career-high 14 assists to go with 14 points as the NBA Champions notched a convincing victory after going 7-8 in January.

“After having a bad month like that, pride kicks in at some point,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said in a brief in-game television interview.

It was the most points scored by the Cavaliers since a December 7 home win over the Knicks.

They have won three of their last four to help settle the unease raised by James’s dissatisfaction with management’s failure to fill an open roster spot and his rumbling war of words with former NBA player turned commentator, Charles Barkley.

Tristan Thompson scored 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for Cleveland. Channing Frye, starting in place of injured Kevin Love, scored 18 and Kyle Korver came off the bench to contribute 20.

“We had a game plan and we executed it,” James said, praising “unbelievable playmaker” Irving.

James shrugged off the noise surrounding the champions, who held a free-agent work out on Wednesday that included Mario Chalmers, Lance Stephenson, Kirk Hinrich and Jordan Farmar as they consider their options for adding talent with an eye toward a title repeat.

James had ripped Barkley as a “hater” after the player turned TV analyst labelled him “whiny” in calling on Cavs ownership to boost the Cavs’ talent level.

Barkley said Wednesday he stuck by his remarks — and so did James.

“I know what I said and I meant it,” James said. “I don’t know what he said (in response). I don’t get involved with it.”

The young Timberwolves team were quick out of the blocks, but the Cavaliers had built a 20 point lead in the third quarter.

Irving’s layup from a pass from James pushed the lead to 90-70 with four minutes left in the third and Cleveland weren’t seriously pressured again.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 points and pulled down 12 rebounds and Andrew Wiggins scored 23 points against the team that drafted him number one overall in 2014 but traded him.

James’s Cavs silence Knicks, Warriors clobber Clippers

December 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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LeBron James let his game do the talking as his NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers humbled the New York Knicks 126-94 at Madison Square Garden.

James

While the Cavs were dismantling the Knicks, Western Conference powerhouse Golden State were producing another dominant win of their own, routing the Clippers 115-98 in Los Angeles.

The Warriors launched a five-game road trip in emphatic style against the third-ranked team in the West.

Cleveland’s trip to New York was the Cavaliers’ first since last month’s comments by Phil Jackson in which the Knicks president described James’s business associates as a “posse” in an interview with ESPN.

James found the term offensive, but insisted it didn’t give him extra motivation.

“I’m motivated for the love of the game,” he said. “I’m motivated by the process. I’m motivated knowing my kids are watching me tonight on national television.

“So I don’t need more,” James said, adding that he had no plans to talk to Jackson about the matter while in New York.

His performance on the floor, however, spoke volumes. He scored 25 points, handed out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds.

Kyrie Irving scored 20 points and dished out six assists. Tristan Thompson pulled down a season-high 20 rebounds and Kevin Love had 16 points for the Cavaliers, who notched their sixth straight win at Madison Square Garden and their eight win in a row over the Knicks.

Cleveland led all the way and were never really threatened.

“We were getting stops and we were able to get out in transition,” said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, whose efforts to get his team back to step up their defensive efforts have paid off with two straight victories after a rare three-game slump.

While offense “comes easy” Lue said, defensive effort remains key in the quest for a championship.

“When it comes easy we tend to get caught up in the just back-and-forth instead of getting stops and taking on that tough grind-it-out game,” Lue said. “When you’ve got guys like Kyrie, Bron and Kevin who can score so easy, sometimes that just (becomes), ‘Oh, you scored, but we know we can score the basketball.’

“So now we’ve got to get back to playing Cavaliers basketball on the defensive end.”

Defense was also key in Los Angeles, where the Warriors raced to a 37-19 first-quarter lead — holding the Clippers to just 33 percent shooting in the opening period.

“I really never thought that we got our spirit back after the beginning,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.

Klay Thompson scored 24 points and Draymond Green contributed 22 as the Warriors beat the Clippers for the seventh straight time.

Stephen Curry chipped in 19 points and six assists. He missed all eight of his three-point attempts but he came up with seven steals to help keep the Clippers out of synch.

Kevin Durant added 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Warriors, who held Clippers forward Blake Griffin to just 12 points on five-of-20 shooting.

Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 21 points while point guard Chris Paul notched 15 points with six rebounds and five assists.

Up 62-49 at halftime, Golden State had stretched their lead to 91-75 going into the fourth. They out-scored the Clippers 58-38 in the paint and handed out more than twice as many assists.

“When we don’t turn the ball over and we play great defense we can move the ball, create more possessions,” Curry said. “Obviously to keep a team like that under 100 — that’s pretty special.”

While the Clippers were getting beaten up at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers were taking a pounding in Houston, falling 134-95 to the Rockets.

Eric Gordon came off the bench to score 26 points and James Harden added 25 and eight assists as the Rockets blew out the Los Angeles Lakers 134-95.

The Rockets drained 15 three-pointers, extending their NBA-record streak of games with at least 10 treys to 21.

Cavs down Wizards on another milestone night for James

November 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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The NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers thumped the Washington Wizards 105-94 on another milestone night for superstar LeBron James.

James

James, 31 years and 317 days old, became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 27,000 career points — surpassing former Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who was 32 years and 160 days old when he reached 27,000.

“It’s an unbelievable feat,” teammate Kyrie Irving said, adding that he was pleased to have a ringside seat.

“It’s truly an honor to be part of the journey like that where you see someone put in so much work every single day and accomplishment after accomplishment and he’s really just humble about it,” said Irving, who led the Cavs with 29 points.

James finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

John Wall scored 28 points, but only five in the second half as the Cavaliers built on their 58-56 halftime lead.

The Cavaliers bounced back from their first defeat of the season to improve to 7-1.

That put them alone atop the Eastern Conference after the Toronto Raptors defeated the Charlotte Hornets 113-111 thanks to guard DeMar DeRozan’s late-game heroics.

DeRozan scored 10 of his 34 points in a decisive fourth quarter as the Raptors snapped the Hornets’ four-game winning streak.

Toronto led by as many as 16 points before the Hornets unleashed a 16-0 second-half scoring run.

Point guard Kemba Walker scored a season-high 40 points — with 10 rebounds and six assists — for the Hornets, who led by as many as 10 in the second half before the Raptors roared back.

“We’re an experienced team at this point,” DeRozan said. “We understand how to win, what it takes to win whether you’re down or whether you’re up. We thrive in moments like this.”

Elsewhere in the East, rookie center Joel Embiid scored a season-high 25 points to help the Philadelphia 76ers notch their first victory of the season, 109-105 in overtime over the Indiana Pacers.

Embiid converted the go-ahead three-point play with 55.1 seconds left in the extra period.

He missed 12 of 18 shots from the floor in the game, but made 12 of his 14 free-throws and scored 14 of his points in the final 4:05 of regulation and overtime.

“We all understand there’s a long way to go, but we got our first win and the (locker) room feels great about themselves,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “And I’m very happy for them.”

The Portland Trail Blazers also worked overtime for a victory. Damian Lillard scored 36 points and CJ McCollum added 31 for the Blazers, who edged the Sacramento Kings 122-120.

In Oklahoma City, Blake Griffin scored 25 points to help the Los Angeles clippers to a 110-108 victory over the Thunder.

The Clippers, off to the best start in club history, improved to a league-leading 8-1, avenging their only defeat of the season, an 85-83 setback against the Thunder on November 2.

“It was a big-time trust game for us,” point guard Chris Paul said after the Clippers weathered the Thunder’s blazing start. “We just stuck to the game plan.”

The score was knotted at 50-50 at halftime. An 8-1 scoring run early in the third quarter put the Clippers ahead and they took an 82-74 lead into the final period.

But the Thunder wouldn’t go away and Russell Westbrook tied the game at 102-102 with a three-pointer with just over two minutes to play.

The Clippers answered with a dunk by DeAndre Jordan and a three-pointer by Jamal Crawford.

The Thunder battled back, but Westbrook’s three-point attempt in the waning seconds was off target.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Westbrook, who finished with 29 points. “I should’ve probably drove (to the basket), but it’s all right.”

Record-setting Warriors add Durant for ‘Superteam’ status

October 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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What happens when you combine the heart of a team that won an NBA record 73 games last season with superstar forward Kevin Durant? You just might call it Superteam.

Durant

That’s the status the Golden State Warriors have created for themselves after the off-season signing of former Oklahoma City star Durant, a four-time NBA scoring champion, to a two-year deal worth $54.3 million.

“It’s new and fresh. I’m looking forward to it,” Durant said of joining the Warriors. “I’m super excited.”

After the Warriors lost last year’s NBA Finals to Cleveland in seven games, they toughened their lineup by adding the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player to a roster featuring 2015 and 2016 MVP Stephen Curry and 3-point sharpshooter Klay Thompson in the backcourt plus standouts Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala up front.

“The stakes will be a lot higher this year than they were last year just because of adding Kevin,” Warriors guard Shaun Livingston said.

The Warriors set an NBA record by going 73-9 in the regular season and grabbed a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven championship series only to be foiled when LeBron James sparked the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history.

“I don’t want to walk in the door thinking about game seven,” Curry said. “But you should remember how you felt walking off the floor. You should remember all you did all summer to get yourself in a better position individually and collectively.”

NBA general managers said in a poll they expect Golden State to face the Cavaliers in the finals for a third consecutuive season next June, what would be the decider in a heavyweight trilogy.

“There’s no more pressure on us than there was last year,” Curry said of bouncing back from the upset to defending a crown.

The Warriors dumped a fistful of reserves and traded Australian center Andrew Bogut to Dallas to make salary room for Durant, who reached the Western Conference final four times in six years but has yet to win a title.

“We just try to get better,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “You never expect to get this much better.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr has four All-Star starters and was watched Durant score 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game in the pre-season with Curry averaging 17.2 points, 4.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals.

“You can’t do any better than adding KD to the current crew,” Kerr said. “To play with them and play our style, I think that was attractive to him. It does feel like it should be a perfect fit. It’s going to be a lot of fun once we get rolling.”

Thompson, Durant’s teammate on the US Olympic gold medal team in Rio, is hitting 19.5 points a game and he and Durant are each shooting about 55 percent from the floor.

“It still shocks me that he’s on our team. It’s unbelievable,” Thompson said. “For a guy who has had so much success in his career and is so young, he doesn’t walk around like he’s better than anyone else.”

Green was suspended for game five of the finals after taking a swipe at LeBron James as the Cleveland star stepped over him late in game four. While he was back for the last two contests, his absence helped the Cavaliers avoid an early ouster and planted seeds for the fightback. Green apologized to teammates but there is concern about keeping his fiery nature under proper control.

“If you try to temper him too much, are you taking away his edge?” Kerr said.

LeBron chases Jordan legacy after title for Cleveland

October 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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LeBron James, who achieved a life dream by bringing home Cleveland’s first sports title in 52 years, now draws motivation from wanting to eclipse Michael Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history.

James

James, a native of nearby Akron, will begin his 14th NBA campaign Tuesday as the Cavaliers raise a championship banner at their 2016-17 season opener against New York.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the banner go up: 2015-16 champions. It means a lot,” James said.

The 31-year-old playmaker, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, unleashed one of the NBA’s greatest one-man efforts last June as Cleveland made the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history from 3-1 down to beat Golden State in the best-of-seven series.

James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.3 blocked shots and 2.6 steals a game — leading the finals in each category in an unprecedented feat that earned him unanimous NBA Finals MVP honors.

James sought the fairytale ending when he returned to Cleveland in 2014, having won two titles in four seasons with the Miami Heat after playing his first seven NBA seasons for the Cavaliers.

Now he admits his drive and inspiration come from trying to overtake former Chicago Bullsstar Jordan and be seen as the greatest player in NBA history, a Herculean challenge that should see James to the end of his career.

“My motivation is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago,” James was quoted by Sports Illustrated as telling a high school basketball player.

“What I’ve gone through is totally different than what he went through. What he did was unbelievable and I watched it unfold. I looked up to him so much.

“If I can ever put myself in position to be the greatest player, that would be something extraordinary.”

Jordan, now 53, won six titles in six trips to the finals in the 1990s with Chicago, each time the NBA Finals MVP. He was the regular season MVP five times, an NBA All-Star 14 times and the NBA scoring champion 10 times. He’s also the all-time NBA playoff scoring leader and ranks fourth on the all-time NBA regular-season scoring list.

And that was with Jordan, now the wealthy owner of the NBA Charlotte Hornets, retiring for almost two full seasons in the 1990s for a failed bid at a baseball career.

James has three titles at the same age Jordan had won three titles but has already been to seven career NBA Finals, including the past six in a row. He owns three NBA Finals MVP awards from his championship runs in 2012, 2013 and this year. He’s a 12-time NBA All-Star but won his only scoring crown in 2008.

Both were known for high-leaping slam dunks and acrobatic style in jamming the ball through the cylinder in younger days and adapting to age by utilizing teammates more.

- ‘I’m chasing that greatness’ -

James is still writing his story. Only 12 players have more NBA Finals appaearances, most of them from the Boston Celtics dynasty in the 1950s and 1960s and the rest from the Los Angeles Lakers.

In his five seasons after age 31, Jordan won three titles with Chicago and made a two-year comeback from retirement with the Washington Wizards from 2001-2003, retiring for good at age 40.

By that scale, James has nine more years to make his case as the Greatest of All Time.

“That’s my personal inspiration. That’s what drives me,” James told ESPN. “I’m chasing that greatness. That’s how great that ghost was. If I can be in a situation where I’m even talked about as the best basketball player ever, that will be great.”

But first things first. For James, that means Tuesday starts an eight-month quest to return to the NBA Finals and defend the title, something no Cleveland team has managed since the 1955 NFL Browns.

“It will not be easy, and it shouldn’t be easy,” James said. “In my two years here, it’s never been easy, and in my 13-year career, so far nothing has been easy. So I look forward to the journey and the work that lies ahead.”

Reigning champs Cleveland open preseason with win

October 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked every inch the reigning NBA champions, opening the preseason with a 117-102 victory over the Orlando Magic.

Cavs

The Cavaliers led by as many as 31 points, even with Kyrie Irving taking a night off, the Cavaliers preferring to rest their star guard for the exhibition after his exertions in helping the United States to Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.

“Playing, winning the championship and then playing this summer in Brazil, winning the gold medal, we just thought (it was) a lot of wear and tear on his body, especially in the playoffs when he was playing probably 38 or 39 minutes per game,” coach Tyronn Lue said.

“For the preseason, we just want to let him get his legs under him, bring him along slowly and pick it up as the season progresses, but we don’t want to wear him out, get him to the point where his body is aching or different situations where something is tweaked.”

James, coming off his third NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award after leading the Cavs over the Golden State Warriors in last season’s championship series, scored seven points on three-of-four shooting with six assists in 13 minutes on the floor.

“It was fun to get back out there,” James said.

Kevin Love added eight points and four rebounds in 13 minutes.

James and Love were the only starters from those that opened game seven of the NBA Finals against Golden State.

Along with Irving the Cavs were without Tristan Thompson, nursing a sore foot, and guard J.R. Smith, who has become a free agent and has yet to strike a new deal with the Cavs.

“We’ll have our full group at some point,” James said. ‘It didn’t feel weird. It’s pre-season.”

Cavs reserve Jordan McRae led all players with 20 points, seven rebounds in five assists in 24 minutes on court.

The Cavaliers will launch their title defense in earnest on October 25, when they host theNew York Knicks on the opening night of the regular season.

The Cavs will raise their championship banner that night, and receive their championship rings.

One ring will go to former coach David Blatt, who was unceremoniously sacked at midseason and replaced by assistant Lue.

“It’s not my championship, I recognize that, but I also feel that I did something there, and I graciously accepted because it was a gracious offer on their part,” Blatt said of his decision to accept in remarks reported by the Akron Beacon Journal.

LeBron James longs for more Olympic glory

August 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Three-time NBA finals MVP LeBron James says he is keeping his options open for a return to Team USA for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

James

“I did not retire from Team USA,” he told US sports broadcaster ESPN. “I just did not play this summer. So I still left the door open.”

The Americans advanced to the semi-finals of the men’s basketball tournament with a convincing 105-78 win over Argentina on Wednesday.

A 12-time all-star, James chose to skip the Rio Games because he said he needed to rest after a long season.

“Every time I watch ‘em, I wish I was out there,” he said.

The 31-year-old won two gold medals with Team USA in London and Beijing. He was also on the 2004 American team that lost three games in Athens, settling for a bronze.

James guided his team to the NBA finals in each of the past six seasons.

He returned to Cleveland from the Miami Heat ahead of the 2014-15 season and led the Cavaliers to the NBA finals in both seasons since then.

Cleveland lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 finals before beating the Warriors in the rematch for the first championship in franchise history.

Last week, James signed a three-year, $100 million contract that makes him the NBA’s highest-paid player for the first time in his career.

He has said he would like to own his own team someday.

“I would love to be a part of a franchise — if not at the top,” James said on the website Uninterrupted. “My dream is to actually own a team.”

“If I’m fortunate enough to own a team, then I’m going to hire the best general manager and president that I can,” he added.

“But I feel like I got a good eye for not only talent, because we all see a lot of talent, but the things that make the talent.”

James averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 76 games last season. In the postseason, his averages improved to 26.3, 9.5 and 7.6.

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