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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 again flirt with historic playoff start

May 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are on the verge of making their second consecutive 10-0 start to the NBA playoffs when they face the Boston Celtics on Friday.

Lue

The defending NBA champions ripped the Celtics 117-104 in Wednesday’s start of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final series with game two Friday in Boston.

“We did a good job of coming out, throwing the first punch,” said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue.

Cleveland swept past Indiana and Toronto in the opening rounds and could match last year’s 10-0 playoff start, one shy of the best in NBA history, with another road triumph.

“I have to be in attack mode and just put the pressure on the defense and see what happens,” James said. “The energy and effort and mindset was where it needed to be starting on the road, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals.”

James scored 38 points, grabbed nine rebounds and made seven assists against the Celtics in game one, giving him 35 or more in five consecutive games and at least 30 in seven as he raises his game the nearer he gets to reaching a seventh consecutive NBA Finals.

“He’s playing at a high level right now and that’s the reason why we’re riding him so much,” Lue said. “He’s really setting the tone for us in these playoffs. We’re just kind of riding it.

“When LeBron is playing at this level, other guys just have to be solid and I think we’ve got a good chance of winning the game. Let’s see if we can just keep this up.”

Cleveland could become the first team to make 10-0 playoff starts in consecutive seasons. Golden State is off to a 10-0 start in the Western Conference, the Warriors two games from their third consecutive NBA Finals and a possible third consecutive meeting with the Cavaliers there.

The record NBA playoff start of 11-0 was accomplished twice by the Los Angeles Lakers, in 2001 when they dropped only one game on the way to the title and in 1989 when they reached the final only to be swept by Detroit.

One secret to Cleveland’s success has been to take advantage of the rest during breaks between rounds but practice as if every game is a must-win situation.

“We put in a lot of work,” James said. “We’ve been on the practice court or in the weight room training as if we were playing. There’s no way you can substitute a game. But the work that we put in this week, we just tried to be as up to speed as possible when the game did come.”

The Celtics rotated defenders on James to no avail, unable to wear him down, and barely able to slow him down.

“It’s not an individual matchup for me, no matter who’s in front of me. My mind is always racing on how I can make this the best possession at that particular time,” James said.

“I know how many guys I’m going to see throughout the course of a game. The only thing on my mind is how we can execute the best way and get a bucket, either if I can get myself a shot or if I can drive, get my shooters a shot, or if I can get a double-team in the paint or get to the free throw line.”

That group effort has allowed guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love to take their share of the load off James and play swarming support defense against top rival scorers, forcing shots from players unaccustomed to carrying the task of point production.

“We wanted to come in and set the tone and dictate the game and we felt like we did a good job of doing that,” Love said. “We felt like we could have played better and there are some things we’ll look at that will be better for Friday.”

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.”

Curry leads Warriors to complete NBA Western Conference sweep

May 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Curry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cavaliers sweep past Raptors into conference finals

May 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Cleveland Cavaliers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cavaliers, Rockets romp in NBA playoff second-round openers

May 3, 2017 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.”

Paul Pierce departs league with ‘no regrets’

May 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Paul Pierce said Sunday he departs the NBA with “no regrets” despite the bitter disappointment of the Los Angeles Clippers first-round playoff loss to the Utah Jazz.

Los Angeles Clippers v Utah Jazz - Game Six

“I really enjoyed myself with this group this year. Regardless of what happened today with the basketball, I’m happy,” he said.

“What I’ve been able to accomplish, what I’ve been able to do with my career, I gave every ounce I could. I have no regrets.”

After the retirements of Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, the NBA is bidding farewell to another star of the 2000s in Pierce.

The 39-year-old won a title with the Boston Celtics in 2008 and competed for another in the NBA Finals.

But his bid to recapture that magic with former Celtics coach Doc Rivers in Los Angeles — where he signed with the Clippers as a free agent prior to the 2015 season — didn’t pan out.

But he was hailed by his peers as one of the greats.

“Paul Pierce is ‘The Truth’” Bryant told The Players’ Tribune website — a nod to Pierce’s nickname.

A video tribute on the website featured Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Oscar Robertson and an emotional Kevin Garnett, Pierce’s teammate in Boston and Brooklyn, among others.

Pierce later tweeted his thanks.

“Thanku to all my NBA brothers and sisters associated with the game a game Ive loved my whole life but now ready for a new chapter stay tuned,” he posted on the social media site.

Pierce leaves the game with 26,397 career points, the 15th-most on the league’s all-time scoring list.
On Sunday he played 22 minutes, scoring six points and pulling down three rebounds.

He left the court waving to fans in his hometown, where his time with the Clippers at last let him play regularly in front of family members, including his mother, Lorraine.

“It’s tough if you come up short of your goals,” Pierce said. “Every year you set a goal to be champions and it’s a tough pill to swallow every year.”

“I’ve been in the league 19 years and had to swallow 18 tough pills.” Preparing to leave Staples Center on Sunday, Pierce indicated the magnitude of retirement had not fully sunk in.

With his departure, Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter are the only members of the 1998 NBA draft class still playing.

Perhaps when next season is approaching, and he isn’t trying to gear himself up for another long campaign, he will understand what retirement means, he said.

“Maybe in those months, when I get up and I don’t have to practice, it’ll hit me more,” he said.
When it does, he does not expect to have any second thoughts about the decision to depart.

“I enjoyed this ride,” Pierce said.

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.

Raptors, Spurs advance to second round of NBA playoffs

April 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Kawhi Leonard tallied 29 points as the San Antonio Spurs advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs with a 103-96 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies

Tony Parker delivered 27 points for the Spurs, who eliminated the Grizzlies by winning the Eastern Conference series in six games.

“He is playing at an MVP level and I hope he can keep it going because we are going to need him in the next round,” said Parker of teammate Leonard.

The Spurs next face the Houston Rockets in a best of seven series that gets underway on Monday.

Elsewhere, DeMar DeRozan delivered 32 points as the Toronto Raptors rebounded after blowing a 25-point second half lead to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 92-89 to reach the second round.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 12 rebounds for San Antonio, who won for the first time in Memphis this season.

The Grizzlies got 26 points from Mike Conley and 18 from Marc Gasol. This was Conley’s fifth straight game with 20 points or more.

Zach Randolph finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

San Antonio survived a strong challenge from Memphis by outrebounding the Grizzlies 46-28.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Memphis was a good test and now his team is better prepared to go on a long postseason run.

“One thing I do like is Memphis is a heck of a defensive team and they play rock ‘em, sock ‘em. That gets you ready for anybody you are going to play,” Popovich said.

“This was a chance for a lot of our guys who haven’t been with us a long time to see how it works in the playoffs. The kind of tenacity … and that anything can happen. We have had big leads, other teams have had big leads, and you lose them. It is tough, people are hungry, they want to win.”

Veteran Parker shot 78.6 percent from the field (11-of-14), the best he’s ever shot in a postseason game.

“I was just trying to be aggressive and my teammates were setting great picks for me,” France’s Parker said.

In Milwaukee, the Raptors used a 9-0 surge late in the fourth quarter at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center arena to win the first-round Eastern Conference series, eliminating the Bucks in six games.

Toronto advances to face the second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round, a rematch of last season’s East finals.

DeRozan led the way for Toronto on Thursday. He made 12-of-24 from the field, including a highlight reel dunk with 48 seconds remaining. Kyle Lowry added 13 points for the Raptors.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 34 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 47 minutes, but made just seven of 13 attempts from the free-throw line. The Bucks made only 18 of their 28 foul shots.

The Raptors led by as many as 25 in the third quarter before Milwaukee finally got their act together. The Bucks closed the quarter on a 15-3 run to make it a 74-61 game heading to the fourth.

Toronto led by six in the fourth when Serge Ibaka drew his fourth foul, but a 14-0 Milwaukee run put the Bucks up 80-78 with just over three minutes to play.

Jason Terry nailed a long range three-pointer to make it a one-possession game with 16 seconds left but DeRozan closed it out from the foul line.

Wizards, Celtics back on top in East playoffs

April 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Washington Wizards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Harden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 23, 2017 by · 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 by · 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.

Warriors rout Portland, Butler shines for Bulls in NBA playoffs

April 17, 2017 by · 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 by · 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 by · 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 by · 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 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.

Butler brilliance sparks Bulls, Clippers down Lakers

April 2, 2017 by · 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 by · 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

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