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Michael Redd calls surprise start “one of the proudest moments of his career” after Suns beat the Bobcats

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Michael Redd arrived at the US Airways Center in Phoenix more than four hours before his Suns were set to face the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. The reason, he said, was just to get some extra work in and to keep himself prepared for when his time would come to play more minutes.

He found out shortly before tip-off that his time was now.

Redd was in the starting lineup for the first time in over two years, and made it count by scoring a team-high 17 points in the Suns’ 95-89 victory over the NBA’s worst team.

“One of the proudest moments of my career,” Redd said afterward, when asked what this performance meant to him. “To get the win was obviously the key. But to come back, through the tears, through the hurt, through the hours of rehab, training to come back and accomplish this, is maybe the most proud moment of my career, actually.”

Redd’s last start came on Jan. 10, 2010, in the game where he suffered a devastating and career-threatening knee injury for the second time. The start on Saturday came courtesy of a thigh bruise suffered by Jared Dudley in Phoenix’s Friday night loss to the Rockets. It also came as a surprise.

“He didn’t even tell me, actually,” Redd said, when asked when he was told he’d get the start. “[Coach] told me during the pre-game scouting, ‘Mike, you have [Reggie Williams].’ I said, ‘Okaaaay.’ So everything had to switch from coming off the bench to having a starting mentality. I was honored by the fact that he would even ask me to do that, that he would have enough faith in me and trust in me.”

Things didn’t start off on the highest of notes for Redd. He missed his first four shots, but hit six of his final eight to finish the night at 50 percent shooting, which included draining four of his seven three-point attempts. He blamed adrenaline for the slow start, and credited his teammates for helping him stay positive as he was able to work through it.

“My teammates kept encouraging me,” Redd said. ” ‘Mike, you’re going to be just fine, you’ve got to run the bugs out.’ The adrenaline was going, but once I hit my first three, I kind of settled in.”

Not only did Redd score, but he did so when his team needed that boost the most. The Bobcats played well for much of the night, and built their lead to as many as 10 early in the third quarter. Redd scored five straight points to begin the Suns’ run to right the ship, and then hit a three that erased the lead completely and tied the game at 67.

Some of Redd’s looks were self-created, but on several of his attempts, he was left wide open. He admitted that he was surprised by that, and said it’s been a long, long time since he’s had that much space to operate.

“Yeah, I haven’t seen that since the Ray Allen and Big Dog (Glenn Robinson) days (playing for the Bucks), when Ray Allen was over here, Glenn was right here, and Sam Cassell was right there, so I’d be left open,” he said. “I haven’t seen that in a long time. I’m usually seeing double teams and all kinds of traps, so it was great.”

If Redd can maintain any type of consistency with his offense, it would be equally great for a Suns team that is committed to keeping Steve Nash and making a run at the playoffs. Alvin Gentry has already tinkered with the lineups and rotations plenty this season, and keeping Redd with the starters for at least another couple of games should be the logical choice. Dudley can come off the bench, and can still play the same number of minutes he’s accustomed to playing, while providing energy, cohesion, and stability for the second unit.

It’s been 10 years since Redd played in Milwaukee with the guys he mentioned. It only seems like that long since he has been completely healthy, when he was a player opposing teams needed to plan for on the offensive end of the floor. But after getting back into the starting lineup and looking good while doing so, that time might once again be upon us.

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!

Nicolas Batum zips pass between Tobias Harris’ legs to assist Frank Kaminsky (video)

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Listen up, defenses: Nicolas Batum will throw passes between your legs.

Three things we learned Wednesday: Warriors, Cavaliers try to make statements in December

Golden State Warriors forward Kevon Looney, left, and Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford reach for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 115-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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ESPN thought they had a great double header on Wednesday, but those games were decided by a combined 49 points, you should have flipped over to Hairspray Live. Anyway, here are the big takeaways from Wednesday.

1) You can’t have a statement game in December. But if you could Cleveland, Golden State made them. Can we just skip ahead to Christmas when these two teams finally play each other? Plus by then my shopping will be done, and I’m dreading doing it. We’ve said before the Cavaliers and Warriors have established themselves as the best in their conferences and they made that point with authority on Wednesday.

Cleveland did it thrashing the Knicks 126-94. To be fair, the Knicks were on the second night of a back-to-back and were without Derrick Rose. But that is a small part of the disparity here. First, Phil Jackson may want to not try to piss off the best player on the planet. Just a suggestion. Beyond that, the Knicks have had a good season (12-10), but they match up poorly with Cleveland. They don’t have a good defender for Kyrie Irving. Nobody has a good one for LeBron (well, maybe the Spurs). Kristaps Porzingis struggles to defend in space, and Kevin Love can exploit that. I can go on, but you get the picture. Between beating Toronto Monday and this, the Cavs are back to exploiting their advantages out East.

Golden State made its statement by blowing out a Clippers team that had been the second-best team in the West to this point. The Warriors did it with defense first — Los Angeles shot 39.6 percent as a team. Stephen Curry did a respectable job on Chris Paul (15 points on 14 shots), Klay Thompson blanketed J.J. Redick (just four shots), and Draymond was built to guard Blake Griffin (12 points on 20 shots, with seven turnovers). The Warriors anticipated the Clippers skip passes and turned those into transition chances (Golden State won the fast break points battle 27-11). The Warriors didn’t even have a great night on offense — Curry was 0-of-8 from three — and won 115-98 (and it wasn’t that close). Still, the Warriors ball movement was there.

Marreese Speights is in a unique position — the Clippers backup big was with the Warriors the past few seasons, and he was honest and harsh in his assessment of the differences between these teams.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo got a triple-double on an off night. He’s that good. Portland is not a good defensive team. Improved with Al-Farouq Aminu healthy and back on the court, but still not good. However, their defensive strategy of having their bigs play back and not press high off picks works against Giannis Antetokounmpo because you want to make him a jump shooter anyway — and the Greek Freak was notably frustrated at times Wednesday night.

And he still had a triple double of 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. He’s playing that well. Look at it this way, in a Westbrook/Harden world Antetokounmpo is the only NBA player averaging more than 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals a game this season.

The real story for the Bucks was the 27 from Jabari Parker, that’s the reason Milwaukee beat Portland 115-107.

3) Kemba Walker needs to be an All-Star, he got Hornets a win over Pistons. Charlotte shot 34.1 percent Wednesday night, no way they should get a win in that situation. But alas, there was Kemba Walker, who had 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter sparking a Charlotte win, 87-77. Walker is averaging 23.6 shots per game, is shooting a career-best 41.4 percent from three, has a true shooting percentage of 58.2 percent (well above the league average), and is the everything for the Hornet’s offense.

The man deserves to be playing in New Orleans in the All-Star Game this year. I know the East is loaded with quality point guards — Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall — but Kemba has earned the recognition this year.

Warriors rout Clippers 115-98 for 7th straight win over LA

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, left, tries to go up for a shot as Los Angeles Clippers guard Alan Anderson defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 115-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 24 points, Draymond Green added 22 points and the Golden State Warriors routed the Clippers 115-98 on Wednesday night for their seventh straight win over Los Angeles.

Stephen Curry had 19 points for Golden State, and Kevin Durant, who came averaging a team-best 27.0 points, was held to 16 on 5-of-17 shooting.

Curry failed to make a 3-pointer for just the second time this season, going 0 of 8. The Warriors were 7 of 30 from long range.

Jamal Crawford scored 21 points for the Clippers, who have lost five of seven. Four of their seven overall losses have come at home.