Cleveland Cavaliers' Irving brings the ball up court against New York Knicks during their NBA basketball game in New York

Kyrie Irving scores career-high 41 points, but Knicks hang on to beat Cavs


Carmelo Anthony sat out Saturday night’s game against the Cavaliers due to a sprained ankle he suffered in Thursday’s win over the Lakers. Without him, the Eastern Conference leading Knicks almost ended up with a loss to a Cavaliers team that now has a record of just five wins against 20 losses on the season.

New York held on for a 103-102 home victory, but Kyrie Irving was the sole reason the game was that close.

Irving poured in a carer-high 41 points, on 15-of-25 shooting from the field, including 5-of-8 from three-point distance. He also finished with five rebounds and five assists, in under 40 minutes of action. He did all of this with a mask on his face, looking like some sort of superhero out there while needing it to protect a broken bone in his jaw that was suffered while playing Friday night against the Bucks.

This Cavaliers team isn’t quite as bad as their record would indicate, at least in terms of the effort they bring on a nightly basis. And with Irving there and able to come through with superstar performances like these, the team will be involved in more games like these than it is not.

The Knicks had this one in hand, leading by 10 with under six minutes to play. That’s when Irving truly took control, scoring all 17 of his fourth-quarter points in the game’s final 5:30 to bring his team back and give them a chance to win it at the very end.

Irving hit two threes on consecutive possessions with under 30 seconds left to cut into a six-point gap, and turn the game into a foul-shooting contest over the final few possessions.

With nine seconds remaining, Steve Novak missed his second of two free throw attempts, and the New York lead was down to two with the Cavaliers bringing the ball up the floor.

Irving was double-teamed out top behind the three-point arc, but found a cutting Anderson Varejao, who was fouled by J.R. Smith with just a second remaining.

Varejao made the first free throw, but the second one was in and out, and the Knicks escaped, despite Irving’s spectacular performance.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.