Carmelo returns against soft Nets defense, sparks Knicks win


We’ve got a way to go before this “battle of the boroughs” resembles a real rivalry. Or maybe even a fair fight.

After Wednesday night, the once-hot Brooklyn Nets are 2-8 in their last 10 games, and it all comes back to defense. Which we thought would be a weakness before the season even tipped off and it has been a trouble spot lately.

It showed up again Wednesday night facing the best offense in the NBA in the New York Knicks — and on a night they got Carmelo Anthony back. ‘Melo went for 31 points and the Knicks pulled away in the fourth quarter on their way to a comfortable 100-86 win at home. Comfortable as in this didn’t feel like a rivalry. Or a huge challenge. The Knicks are now up 2-1 in the season series on the Nets.

In their three meetings this season, Anthony has scored a combined 110 points.

The outcome here shouldn’t be a shock. In the Nets 10 games prior to this, they had given up 108.6 points per 100 possessions, which would be worse than the Hornets or any team has given up all season long. Then the Knicks came through and put up 114.3 on Wednesday night.

Antony was at the heart of it, putting up 17 points in the first half and being a key part of the 18-6 run where the Knicks took control of the game in the third quarter.

It was a night where the Madison Square Garden fans and the Knicks bench seemed flat, with the exception of J.R. Smith. The Knicks gunner sixth man had 19 points, five rebounds and three assists.

For the Knicks, this felt like a professional win. The kind really good teams have — they were not spectacular or dominant in any one area, they just executed when they had to and were better than their opponent in pretty much every category.

For the Nets, they got a close look at how far they are away from elite right now.

There is a lot of talk about the Nets offense — Deron Williams 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting Wednesday — complained before the game and Joe Johnson said after the game there is too much isolation. Normally I’d say a coach as tied to management as Avery Johnson is safe, but the Nets have pretty much locked themselves into this roster for a couple years. If the players can’t change…

Johnson needs to get them to. He needs to get them to defend, first, find some direction in the offense second. Because things are starting to go bad in Brooklyn and it could get a lot worse. Especially when they have to watch that team in Manhattan continue to look like a contender.

Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury

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In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.

He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.

Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.

Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.

Pacers use late surge to beat Clippers, close in on playoffs

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles’ fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games.

They certainly had a chance to turn things around.

After the Clippers rallied from an 18-point deficit to take an 88-87 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter, the teams traded the lead 10 times before Victor Oladipo made one of two free throws to leave it tied at 100 with 2:17 to play.

Bogdanovic broke the tie with a 12-footer and the Pacers followed that with seven straight points before Williams made a layup with 12 seconds left to end the run.

The Clippers were making shots early but couldn’t pull away from Indiana.

They led 28-27 after one and allowed Indiana to use a 9-2 spurt midway through the second quarter to erase a six-point deficit and take a 40-39 lead.

The Pacers scored the final five points of the half to break a 53-all tie and broke it open early in the third when Oladipo made his first three shots of the game, including two 3-pointers to make it 66-55.

Indiana then poured it on. Thaddeus Young‘s layup with 9:02 left in the third made it a 12-point game. Milos Teodosic‘s basket briefly halted the run, but the Pacers scored the next nine points to make it 75-57 with 6:19 to go.

Los Angeles closed the third quarter on a 12-5 run to get to 82-76.


LeBron James throws touchdown pass like Cleveland fans hope Sam Darnold can

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Cleveland fans can only hope Sam Darnold is as good a passer as LeBron James.

And that his receivers are better than Jose Calderon. Or at least taller.

LeBron James grabbed a rebound and threw a perfect touchdown pass to a leaked out Jose Calderon as the Cavaliers went on to beat the Phoenix Suns Friday night.

🙌🏽 @kingjames 🎯 @jmcalderon8 🙌🏽

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By the way, LeBron made a nice dish to the returned Larry Nance Jr., too.


Report: Rockets to waive Brandan Wright

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Finally healthy, it was easy to see where big man Brandan Wright would fit on Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets — he’s an athletic big man who can get up and down the court, he knows how to finish lobs above the rim, and could provide some front line depth behind Clint Capela and Nene. That’s why the Rockets picked him up in February after he was bought out by the Grizzlies.

It didn’t work out that way. Wright played in one game with Houston before his sore knee forced him to shut it down. He has not played since.

The Rockets are moving on, waiving Wright and bringing in forward Le’Bryan Nash out of the G-League on a 10-day contract, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

With center Brandan Wright unable to return from his knee issues this season, the Rockets will release Wright, who signed as a free agent last month, a person with knowledge of the move said…

He had a minor procedure and will work on his rehab with the Rockets staff, the individual familiar with the plans said.

 “Brandan did everything positive,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He just wasn’t physically able to hang in there. We hate it that the guy isn’t part of this.”

Wright has played in just 28 total this season averaging 5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes. He’s battled knee issues for a few seasons now and has not played more than 28 games in the last three. If healthy he can help teams, but we’ll see if he ever gets back into the NBA.

The Rockets use Ryan Anderson as their backup center, using Nene less of late, although how much D’Antoni can use Anderson in the playoffs due to his defensive challenges remains to be seen.

Nash, who played a season at Oklahoma State, will get his first taste of the NBA. He was a highly recruited kid out of high school, and this season has averaged 8.5 points in 19 minutes per game for the Rio Grande Vipers this season.