Warriors hang on to beat Mavericks in battle of shorthanded teams

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The second half of the TNT doubleheader on Thursday lost some of its luster before the game even started, with both Stephen Curry of the Warriors and Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks being ruled out due to injury. But the game turned out to be exciting nonetheless, as others stepped up on both sides to make for a competitive contest that came down to the very last shot.

In the end, Golden State hung on for a 100-97 victory, and really, it shouldn’t have been that close. The Warriors led by 10 late in the third, and again by 13 with nine minutes to go in the fourth, but both times failed to put the game away as Dallas went on large scoring runs that erased the double-digit deficits each time in a matter of minutes.

The Mavericks used a 9-0 run to close the last two minutes of the third, capped off by a high-arcing three-point shot from Rodrigue Beaubois that fell through the net to end the period.

The Warriors then responded with a 13-0 run to open the fourth quarter, one that lasted three minutes and was capped off by a ridiculous drive and reverse dunk along the baseline from Richard Jefferson, who seemed just as surprised as the rest of us after realizing what he had just done.

Dallas answered yet again, this time with a 13-0 run of its own to get back even at 92 with under four minutes to play. Trailing by one with under twenty seconds remaining, the Mavericks had possession. After a series of passes, the ball landed in the hands of Brandan Wright just a couple of feet from the basket. He went up for the shot, but Andrew Bogut was right there, and didn’t leave his feet while keeping his arms straight up.

Bogut’s defense was excellent, and he caught mostly ball and very little arm while playing about as fundamentally soundly as possible. It was a good no-call by the officials in that situation, but as you might imagine, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn’t see it that way.

“Cant wait to see what the NBA says about this no call with 2 secs left,” Cuban posted to his Twitter account afterward.

In Curry’s absence, the Warriors got a big game offensively from Klay Thompson, who lit it up through three quarters with 27 points on 11-14 shooting in just over 25 minutes of action. He cooled off considerably in the fourth, where he went scoreless in over eight minutes.

David Lee finished with 15 points, 20 rebounds, and nine assists, and Bogut was big defensively with three blocked shots in 25 minutes as he continues to work his way back from the ankle injury.

Dallas was carried by O.J. Mayo’s 25 points, five rebounds, and six assists, and got 22 off the bench from Vince Carter. Shawn Marion nearly matched Lee’s effort on the glass, finishing with 17 rebounds to go along with 18 points.

Even without Curry, this would have been a bad loss for the Warriors considering the multiple large leads that were squandered. They’ll take this win, however, no matter how it came. And for the Mavericks, who were also without Chris Kaman in this one, they can be pleased with the positive effort that resulted in coming back time and again, and perhaps even believe that they were jobbed by the officials on that critical call down the stretch as their team’s owner had suggested.

Reports: Rockets think Chris Paul could be sidelined for up to a month

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The Rockets’ opening night win over the Warriors was a boost to their confidence — they believe they can challenge the Warriors next May in the playoffs.

Chris Paul is a big part of that plan, which is why we may not see him for up to a month (even though he is listed as day-to-day, and officially only out Saturday). With that, the Rockets are considering adding another point guard to the roster. Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Friday afternoon.

At the top of the free agent point guard list is Jameer Nelson, the veteran was just waived by Denver to make room for Richard Jefferson, and the Rockets have reached out to him. C.J. Watson and Trey Burke also are available.

Chris Paul and Harden still need to smooth out playing together, something that will take time on the court together. CP3 being out until mid-November is not ideal, but the Rockets are thinking about May, and ideally June, so they will sacrifice a few games now to have him healthy then.

Dwight Howard still feeling ‘super’ expectations with Hornets

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DETROIT – Dwight Howard went from leading Orlando in the NBA Finals to playing in star-studded Los Angeles to joining a Houston team that also fancied itself a contender to being the highest-paid player in his hometown Atlanta to… landing in Charlotte, a small-market franchise with modest ambitions.

The spotlight finally off the former No. 1 pick, Howard doesn’t feel reduced pressure.

“Everybody expects me to be Superman every single night,” Howard said.

Howard is diving into his new situation – his third team in three years – headfirst. He’s leading pregame huddles and the Hornets onto the court.

“I have the most experience,” said Howard, in his 14th season. “So, it’s not to come in and fit in. It’s to come in and be a leader.”

This is the latest referendum on Howard. Despite eight All-NBA selections (most of them first-team) and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, he faces relentless criticism of his legacy.

His exit from the Magic was so ugly, it’s known as the Dwightmare. His feuding with the Lakers great is the stuff of legend in Kobe Bryant mythology. Howard never clicked with James Harden with the Rockets. The Hawks unloaded him for a paltry return in what was more salary rearrangement than salary dump, and his former teammates reportedly cheered.

Howard just seems to rub people the wrong way.

That makes his latest test in Charlotte so interesting. Howard is supplanting maybe Kemba Walker as the face of the team and definitely Cody Zeller as starting center. The Hornets have found success with Zeller, going 63-53 when he starts and 57-73 otherwise the last three seasons.

“The nature of his game, he plays in a way to help other people play better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Zeller. “He is a screener. He is a ball-mover.”

In other words, the type of player teammates love.

Is Howard?

Howard is still solidly productive. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to the Pistons, he posted 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – and ruffled a few feathers. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

https://twitter.com/Vincent_Ellis56/status/921100491362365440

Dirty-work players who irritate opponents are revered. High-priced players who irritate their teammates are loathed.

Howard walks a fine line.

He returned to Atlanta with emotion and expectations. By the end of his time with the Hawks, everyone seemed unhappy. Still, Howard says he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in front of people, especially his grandparents, who watched him grow up.

“Atlanta is going to be my home,” Howard said. “The Hawks is always going to be my favorite team.”

It’s just never easy for Howard.

Even a career Basketball Reference pegs as 99% likely to end in the Hall of Fame based on his tangible accomplishments stirs controversy.

“He’s a Hall of Famer right now if he never played another game,” Clifford said.

Said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando: “It’s mind-boggling to me that would be any debate there.”

It’s probably easier for Van Gundy and Howard to recall their time together fondly than it was to enjoy it while partnered. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles while Howard was there, is just getting into his time as Howard’s head coach.

It’s those middle moments, in the throes of long seasons, that have proven difficult for Howard and those around him.

Here he is in Charlotte, hosting the Hawks tonight, and facing another challenge. The Hornets would probably be happy just making the playoffs and ecstatic advancing, which would be their first playoff-series victory since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. Howard, who has reached three conference finals, is counting on himself to lead them there – even if nobody else is anymore.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.