Stephen Curry scores a career-high 54 points as Warriors lose to Knicks

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There are nights when guys get hot, and there are nights where guys are simply on fire.

Stephen Curry gave us an exciting taste of the latter on Wednesday, pouring in a career-high 54 points while absolutely shooting the lights out, knocking down 11 of his 13 attempts from three-point distance.

Curry’s amazing performance wasn’t enough to give his Warriors the win; it was only enough to give them a fighting chance. Behind 35 points from Carmelo Anthony and 26 from J.R. Smith, the Knicks held on for the 109-105 victory.

It was the Warriors’ second straight loss, and even though they both came on the road against two of the top teams in the East, they won’t be any easier for Curry to swallow. He scored 38 in the loss to Indiana on Tuesday, giving him 92 points combined in the back-to-back set.

Golden State was playing without David Lee in this one, who was serving a one-game suspension for his role in the altercation that involved several players from both teams in Tuesday’s loss to the Pacers. As a result, the Warriors had zero presence in the paint, which led to a ridiculous 28-rebound night for Tyson Chandler inside.

That left the responsibility on Curry’s shoulders, and he delivered in a way we haven’t seen in some time.

The 54 points were the most scored by an opponent in Madison Square Garden since 2009, when Kobe Bryant and LeBron James scored 62 and 52 respectively in consecutive games there. Curry’s total is also now the high score in a single game by any player this season, surpassing the 52 points that Kevin Durant scored on Jan. 18 in Dallas.

Curry started things off with just four points in the first quarter, but really got rolling in the second, where he put up 23 points on 7-10 shooting, including 4-5 from beyond the three-point arc.

He notched 11 more points in the third on 4-5 shooting overall, while hitting all three of his three-point shots in the period. And in the fourth, Curry dropped in 16 more on 5-7 shooting, and made all four of his three-point attempts.

Curry finished 18-28 from the field, and added seven assists, six rebounds, and three steals, while playing the entire game — all 48 minutes.

His night wasn’t perfect, however, as he made a couple of critical mistakes late that helped the Knicks come away with the victory. The first came with 3:13 remaining and the Warriors clinging to a one-point lead, when Curry left his feet and turned the ball over while attempting to make a difficult cross-court pass that was picked off by Iman Shumpert. The ensuing possession resulted in a three-pointer from Anthony that gave the Knicks the lead.

And then, with 1:28 remaining and the game all tied at 105, Curry forced a shot attempt while facing one-on-one defensive coverage from Raymond Felton. Felton played Curry perfectly, and ended up blocking his jumpshot a good 20 feet from the basket. Curry did not attempt a shot the rest of the game.

It was a solid win for the Knicks, who overcame Curry’s otherworldly performance with a more balanced team effort offensively, and a dominant performance on the offensive glass. New York had 27 second-chance points to just two for the Warriors, and those offensive rebounds late in the game, especially in the last three minutes, were ultimately the difference.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.