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.

Fergie says she “tried my best” after national anthem blowback

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fergie is apologizing after trying something different with the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” the Grammy-winning singer said in a statement Monday. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after she finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on “the dawn’s early light.”

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 +-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured Sunday’s mood – and became an instant GIF – when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, “Let’s play some basketball!”

The Black Eyed Peas singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he “needed a cigarette” after Fergie’s performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal leaped to Fergie’s defense, saying: “Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone.”

Others on social media weren’t as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

 

Did Lakers help keep LeBron James in Cleveland with trade?

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When the trade went down between the Lakers and Cavaliers before the deadline — sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus Cleveland’s 2018 first-round draft pick (top-five protected) — it caught the NBA by surprise.

The first reaction for a lot of people to the deal? This opens up as much as $70 million in cap space for the Lakers this summer (depending on other moves with players such as Julius Randle). Los Angeles could sign two max players — LeBron James and Paul George. Why would Cleveland help Los Angeles open up room to steal LeBron.

The Cavaliers didn’t see it that way — they knew they had to make a major shakeup or LeBron was gone. At that point, does it matter where? So in a series of moves, Cleveland GM Koby Altman radically remade the roster around LeBron. The goal was to energize them back into being the team to beat in the East, and from there make it hard for him to leave as a free agent. Since the trades, the Cavaliers are 2-0 and LeBron has clearly been reinvigorated, plus they will add Kevin Love back in a few weeks.

Altman’s plan seems to be working, one executive told Mark Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”

I had heard from sources for a while LeBron to the Lakers was not likely (Paul George is another story, that door remains open). As Spears notes, the Lakers did not have an All-Star in Sunday’s game. Even if LeBron and PG13 went to Los Angeles, that team was third or fourth best in the West next season. LeBron is in full on legacy mode and wants to win rings. Los Angeles is not the place to do it.

Houston is interesting (and it’s still a team I hear some execs think has a real shot), but the gutting or role players on that roster to make it work would be a concern. Maybe a dark horse such as Philadelphia can emerge. However, if LeBron can lead this newly-energized Cavaliers team to the Finals again (his eighth consecutive trip there), they get a high draft pick with the Brooklyn pick, then LeBron gets a commitment from Altman and owner Dan Gilbert to keep spending and being aggressive, where is he going to be closer to a title than at home?

Lou Williams trolls Jimmy Butler for resting during All-Star Game

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Jimmy Butler was in Los Angeles and enjoying his well-earned All-Star slot on Team Stephen.

Well, except for the actual playing basketball part. Butler did not set foot on the court during the All-Star Game at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

Lou Williams, the Clippers’ guard who likely would have been near the front of the line for an open All-Star roster spot in the West (likely second in the queue behind Chris Paul), but instead took part in the Saturday Skills Competition then had Sunday off, trolled Butler for it on Twitter.

This seems more good natured than genuinely bitter.

Williams will roll with it, but his point’s a valid one — if you’re an All-Star, at least play a little and give the people what they want. Get out there for five minutes or whatever. LaMarcus Aldridge only played four minutes, no big deal.

If you’re not going to use the roster spot, give it up to someone who will.

Report: Raptors won’t sign Vince Carter if he gets bought out

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Of returning to the Raptors, Vince Carter said, “It’ll happen one day.” It sounds as if the Kings would buy him out if he wants.

Will he end the season with Toronto?

Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050:

After speaking with a few team sources, I can confirm that they’ve had internal dialogue and debate about the idea of bringing Vince Carter back. It’s something that they wanted to do over the summer. That’s why they made him an offer, something that I’ve reported in the past. And it’s also something that they’d be open to in the future, perhaps next year in some capacity. But they’ve decided now is not the right time. And I think the consensus seems to be there’s so much going on right now, and they want this season to be about this team, their accomplishments and their playoff push and not the sideshow that I think would come with a Vince Carter return.

The Raptors (41-16) are on pace for their best record ever. They’re excelling offensively and defensively. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are spearheading a more dynamic offense that spurs hope for more playoff success.

Toronto is probably correct to save the Carter reunion for another year – though it depends who else is available. That 15th roster spot could be useful. If Carter is the best player who’d sign, the Raptors should sign him and deal with the hoopla.

But it’s not clear whom they could get or whether they could even get Carter. He hasn’t sounded like someone who’d forgo guaranteed salary to play for the minimum.