Thursday NBA grades: Stephen Curry slays the Bucks

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching your bracket go up in flames on the first day…

source:  Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. Credit the Milwaukee Bucks, they would not roll over, they fought and made Golden State work for it. Stephen Curry was the guy that was not going to let the Warriors pick up an ugly loss at home (especially not with the Spurs and Grizzlies the next two teams on the schedule). Curry scored 14 of his 31 in the fourth quarter, plus he had 11 assists on the night, to hold off the Bucks. Plus he did this.

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. He picked up the last five of his 35 points on the night when Scott Brooks had to put him (and Derek Fisher and Serge Ibaka) back in the game when what had been a Thunder blowout came apart when the Cavaliers showed some fight and went on a 16-0 run. The reason it was a blow out before that had a lot to do with Durant and his teammates playing an efficient game (with Russell Westbrook out). KD had his 35 on 12-of-21 shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists plus his 14th technical of the year for starting down Anderson Varejao after a dunk.

source:   Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves. Must be something about March. A year ago Dieng was a key part of Louisville’s run to a national title, but the rookie has struggled to find a place in the NBA. Then on the day the NCAA Tournament opens the Minnesota reserve big man has his best game of the season — 22 points, 21 rebound, and 4 assists. Sure, the Timberwolves were just destroyed by the Rockets, but it should be about developing guys for the Timberwolves and this was a good sign. Plus Dieng was part of the highlight of the game.

source:   Wesley Mathews, Portland Trail Blazers. Portland had some good ball movement in this one, they looked more like the team from the first months of the season on Thursday night. The big beneficiary was Wesley Mathews who had 28 points and knocked down 4-of-9 from three. Damian Lillard and John Wall had a fun point guard duel, but it was the better team play of the Blazers and guys like Mathews that made the difference.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).

 

 

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.