kemba walker
AP

Walker lifts Hornets past Mavericks, 97-87

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Kemba Walker had no nice way to describe the Charlotte Hornets’ 97-87 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

“That was pretty ugly,” Walker said, before quickly adding that the Hornets will take the wins any way they can get them.

Walker scored 18 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 14 and the Hornets got their third win in the last four games Thursday night to remain in first place in the Southeast Division.

The Mavericks slowed the tempo of the game, but the Hornets didn’t get frustrated and never trailed.

“At the end of the day, it shows toughness,” Walker said. “It shows that we can withstand games. They really slowed it down tonight. But we really stayed with the game and won. … That’s what you have to do on some nights.”

Walker was just 7 of 19 from the field and Charlotte again struggled from the foul line at home.

However, the Hornets got a big boost from their bench, which combined for 46 points on 25 shots, led by Jeremy Lamb, who had 12 points.

“That was a hard game to play,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “It wasn’t a conventional tempo for a NBA game to be played. It was slower. They really execute and they really changed their defenses. The tempo of a NBA game usually lets you get into a rhythm. But there was no way they would let us get into a rhythm. Bottom line is that’s a game that good teams win.”

Harrison Barnes scored 17 points and Justin Anderson added 15 for the Mavericks (3-15), who have lost 10 of their last 11 games.

The Hornets led by two when Walker drained a long 3-pointer to beat the shot clock with 3:51 to give his team the spark it needed. Lamb followed with a driving layup that resulted in a three-point play to push the lead to 86-78.

The Mavs would battle back behind Barnes to cut the lead to three, but Lamb hit two free throws and Walker buried a 3-pointer from the right wing with 41 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

TIP-INS

Mavericks: Deron Williams did not play down the stretch in the fourth quarter because he was on a minutes restriction on the second night of a back-to-back. … Dwight Powell fouled out with 1:18 left.

Hornets: Nic Batum, who received a $120 million contract this offseason, has struggled some with turnovers this season. He entered averaging 2.3 per game and had three in the first half. … The Hornets were 22 of 31 from the foul line and shot 28 percent from 3-point range.

GIANTS WRESTLING

For the most part it was a subdued, lackluster game until the middle of the fourth quarter, when Mavericks center Salah Mejri grabbed the ball after it went out of bounds and cradled it in his arms until Charlotte’s Roy Hibbert inexplicably attempted to rip it out. In a bizarre sight, the two 7-footers started wrestling for the ball well after the whistle had blown ending the play. They finally tumbled to the floor together, sending long arms and legs flying in every direction. Several players were seen trying to keep themselves from laughing at the spectacle after the play, which resulted in Hibbert getting a technical foul.

STRUGGLING FROM 3

Dallas’ Wesley Matthews was upset with himself after the game for making just 1 of 11 3-point shots.

“If I shoot halfway decent, you give me those looks, and it’s a different game,” Matthews said.

ECLECTIC SITUATION

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said his team is in an “eclectic situation” right now.

“We’ve got to get these guys healthy,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to do it the right way. In the meantime, other guys are getting valuable experience. We’re playing some guys in some different positions and finding out some different things. We just have to keep up the fight. If we do that, things will come around.”

DEFENSE WINS

The Hornets improved to 8-0 in games in which they’ve limited their opponent to fewer than 100 points.

UP NEXT

Mavericks: Dallas returns home to host the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

Hornets: Charlotte concludes a three-game homestand on Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

No motivational material: LeBron James, Cavaliers respectful when asked about Warriors

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The rubber match. The trilogy. Whatever you want to call the historic third meeting between the Cavaliers and Warriors in the Finals — never in NBA history have two teams met three years in a row in the Finals — it’s what fans have been waiting for. The inevitability of this Finals matchup sucked some of the drama and fun out of the postseason so far, but now these two teams are ready to go.

It’s the best rivalry in the NBA, two teams not afraid to mix it up with each other, but when Cavaliers players were asked about the Warriors after eliminating the Celtics Thursday night, there was nothing but respect.

“We just got to play defense,” LeBron James said in a televised postgame interview. “We’re going to face adversity. That’s been the best team in our league the last three years, and they added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year, so that makes it even more difficult. So they’re gonna challenge us a lot: offensively, defensively, mentally, physically, but we’re going to have to be ready for that challenge.”

LeBron stuck to that theme in his postgame press conference.

“I’ll be honest, I’m not really in the right mind to even talk about Golden State right now. It’s too stressful, and I’m not stressed right now,” LeBron said cracking a smile. “Golden State, they’ve been the best team in our league the last three years, then they added an MVP. That’s all I can give you right now, because I’m happy and I don’t want a lot of stress, and they cause a lot of stress.”

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he had yet to start any prep for the Warriors.

“Of course I watch every game, because I’m a basketball junkie, and they’ve been playing great,” Lue siad. “But you can’t get too far ahead of yourself.”

“The Celtics and Brad Stevens, the team they have, they throw a lot of different lineups at you and a lot of different stuff on the offensive end, so as far as how they play I think it definitely prepared us for what’s ahead,” Kevin Love said, discussing how the Celtics prepped the Cavaliers for the next round.

The Cavaliers are veterans on this stage, and they both respect the Warriors and don’t need the distraction of a war of words, so they stayed on message all night.

But with a week to go before Game 1, you can bet someone will say something inflammatory. We’re looking at you, Draymond Green.

Watch 36-year-old James Jones throw down a putback dunk vs. the Celtics (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is on his way to his 7th-straight Finals after the Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics, 135-102, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night.

The game was out of hand from the beginning, with the Cavaliers scoring a franchise playoff high 75 points in the first half.

At one point in the fourth quarter, Tyronn Lue emptied out his bench and we got to see some of the Cavaliers garbage time guys get run. One of those guys was James Jones, 36, who has been around so long he was a rookie with Reggie Miller in Indiana.

He also dunked!

Via Twitter:

Let’s all just bask in the glory that is that putback dunk and in our little vacation until the Finals start on June 1.

LeBron James, Cavaliers advance past Celtics to meet Warriors in 2017 NBA Finals

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Let’s line it up and run it again. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are going to meet in the 2017 NBA Finals after LeBron James and the Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 5 on Thursday, 135-102.

It wasn’t much of a contest from the outset as Cleveland looked determined to put away their opponent. The Cavaliers played strong, shot well from 3-point range, and forced the Celtics into 18 turnovers over the course of the game.

The Cavaliers set a franchise playoff record in the first half, scoring 75 points in the first two periods. LeBron had 20 before the third quarter started, putting him just inches away from passing Michael Jordan to top the list for most points scored in NBA playoff history.

That moment came in the third quarter, with James dropping in a sweet 3-pointer from the left side of the arc to push him past Jordan. LeBron finished the game with 35 points, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range will adding eight assists, eight rebounds, and three steals.

Kyrie Irving was another bright spot for the Cavaliers, scoring 24 points to go along with seven assists. Kevin Love added 15 points, and Deron Williams had a rejuvenation off the bench with 14.

For Boston, yet another game without Isaiah Thomas forced their offense into stagnation. Avery Bradley — who had a considerable series in an effort that should not be overlooked — scored 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Gerald Green was Boston’s second-leading scorer in a bench role, adding 14 points.

Now we get to wait until June 1, when what seemed an inevitability way back in training camp has indeed come to pass. The Warriors get their shot at redemption after the worst breakdown in NBA playoff history, and the Cavaliers get a chance to solidify themselves over their peers and galvanize LeBron’s position as the best player of a generation.

The Finals don’t start for anther week. We’ll all be champing at the bit to see if Cleveland really does have what it takes to guard the Warriors offense. Likewise, a top defensive team in Golden State will need to prepare themselves for the LeBron that showed up against the Celtics in Game 1 and 2.

LeBron James on passing Michael Jordan: “I fell in love with the game because of Mike” (VIDEO)

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LeBron James passed Michael Jordan for most points scored in NBA playoff history on Thursday night during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ win over the Boston Celtics, 135-102.

After the game, LeBron and his teammates took to the podium to speak on their accomplishment of making it to yet another Finals as they settle in for a rematch with the Golden State Warriors.

LeBron was humble about his accomplishment, crediting Jordan for driving him to play the game of basketball as well as shaping his own game.

“I wear the number [23] because of Mike. I think I fell in love with the game because of Mike,” said James. “When you’re growing up and you’re seeing Michael Jordan, it’s almost like a god.”

James and the Cavaliers will take on the Warriors in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals on June 1.