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AP

Durant, Warriors rally for 117-101 win against Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) Kevin Durant had 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and the Golden State Warriors turned an ugly start into an easy finish in a 117-101 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.

Klay Thompson added 23 points for the Warriors, who opened a three-game road trip that leads into their NBA Finals rematch in Cleveland on Christmas. They didn’t look ready while falling behind by 16 at halftime, but were back to their sometimes unstoppable selves while outscoring the Nets by 32 points over the final 24 minutes.

Stephen Curry and Zaza Pachulia each finished with 15 points for the Warriors, who played without Draymond Green, who returned to the Bay Area early Thursday after the birth of his son, Draymond Jamal Green Jr.

Brook Lopez scored 28 points for Brooklyn, but just five in the second half as the Nets dropped their fourth straight. They complete a back-to-back against the last two NBA champions when they visit Cleveland on Friday.

Golden State earned its sixth consecutive win and improved the NBA’s best record to 26-4.

The Warriors had won their last two games by a combined 75 points but didn’t play much defense in the first quarter of this one, allowing 34 points, and then couldn’t find their offense in the second, managing just 16 while the Nets dominated behind Lopez. Brooklyn led 65-49 at the break.

Golden State returned with 12 straight to cut it to 65-61 on Curry’s jumper, outscored the Nets 39-19 and took an 88-84 edge to the fourth. It was soon 103-91 after consecutive baskets by Shaun Livingston, and the Warriors kept pouring it on until they got their starters to the bench for good with a few minutes left.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Golden State improved to 8-0 against the Eastern Conference. … Coach Steve Kerr said the Warriors don’t know if Green will return on the road trip, but thought the Michigan State product might want to be back for Friday’s game at Detroit.

Nets: Jeremy Lin finished with 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. It was just his 10th game all season because of injuries and his first at home since Nov. 2, when he originally strained his left hamstring. … The Nets played without rookie PG Isaiah Whitehead, who often started for Lin, because of a sore left foot.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Visit Detroit on Friday. Golden State was routed 113-95 there last Jan. 16.

Nets: Visit Cleveland on Friday. Brooklyn has lost its last six there.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.