Stephen Curry’s 43, halfcourt shot help Warriors top Clippers 144-98

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 25 of his 43 points in the third quarter following his first halfcourt buzzer-beater of the season at the end of the first half to lead the Golden State Warriors to their ninth win in 10 games, 144-98 over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.

Curry’s 51-foot shot was the spark on a night that began with his playing status in doubt because of a sore left quad. After testing his leg in warmups, Curry was cleared to play and showed no signs of being slowed by the injury, hitting nine 3-pointers.

Kevin Durant added 23 points and Klay Thompson scored 16 to give Golden State its eighth straight win over its Southern California rival.

Blake Griffin scored 20 points for the struggling Clippers, who have lost four of five since star point guard Chris Paul went down with a torn ligament in left thumb.

The Warriors broke open the game with a 17-6 run over the final 2:14 of the first half. After Durant scored on a bank shot inside, Draymond Green really got it going when he blocked Griffin and then beat him back down the floor for a dunk. After another stop by Golden State, Thompson hit a 3-pointer in transition to make it 62-45.

Curry punctuated the half with his shot from just beyond halfcourt to beat the buzzer to make it 72-51. Curry dove to the floor in celebration before dancing with his teammates. This was his first basket of the year from beyond 40 feet after making four last season.

Curry picked it up in the third, when he outscored the Clippers 25-23. He made back-to-back 3s late in the quarter to make it a 34-point game. His eighth 3 of the night in the final minute of the third made it 117-74 but Curry did miss another shot from beyond halfcourt at the buzzer.

TIP-INS

Clippers: DeAndre Jordan made all four shots and is shooting 82 percent over the past six games.

Warriors: Golden State outshot its opponent for a 21st straight game, the longest streak in the league since Miami also did it 21 straight in 2004-05, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … F Andre Iguodala, playing on his 33rd birthday, recorded his 5,000th career rebound in the first quarter.

HOMECOMING

Clippers forward Marreese Speights played his first regular-season game at Oracle since leaving the Warriors as a free agent in the offseason. He got a warm ovation from the crowd when he checked in for the first time and quickly allowed Curry to blow past him for a layup. Speights finished with five points.

“Mo is one of my favorite people that I have ever been around,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s just got a smile on his face all the time. He loves to play. He loves to shoot, he’s a phenomenal shooter. He was such a pro for us the last couple of years.”

SPEAKING OUT

Kerr, who has been outspoken in his criticism of President Donald Trump, was asked for his reaction to the crackdown on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. He said he didn’t want to distract from the game but did say: “What’s happening right now is really scary and disconcerting.”

 

Report: Bulls pushing to trade for 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 14: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.

After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.

Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.

Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.

Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.

Report: 76ers trading Ersan Ilyasova to Hawks for Tiago Splitter, picks

Atlanta Hawks guard Mike Dunleavy blocks the shot of Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 110-93. (AP Photo/John Amis)
AP Photo/John Amis
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The 76ers have played like a 64-win team when Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova share the court and a 20-win team otherwise, using data from nbawowy!.

That’s helpful for Philadelphia, which is learning what type of player — a stretch four — works best with its franchise player.

But the Hawks can use more than just a lesson in the idea of Ersan Ilyasova. They can use actual Ersan Ilyasova.

And Atlanta will get him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:

Atlanta stills sound intent on keeping Paul Millsap, so Ilyasova will likely back him up. Ilyasova should work particularly well with Dwight Howard, whose interior play was a key factor in ushering in this stretch-four era by covering for the lighter power forward next to him.

In the last 21 months, Ilyasova has been traded five times: from the Bucks to the Pistons to the Magic to the Thunder to the 76ers and now to the Hawks. They can probably count on the veteran to settle in quickly as they try to improve their position in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Atlanta is fifth, closer to third than sixth.

Both Ilyasova and Splitter have expiring contracts. The advantage of Splitter, who has missed the Hawks’ last 90 games, is that his full compensation counts toward the floor apparently without Philadelphia actually having to play all of his salary.

Plus, those picks could help the 76ers in a season where they can win something meaningful — like the Hawks have decided this season is for them.

Report: Other NBA executives believe Pacers not seriously shopping Paul George

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers in action during the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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The Pacers are reportedly shopping Paul George, trying to line up a trade if they can’t get him help in another deal.

But it’s hard to find anyone who believes Indiana is genuinely looking to trade George before the upcoming trade deadline.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

If the Pacers are serious about trading George, they better convince other teams quickly. That’s the only way to draw out the best offers.

But it makes sense Indiana is only in the exploratory stage.

The Pacers — and only the Pacers — could offer George a designated-veteran-player contract extension (projected to be worth about $209 million over five years) this offseason if he makes an All-NBA team.

That’s probably a longshot. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are locks for three of the six forward spots. Anthony DavisJimmy ButlerDraymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo should also rank ahead of George. Gordon HaywardPaul MillsapKevin Love are firmly in the mix, too. That’s a lot of ground to make up and other contenders to fend off.

But it’s likely worth it for the Pacers to keep George past the deadline and let him try. The upside is so high.

If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Indiana could always trade him at any point before the next trade deadline. He could also qualify as a designated veteran player by making a 2017-18 All-NBA team and re-signing as a free agent in 2018, but by then, it’d be too late for the Pacers to trade him if they don’t have the major financial advantage.

At some point, Indiana could ask George to pledge to stay for his max, whatever that winds up being. That wouldn’t be binding, but his response could be telling.

For now, if I were the Pacers, I’d hope he makes All-NBA this year and dare him to reject the designated-veteran-player extension. If he qualifies and turns that down, that would absolutely be telling.

But I’d also be exploring the trade market now, hoping for an offer that knocks my socks off but more realistically gaining understanding for when dealing George becomes more logical.

Report: Clippers’ Chris Paul cleared, could play against Warriors on Thursday

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul shoots as Portland Trail Blazers' Al-Farouq Aminu watches during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb last month, and the Clippers announced he’d miss 6-8 weeks.

He could return just over five weeks after injury, when the Clippers face the Warriors on Thursday.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, via Andrew Han of ESPN:

“He looked great. He went through the whole practice [on Tuesday]. You know, so it was good. Really good,” Rivers said before practice on Wednesday. “He could play tomorrow. I mean, I can’t tell you if he will or not, but he’s been cleared medically. But we just want to make sure that he’s comfortable playing.”

The Clippers have slid to fourth in the West, leading the fifth-place Jazz by just half a game. It’s probably too late to catch the third-place Rockets, who are five games up. But maintaining home-court advantage in the first round is important.

Paul should help.

The Clippers remain dangerous when healthy. They’ve outscored teams by 15.1 points per 100 possessions when Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick share the court. With those four, they score and defend at rates that would lead the league if it weren’t for Golden State’s historic offensive rating.