Andrew Wiggins comes up big to lift Wolves over Warriors, 103-102

4 Comments

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Stephen Curry got free for a clean look, and a record crowd at Target Center held its collective breath when he let it fly. Like it has so often during a remarkable slump for the game’s best shooter, the ball clanked off the rim again.

Like they have so often during a late-season surge toward playoff contention, the Minnesota Timberwolves walked off the court winners again.

Andrew Wiggins scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half and hit the go-ahead free throws with 12.8 seconds left to lift the Timberwolves to a 103-102 victory over the scuffling Golden State Warriors on Friday night.

Ricky Rubio had 17 points and 13 assists, and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 23 points to give the Timberwolves their sixth win in eight games as they try to chase down the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race. They trail Denver by 2 1/2 games.

“We are learning and getting experience,” Rubio said. “These games are meaning a lot. We are going after it.”

Klay Thompson scored 30 points for Golden State, but Curry’s struggles continued in the Warriors’ second straight loss and fourth in six games without injured star Kevin Durant. Curry scored 26 points, but was just 10 for 27 from the field and 1 for 8 from 3-point range. And he missed an 18-footer in the closing seconds that would have won the game.

Wiggins missed a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left that would have given the Wolves a three-point lead. After Curry hit a floater for a 102-101 Golden State lead, Wiggins responded by calmly knocking down two in a row.

“I missed two but I made the two most important ones of the night,” Wiggins said.

Before a two-game skid against Washington and Chicago last week, the Warriors had gone a league-record 146 straight regular-season games without consecutive losses. Their next streak lasted just two.

In his last 13 games, Curry was shooting 29.7 percent from 3-point range and he missed his first four from long range on Friday night. Three of them were wide open, catch-and-shoot looks that didn’t go down and the other was one of his patented crossover-stepbacks that glanced off the rim.

His first 3 of the night splashed through with 7:59 to go in the third quarter, but missed his next two to keep the floodgates closed. The Warriors were down 14 to start the fourth, but Curry scored nine points in the final four minutes before missing his last shot.

“You take that shot that Steph got any day of the week,” Thompson said. “It went in and out.”

TIP-INS

Warriors: Curry needed 14 points to surpass his father, Dell, in career scoring. Dell Curry scored 12,670 points in his career. … G Shaun Livingston was given the night off to rest. … The Warriors gave up 34 points in the first quarter, the fourth time in the last seven games they’ve allowed at least 30 in the opening frame.

Timberwolves: G Brandon Rush returned to the starting lineup after sitting out on Wednesday because of an illness. … The attendance of 20,412 set a Target Center record. … Towns had just four points on 2-for-8 shooting in the second half.

WEARY WARRIORS

The Warriors are at the tail end of a stretch of eight games in eight different cities in 13 days. Coach Steve Kerr said after the game he planned to rest Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala against the Spurs on Saturday night.

FALSE START

The teams had to be called back onto the court after the players had reached the locker room for the halftime break after a timing problem. The players thought the half had ended on a goaltending violation by Shabazz Muhammad, but replays showed there was still 0.6 seconds left on the clock. Referee Kenny Mauer called everyone back to finish the half, so the players trudged back on to the court to inbound the ball.

Rubio fired up a three-quarter court heave and then everyone went back to the locker room again.

 

Report: Spurs re-signing Pau Gasol to three-year contract

Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Even after Pau Gasol opted out, there it nearly certain he’d stay with the Spurs.

Now, a deal is done.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised San Antonio guaranteed Gasol’s salary next season. By rule, it must be within 5% of what he’ll earn this year.

The Spurs could have major flexibility to chase free agents next summer, making keeping the books clean a priority. Their only constraints with Gasol this year are paying him up to 120% of his prior salary (which comes out to $18.6 million), the hard cap ($125,266,000) and whatever expense ownership would endure. So, if Gasol were willing to play ball, San Antonio could have paid him a sizable salary this year and far less – the room exception or even the minimum – next year.

Instead, Gasol’s compensation will be more balanced between the seasons. We’ll see how much he’ll earn.

Gasol remains an effective scorer, in part because he increased his range beyond the 3-point arc. He rebounds well in his area, and his length and basketball intelligence make him a passable defender given his other skills. His immobility can be a major defensive liability in certain matchups, though.

He’s also 37, an age where players can drop off quickly – another reason a one-year deal would’ve been preferable. At least the partial guarantee in the third year will help San Antonio.

Report: Kyrie Irving asked Cavaliers to trade him, blindsiding LeBron James

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
7 Comments

Kyrie Irving said the Cavaliers were in a “peculiar place.”

We didn’t realize quite how peculiar.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Kyrie Irving is ready to end his run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as league sources told ESPN that the guard has asked the team to trade him.

The request came last week and was made to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Irving has expressed that he wants to go play in a situation where he can be a more focal point and no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James, sources said.

James was informed of Irving’s request and was blindsided and disappointed, sources said.

Irving has admitted playing with LeBron has sometimes been rocky. It paid off with a championship in 2016, and I’m sure Irving found the tradeoff worthwhile then.

But the Warriors are so dominant with Kevin Durant. Even a team with LeBron, Irving and Kevin Love is a major underdog. If Irving would prefer to lead a team, it’s much easier to reject a supporting role when it’s so unlikely to culminate in a championship. (It’s also easier with a title already under his belt.)

This shouldn’t quiet the alarms of LeBron leaving next summer. Just because Irving doesn’t want to play with him doesn’t mean LeBron wants to play without Irving. This could push LeBron further out the door.

I also wouldn’t read too much into this signaling LeBron’s intent to stay in Cleveland. Though it’s possible Irving has a read on LeBron’s plan, a trade is the only sure-fire way to escape LeBron – and do it without playing another year with him.

I wouldn’t  tell Irving what would make him happiest. Cleveland is not a premier market, and playing in LeBron’s shadow isn’t always ideal for another star.

But I’m leery of Irving’s ability to lead a successful team. The Cavs stunk before LeBron returned and have stunk when he sits and Irving plays. Irving’s shortcomings – defense, distributing – become more pronounced as his team’s best player.

Maybe Irving is up for the challenge. He clearly wants it.

Then again, Cleveland doesn’t have to grant him the ability to try. He’s locked up for two more years. He can request, but not force, a trade.

This is a difficult time for the Cavaliers, who need visionary leadership. Their general manager has his hands full.

Oh, right.

NBA: Cleveland won’t get 2020 or 2021 All-Star game unless arena renovation begins by Sept. 15

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski said Cleveland had been promised an NBA All-Star game if it upgraded its basketball arena.

The city committed taxpayer money to arena upgrades.

So, the Cavaliers are hosting an All-Star game?

Not so fast.

A group has opposed the city spending taxpayer money on arena so the billionaire who profits off the arena doesn’t have to pay for upgrades himself. That money could better serve a wider section of Clevelanders, and the group has tied up the plan in court.

Now, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum wrote in a letter that Cleveland might not get an All-Star game.

Kevin Cleps of Crain’s Cleveland Business:

The letter was included in a 276-page summary that was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday, July 20.

In the letter to Gilbert, Tatum confirms that the NBA has received the sports commission’s bid packet to host the All-Star Game in Cleveland, and says the league will be awarding the 2020 and ’21 events in the near future.

But, he adds, the league “will not be able to consider Cleveland as the host city for NBA All-Star 2020 or 2021 unless construction of The Q’s ‘Transformation’ project begins on or before September 15, 2017.”

Tatum says that the NBA has “already delayed the awarding” of those showcase events to “accommodate Cleveland, and unfortunately we cannot ask the other NBA cities that have held these dates open to wait any longer.”

The NBA is dangling a carrot in front of Cleveland, urging the local government to spend taxpayer money on the billion-dollar business’ arena. It might work. It often does. But Cleveland will be fine without an All-Star game, the economic effects of which are often exaggerated.

As Sept. 15 nears, it appears increasingly likely other cities will get the next couple All-Star games to be assigned. Still, there’s a chance the Cavaliers prevail in court in time.

J.J. Redick: Clippers lost joy

1 Comment

J.J. Redick and the Clippers seemed done with each other before free agency even began.

Redick – who signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the 76ers – gave Uninterrupted a behind-the-scenes look into his free agency. In the above video, he revealed plenty about his situation in L.A.:

It’s s—y to say this, but I think I’ve had a loss of joy. I look at our team and how we play, and it’s just there’s no joy in it. That bothers me.

On June 29th at about 10 p.m., I got a call from Lawrence Frank from the Clippers. I jokingly call it my breakup call. He just told me they weren’t going to offer me a contract. I wasn’t going to be back.

There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Blame Chris Paul for not relenting enough in his grating perfectionism and being petty. Blame Blake Griffin for being aloof about weight of his actions. Blame Paul and Griffin for waiting too long to get serious about bonding. Blame Doc Rivers for bringing in Austin Rivers and inviting accusations of nepotism. Blame Doc Rivers for too long setting a tone of whining.

Blame a tough Western Conference and injury for keeping a team with championship aspirations from never advancing past the second round. Blame familiarity, which bred contempt over several years with the same core.

Whomever or whatever you blame, the outcome seems tough to dispute: The Clippers looked joyless by the end of their run. Redick saying it only confirms the perception.

I’m curious whether he’ll find more joy in Philadelphia. A new situation will be refreshing, and the 76ers – young and talented – are hungry. Expectations are low after years of tanking, so even modest gains will be celebrated. But they’re also worse than the Clippers were, and losing more often will be an adjustment.

To get a better idea where Redick is coming from as he begins in Philadelphia, I recommend watching the video in full. It’s quite illuminating.