Associated Press

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant engage in spontaneous, fierce three-point shootout

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Steve Kerr paid close attention. Teammates, too. Nobody wanted to miss this impromptu, incredible shooting display by two of the world’s best.

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant took turns firing 3-pointers from all over the court, some 200 of them total, while their coaches-turned-rebounders kept careful count of makes and misses and others watched in awe. Klay Thompson was shooting behind them, “I heard a lot of makes, though.”

Steph edged KD by a single 3, per player development coach Bruce Fraser’s figures from Tuesday’s shootout. Durant later confirmed the final stats.

“That was a really skillful workout right there, there wasn’t a lot of athleticism being shown, but iron sharpens iron,” Durant said. “You only get better when you play with the best and you work with the best.

“I didn’t even realize what we were doing. I was really just focusing on regaining some touch. It was definitely fun working with Steph. He works so hard, he brings something different to the game that I don’t have and I think vice versa. We push each other.”

Special guest Chris Wondolowski got a treat. The San Jose Earthquakes star and U.S. national team forward realized he had come on the right day to witness an amazing show of shot-making.

Even those who see Curry and Durant every day appreciated this performance.

“It was really fun for me to watch,” Kerr said. “It’s really fun to think about, `Oh, yeah, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, they’re on our team.”‘

And their post-practice shooting went up a notch this week with the playoffs about to begin. The fierce competition on Curry’s regular practice court became all-out entertainment with Durant healthy at last from a left knee injury that sidelined him for 19 games. The session lasted about 30 minutes. They talked and laughed, they cursed a little, they hollered at the basketball to cooperate.

Mostly, it did.

“Anyone that can keep up with Steph is an amazing shooter,” Fraser said. “You can count that on one hand, and Kevin’s one of them.”

Swish after swish, an occasional clank off the rim, but that’s pretty rare for these two. Even when they are taking 100 of them each in a game that’s just for fun.

“Don’t step out of bounds, KD!” Kerr yelled from behind the baseline as Durant let fly a corner 3.

Kerr notes that his pet peeve is seeing players in practice step on the end line – and Durant has big feet so it could easily happen – because then it’s more likely to occur during games.

His two biggest stars were locked in. The contest required each to make five 3s from five different spots, but when neither would miss it often took 10, 11 or 12 straight 3-pointers before someone would win that location and they could move on to the next.

“It was super spontaneous, it wasn’t planned, which is always sometimes the best way,” Fraser said. “It’s good when those two get together for many reasons. It’s good camaraderie, good for them to spend some time together and it’s also a good way for them to compete a little bit. It’s pretty incredible to be able to work with two of the best players in the world on the same court, the same space.”

And you should see that frayed net. Equipment chief Eric Housen acknowledges it’s overdue for a replacement given all the work Curry gives that basket.

The shooting marathon sure seems to have paid off: Durant went 11 for 16 and made 5 of 7 3s a day later in a win Wednesday against the Lakers. Curry also hit five.

“He mentioned that he’s a little hesitant coming off the injury, but he looked real springy,” Curry said afterward. “Obviously found his touch, so that’s a good sign.”

Now they’ll try to transfer that steady shooting and energy to the court when the NBA-best and top-seeded Warriors (67-15) host Portland in Game 1 on Sunday afternoon at Oracle Arena.

Playing off ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, they’re calling this friendly game “30 for 35” – for Curry’s No. 30 jersey and KD’s 35.

“Steph said it first, he said `30-35’ and I put in the `for,”‘ Fraser said. “At the beginning it was just kind of a light shooting where they were moving around and making 21 shots, then they got into a collective make 10 from each space, so it was combined where they were working together. And then we put it where they were going against each other, which was interesting because they kind of both perked up. Neither wanted to lose to the other.”

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LeBron James’ triple-double lifts Cavaliers past Bucks

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 40 points as part of his third triple-double in four games and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 on Monday night as coach Tyronn Lue began his leave of absence to address health issues.

Lue said Monday in a statement he been dealing with chest pains and loss of sleep, and that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is. Associate head coach Larry Drew will run the team in Lue’s absence.

James scored 17 points in the third quarter and finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 16th triple-double this season and 71st of his career.

The four-time MVP took over in the third beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers. After not getting a foul called on a third attempt, he finished Cleveland’s next possession with a massive dunk. He was fouled attempting another dunk and made both free throws the following time down.

Milwaukee cut a 17-point lead to 117-109, but James drove the length of the floor for a dunk with just over a minute left.

Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love returned after missing six weeks because of a broken left hand and scored 18 points in 25 minutes. He sparked a 10-0 run in the second quarter with two 3-pointers

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points and went 11 for 11 at the foul line for Milwaukee, which is seventh in the Eastern Conference. Khris Middleton had 30 points, making 11 of 16 from the field.

Milwaukee guard Jason Terry was given a Flagrant-1 foul for hitting Ante Zizic in the face with an open hand while the rookie center was putting up a shot in the lane. Zizic made both free throws, helping spark a run that built a double-figure lead.

Lue, 40, led Cleveland to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season.

The Cavaliers (41-29) are third in the Eastern Conference and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to reach the NBA Finals for the fourth straight time.

No timetable has been given for when Lue will return. He missed the second half Saturday, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn’t feeling well. Lue also sat out a game against Chicago at home in December.


Pelicans rookie Frank Jackson has another surgery, will miss entire season now

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans say rookie guard Frank Jackson won’t make his NBA debut this season after having follow-up surgery to remove residual scar tissue from earlier right foot operations.

The Pelicans say Jackson also received an injection in his foot.

The club says a specialist in New York handled Jackson’s latest procedure.

The Pelicans acquired the 6-foot-4 Jackson through a draft-night trade with the Charlotte Hornets, who selected the former Duke player with the first pick of the second round last summer.

Following the draft, the Pelicans signed Jackson to a three-year contract at the NBA minimum with two years guaranteed, but Jackson needed a second foot surgery last summer to address a setback following his initial surgery last May.

Jackson spent one season at Duke, averaging 10.9 points.


Giannis Antetokounmpo turns bad pass into ridiculous alley-oop (VIDEO)

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That is just not fair.

Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe threw an alley-oop pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo that was off the mark — high and behind him — but it just doesn’t matter. The Greek Freak gets up and throws it down.

It’s early, but it’s going to be hard to beat that one for dunk of the night.

League’s Last Two Minute Report backs referees (mostly) in Raptors/Thunder game

Associated Press

Anyone who watched the Thunder’s win over the Raptors Sunday afternoon in Toronto — especially the final few minutes — thought it was not referee Marc Davis and crew’s finest hour. There were missed calls and three-straight ejections of Raptors players, which all seemed rather hair-trigger (especially coach Dwane Casey, who was tossed for something a fan behind him said).

The NBA’s Last Two Minute report doesn’t see it that way — it says the referees nailed it.

According to the report, there was only one missed call in the final two minutes: Carmelo Anthony held Pascal Siakam as a pass came to him with 11.7 seconds left, and that should have been called.

What about the play that set DeMar DeRozan off and ultimately got him ejected, the drive to the basket with 33 seconds left (and the Raptors down two) where DeRozan thought Corey Brewer fouled him? The report said that was a good no call:

DeRozan (TOR) starts his drive and Brewer (OKC) moves laterally in his path and there is contact. The contact is incidental as both players attempt to perform normal basketball moves….

RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.

(I didn’t see it that way, I think the contact was more than incidental, and to me looking at the replay Brewer catches some wrist and impedes the shot in a way that was not legal. Just my two cents.)

The report does not cover the ejections, which are reviewed by league operations but not part of this report.

Three thoughts out of all this:

1) Raptors fans/management/players have every right to feel the calls went against them in this game. As for calls always going against them — as DeRozan complained about after the game — 29 other teams and fan bases are convinced the officials have it out for them, too. I never bought that.

2) The Raptors didn’t lose this game solely because of the officiating. Russell Westbrook was clutch down the stretch, the Thunder were part of it, and the Raptors had other issues, too (Serge Ibaka had a rough game, for example).

3) This loss also does not say a thing about the Raptors in the postseason (even if they went a little too much isolation at the end) — this was their third game in four days, they looked tired and flat at the end. That will not be the case in the playoffs.