Associated Press

LeBron James takes over late as Cavaliers win 11th straight

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers’ winning streak was in unexpected jeopardy Saturday night before LeBron James took over.

James scored 34 points, including seven in the final 1:22, and Cleveland beat the Memphis Grizzlies 116-111 for their 11th straight victory.

The loss was the 11th straight for Memphis, including three since David Fizdale was fired Monday and replaced by interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, but the Grizzlies nearly ended their streak in shocking fashion.

Memphis trailed 91-72 late in the third quarter, but rallied all the way to a tie at 109 on Dillon Brooks‘ 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining.

That’s when James stepped up, to the surprise of no one in the building, particularly Dwyane Wade, his long-time friend and teammate.

“You just shake your head,” Wade said. “It’s impressive, man. When you’re on a team and you have a guy when the game gets close and you can get him the ball and he comes through, maybe not all the time but it seems like every time … we know he’s going to make the right play.”

James’ basket in the lane gave Cleveland the lead. After Tyreke Evans missed a 3-pointer, James drove the lane, scored and converted the three-point play after being fouled by Brooks with 34 seconds left.

Brooks made two free throws, but James dribbled for several seconds on Cleveland’s next possession and hit a jumper from the top of the key for a five-point lead with 5 seconds to go.

“When it’s winning time in the fourth quarter, my teammates want me to step up and do what I do best,” said James, who scored or assisted on Cleveland’s last 17 points.

“That effort tonight would have beaten 90 percent of this league on their home court,” Bickerstaff said. “Unfortunately, they’ve got a guy who is pretty damn good.”

Evans had 31 points and 12 assists for Memphis. Marc Gasol scored 27 and passed 10,000 career points despite being listed as questionable after injuring his left foot in Friday’s loss to San Antonio.

Cleveland has scored at least 100 points in each game during its streak and is closing in on its longest winning streak since it ripped off 12 straight in 2015.

James scored 11 points in the final six minutes of the second quarter, including a pair of three-point plays and a jumper from the corner at the buzzer, helping Cleveland to a 66-52 halftime lead.

James, the reigning NBA Player of the Month, also had 12 assists. He has shot 50 percent or better from the floor in each of his last 10 games.

Kevin Love added 20 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland. He went to the floor after banging knees with JaMychal Green in the third quarter, but remained in the game.

Memphis point guard Mike Conley missed his ninth straight game because of a sore left Achilles.

 

 

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

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The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.

George Hill nails half-court buzzer-beater with less than a second to shoot (video)

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I bet this made George Hill happier.

The Kings still losing to the Raptors, 108-93, probably didn’t, though.

Phil Jackson to miss Kobe Bryant’s jersey retirement Monday

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For one last night, Staples Center will belong to Kobe Bryant on Monday.

Sure, the Warriors are in town to take on the Lakers, but Monday night the Lakers are retiring Kobe Bryant’s numbers — both 8 and 24 — in a halftime ceremony. It’s been the hottest ticket in Los Angeles, with celebrities, luminaries, and regular Lakers fans shelling out a lot of cash to see the Laker legend be honored.

Except, Phil Jackson will not be there, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Jackson has been in touch with Bryant in advance of the ceremony to congratulate him, sources said. But he was unable to travel from his Montana home for the ceremony in Los Angeles.

No reason was given (nor does one need to be made public, that’s between Kobe and Jackson).

Jackson coached Kobe to all five of his NBA titles, and while their relationship had its ups and downs — remember Jackson called out Kobe as almost uncoachable in one of his books — they remain close.

 

Three Things to Know: LeBron James racks up third straight triple-double

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s what you missed on Sunday while practicing your ax throwing in Paris

1) LeBron James has third straight triple-double… and sends equality message. Back in the 2008-09 season, LeBron James strung together three consecutive games of triple-doubles, the season he went on to win his first MVP award. Despite 61 career triple-doubles, he hasn’t had a string like that since.

Until now. LeBron put together three again this week, the most recent coming at the expense of the Washington Wizards on Sunday, a team that had no answer for his playmaking skills. James finished the game with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists. It wasn’t the most efficient LeBron scoring performance of his career (8-of-23 shooting overall, 2-of-7 from three, his legs looked a little tired on the back-to-back) and he was playing too much in isolation (nearly twice as many possessions as in pick-and-roll). However, down the stretch he was a fantastic playmaker, finding teammates — such as finding the cutting Jeff Green and Kyle Korver — and doing what it took to lift his team to the 106-99 win (Cleveland’s has won five straight and 18-of-19).

LeBron was also sending a message while playing in our nation’s capital: He wore one black and one white of the LeBron 15s, with the word “Equality” on the back of both of them. Good on LeBron, I love that he has found a voice and is comfortable using it.

2) Cavaliers sticking to plan even if he seems ready: Isaiah Thomas should join Cavaliers after the first of the year. Patience. It’s a virtue. Cleveland’s end game is to have another elite playmaker and scorer on the floor in late May and (hopefully) June, not for Christmas Day (no matter who is on the schedule).

Meaning that despite the face Isaiah Thomas is working out and says he and his injured hip feel ready to return, it will be 2018 before he officially pulls on a Cavaliers jersey and takes the court.

This is the smart play by the Cavaliers, who have racked up enough wins not to need to push him. That said, LeBron is carrying a heavy load — he’s played more minutes than anyone in the league so far, and this is his 15th NBA season — and the Cavaliers need to get him some help and rest so he is fresh for the postseason.

3) Detroit ties a franchise record with 17 made threes in win over Orlando. The Pistons are not exactly a great three-point shooting team: They average a middle-of-the-pack 29.3 attempts per game (31.6 percent of their attempts), but at least hit them at a healthy 38.3 percent clip. Detroit does a good job at least of getting corner threes up and knocking them down.

Sunday they were knocking everything down, hitting 17-of-34 threes to tie a franchise record for the most made threes in a game. Anthony Tolliver led the way (5-of-7 from deep) with Reggie Bullock pitching in 4-of-5.

The Pistons have snapped out of their seven-game losing streak to win three in a row now, including a quality win over the Pacers on the second night of a back-to-back.