Curry scores 13 points over final 1:42, Warriors beat Boston

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 49 points with 13 of those over the final 1:42 and hit eight 3-pointers, lifting the Golden State Warriors past the Boston Celtics 109-105 on Saturday night in what is already being hyped as a potential NBA Finals matchup come June.

Curry made a go-ahead 3 with 1:42 to play, scored on a driving layup the next time down before eight late free throws. He also made three of his 3s over the final 4:20 of the third quarter for the Warriors, who had lost the last two matchups to the Celtics and two in a row at home. The Warriors fell 92-88 at Boston on Nov. 16 in which they squandered a 17-point lead.

Kyrie Irving scored 37 points on 13-for-18 shooting with five 3s, but Boston failed to build momentum from a win at the Clippers on Wednesday night, losing for the fifth time in six games.

Kevin Durant added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Warriors, who haven’t lost to the same Eastern Conference opponent twice in the same season during fourth-year coach Steve Kerr’s tenure. Draymond Green had 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

Daniel Theis hit a 3-pointer to just beat the shot clock buzzer with 6:59 left that got Boston within four, then Irving connected from deep 70 seconds later. Irving’s two free throws at 4:53 made it 92-91.

Curry’s 3-pointer with 4:20 left in the third put Golden State up 70-63, he hit another at the 2:52 mark then connected once more at 2:12 as Golden State grabbed momentum heading into the final period up 80-73.

He missed from 3 off the front of the rim with 3:42 left in the game. Durant missed the first of two free throws with 2:40 to play and a jumper under pressure at 2:03.

The two-time NBA MVP, Curry scored 18 points in the third, shot 16 for 24 and 8 of 13 from long range while notching his second 40-point game of the season and 29th of his career in the regular season. Fans chanted “M-V-P!” as he made two free throws with 43 seconds left, two more at the 10.3 mark, another pair with 6.9 seconds left and two more at 1.6.

Irving was sensational himself.

Plenty familiar with Golden State from three straight Finals matchups with the Cavaliers, he hit his first seven shots with three 3-pointers while Jaylen Brown converted his first four field goals including two 3s. Boston built a 34-24 lead late in the opening quarter and stayed ahead by 10 going into the second.

He didn’t miss his first shot until a driving floater 4:16 before halftime.

Celtics center Al Horford was back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game at the Clippers as a precaution a day after he hit his head in a loose-ball scramble in the closing seconds against the Lakers. While he didn’t have a concussion Boston took no chances because he has a history of head injuries.

HAYWARD PROGRESS

Coach Brad Stevens still doesn’t expect Gordon Hayward to play again for Boston this season as he recovers from a gruesome broken left ankle suffered early in his Celtics debut last October.

Hayward hasn’t lost his shooting stroke as he rehabs.

“He makes a lot of shots standing still. I mean a lot. He’s a heck of a stand-still shooter now,” Stevens said. “He’s really good in a chair too. Nothing new. We don’t anticipate him being back this season.”

Kerr has been so impressed with the Celtics’ resiliency without the star guard.

“I was devastated for him and I’m happy to see he’s recovering well,” Kerr said. “Their recovery as a team without him has been amazing. Two losses to start the year and then they just took off.”

TIP-INS

Celtics: Second-year F Jaylen Brown, who played collegiately at nearby Cal, scored 20 points. Durant hit a 3 from the top of the arc over Brown midway through the first quarter. … Boston shot just 32.9 percent in beating the Warriors last time, including 7 of 32 from deep, but made 14 of 27 3s on Saturday.

Warriors: Curry has made at least five 3-pointers in five straight games. … G Patrick McCaw missed his second straight game but said he is improving from a strained mid-back and hopes a few days before the next game will give him time to be ready. … Rookie F Jordan Bell missed his fourth straight game with left ankle inflammation. … C Damian Jones was recalled from the G League Santa Cruz Warriors, who will play their second ever game at Oracle on Sunday night against the Austin Spurs. So Jones could play again in Oakland on Sunday if sent down again.

UP NEXT

Celtics: At Denver on Monday to conclude a four-game road trip.

Warriors: At Utah on Tuesday looking for a fourth straight road win in the series.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Lonzo Ball on college basketball: ‘Everybody knows everybody’s getting paid. Might as well make it legal’

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The logs of payment by Andy Miller’s former agency to high school and college basketball players leaked today.

That has sparked discussions about the entire system, and Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has a thought.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

Simply, I don’t believe Ball about not getting extra compensation at UCLA. That sounds like he caught himself going further then he wanted and attempting to backtrack.

I can see why Ball wouldn’t want to admit getting extra benefits. He still knows people at UCLA, and an NCAA inquiry based on his comments could hurt them – and his reputation at UCLA.

But NBA players should be outspoken on this issue. They have the power to apply pressure on the NCAA’s cartel system, in which schools collude to limit compensation to athletes. As long as that system remains, college players lose out, getting only under-the-table scraps, while coaches and administrators hoard the major money.

Good for Ball for pointing out the farce. It’s easy to stop caring once players reach the NBA and gets rich, but NBA players are uniquely equipped to shine a light on the NCAA’s problems.

Michele Roberts: Cap smoothing was ‘disgraceful request’ by NBA

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In 2016, new national TV contracts pushed the NBA’s salary cap from $70 million to $94.143 million – a larger jump than over the entire previous decade. Free agents cashed in majorly that summer.

But now, the cap is leveling off. It went up to just $99.093 million last year and is projected to reach only $101 million this year and $108 million next year. With so many lucrative long-term 2016 contracts still on the books, free agents the following few years haven’t gotten and won’t get comparable compensation.

The problem was predictable, and the NBA proposed a solution at the time – cap smoothing.

Players get 49%-51% of Basketball Related Income (BRI) each year, the precise amount determined by formula. The salary cap is set so teams’ payrolls collectively reach that range. (There are procedures if teams fall short or pay too much.)

With cap smoothing, the NBA would have set an artificially lower cap for 2016-17. Players would have gotten less than 49%-51% of BRI in salary, but presumably, the league would have distributed the difference to players after-the-fact. That way, all players – not just 2016 free agents – would cash in.

But the players union rejected the plan.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has looked back longingly, wishing the union approved. National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts, um, has not.

Roberts, in a Q&A with Paul Flannery of SB Nation:

When the salary explosion happened and you rejected the smoothing idea that the NBA proposed, has anything that has happened in the last few years caused you to reconsider that stance?

No, in fact it’s completely confirmed the correctness of that position. I delight and the players delight in reading about some of these contracts because they know they absolutely deserve it.

There was going to be no smoothing of the owners’ profits at all. They were going to enjoy real money that reflected where we were financially as a game. Why in the world would players pretend that the game was not making as much money and therefore have smaller contracts?

It was an absurd suggestion, I thought personally. But what we did to make sure it wasn’t just Michele’s instinct was hire two separate economists to tell us whether this was something that was going to be of value to our players in the long run.

Independent of each other and not knowing what either of us felt, they both came almost saying, “Are you kidding? Why would you do this?”

I don’t have any regrets at all. I don’t think a single player does either.

Not a single owner came up to me and suggested that they thought we should do this. The league did. But I didn’t see any chorus of support from any of the owners. I thought it was a disgraceful request.

It’s impossible to evaluate whether Roberts was right without knowing the particulars of the NBA’s smoothing plan. That has not leaked.

She implies the league proposed artificially lowering the cap (which, again, is determined by formula based on revenue) for the first year or two of the new national TV deals without offering the players something in return. I find that hard to believe. At minimum, it seems likely the NBA would have distributed the rest of the 49%-51% of BRI to players not earned in traditional salary.

Not that that would have been enough for the players to favor cap smoothing.

Players’ salaries are sometimes based on their previous salaries under cap rules. If only a portion of players’ NBA-provided income was considered official salary, that could have debilitating long-term effects.

Perhaps, the NBA could have accounted for that. But it seems there was little negotiating here. The league made a proposal, and the union rejected it.

I’m not sure which side benefited, and evaluating that becomes even more difficult when dividing the sides into competing interests.

For argument’s sake, let’s say rejecting cap smoothing led to more money for players. That largely went to 2016 free agents. What about all the players still under contract that summer? They didn’t get to reap the rewards.

What’s a better measure – the amount of money players collectively gained by rejecting cap smoothing or the percentage of players who earned more money by rejecting cap smoothing? There’s no easy answer.

And there’s more than just money at stake. Most significantly, a lack of cap smoothing allowed the Warriors to sign Kevin Durant. How many players prefer that never would have been possible?

I’m just not as convinced as Roberts rejecting cap smoothing was the right call. At minimum, negotiating a cap-smoothing compromise could have worked.

Many players already under contract in the summer of 2016 have been waiting their turn for a huge payday. But wait until many of them find out their windfall wasn’t just delayed. It’s not coming. Then, some of Roberts’ constituents might question her insistence that rejecting cap smoothing was correct.

Paul George says he wants to sign with team for long haul

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Paul George is enjoying his time with the Thunder. He also likes the idea of playing near his hometown in Los Angeles.

How will George pick between the two in free agency?

One idea: Sign a short-term contract with Oklahoma City.

He’ll be eligible for a higher max-salary tier in two years (35% of the cap, up from 30%). He’d also get to play more with a prime Russell Westbrook while still having an out if the 29-year-old point guard drops off. George would likely remain with Carmelo Anthony next season, too, as Anthony likely opts in. That’d give the Thunder more time to jell and show what they can do.

It’d also give the Lakers’ young core time to develop. If a prolonged test run in Oklahoma City fizzles, the Lakers would probably look even more appealing in a couple years (provided they keep open or can create cap space).

But George doesn’t sound interested in such a plan.

George, via Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

“I’m not looking to bounce around and play for multiple teams throughout my career. The decision I make will ultimately be to build something,” he said. “The only way it’s going to be done. So, this next decision, whatever it is, is to make sure I’m there for a duration.”

George can always change his mind, and he isn’t bound to follow his public statements. But he’s quite open about revealing his thought process. I respect that.

This statement doesn’t hint at any particular team. He could sign long-term anywhere.

But it speaks to the stakes of his upcoming free agency. Any team that wants George better sign him this summer. He probably won’t be available again.

Clippers executive Jerry West raves about Warriors’ Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green

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A former great player who’s now an executive for a Los Angeles NBA team praised an opposing player.

The last time this happened, Lakers president Magic Johnson got fined for tampering with the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo.

How will Jerry West fare with these comments about Warriors stars Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green?

West, via the TK Show:

Kevin Durant, I don’t know. Obviously, he’s one of my favorite players I’ve ever watched play. His size, the efficiency that he plays the game is scary. And then you have Steph over there, your little, your next-door-neighbor kid. Let’s go play with him. And then you get out there, and then you find out, oh my god, this guy’s a killer. But pretty unique with that. And the complementary players, in their own right, they’re great. There’s Klay Thompson. He just goes and plays and never seeks any credit. He just plays and really competitive. Draymond, the guy that drives the horse. They’ve got some really unique players up there, and it’s still fun for me to watch. I watch them play. I root for them, because I know some of the players.

As a reminder, here’s what Johnson said about Antetokounmpo. Nick Friedell of ESPN:

As Johnson watches from afar, he can’t help but see and enjoy the parallels between his game and that of the Bucks big man.

“Oh yeah,” Johnson told ESPN recently. “With his ball-handling skills and his passing ability. He plays above the rim I never could do that. But in his understanding of the game, his basketball IQ, his creativity of shots for his teammates. That’s where we [have the] same thing. Can bring it down, make a pass, make a play. I’m just happy he’s starting in the All-Star game because he deserves that. And he’s going to be like an MVP, a champion, this dude he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”

Two key differences between West and Johnson:

West didn’t help get his team fined for tampering last summer. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said there’s no clear line for tampering, but that the Lakers face a higher bar due their previous violations.

Johnson didn’t previously work for Milwaukee. West worked in Golden State’s front office while those players were there and knows them personally.

But Silver also provided a rough outline of when tampering will be enforced when addressing Johnson’s latest fine:

“It’s one thing when you’re asking a coach a question about an opposing team right after a game. It’s another issue when a general manager or president of basketball sort of gratuitously issues a statement that is complimentary of a star player on another team.

“In essence, what we’ve said to him, and it’s a clear message to other team executives, is that stop talking about star players on other teams. There are plenty of other issues they can address. And there is sensitivity around it throughout the league.”

Given that line, I don’t know how West avoid a fine – which is a shame.

What he said is harmless. No player is going to join another team due to benign compliments from an opposing executive.

It’s also a disservice to fans and West himself if he’s discouraged from speaking publicly about current players. The all-time great has valuable perspective, and he shouldn’t be silenced just because he works for an NBA team. His entire interview with Tim Kawakami of The Athletic is interesting. Everybody would lose if West turns down interviews in fear of a fine.

Meanwhile, more meaningful tampering – making plans on future contracts – is rampant. But that’s difficult to curb. So, the NBA enforces silly stuff like this.

The NBA never should have fined Johnson for the Antetokounmpo comments. It just opens too many cans of worms in a fight not worth fighting. Seriously, what’s the point?

If I were the Lakers, I’d be bothered if West skates free on this. But if I were West, I’d also resent a fine.

The league has backed itself into a dumb corner.