There are times when challenging a dunk is the thing to do.
For LeBron James, this was one of those times.
He did. With authority.
TORONTO (AP) — Stephen Curry returned from a two-game absence to score 24 points, Klay Thompson had 26 and the Golden State Warriors blew nearly all of a 27-point lead before beating the Toronto Raptors 127-125 on Saturday night.
DeMar DeRozan scored 42 points for the Raptors, but the Warriors had just enough to beat Toronto for the eighth straight time.
Curry sat out Wednesday’s home loss to the Clippers and Friday’s win at Milwaukee because of a sore right ankle, the same injury that kept him out of 11 games in December.
Raptors guard Kyle Lowry missed his third straight game because of a bruised tailbone.
VanVleet’s 3-pointer with 3:52 left made cut it to 116-115, but Curry answered with a 3 for the Warriors.
DeRozan’s basket with just over a minute to go made it a one-point game again, and Curry missed a pair of free throws with 45 seconds remaining.
But after a missed shot by DeRozan, Durant’s jumper with 21 seconds left gave Golden State a 125-122 lead.
A missed 3 by CJ Miles led to a jump ball, then a scramble for a loose ball that went out of bounds next to the Warriors bench. After a video review, Golden State was awarded possession with three seconds left. Curry was fouled and sealed it with a pair of free throws before VanVleet hit a buzzer-beating 3.
Green and Thompson each scored 10 points in the first and Golden State led 43-35 after one, their highest-scoring opening quarter of the season.
Golden State seized control with a 16-2 run to begin the second quarter and led 81-54 at halftime. It was their biggest half of the season and their first 80-point half away from home since Nov. 2, 1990, at Denver (87 points).
The Showtime Lakers never did it. Neither have the Celtics — in the Bill Russell or Larry Bird era. The Jordan Bulls didn’t pull it off.
No team has ever had four All-Star players in consecutive seasons.
This season Curry and Durant look like locks to start based on the fan vote, and Green would also start according to the latest fan vote, but we’ll see if the media/player votes that count for half keep him there. Starting or not, Green said the Warriors should have four again because the team is so good, he told Chris Haynes of ESPN.
“We’re winning and everyone is playing well,” he told ESPN. “Why not?”
What could hold the Warriors back from the record is not their play — they have the best record in the NBA — but rather that the Western Conference is STACKED.
“Just because probably so many guys came over to the West in the offseason,” Green answered. “With Jimmy [Butler] coming over, with Carmelo Anthony coming over, KAT [Karl-Anthony Towns] obviously an up-and-comer. That’s probably why it’s more of a debate now, but I don’t see why it should change. Our record is pretty good.”
There are usually seven frontcourt spots per conference for an All-Star team. Let’s just say Durant and Anthony Davis are locks (they’re the top two fan vote-getters and the media/players will have them high as well). That leaves five spots for Green, DeMarcus Cousins, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul George, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, and guys who likely don’t make it but will get consideration such as Kawhi Leonard (just missed too many games) and Carmelo Anthony (not quite good enough anymore).
Klay Thompson would face a tougher number’s crunch at the guard spot, where Curry and James Harden are locks to start, and Russell Westbrook is undoubtedly going to make the team. That leaves two guard spots among Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, and guys trying to crash the party such as Devin Booker.
This is an exhibition, and the league should give the fans what they want (including televising the All-Star Game draft, they blew it not doing that). And right now, nobody is hotter than the Warriors.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (East) and Kevin Durant (West) led their conferences in the initial All-Star voting returns, putting the Bucks and Warriors forwards in line to serve as captains in the new format.
The full leaderboard:
1. LeBron James (CLE) 1,622,838
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 1,480,954
3. Joel Embiid (PHI) 784,287
4. Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 640,928
5. Kevin Love (CLE) 458,157
6. Al Horford (BOS) 229,906
7. Jayson Tatum (BOS) 213,499
8. Enes Kanter (NYK) 159,010
9. Andre Drummond (DET) 139,226
10. Dwight Howard (CHA) 111,768
1. Kyrie Irving (BOS) 1,370,643
2. DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 537,168
3. Ben Simmons (PHI) 397,942
4. Victor Oladipo (IND) 385,448
5. Dwyane Wade (CLE) 353,273
6. John Wall (WAS) 328,215
7. Isaiah Thomas (CLE) 252,552
8. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 176,590
9. Bradley Beal (WAS) 151,765
10. Jaylen Brown (BOS) 103,622
1. Kevin Durant (GSW) 1,326,059
2. Anthony Davis (NOP) 664,687
3. Draymond Green (GSW) 616,730
4. DeMarcus Cousins (NOP) 587,835
5. Paul George (OKC) 547,582
6. Kawhi Leonard (SAS) 446,133
7. Carmelo Anthony (OKC) 378,718
8. Kyle Kuzma (LAL) 325,903
9. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 320,884
10. LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS) 315,918
1. Stephen Curry (GSW) 1,369,658
2. James Harden (HOU) 978,540
3. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 791,332
4. Klay Thompson (GSW) 686,825
5. Manu Ginobili (SAS) 657,827
6. Chris Paul (HOU) 331,522
7. Lonzo Ball (LAL) 294,197
8. Damian Lillard (POR) 266,519
9. Jimmy Butler (MIN) 173,245
10. Devin Booker (PHO) 162,970
Antetokounmpo could still overtake LeBron, and Kyrie Irving is also in striking distance of the East captaincy. Curry and Durant are running neck-and-neck in the West.
The rest of the fan voting doesn’t mean much anymore. It’ll serve as just 50% of the formula for selecting All-Star starters, the player (25%) and media (25%) vote also factoring. Each conference’s top two guards and top three frontcourt players in fan voting are likely All-Stars regardless, favored to be picked by reserve-selecting coaches if all else fails. With captains picking teams, I’m not even sure players designated “starters” will actually start. I don’t think people generally care whether someone starts or comes off the bench in the exhibition game, anyway.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Lou Williams scored 27 of his career-high 50 points in the third quarter and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Golden State Warriors for the first time in more than three years with a 125-106 win Wednesday that spoiled a milestone night for Kevin Durant.
Williams shot 16 for 27 with a career-best eight 3-pointers and made all 10 of his free throws. His 27-point third quarter was the NBA’s highest-scoring quarter this season.
Durant became the 44th player in NBA history to score 20,000 career points, finishing with 40 as the Warriors had their five-game winning streak snapped along with a 12-game unbeaten stretch in the Clippers rivalry.
Durant reached the milestone on a pull-up jumper from the left wing at the 1:41 mark of the second quarter. The Warriors announced his accomplishment on the main scoreboard and Durant received a standing ovation, shaking his head in acknowledgment while still very much in game mode.
By late in the fourth quarter, that crowd was making its way for the exits with the game out of reach.
The NBA Finals MVP returned from a three-game absence due to a strained right calf and scored 25 points in the first half against the Clippers – KD’s biggest half of the season and the exact number he needed for 20,000.
Durant, who had a four-point play during the second quarter on the way to 14 points in the period, is at 29 the second-youngest player behind LeBron James and first to reach the 20,000 mark as a member of the Warriors.
He shot 14 for 18, including 6 of 7 from deep, and Zaza Pachulia added 12 points on a night when the Warriors were without their starting backcourt. Stephen Curry re-sprained his right ankle during the morning shootaround, and Klay Thompson also was out for rest that had been previously scheduled.
Williams also dished out seven assists and rookie Tyrone Wallace added a season-best 22 points off the bench for the Clippers while returning to the Bay Area, where he starred in college at California.
Nick Young started in place of Thompson and had seven points but shot 3 for 11 and missed six of his seven 3-point tries. It was Young’s first start with the Warriors. Shaun Livingston played in place of Curry and contributed eight points and four assists.
Draymond Green missed his first five shots before connecting late in the third.
“We still have two All-Stars. It’s an embarrassment of riches,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of Durant and Green. “I’m not going to shy away from that.”
There were 13 lead changes in the first quarter alone. Golden State went on a 10-0 run midway through the second during which Durant scored eight points.
Curry has the same injury that recently sidelined him for 11 games, though Kerr said: “I don’t think it’s serious. … He tweaked it.” No MRI or X-rays were scheduled for now, though Curry was sore and the Warriors won’t take any chances.
“I didn’t see anything,” Kerr said before the game. “We just had a normal shootaround and he was in his usual game-day routine with Q (Bruce Fraser) and he just rolled his ankle somehow. Just kind of a fluke thing, kind of caught us off guard, but obviously he won’t play. … It’s unfortunate. Hopefully it’ll clear up in the next couple days.”
The Warriors are 10-2 without Curry.
Clippers: Los Angeles hadn’t beaten the Warriors since Christmas Day 2014. The Clippers also had lost 11 straight on Golden State’s home floor since a 105-86 win on Dec. 25, 2011.
Warriors: Durant notched his seventh 30-point game this season. … Thompson had played in all 41 games this season. … C JaVale McGee played for only the second time in five games as Kerr struggles to use all his players in a deep, talented rotation. … Young earned his 194th career start as Golden State used a 14th different starting lineup this season – matching the team’s total from last season.
Clippers: At Sacramento on Thursday, looking for a fourth straight win in the series.
Warriors: At Milwaukee on Friday to begin a five-game road trip featuring tough stops at Cleveland and Houston.