Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Leonard has 32 points, Spurs rout Grizzlies 111-82 in Game 1

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard matched his postseason high with 32 points and the San Antonio Spurs rolled to a 111-82 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points, and Tony Parker added 18 to help San Antonio win its ninth straight over Memphis in the postseason.

Marc Gasol had 32 points, but only seven in the second half as the Grizzlies fell behind by as many as 36 points. Mike Conley was the only other Grizzlies player in double figures, finishing with 13.

The start of this game showed the challenge the Grizzlies face, they raced out to a 22-9 lead on the Spurs behind the play of Gasol and Conley, but once the benches came in the Spurs quickly erased the lead and took command of the game.

Memphis was without defensive lynchpin Tony Allen. He’s out indefinitely with a calf injury, and Leonard took advantage for his fourth career playoff game of 30-plus points.

Game 2 is Monday night in San Antonio.

Rudy Gobert suffers sprained knee on first possession, out for game vs. Clippers

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The basketball gods were not kind to the Jazz Saturday night.

On the first possession of Game 1 of a playoff series against the Clippers, Luc Mbah a Moute tried to chase Gordon Hayward around a Rudy Gobert pick and the Clipper defender hit Gobert right in the knee, sending the defensive anchor of the Jazz to the ground. Gobert couldn’t walk and just :11 seconds into the game had to be helped off the court with what was diagnosed as a sprained knee.

Gobert is having an All-NBA level season for the Jazz — he will get a lot of votes for both Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved. He is central to what they do, and Utah will be in trouble in this series if he is out any extended amount of time.

That said, the Jazz were stepping up and the two teams were even midway the second quarter.

Warriors ready to start another special postseason run

Associated Press
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)  — That chase for 73 wins and breaking the Chicago Bulls’ record last season generated so much scrutiny when the Golden State Warriors failed to win it all at the end.

How might have that taken a toll come playoff time? Did fatigue factor in when it mattered most?

Nah, Steve Kerr refuses to think about it that way. Stephen Curry‘s injury sure did, though. Absolutely.

The two-time reigning NBA MVP sprained the MCL in his right knee when he slipped on a wet spot just before halftime of a Game 4 win at Houston in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.

“Steph gets banged up the first game of the playoffs which affected his whole run,” Kerr said. “You can’t account for that stuff. You try your best to keep your eye on guys and to keep them fresh, but honestly Steph was pretty fresh going into last season’s postseason. So this year we’re doing what we can to make sure guys are ready to roll, but you never know what’s going to happen.”

Now, the Warriors – who at 67-15 had the NBA’s best record for a third straight year – and Trail Blazers prepare to face off in the playoffs for a second straight season after Golden State beat Portland in a five-game Western Conference semifinals last year.

Kerr rested players down the stretch as needed, he mixed Kevin Durant back in after a 19-game absence with a left knee injury.

“We’re chasing something, we’re not protecting anything this year,” Curry said. “… In theory, we’re not the hunted. Obviously, we have the best record but we’re not defending a championship. There’s really no pressure. Two years ago we were trying to climb the ladder again and now we’re in that kind of same mentality. It’s good for us to go just go in with all the confidence in the world that we’ve built up this regular season and understand that every round’s going to be different, every round’s going to be just a dogfight. We understand how important every single game is on that journey.”

The Blazers lost all four regular-season meetings but went 17-6 down the stretch.

Curry was sidelined for the first three games of that series last year before coming off the bench in a playoff game for the first time in his career in Game 4 and scoring 40 points, with an NBA record 17 in overtime of a 132-125 victory.

All of that is in the past, Durant assures.

“Last year’s over,” KD said Saturday. “Just trying to move on. We know this is a different season, a different team, just a different year. We’re not coming in saying, `Because of last year, we’re trying to get revenge or we’re trying to show everybody what we got.”‘

Here are some things to watch for leading to tipoff Sunday:

LILLARD’S HOME

Damian Lillard typically brings his best when he comes home to the East Bay to take on the Warriors, and he fully expects to win this series.

“We feel we can do it,” Lillard said. “If we don’t, we shouldn’t even go out there and lace up our shoes.”

Lillard and CJ McCollum make up one of the league’s best backcourts, one that rivals Curry and Klay Thompson.

The Blazers hope to have their big man healthy, too. Portland center Jusuf Nurkic was listed as questionable Saturday after he missed the last seven games with a non-displaced fracture in his right leg.

KD AND STEPH

Portland must pick who to try to stop, and that’s a daunting task with the Warriors’ loaded lineup.

Durant averaged 29.3 points against Portland and Curry 27.3.

KD returned from a 19-game absence with a left knee injury to play the final three regular-season games.

“The main focus is health, and KD getting his legs back and relatively healthy, so that’s a good start for him,” key backup David West said.

LOPSIDED LOSSES

The Blazers would prefer to forget that 135-90 debacle of a defeat at Oracle on Dec. 17 – the largest Warriors’ margin of victory in the rivalry.

Golden State has won the last six meetings overall and 15 of 18.

Portland coach Terry Stotts can look to last year’s playoffs for some guidance, though he said Golden State’s defense is far better now.

“Both teams have a lot of the same players from last year, styles of play are similar,” Stotts said. “Obviously when you add Durant on to the team it adds another potent scorer who fits in well with how they play.”

THOMPSON’S TOUCH

Thompson picked up the slack with Curry sidelined last year against Portland, leading the Warriors in scoring in three of the five games – with 37 points, 27 and 33.

Now, Thompson isn’t afraid to say it: The Warriors plan to be playing for another two months.

“We want to redeem ourselves and we have a golden opportunity,” Thompson said. “It’s a new year. We’ve got to forget about last year whether we won or lost. It’s a new slate and we’re chasing that trophy. We want it back oh so badly.”

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo was dunking all over Raptors in first quarter (VIDEO)

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One of the best parts of these NBA playoffs — it’s going to be a Giannis Antetokounmpo coming out party. No matter what happens in the series with Toronto.

The Greek Freak opened the playoffs by throwing down a couple huge dunks in the first quarter against Toronto. The most impressive was the one above, where he slid to the middle then just used his length to dunk over everyone — nobody can throw it down quite like him.

But this driving dunk shook the rim in its own right.

Isaiah Thomas’ sister Chyna dies in one-car accident near Seattle

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Chyna Thomas, 22, the sister of the Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas, died Saturday morning in a one-car accident on the I-5 in Federal Way, located between Seattle and Tacoma. Craig Sailor of The News Tribune has the details.

Chyna Thomas died at the scene of the accident on the shoulder of I-5, according to the Washington State Patrol who identified her.

The wreck occurred around 5 a.m. on southbound Interstate 5 near South 288th Street, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Her car drifted into the shoulder, she eventually ran into a barrier that flipped the car up, and the Toyota Camry slammed into a pole, according to the report.

The Celtics are scheduled to face the Chicago Bulls to open their playoff run on Sunday in Boston. The team released this statement.

Our condolences go out to the entire Thomas family on this tragic loss.