Kurt Helin

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Warriors keep rolling, so do Spurs

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If you didn’t watch the NBA’s slate of games Wednesday because you were trying to solve the rash of cheese thefts in Wisconsin, we get it. We got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a Wednesday around the NBA:

1) It was Klay Thompson’s turn to have a big night, drops 45 on Dallas in Warriors’ win (and 72-wins doesn’t sound crazy). Stephen Curry had just 14 points. Draymond Green had zero points in the first half and 10 for the game. It doesn’t matter against the Warriors, all that just meant it was Klay Thompson’s turn to go off — 45 points. It was the second time this season he topped 40. Thompson had 26 points in the first half while the rest of the Warriors seemed to be napping, and for the game was 14-of-20 shooting. He was the very model of efficiency — seven of his shots came at the rim (hitting six), and 12 of his shots were from three (he made seven), just one shot was in the “midrange” and even that was in the paint near the elbow.

With the win the Warriors are 42-4, they need to go 30-6 the rest of the way to tie the 95/96 Bulls’ record of 20 wins. While the schedule does get tougher and there is a long way to go, that could happen.

2) San Antonio goes home, gets comfortable, destroys Houston by 31. The Spurs team that got blown out by the Warriors Monday was unrecognizable — when was the last time you saw a San Antonio team lose its poise and get sucked into the other team’s style of play like that? The Spurs went back to San Antonio (where they have yet to lose a game this season), took a shower to wash off that loss, then came out and dismantled the Houston Rockets, 130-99. San Antonio looked like itself again. The Spurs put up a season-high 69 points in the first half and owned this one from the start. LaMarcus Aldridge put up a game-high 25 points, plus had 10 rebounds and five assists, while Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green each scored 18 points. Houston couldn’t get stops, which let the Spurs get back and set their defense, and with that, it was all over fast.

3) Karl-Anthony Towns knows how to finish. Oklahoma City won the game (by three), but the leading Rookie of the Year candidate had the highlight of the night — he finished a dunk through Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. That was impressive.

4) Tyronn Lue (all of 2-1 as a head coach) and Gregg Popovich are your All-Star Game coaches. Both of these became official in the past 24 hours — the coach of the team with the best record in the conference come Feb. 1 gets to coach the All-Star Game. In the West, that best record belongs to the Warriors, but Steve Kerr did it last season so the job falls to the coach of the team with the second-best record, and that is the Spurs. This will be Popovich’s fourth turn at the All-Star coaching chair.

Out East, the Cavaliers have the best record. It doesn’t matter that David Blatt coached the team to a 30-11 record — he was fired, he’s not the coach of an NBA team right now. Tyronn Lue is the Cavs’ coach, and while he’s done nothing but say Blatt deserves this honor it is Lue who gets to be the coach in Toronto. It’s a little awkward and strange, but welcome to coaching in the NBA.

5) The Cavaliers put on a show and one of their youngest fans loved it. Cleveland toyed with Phoenix on Wednesday and put together some highlights for SportsCenter in the process. Specifically, LeBron James and J.R. Smith were a highlight machine. First, there was this:

Then came LeBron returning the favor — and one young Cavaliers fan loved it.

Klay Thompson’s big scoring night leads Warriors past Mavs

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Klay Thompson scored a season-high 45 points, Stephen Curry got going after halftime and so did the Golden State Warriors, who avenged one of their four losses this season by beating the Dallas Mavericks 127-107 on Wednesday night.

Curry hit three quick 3-pointers after intermission as Golden State overcame a sluggish first half, and the reigning MVP finished with a modest 14 points on a night the Warriors’ role players and bench provided a balanced effort.

Thompson had his second 40-point game of the season and sixth of his career, shooting 14 of 20, 7 for 12 on 3-pointers and making all 10 of his free throws.

Chandler Parsons scored 23 points for Dallas, which handed the Warriors their second loss of the season, 114-91 on Dec. 30 – but without Curry because of a lower left leg injury. It was Golden State’s largest loss of the four.

After going 1 for 8 in the first half and missing his first four from long range, Curry connected for his first 3 at the 10:02 mark of the third and had his team rolling again right away.

The Warriors ran their regular-season winning streak at Oracle Arena to 40 games, including 22-0 this season. The 40 straight home victories tied the Orlando Magic for second-longest home unbeaten run in NBA history behind the Chicago Bulls’ 44 from March 30, 1995, to April 4, 1996.

Golden State hasn’t lost at home in one calendar year, since falling 113-111 to the Bulls on Jan. 27, 2015. The Warriors also dished out 30 assists for a fifth straight game, first to do so since the 1994-95 Orlando Magic.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr went with a super-small lineup in the second quarter, and that was without Curry on the court. Golden State won its sixth in a row against Dallas at Oracle, shy of its seven-game unbeaten run at home in the series from 1991-94.

The Warriors, with 30-point wins in three of their previous four games, including 120-90 against the Spurs on Monday night, got 13 points from Harrison Barnes and 10 by Draymond Green.

Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki had the night off to rest following a 92-90 road win at the Lakers on Tuesday.

ALL-STAR RESERVES

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he considers Green “automatic” and is hopeful Thompson gets a spot when All-Star reserves are announced Thursday.

“The way I’ve always voted, when I have two people who are pretty even, I go with the team that’s winning,” Kerr said. “I think winning should be accounted for when you make your All-Star selections. The whole point of the game is to win. I think Klay deserves to be there – not only because of the way he’s played, but also because of the way the team has played.”

TIP-INS

Mavericks: G Devin Harris missed his second straight game with a strain in his left big toe that required an injection Tuesday, while C Zaza Pachulia sat out his third in a row because of an injured right Achilles tendon. … Former Stanford star Dwight Powell had 11 points and five rebounds.

Warriors: Curry moved into eighth place on the franchise scoring list. … F Kevon Looney made his NBA debut, the 11th former UCLA player to wear a Golden State uniform. He had two points and two rebounds, scoring on his first attempt. … Thompson had his 20th game with 20 or more points. … Curry has hit 34 straight free throws. … C Festus Ezeli sat out with a sore left knee that required an MRI exam Tuesday following Monday night’s win against San Antonio. … Kerr might rest some players during this stretch before the Feb. 14 All-Star Game in Toronto. “It’s a balance,” he said. “You want to give people rest if they need it.” Of his own health after complications from two back surgeries, he said getting good sleep is most important on the road. … Golden State now sets off on a three-game East Coast road trip.

 

Clippers win again without Griffin, beating Hawks 85-83

Chris Paul
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ATLANTA (AP) — Jamal Crawford scored 21 points and the Los Angeles Clippers won again without Blake Griffin, holding off the mistake-prone Atlanta Hawks 85-83 on Wednesday night.

The Hawks turned it over a season-high 23 times but still had a chance to force overtime when Chris Paul lost the handle on an inbounds pass after Al Horford‘s free throw. Atlanta got it back with 6.7 seconds left and inbounded to Paul Millsap, who drove against Luc Mbah a Moute and got a good look at the basket but came up short on a running one-hander. The horn sounded as the Clippers celebrated their 14th win in 17 games.

Los Angeles won for the second straight night after word leaked that Griffin would be out 4-to-6 weeks, having broken his shooting hand by punching a staff member. He apologized for the incident on Twitter late Tuesday, and his teammates kept on winning.

DeAndre Jordan scored 13 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, foiling the Hawks’ strategy to keep sending him to line by making 6 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter.

Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 16 points.

Both teams looked ragged – not surprising with the Hawks coming off a weeklong West Coast road trip, while the Clippers were finishing up a five-game East Coast run and played the night before at Indiana.

Atlanta shot just 42 percent (33 of 79) and eclipsed its previous high for turnovers, after surrendering the ball 22 times at Indiana on Dec. 28. The Clippers connected on just 39 percent (33 of 85) from the field, including a dismal 5-of-27 showing from behind the 3-point arc.

Chris Paul had 11 points and 10 assists, while J.J. Redick added 12 points.

TIP-INS

Clippers: Coach Doc Rivers considered giving 38-year-old Paul Pierce the night off in the second half of a back-to-back. He wound up starting but played just under 15 minutes, least among the starters, scoring 5 points. He went 23 minutes the night before at Indiana. … Rookie Branden Dawson was inactive. … Los Angeles scored 17 points off Atlanta turnovers.

Hawks: Assigned C Walter “Edy” Tavares to the Austin Spurs of the NBA Development League to get some playing time. The rookie has been in nine D-League games this season, averaging 10.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. … Justin Holiday was inactive for the fifth game in a row. … All five starters scored in double figures.

 

Karl-Anthony Towns powers dunk through Westbrook, Ibaka (VIDEO)

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That is how you finish.

Minnesota’s Karl Anthony-Towns rolled hard to the rim, was ignored by the two defenders who stuck with Zach LaVine, then took the pass from LaVine and went for the finish. Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka tried to cut off his path to the rim, but Towns was having none of it. He finished right through them.

Towns finished with 19 points and 13 boards, but it was not enough as Oklahoma City got the win 126-123 behind 27 points from Kevin Durant and 24 from Westbrook.

LeBron James, Kevin Love lead Cavs to 115-93 rout over Suns

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love, right, drives past Phoenix Suns’ P.J. Tucker during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 115-93. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 21 points before sitting out – and dancing – in the fourth quarter, Kevin Love added 21 points and 11 rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers stormed away in the second half for a 115-93 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.

Sluggish for the first 24 minutes, the Cavs opened the second half with a 12-0 run and sent Phoenix to its 17th loss in 19 games.

Cleveland improved to 2-1 under new coach Tyronn Lue, who took over last week when David Blatt was fired halfway through his second season. The win means Lue and the Cavs’ coaching staff will represent the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game on Feb. 14 in Toronto.

Rookie Devin Booker paced the Suns with 16 points and P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris had 13 apiece.

J.R. Smith added 18 points as Cleveland, which led by 28 in the fourth, handed Phoenix its 12th straight loss on the road.

Lue wants the Cavs to play much faster than they did under Blatt, pushing the ball up the floor and running whenever possible to take advantage of their athleticism. It’s a work in progress – Lue said his players need to be in better shape – and Cleveland struggled trying to find any rhythm for much of the first half.

However, the Cavs, who only led 55-50 at the break, came out flying in the third and quickly pushed their lead to 17.

Love buried a pair of 3-pointers during Cleveland’s 12-0 spurt, which was highlighted by Smith taking a long outlet and bouncing a pass high off the backboard to a trailing James, who grabbed it with two hands and dunked to make it 62-50.

Moments later, James snagged an alley-oop pass from Smith and the Cavs eventually built their lead to 16 after three.

The rout was on, allowing Lue to rest James for the entire final quarter. During a late timeout, James laughed and danced near the huddle around Lue as “Super Freak” blared throughout Quicken Loans Arena.

After a rough few days, the Cavs had some fun again.

TIP-INS

Suns: Coach Jeff Hornacek said F Jon Leuer (back spasms) could return Friday after missing five straight games. … Booker didn’t shy away from committing a hard foul on James in the first quarter, whacking the superstar across the face as he drove down the lane. The officials reviewed the play to determine if it was flagrant before ruling it a common foul. … Hornacek says it makes sense Lue wants the Cavs to play up-tempo. “When LeBron comes out there on the fast break, he’s so big and strong, he’s just going to blast through there and get an easy bucket or you have to foul him,” he said. “The more easy points you can create the better.”

Cavaliers: James needs 15 points to become the 17th player in league history with 26,000. He’ll be the sixth active player to reach the milestone, joining Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. … Lue intends to stick with Tristan Thompson as a starter over Timofey Mozgov, who started 30 games this season for Blatt. … Cleveland officially announced assistant coach Mike Longabardi has joined Lue’s staff. Longabardi previously worked with Lue under Doc Rivers in Boston.