Kurt Helin

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)
Associated Press
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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.

 

J.R. Smith with off-the-backboard alley-oop to LeBron James (VIDEO)

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Once they got rolling, the Cleveland Cavaliers toyed with the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night. And they got to showboat a little.

Such as J.R. Smith going with the off-the-backboard alley-oop pass to LeBron James for the dunk.

The Cavaliers won the game 115-93 behind 21 points apiece for James and Kevin Love.

 

It’s official: Tyronn Lue will coach Eastern Conference All-Stars

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After the Cavaliers waxed the lowly Suns on Wednesday night, Tyronn Lue is now 2-1 as a head coach in the NBA.

He also will now be the head coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

With that win over Phoenix, Cleveland is now 32-12 on the season and when it gets to the Feb. 1 cut off the Cavaliers will have the best record in the East. By rule, their coach gets to coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

Even if they’ve been on the job for three games.

This wasn’t a surprise. After Wednesday’s game Lue said what he had said before — this is a tribute to former coach David Blatt and the players.

The NBA has said Blatt cannot coach the All-Star team in place of Lue, using the rather logical reasoning that he is not a head coach in the NBA right now.

Gregg Popovich will coach the Western Conference All-Stars. (Yes, the Warriors have the better record, but Steve Kerr coached the West last year and under the “Riley Rule” the same coach cannot coach the All-Star game in consecutive years.)

The All-Star Game takes place Feb. 14 in Toronto. The fans have voted in the starters for both conferences (Lue will get to coach LeBron James), the reserves (voted in by the coaches) will be announced Thursday.

Report: Rather than trade Pau Gasol, Bulls may try to re-sign him this summer

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A couple of weeks back, the sense around the league was that the Chicago Bulls would try to move one of their bigs before the trade deadline. Then the injuries hit — Joakim Noah is out for the season after shoulder surgery, and now Nikola Mirotic had an appendectomy Wednesday and is out until after the All-Star Game. The Bulls now need all that front court depth.

One of the guys rumored to be shopped around was Pau Gasol, although with him expected to opt out this summer and being 35 there were doubts he would bring back as much value as the Bulls got from keeping him around.

The Bulls have come to that conclusion, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

Gasol can and would be foolish not to opt out this summer and cash in on the windfall of television deal money around the league. Even at age 35, he averaged 16.6 points and 10.9 rebounds a game, he remains an efficient scorer. He also shows good chemistry with Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose.

Signing Gasol is not going to be just about the money — likely north of $15 million a season, way more than the $7.7 he is scheduled to make — but the years. Gasol will be 36 when next season starts, are teams willing to give him four years? Three years? Plus maybe a team option year for another season? The Bulls are going to do some restructuring of their roster the next couple summers, how long do they want to be committed to Gasol?

Gasol may have a solid, fundamental game, but he’s not going to outrun father time.