Kurt Helin

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan shoots over New Orleans Pelicans defenders Alexis Ajinca, of France, and Kendrick Perkins in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 30, 2016 in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Bahram Mark Sobhani)
Associated Press

Spurs beat Pelicans, set NBA record with 38-0 start at home

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Manu Ginobili scored 20 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat the injury-depleted New Orleans Pelicans 100-92 on Wednesday night for their NBA-record 38th straight home victory to open a season.

San Antonio topped the 37-0 start by the Chicago Bulls during their record 72-victory season in 1995-96. Golden State (67-7) has an existing 36-game home winning streak to open the season, giving the Warriors a chance to end up with the record.

San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard had 16 points in his return from a three-game absence, showing no discomfort after bruising his right quadriceps on March 23. The 6-foot-7 forward hit three long jumpers to open the game, including his only 3-pointer in five attempts.

Alexis Ajinca had 18 points for New Orleans, which was without nine players due to injury. Jordan Hamilton added 14 points in his first start in his third game with the team.

Leonard also had a pair of assists to Danny Green in the first 6 minutes of the first quarter. The first came on a fast-break layup after Leonard corralled a turnover and the second came after he spun into the lane and tossed out a pass to Green for a 3-pointer.

Green finished with 16 points, going 4 for 6 on 3-pointers on a hot-shooting night behind the arc for San Antonio. The Spurs were 12 for 24 on 3s.

Data curated by PointAfter

New Orleans remained within seven points throughout the first half, but San Antonio wore down the short-handed Pelicans in the second half. The Spurs had 13 players log at least six minutes against the Pelicans’ nine-player bench.

San Antonio outscored New Orleans 27-16 in the third quarter, picking up assists on eight of its 12 field goals.

LaMarcus Aldridge dunked off a bounce pass in the lane from Boris Diaw to give the Spurs a 66-49 lead with 3:31 remaining in the third quarter. The large lead did not keep San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich from hastily calling a timeout a minute later when Hamilton’s fast-break layup cut the lead to 66-55.

Aldridge finished with 11 points.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: The Pelicans signed James Ennis to a 10-day contract on Wednesday after receiving a hardship exemption from the NBA. The 6-foot-7 forward was averaging 18.8 points and 6.0 rebounds for Iowa in the Development League. . New Orleans was without six of the 10 players who participated in its last game against San Antonio on March 3. Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Norris Cole, who accounted for 51 points in the Pelicans’ 94-86 loss, were among those missing Wednesday’s game. . New Orleans has used 36 different starting lineups this season.

Spurs: Popovich sat David West for rest, marking the first time all season the 35-year-old veteran has taken a scheduled night off. The 6-foot-9 forward was in uniform but did not play Jan. 12 at Detroit and March 28 at Memphis due to a coach’s decision. . Entering Wednesday’s game, Aldridge was averaging 23.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game through 13 games in March. . Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili played their 775th career game together. . San Antonio’s previous best after 75 games was 59-16 in 2013-14.

 

Lakers’ Julius Randle hits game-winner to beat Heat (VIDEO)

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Amid all the turmoil around the Lakers and one of their young stars — D'Angelo Russell and his self-created storm — the Lakers could use some good news.

Like another of their young stars, this time Julius Randle, hitting the game-winner in overtime to beat the Miami Heat.

Randle was isolated on the once-good defender Luol Deng and the Heat defender ignored rule No. 1 with Randle — force him to his right hand. Randle got in position then was able to spin back to the middle and to his left, where he could shoot over Deng and the help for a game-winner. Randle finished with 13 points on the night (Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 26).

That was a bad loss for the Heat, who are now tied with the Celtics and Hornets for the 4/5/6 seeds in the East.

 

Klay Thompson’s three forces overtime, where Warriors beat Jazz to move to 68-7

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Maybe casual fans looked past this game, but NBA fans know that facing a hot and defensive-minded Jazz team on the second night of a back-to-back may have been the toughest game the Warriors have the rest of the season.

It was.

It took a second-chance three from Klay Thompson — set up by a hustling rebound from Shaun Livingston — to force overtime. Once there the Warriors did what the Warriors do and outscored the Jazz comfortably for a 103-96 win.

Make that a come-from-behind win — one that showed how much this Warriors team wants that record 73-wins and to unseat the Jordan Bulls from the best record ever. Starting with if they weren’t chasing the record Steve Kerr would have rested Stephen Curry in this one. The Warriors had a lot of chances to just shrug this game off, but they didn’t — you can see the desire for the record.

This was a motivated Jazz team playing to their strengths — finally, Rudy Gobert in clutch minutes — and getting strong nights from Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood (but they really missed Derrick Favors down the stretch (right knee soreness kept him out of the second half). The Jazz looked every bit the up-and-coming team they are, and they took advantage of what Golden State gave them, turning the Warriors sloppy turnovers into easy buckets before the defense got set (when the Warriors set their defense it was strong most of the night).

But the Warriors just win these kinds of games.

There was fantastic defense from Draymond Green down the stretch (including blocking Shelvin Mack‘s attempt at a game winner in regulation), some ridiculous Stephen Curry threes on his way to 31 points, and Thompson’s game-tying shot. More than just the talent, what the Warriors do down the stretch is execute — even on a night Curry looked tired, Harrison Barnes couldn’t buy a three (1-of-8) and the Marreese Speights/Anderson Varejao platoon at center reminded everyone that the Warriors can’t lean on that duo much when the playoffs start. Those two missed shots on offense, but more importantly were torched in pick-and-roll coverage all night (Utah had a lot of success with a basic “horns” pick-and-roll set). The Warriors miss Andre Iguodala and Festus Ezeli a lot, it’s games like this where it really shows.

Still, the Warriors get the win as the Jazz learn lessons of execution. The hardest lesson may go to Joe Ingles — he ran out to challenge the first of Thompson’s game-tying three attempts, but then he ran right past him as if he would get a baseball outlet pass for an easy bucket. But if you’re up three the only thing that can beat you there is an offensive rebound three, and Thompson got a clean look while Ingles was nowhere near him.

The victory has the Warriors at 68-7, they need to go 5-2 the rest of the way to beat the Bulls record. That’s going to happen. The Warriors do play the Spurs a couple more times but expect Gregg Popovich to rest virtually everyone on that team you can name in one if not both of those games — and he’s not going to show his hand on any matchups or strategies he loves. Nor will Steve Kerr.

But before the Warriors get to a conference finals showdown with the Spurs they will need to get through two rounds of the playoffs. That could mean facing Utah, who as of now are tied with Houston for the 7/8 seeds in the West. After going against the size and defense that Utah brings, the Warriors would be happy not to see them in the first round.

 

Raptors beat Hawks 105-97 to notch franchise’s first 50-win season

Toronto Raptors' Norman Powell dunks as Atlanta Hawks' Kris Humphries (43) looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 30, 2016 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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TORONTO (AP) — DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points, Jonas Valanciunas added 19 points and nine rebounds, and the Toronto Raptors earned their franchise-record 50th victory of the season Wednesday night, 105-97 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

DeRozan added six assists and five rebounds, while Kyle Lowry finished with 17 points, 11 assists and six rebounds as Toronto (50-24) won for just the second time in five games.

Toronto became the final franchise in the NBA to reach 50 in a season.

Jeff Teague had 18 points for the Hawks (45-31), whose four-game winning streak was snapped.

Tim Hardaway Jr. added 15 points and Paul Millsap had seven points and nine rebounds for Atlanta, which has won 14 of its last 18 games.

The Raptors took the lead for good early in the first quarter and led by as many as 24 points late in the third before Atlanta scored 14 straight in the fourth period to make a game of it.

Data curated by PointAfter

Hardaway Jr. had eight points over that stretch, including a pair of 3-pointers.

But with the Toronto lead down to 93-84, the Raptors reeled off six straight points to re-establish some breathing room.

The Raptors led 89-67 going into the fourth quarter on the strength of a 31-14 run over the final nine minutes of the third.

After the Hawks opened the second half by scoring 12 of the first 16 points, Toronto took over.

The Raptors hit four 3s in the third quarter, including a pair by rookie guard Norman Powell, who had 10 points in the period.

Toronto had widened its lead to 54-41 at halftime as Lowry and DeRozan combined for 18 points in the second quarter alone, just three shy of the total scored by all Hawks in the period.

After missing his first six shots, Lowry hit back-to-back 3s on his way to 11 points in the quarter. DeRozan also hit a pair of 3s as the Raptors went 7 for 14 from beyond the arc in the half.

Teague was 5 for 9 for 10 points in the first half for the Hawks, who shot just two free throws through two quarters compared to 12 attempts for Toronto.

TIP-INS

Hawks: Atlanta turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 25 Toronto points, compared to 11 turnovers by the Raptors for 12 Hawks points. . Atlanta hit 14 of 33 from 3-point range, compared to 11 of 23 for Toronto.

Raptors: Forward Luis Scola sat out with a sore right knee and Jason Thompson got the start in his place. . Powell has scored in double figures in four straight games.

 

Stephen Curry fans fall from stands trying to get autograph

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, right, watches as fans fall from the stands after a railing broke, while he signs autographs before the start of their game with the Utah Jazz during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Associated Press
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Four fans trying to get an autograph from Stephen Curry fell out of the stands when a railing dislodged before the Utah Jazz hosted the Golden State Warriors.

Curry had just finished his pregame routine, which draws many fans at Warriors games, when he stopped to take a picture and sign a few autographs at the opening of the tunnel.

A large number of fans lined the stands surrounding the tunnel, holding jerseys and other paraphernalia for Curry to sign. As he did, a railing dislodged and four fans, including three minors, fell onto the floor at Curry’s feet.

One fan went to first aid on his own and the other three were treated, released and returned to their seats.

Curry autographed an item for the three fans that did not leave the scene.

Jazz spokesman Frank Zang said the team will re-evaluate the safety measures around the court.