Stephen Curry scores a career-high 54 points as Warriors lose to Knicks

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There are nights when guys get hot, and there are nights where guys are simply on fire.

Stephen Curry gave us an exciting taste of the latter on Wednesday, pouring in a career-high 54 points while absolutely shooting the lights out, knocking down 11 of his 13 attempts from three-point distance.

Curry’s amazing performance wasn’t enough to give his Warriors the win; it was only enough to give them a fighting chance. Behind 35 points from Carmelo Anthony and 26 from J.R. Smith, the Knicks held on for the 109-105 victory.

It was the Warriors’ second straight loss, and even though they both came on the road against two of the top teams in the East, they won’t be any easier for Curry to swallow. He scored 38 in the loss to Indiana on Tuesday, giving him 92 points combined in the back-to-back set.

Golden State was playing without David Lee in this one, who was serving a one-game suspension for his role in the altercation that involved several players from both teams in Tuesday’s loss to the Pacers. As a result, the Warriors had zero presence in the paint, which led to a ridiculous 28-rebound night for Tyson Chandler inside.

That left the responsibility on Curry’s shoulders, and he delivered in a way we haven’t seen in some time.

The 54 points were the most scored by an opponent in Madison Square Garden since 2009, when Kobe Bryant and LeBron James scored 62 and 52 respectively in consecutive games there. Curry’s total is also now the high score in a single game by any player this season, surpassing the 52 points that Kevin Durant scored on Jan. 18 in Dallas.

Curry started things off with just four points in the first quarter, but really got rolling in the second, where he put up 23 points on 7-10 shooting, including 4-5 from beyond the three-point arc.

He notched 11 more points in the third on 4-5 shooting overall, while hitting all three of his three-point shots in the period. And in the fourth, Curry dropped in 16 more on 5-7 shooting, and made all four of his three-point attempts.

Curry finished 18-28 from the field, and added seven assists, six rebounds, and three steals, while playing the entire game — all 48 minutes.

His night wasn’t perfect, however, as he made a couple of critical mistakes late that helped the Knicks come away with the victory. The first came with 3:13 remaining and the Warriors clinging to a one-point lead, when Curry left his feet and turned the ball over while attempting to make a difficult cross-court pass that was picked off by Iman Shumpert. The ensuing possession resulted in a three-pointer from Anthony that gave the Knicks the lead.

And then, with 1:28 remaining and the game all tied at 105, Curry forced a shot attempt while facing one-on-one defensive coverage from Raymond Felton. Felton played Curry perfectly, and ended up blocking his jumpshot a good 20 feet from the basket. Curry did not attempt a shot the rest of the game.

It was a solid win for the Knicks, who overcame Curry’s otherworldly performance with a more balanced team effort offensively, and a dominant performance on the offensive glass. New York had 27 second-chance points to just two for the Warriors, and those offensive rebounds late in the game, especially in the last three minutes, were ultimately the difference.

Report: Spurs ‘shut the door’ on Lakers’ Kawhi Leonard trade inquiry

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After shooting down trade inquiries before the trade deadline and brushing off proposals earlier this offseason, the Spurs are reportedly hearing out offers for Kawhi Leonard.

Except from the Lakers.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The Lakers are reportedly Leonard’s preferred destination. Of course, San Antonio isn’t obligated to send him there. But he can influence the process by stating a plan to sign with only certain team(s) in 2019 unrestricted free agency.

The Celtics and 76ers might have better assets to send the Spurs. But if only the Lakers have a commitment from Leonard to re-sign, they might offer a greater share of their assets than Boston or Philadelphia would (especially if Los Angeles believes acquiring Leonard would be the first domino in also landing LeBron James and Paul George).

Between Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and future first-round picks, the Lakers could offer roughly commensurate value for Leonard. San Antonio might not like those particular players, but a third team could always get involved. Send some combination of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Hart to a team that wants them and have that third team convey players more desirable to the Spurs.

But that takes thoughtful negotiating, and San Antonio doesn’t seem interested.

There’s a belief San Antonio won’t trade Leonard to a Western Conference team, especially another historically strong franchise like the Lakers. That sentiment seems foolish to me, but it didn’t emerge out of thin air. There are real people – and real hurt feelings – involved here. Grudges sometimes trump rationality.

Maybe the Spurs will eventually explore whether the Lakers present the best offer. But this is at least circumstantial evidence San Antonio will handle this crisis stubbornly.

League buzz: Kings will take Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, Luka Doncic gone at three

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It’s hard to see through all the smoke and tell if things around the 2018 NBA Draft are solidifying as we get to fewer than three hours before the Phoenix Suns go on the clock.

The Suns are a lock to take DeAndre Ayton at No. 1.

After that, the Kings more and more seem to be leaning toward taking Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, according to multiple reports of those close to the team.

At three things really open up. Atlanta is listening to trade offers but one way or another is likely to pick Luka Doncic. There are rumors that multiple teams — Dallas, Orlando, others — would then trade their pick plus some other asset (young player/future pick) to the Hawks for Doncic. Who the Hawks reportedly really want is Trae Young, but they can move down to get him.

If the Slovenian is off the board, it’s more likely that Memphis trades the No. 4 pick, according to sources. However, there are questions about whether Memphis can get what it thinks is fair value for selling the No. 4. So maybe they just take Jaren Jackson Jr.

How is it going to shake out?

That follows my final mock draft, which was put together Wednesday for the video above. It has:

1. Phoenix: DeAndre Ayton
2. Sacramento: Marvin Bagley
3. Atlanta: Luka Doncic
4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson
5. Dallas: Mo Bamba
6. Orlando: Trae Young
7. Chicago: Michael Porter Jr.
8. Cleveland: Wendell Carter Jr.
9. New York: Kevin Knox
10. Philadelphia: Mikail Bridges
11. Charlotte: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
12. LA Clippers: Robert Williams
13. LA Clippers: Collin Sexton
14. Denver: Miles Bridges

The problem with any mock draft now is accounting for trades, and those are coming.

Report: Spurs hearing out Kawhi Leonard trade offers, including from Lakers

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The Spurs shot down Kawhi Leonard trade offers before the trade deadline. They brushed off Leonard trade offers earlier this offseason.

Then, the already strained situation got even worse.

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers. He met with Gregg Popovich this week in San Diego, reportedly directly telling the president-coach he wants out.

What are the Spurs doing now?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The Lakers are in that mix.

The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.

But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.

San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.

Report: Nets to buy out Dwight Howard

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The Magic, Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Hornets all grew tired of Dwight Howard.

The Nets did it in record time.

After acquiring Howard in a trade from Charlotte yesterday, Brooklyn is moving toward shedding him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

In the trade, the Nets dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s $16.72 million salary for 2019-20. Now, they could get a reduction on Howard’s $23,819,725 expiring contract. Brooklyn is doing a great job of unloading bad money.

Next year, the Nets will have their own first-round pick for the first time in six years. Though he has declined considerably from his Hall of Fame peak, Howard can still play some. Brooklyn didn’t need him interfering with its tanking and culture.

Instead, the Nets can focus on developing Jarrett Allen and losing enough to secure the best draft position possible.

It’ll be interesting to see how much Howard surrenders and where he goes. Again, he can still play. But the league is moving away from traditional centers, and he’s high maintenance.