Stephen Curry drops 40, leads 20-point comeback as Warriors beat Pelicans in OT, take 3-0 series lead

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The crowd was rocking. Anthony Davis was making the plays — 23 points through the first three quarters — that had the New Orleans crowd screaming like it was Mardi Gras. It  seemed after 36 minutes that it was going to be the Pelican’s night; they were up 20 points entering the final frame, up 17 with six minutes to go. The Pelicans were in command. New Orleans outplayed Golden State most of the night.

But Golden State has Stephen Curry.

The Warriors started to make a little run early in the fourth, chipping away at the lead bit by bit. The clock couldn’t move fast enough for the Pelicans. Then Curry entered the game, and he kept getting space — somehow 16 of Curry’s 29 shot attempts on the night were uncontested (according to the NBA’s SportsVU cameras). He was making plays.

Golden State closed out the game on a 17-5 run but were still down three with 9.6 seconds left in regulation. Then this happened.

Curry missed the first one, but Marreese Speights picked up the offensive board, brought it out to the corner and Curry got another shot.

He wasn’t going to miss that one. The Pelicans had their hearts ripped out on national television.

From there it just had a sense of inevitability. Curry finished the night with 40 points and nine assists, and the Warriors won 123-119. That gives Golden State a commanding 3-0 series lead, they can close the Pelicans out Saturday in New Orleans.

Still, all anybody is talking about is that final play, the shot by Curry.

Pelicans coach Monty Williams said after the game he had told his players to foul on that final play — don’t even let Golden State get off a three to tie it. Foul them and make it a free throw contest. The Pelicans had ample opportunity before both shots and didn’t execute. They didn’t and paid the price.

Basketball games are not won or lost on one play, there were a number of things that cost the Thunder. Such as offensive rebounds. It wasn’t just Speights’ rebound that led to the Curry shot; the Warriors had seven offensive rebounds in the final five minutes. For the game, the Warriors grabbed the offensive rebound on 39.3 percent of their missed shots.

Curry and Klay Thompson were hot at the start of Game 3 but credit the Pelicans for once again being scrappy and fighting through it. New Orleans led by one after 12 minutes then pulled away in the second and third. They were the better team — New Orleans shot 51.1 percent on the night to Golden State’s 40.4.

But it’s about how it ends. The game went to overtime and Curry had seven points in the frame as the Warriors opened on a 9-3 run. Again the Pelicans scrapped to make it interesting, but they could never fully close the gap.

Klay Thompson poured in 28 for Golden State while Draymond Green added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Davis finished with 29 for the Pelicans; Ryan Anderson added 26.

It’s a painful loss for the Pelicans, but the kind that young teams grow and learn from.

For the Warriors, it’s a legendary comeback. It’s also another win when they don’t play their best game. In this round they can get away with that.

Thanks to Stephen Curry.

Al Horford ($500K), C.J. McCollum ($170K) donate to coronavirus relief

76ers big Al Horford
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Al Horford (four-year, $97 million-$107 million contract with 76ers) and C.J. McCollum (three-year, $100 million extension with Trail Blazers) received big deals last offseason.

Now, both are stepping up amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Portland Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum will be donating $170,000 total to the communities of Portland, Oregon, and Canton, Ohio, for COVID-19 relief, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metro Area will receive a $70,000 donation and the Akron-Canton Food Bank will receive a donation of $100,000.

This is great.

Report: LaMelo Ball buys his Australian team

LaMelo Ball
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LaMelo Ball signed in Australia under the National Basketball League’s Next Stars program and built himself into a high-end draft pick. But he suffered a season-ending foot injury then left his team under criticism from Illawarra Hawks owner Simon Stratford.

What a powerful rebuttal.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Potential No. 1 NBA draft pick LaMelo Ball and his manager, Jermaine Jackson, have purchased his Australian NBL team, the Illawarra Hawks, Jackson told ESPN on Thursday.

“When Melo wants to do stuff in the summertime, we’ll be there,” Jackson said. “We’ll take a tour with his family all over Australia, doing basketball camps and connecting with the youth. He wants to inspire the next generation.

“That’s how he was raised by his family. People have a perception of his father, but he has a heart of gold and it trickles down to his kids. His father didn’t take him on a traditional route. He started his own sneaker company, Big Baller Brand. We’ve always talked about ownership. Melo wants kids to think big, especially in times like this.”

This is a heck of a headline for an 18-year-old.

I’m curious about the details. What share of the franchise do Ball and Jackson now own? How much did it cost? Did they assume debt to complete the deal? How profitable are NBL teams, especially considering coronavirus-caused uncertainty?

But with Lonzo Ball‘s Pelicans season on hold and LaVar Ball losing influence, this at least puts the spotlight back on a Ball.

Report: 76ers happy with GM Elton Brand, who’s drawing Knicks interest

76ers owner Josh Harris and general manager Elton Brand
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The Knicks are reportedly interested in hiring 76ers general manager Elton Brand.

In New York, Brand would work under new Knicks president Leon Rose. Brand holds the top position in Philadelphia’s front office. So, Brand would likely go to New York only if fired by the 76ers.

Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

A team source on Wednesday confirmed Brand is under contract beyond this season and said the organization is very happy with his work since being named GM in 2018. The source cited Brand’s leadership and strong working relationships with players, agents, and executives around the league.

The 76ers are so pleased with Brand… someone said so without under the cloak of anonymity. If he wants to back Brand, 76ers owner Josh Harris can do so publicly. Otherwise, this is so weak.

Teams generally express support toward employees while the employees are still working for the team – whether or not the employees actually hold approval. A key way to tell whether the support is genuine? Check the source. Harris doesn’t want to look like a hypocrite. If he endorses Brand now then fires him soon, Harris would look silly. With this sourcing, nobody would get egg on his or her face if Brand gets ousted, because we don’t know the source.

I bet Brand does have good relationships with everyone. He has long connected well with others.

But his roster-building has fallen flat.

Inertia will probably keep him in his job. Philadelphia overachieving in the playoffs (whatever form they take) – certainly possible – would make that an easier call. It’s just difficult to build an affirmative case for Brand as a team’s lead executive.

Report: No chance of traditional NBA playoffs this season

NBA playoffs
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The NBA playoffs have a familiar format – four rounds, best-of-seven series, games in front of fans at home arenas.

But the coronavirus, which has forced the NBA into an indefinite stoppage and disrupted life around the world, makes that untenable. Don’t expect the league to wait until that’s workable, either.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

At this point, several team and league officials told SI.com, any chance of a traditional postseason is out.

A shortened playoffs in Las Vegas is gaining momentum. It’d allow the NBA, hemorrhaging money, to draw revenue sooner. A reduced postseason would also minimize disruption to future seasons.

But even that comes with major complications, especially containing coronavirus from undermining the entire operation. It could be a long time until its safe to hold games, even in a centralized location without fans.

It could be so long… a traditional playoffs could be back on the table. Though I find that unlikely, I’m still not convince people have a proper understanding of how lengthy this hiatus could be.

Everyone wants to finish the season. The playoffs are the NBA’s most lucrative time, and it feels right to crown a champion.

So, it’s good the focus is on alternative formats. It’d be naïve to expect business as usual when the NBA resumes.