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.

 

Evan Fournier says that Frank Ntilikina just ‘needs a real opportunity’

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New York Knicks fans haven’t had a lot to cheer for recently. The team traded away Kristaps Porzingis, who is thought to be the franchise cornerstone. Now they move forward with a young core, RJ Barrett, and tons of cap space.

So what does that mean for players who have been around in the Big Apple like Frank Ntilikina?

Based on how Ntilikina played in the 2019 FIBA World Cup for France this year, things might be looking up.

Ntilikina’s statistics weren’t eye-popping, but he was seen as a very solid player in a backcourt that helped propel France to the bronze medal in China.

To that end, fellow countrymen Evan Fournier thinks that all Ntilikina needs is a chance to shine.

Via Twitter:

Ntilikina’s season last year was marred by injuries, and he played in just 43 games. Still, he has the physical tools to be a useful NBA player, and he’s just 21 years old. With the surprisingly low-pressure situation in New York, it’s possible that extended time playing in the World Cup could help aid what Ntilikina is able to produce next season for the Knicks.

Report: Lakers receive DeMarcus Cousins disabled-player exception

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A chance at a championship. LeBron James. Anthony Davis. The Los Angeles market. Great weather.

The Lakers can offer plenty to anyone who gets bought out this season.

Now, the Lakers – who lost DeMarcus Cousins to a torn ACL – get a mechanism to offer post-buyout players more money.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The exception holds little value presently. It’s worth less than a full-season minimum salary for anyone with more than four years experience.

But minimum-salary and mid-level exceptions decline throughout the season. This exception does not.

So, on March 1, a team with only a minimum slot available can offer a free agent just between $233,459 and $666,546 (depending on the player’s experience level). The Lakers can offer $1.75 million.

This means an NBA-appointed doctor ruled Cousins is “substantially more likely than not” to be out through June 15. Given that prognosis, the Lakers could open a roster spot by waiving Cousins, who’s on a one-year deal and facing a domestic-violence charge. They’d still keep the exception.

If Cousins can return more quickly than expected, he’d be eligible to play, whether or not the Lakers use the exception.

Damian Lillard says he plans to play for Team USA in 2020 Olympics

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Stephen Curry said he wants to play for Team USA in the 2020 Olympics.

He isn’t the only star point guard eager for Tokyo.

Damian Lillard, via James McKern of news.com.au:

“I plan on being a part of that. I plan on playing,” Lillard said

Though neither Curry nor Lillard played for Team USA in this year’s World Cup, there’s a potentially large difference: Curry never agreed to play. Lillard did then withdrew. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo indicated particular scorn for players who decommitted.

Of course, Colangelo also wants to win. That might require swallowing his pride and accepting players who withdrew this year. He has talked tough in the past about players who didn’t show his desired devotion to USA Basketball. Lillard got cut in 2014 then missed the 2016 Olympics citing injury. It can be difficult to determine which absences Colangelo forgives.

One factor working against Lillard: The Americans’ point guard pool is deep. Curry rates higher. Kemba Walker earned respect by playing in the World Cup. James Harden (who also withdrew from the World Cup) and Kyrie Irving also factor.

I expect Colangelo to operate on a sliding scale: The better the player, the less prior commitment to USA Basketball necessary. Lillard is an excellent player. We’ll see how far that gets him.

And whether he’ll even want to play next year. The reasons for playing – pride of representing your country, prestige marketing opportunities – are more obvious now. The reasons not to play – injury, fatigue, personal commitments – are more likely to emerge closer to the Games.

Losing Kemba Walker would always sting. Hornets made it nearly as painful as possible

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Hornets faced a miserable choice this summer:

  • Lose not only their by far best player, but the greatest player in franchise and someone with a deep connection to the community
  • Sign a point guard to an expensive contract that will further inhibit an already-strapped team from competing at even a moderate level

Charlotte’s choice? Both.

The Hornets let Kemba Walker leave via free agency and replaced him with Terry Rozier (three years, $56.7 million). That’s a failure, not one of solely this offseason, but a failure nonetheless.

At 29, Walker would’ve likely become a negative value on a long-term deal. But at least he would’ve kept Charlotte more firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff race in the near term – not that on the fringes of that competition is a great place to be. There were reasonable arguments for and against keeping Walker.

But if the Hornets were willing to offer him only $160 million (about $62 million less than his super max), they should have traded him before it got this far. Why did they keep him past last season’s trade deadline? To have him represent Charlotte in the All-Star game there? To make a longshot run at the No. 8 seed? Without knowing exactly what other teams offered, that seems highly likely a mistake.

The Hornets weren’t good enough to make the playoffs with Walker. What makes them think they’ll be good enough with Rozier?

Losing Walker always would’ve invited a year of pain. Charlotte is too capped out, too veteran-laden to pivot in a meaningful way. But at least Bismack Biyombo‘s, Marvin Williams‘ and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s contracts will expire next summer. Nicolas Batum‘s and Cody Zeller‘s will expire the following year.

Now, Rozier is on the books another year after that.

Maybe Rozier, 25, will become a key part of the Hornets’ next successful era. He has the requisite athleticism and has shown flashes of being a good starting point guard. But he’s coming off a down year. That counts, too.

It’s easy to pin Rozier’s struggles on a tough situation behind Kyrie Irving. That surely factored. Still, most players on a starting track would’ve fared better in those circumstances.

Credit Charlotte for creativity. By signing-and-trading Walker to the Celtics for a signed-and-traded Rozier, the Hornets got more spending power. But they probably would’ve been better off with a point guard in the mid-level-exception range like Tomas Satoransky, Delon Wright or Tyus Jones. It’ll take a major jump for Rozier to justify his near-$19 million-per-year salary.

Charlotte isn’t giving him much help. Jeremy Lamb left in free agency. Even though they have enough breathing room under the tax line to use the rest, the Hornets haven’t used their mid-level exception other than sliver for No. 36 pick Cody Martin.

Internal prospects look limited. Charlotte didn’t place anyone on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years. No. 12 pick P.J. Washington probably won’t change the franchise’s arc.

The Hornets didn’t reach this dismal point in one offseason. But this summer worsened the predicament.

Offseason grade: D-