LeBron scores 28, leads balanced Cavs past Celtics 120-103

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 20 of his 28 points in the second half, and Cleveland had seven other players in double figures as the Cavaliers shook off a slow start for a 120-103 win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.

The Cavs were down 18 points in the first quarter but regrouped and stopped Boston’s winning streak at five games.

Kyrie Irving added 21 points and Iman Shumpert busted out of a shooting slump to add 12 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for Cleveland, which moved 2 1/2 games ahead of Toronto for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

James also passed Tim Duncan for 14th place on the NBA’s career scoring list. He added 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 27 points and Jared Sullinger had 17 with 13 rebounds.

The Cavs were clinging to a seven-point lead in the fourth when they opened some distance over the up-and-coming Celtics with a 7-0 run triggered by a 3-pointer by J.R. Smith. On Cleveland’s next possession, James blasted down the lane for a layup and Shumpert capped the spurt with a jumper. Smith, who added 14 points, later knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:03 left, ending any thought Boston had of a late comeback.

On their previous visit to Cleveland, the Celtics rallied in the final seconds to beat the Cavs 104-103 on Feb. 5. Avery Bradley hit a game-winning 3-pointer from the corner at the horn for Boston, which trailed by four with 7 seconds remaining.

“Let’s be honest, we were really lucky to win here last time,” coach Brad Stevens said. “That was a very fortunate deal.”

Stevens said the Celtics would have to play better this time, and his team came out determined not to fall behind.

Boston came out with confidence and quickly took control, opening an 18-point lead in the first quarter. The Celtics were still up by 14 midway through the second quarter when the Cavs, who gave up 35 points in the first 21 minutes, began to buckle down on defense.

Irving and Smith made 3-pointers and Iman Shumpert, who came in 1 for 11 in his last four games behind the arc, knocked down a deep shot from the corner to tie it 53-all.

James, though, scored 13 in the third quarter, helping the Cavs open 91-83 lead going into the fourth.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Boston began a stretch of six straight games against probable playoff teams. After the Cavs, the Celtics face Memphis, Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma City and Toronto. … Stevens is as competitive as they come and the former Butler coach said it’s never easy for him to shake a loss. “I don’t know if it’s a college thing or a pro thing, I remember every loss vividly,” he said. “Even if it’s Scrabble with the family.” … C Kelly Olynyk missed his ninth straight game with a sprained right shoulder. Stevens believes Olynyk, who separated Love’s shoulder in last year’s playoffs, will return to practice “soon” but would not give a timetable. … Thomas is one of six players this season averaging at least 20 points and 6.5 assists.

Cavaliers: James scored in double figures for the 700th straight regular-season game. His streak began on Jan. 6, 2007. Michael Jordan holds the NBA record, scoring at least 10 points in 866 consecutive games. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it 787 times in a row. … C Timofey Mozgov was nailed in the throat by an elbow from Amir Johnson, who was called for a Flagrant 1 foul in the third quarter. … James came in needing 17 points to pass Duncan (26,366). Next up for James is John Havlicek (26,395).

 

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
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The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

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Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.