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Warriors clinch No. 1 overall seed with win over Suns

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PHOENIX (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 42 points and the Golden State Warriors held off the Phoenix Suns 120-111 for their season-high 13th straight win, clinching the best record in the NBA for the third straight season.

Curry scored 23 in the first quarter when the Warriors blew open a 41-18 lead, but the Suns rallied with a 34-17 second quarter and made a game of it from there.

With Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala resting and Kevin Durant one game away from returning from injury, the Warriors still won.

Meanwhile, Devin Booker scored 21, Tyler Ulis 20 and Jared Dudley matched his season high with 19 for the Suns, who tied a franchise record with their 13th straight loss.

Alan Williams scored 16 and grabbed a career-best 17 rebounds for Phoenix.

Golden State became the first team have the NBA’s best record for three consecutive seasons since the Boston Celtics did it in 1983-84, ’84-’85 and ’85-’86. The Warriors, Boston – multiple times – and Philadelphia are the only franchises in NBA history to achieve that feat.

The Warriors also are the first team to win at least 65 games in three straight seasons.

Klay Thompson scored 22 for the Warriors, including a critical late 3-pointer.

With the Spurs’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Warriors are 65-14, 4 1/2 games ahead of San Antonio. Golden State has three games to play, San Antonio four.

The Warriors raced to that 23-point lead after one quarter, but Phoenix outscored Golden State 34-17 in the second quarter to cut it to 58-52 at the break.

The Suns got it to four twice early in the third quarter and were down just 82-76 after Ronnie Price made two free throws with 1:51 left in the period. But Golden State finished the quarter with a 9-2 run, including five points by Curry, to lead 91-78 entering the fourth.

But the Suns, with the worst record in the West and second-worst in the NBA, didn’t fold.

A 10-0 Phoenix run sliced Golden State’s advantage to 104-101 on Ulis’ 20-footer with 5:01 to play. Curry responded with his eighth and final 3-pointer, but the Suns twice cut it to four again – the last at 109-105 after Ulis made a pair of free throws 2:29 from the finish.

Thompson’s 3, only his second in nine tries, made it 112-107 with 1:46 to play and JaVale McGee‘s rebound dunk put the Warriors ahead 114-107 with 1:34 left. Phoenix twice cut the lead to five before Curry sealed it with a driving layup and two free throws in the final 32.3 seconds.

ALMOST BACK

Kevin Durant is targeting a Saturday night at home against the New Orleans Pelicans for his return from a sprained MCL and bruised thigh.

Durant has missed 19 games since being injured against Washington on Feb. 28.

He will return with three games left in the regular season.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Golden State has beaten Phoenix 10 straight times. … Golden State shot 62 percent (16 of 26) in the first quarter, and 24 percent (5-for-21) in the second.

Suns: Phoenix has not won since deciding to shut down a healthy Eric Bledsoe for the season on March 15. … Rookie Marquese Chriss drew his 10th technical foul. … The 17-point Warriors second quarter tied for the lowest by a Phoenix opponent this season. … With the Lakers’ win, the Suns are 1 1/2 games worse than Los Angeles for the worst record in the West and second-worst in the NBA.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Golden State returns home to face New Orleans on Saturday night, with Durant expected to make his return.

Suns: Phoenix is home Friday night against Oklahoma City, with Russell Westbrook seeking to break the NBA record he shares with Oscar Robertson with a 42nd triple-double this season.

Clippers reportedly add Tyronn Lue to coaching staff

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Tyronn Lue will be coaching in Los Angeles this upcoming season, but it won’t be for the Lakers.

News broke on Tuesday that Lue had accepted a job on Doc Rivers’ staff with the Los Angeles Clippers. Lue is yet another big-name addition to a squad that already added players Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this offseason.

Lue was a championship-winning coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and he has an innate understanding about how to deal with star players in the NBA.

Via Twitter:

It’s also important to understand what kind of culture Rivers, Steve Ballmer, and the rest of the Clippers front office is trying to build in Los Angeles. In addition to their proposed new stadium in Inglewood, the Clippers are trying to take over L.A. one big-name at a time. That includes everyone from players to coaches, even ones who won championships as the head honcho.

There’s no doubt that Los Angeles is striving for the Finals this season, and adding a guy like Lue to the bench is yet another reiteration of that fact.

Rumor: Stephen A. Smith is coming to ESPN’s NBA broadcasts

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National NBA broadcasts are about to get a little bit different this upcoming season.

We already got word that Michelle Beadle would not be on NBA Countdown on ESPN for the 2019-20 NBA calendar year. In her place will be Rachel Nichols, a favorite of most thanks to her work on The Jump, and Maria Taylor. And apparently ESPN’s studio show is about to get an analyst boost as well.

According to the big lead, Stephen A. Smith will be added to the analyst panel for ESPN studio show, likely on Wednesday nights. The bombastic First Take host will give his NBA takes either to the delight or dismay of fans nationwide.

Via The Big Lead:

Stephen A. Smith is in ESPN’s plans for NBA studio coverage this upcoming season, The Big Lead has learned from multiple people with knowledge of the situation. An ESPN spokesperson declined to comment on the news.

Our sources indicate that Wednesday night is the most likely time for him to be involved, but cautioned that plans are not yet set in stone.

People lost their collective minds on Twitter this summer when it was announced that ESPN had given another huge contract to Stephen A. to continue to do… whatever Stephen A. does. Namely, yell and act incredulous in a way so insincere it’s hard to believe anyone is entertained by it, much less could take it at face value.

No doubt Smith will fill the role, aesthetically, that Charles Barkley does for TNT. He’ll talk in big, wild soundbites that get Twitter all riled up, thereby allowing some VP at the network to pitch his superiors about “leverage” and “engagement” from Smith’s appearances.

Good luck to everyone watching the NBA on national TV this year. Maybe locate where the mute button is on your remote now so you know where it is come autumn.

Gordon Hayward says he’s feeling confident in his ankle for next season

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Gordon Hayward still wasn’t particularly good last season. He never really looked all that comfortable playing with the Boston Celtics, and Brad Stevens’ insistence on playing him led to some reported rifts in the Boston locker room.

But Hayward is expected to come back at full strength this year, and it could be just in time for him to shine in light of Kyrie Irving‘s departure to the Brooklyn Nets.

His severely dislocated left ankle is now long behind him, and it appears that Hayward has been putting in the work necessary this summer. Speaking to Mass Live, Hayward said that he is starting to get more confident in his game.

Via Mass Live:

“Reps is what gives you confidence, so being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle’s feeling, or having to be cautious with it, has been really good, especially for my confidence,” Hayward said. “I think last year was a lot of hoping and not really knowing what was going to happen just because I didn’t have the reps… going into a summer training as hard as I want to, it’s a lot better for my confidence this year and expectations-wise as well.”

A healthy Hayward would really change the dynamic of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference this year. Losing Irving is huge, but Boston is going to have a real depth of talent on its hands if it can add Hayward to other wing talent Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart.

It seems cliche to point out at this point, but people have slept on how good Hayward was on both sides of the ball during his time with the Utah Jazz. He’s a complete player at the small forward position when healthy, and bringing back his superstar firepower could ease the pain of losing Irving to Brooklyn.

Royce White questions why Lakers have Jared Dudley not ‘Melo; Dudley, others defend move

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There are a lot of people surprised that this deep into the summer, with NBA rosters largely filled out, Carmelo Anthony isn’t playing somewhere. Whether on Team USA or training with new teammates for an upcoming NBA season.

Among those confused, former NBA draft pick Royce White, who was outspoken on the issue — and called out both LeBron James and Jared Dudley — in speaking with Fanatics View.

Dudley responded to this, not directly to White but to a retweet of this rant, and did so in Dudley’s calm, rational way. His Tweet has since been taken down, but it said:

“This isn’t Melo vs myself, That man is a 1st ballot HOFer… We all want to see him back in the league… Royce seems uninformed when he speaks and this situation in calling my name out. This league is not about who’s better then who it’s what’s players make for the best Team.”

Kendrick Perkins and Jameer Nelson had Dudley’s back.

Dudley/Perkins/Nelson are spot on here. The reason Dudley is on an NBA roster and Anthony is not is all about willingness to fit in and play a role. Dudley knows exactly how to do that, accepting limited minutes off the bench, staying ready, and when he comes in playing hard, being a pest, and knocking down threes. Anthony is unquestionably still a better scorer, but he was unwilling to accept a role in both Oklahoma City and Houston (and his game now is that of a role player/sixth man). Anthony says that’s different now, but GMs are risk averse in most situations. Teams that might have interest in ‘Melo are concerned about the possible distraction and disruption, and they wonder if that risk is worth what Anthony brings to the court right now. It was the same with Team USA.

Some team should — and one likely eventually will — give Anthony another shot. He deserves it. However, teams thinking about a deep playoff run tend to like their chemistry and are wary of disruptions, so nothing has come out yet. Even if Royce White and a lot of other people think it should have.