Associated Press

Warriors defense, Kevin Durant overwhelm Cavaliers on way to 113-90 Game 1 rout

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OAKLAND — Cleveland hadn’t seen a defense with this kind of length and aggressiveness all playoffs. It showed.

More importantly, they hadn’t seen a player like Kevin Durant all playoffs. They had no answer.

“Steve (Kerr) suggested we get the ball in his hands early on so he could be aggressive…” Warriors coach Mike Brown said. “KD didn’t settle.”

Durant had 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting, hitting 3-of-6 from three and having some monster dunks, plus he had eight each of assists and rebounds. Then on the other end, he guarded LeBron James for long stretches and held his own there. Stephen Curry pitched in 28 points and 10 assists, and with that you end up with a rout — the Warriors won 113-90 to take a 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

Game 2 is Sunday night at Oracle. That gives Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers a couple days to come up with answers.

The Warriors moved the ball — 31 assists and just four turnovers for the game — and with that got the shots they wanted. Cleveland hung around for the first 24 minutes only because the Warriors missed a lot of shots they normally make.

How complete was the Golden State domination? Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson had just four total rebounds, one on the offensive glass. The Warriors held their own on the boards, an area Cleveland has to dominate to win.

Golden State’s offense will draw the headlines, but it was their defense that seemed to overwhelm the Cavaliers. Cleveland got the isolations they wanted at times, only to find a Warriors defense that was up to the task and hung with them. Golden State also did a great job of having Durant, or Draymond Green, or Zaza Pachulia, stay near the rim and help on the drives of LeBron and Kyrie Irving.

LeBron finished with 28 points on 9-of-20 shooting, while Kyrie Irving had 22 points on 24 shots. Between them the Cavs two primary ball handlers had 12 turnovers, and as a team the Cavaliers had 20. That let the Warriors get out and run, where they are comfortable.

“We talked about it before we come into this series, like our best defense is going to be our offense, of taking care of the basketball, not a lot of turnovers,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “And tonight we had 20, and that’s way too many against this team.”The game started less with rust and more with both teams looking like they felt the pressure of the moment — there were bad passes, hesitations, and it looked like a Saturday morning rec league game for a few minutes.

The game started less with rust and more with both teams looking like they felt the pressure of the moment — there were bad passes, hesitations, and it looked like a Saturday morning rec league game for a few minutes.

However, a clear pattern emerged. The Cavaliers were selling out to take away threes and the Warriors — unlike the last couple games of last year’s Finals — were willing to take advantage of that and drive to the rim, or use back cuts to get looks. After the game, Lue said “our game plan was kind of backwards” with the focus on the three allowing Durant to get open. Also, LeBron struggled to defend Durant.

On the other end, it was LeBron who kept the Cavaliers in it with 13 first-quarter points on 3-of-5 shooting — he was the best player on the floor early, and he embarrassed JaVale McGee.

At the end of one, it was 35-30 Golden State, with the game at a pace that better suited the Warriors’ style.

While LeBron kept scoring, it was Durant that was the difference — he was getting to the rim for dunks and attacking in ways the Cavaliers could not stop. And that was with LeBron on him much of the time.

Golden State was up 60-52 at the half, and that was despite shooting 19-of-34 at the rim in the first half and being 3-of-13 from three. It felt like they could break the game open with some good looks. They did.

The Warriors started the second half on 13-0 run, complete with a ridiculous Zaza Pachulia three-point play, and the Warriors started to break the game open getting up by 20. The Cavs cut that to 12 when they took advantage of Pachulia’s defense vs. a small lineup, but the Warriors were 6-of-10 from three in the third, were getting stops at the rim (Cavs 5-of-14 in the restricted area in the third), and the Warriors led 93-72 after three. It felt over.

Turns out it basically was. The Warriors pushed the lead and ran away with the game.

Kevin Durant keeps building up superstar accolades with second All-Star MVP

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CHARLOTTE – When Kevin Durant won All-Star MVP in 2012, he was asked whether he considered himself a star, a label he had resisted.

“I wouldn’t say that just yet,” Durant said. “Hopefully. Hopefully soon I can say that.”

The notion was silly then. Durant had already made two All-NBA first teams and finished second for MVP.

But that All-Star MVP started to change how Durant presented himself. He made another All-NBA first team, again finished second for MVP and led the Thunder to the NBA Finals that season.

“In 2012, I started to feel like I started to hit that elite level,” Durant said. “All that stuff in one year was pretty exciting to me.”

The hits have kept rolling since.

Durant has added an MVP, two titles and two Finals MVPs. Tonight, he claimed another All-Star MVP. The Warriors star scored 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting to lead LeBron James‘ team to a 178-164 win.

“I just keep trying to rack them up, I guess,” Durant said.

That’s seven years between his All-Star MVPs. Few players sustain that elite level – starring among stars – so long. Only LeBron James (12 years), Michael Jordan (10 years), Kobe Bryant (nine years), Oscar Robertson (eight years) have gone so long between their first and last All-Star MVPs.

Durant, 30, appears to have plenty left in the tank.

Of course, the impending question: Where? Durant can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and this weekend included plenty of speculation.

Tonight’s game gave Knicks fans reason to fanaticize. New York’s presumed targets with its double-max cap space, Durant and Kyrie Irving showed strong chemistry. Half Durant’s baskets were assisted by Irving, who sent five of his six assists to Durant (the other an alley-oop to former teammate LeBron).

Asked which of his All-Star teammates he best meshed with, Durant refused to name one.

“You don’t really have to do too much when you’re playing with so many great players,” Durant said. “You can do what you’re just best at.”

Team LeBron starts playing defense first, comes from 20 down to win All-Star Game

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Midway through the third quarter of Saturday’s All-Star Game, Team LeBron started to care.

Down 20 at one point early in the third, Team LeBron came out of a mid-quarter timeout with a different energy. The “bench” guys on the court started defending with the kind of relative intensity usually reserved for the final minutes of this exhibition (when it’s close), the players on the bench were standing and cheering like it was a playoff game, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal started knocking down everything, and the game just shifted. It culminated when Damian Lillard tied the game up with a 35-foot three.

Team LeBron kept up the momentum, owned the fourth as Durant went 3-of-3 from beyond the arc in the quarter, and Team LeBron got the win 178-164.

“It was our second unit that came in — Dame, Klay, Brad Beal, LaMarcus, Ben Simmons, KAT,” LeBron said after the game about what turned the momentum. “They came in and just changed the whole complexion of the game. We got stops, and, obviously, Dame and Klay caught fire from beyond the arc, and that allowed us to get back in the game.”

Durant was named MVP, a clear choice with his second-half play in particular.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul George showed anyone that hasn’t seen him this season how well he’s playing — MVP conversation level — on his way to 20.

This All-Star Game opened with the level of defensive intensity we have come to expect in All-Star Games. Which is to say none.

Well, except when Stephen Curry was guarding Klay Thompson.

The one guy who was intense from the start was Antetokounmpo, who scored the first six points for Team Giannis. He didn’t slow down on his way to 20 first-half points, plus he had one of the game’s great highlights on a bounce pass alley-oop from Curry.

Antetokounmpo wasn’t the only Buck hot to start, Khris Middleton entered the game midway through the first quarter and drained three shots from beyond the arc in a row. In the first nine minutes of the game, the Bucks were beating Team LeBron 28-27.

The favorite crowd moment of the first half was when future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki walked on the court and splashed a couple of threes.

Dwyane Wade was the other Commissioner addition to the game, which means for one last time we got Wade throwing the alley-oop to LeBron.

Curry struggled late, going 3-of-11 in the fourth, but he still got to rub it in Thompson’s face a little.

“It was good to see Steph knock that shot down over Klay, because Klay is always talking trash to him,” Durant said after the game.

Team Giannis was in control most of the first half and was up 13 (95-82) at the half, not that 13 points is much of a deficit in the All-Star Game. Not when one team started to care.

Stephen Curry gets four-point play after Klay Thompson foul, Curry does some taunting

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Stephen Curry is enjoying going against Klay Thompson. Maybe a little too much.

In the first half, Curry was matched up on his Warriors’ backcourt mate and enjoyed that Thompson missed the shot.

Then in the fourth quarter, with the game tight, Curry drained the contested three and drew the and-1 on Thompson — and did a little taunting.

That’s some All-Star fun.

Stephen Curry bounces alley-oop way above rim, Giannis Antetokounmpo slams it down (video)

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CHARLOTTE – Stephen Curry bounced this so high!

I suppose it helps that Giannis Antetokounmpo has such ridiculous reach.