Curry scores 13 points over final 1:42, Warriors beat Boston

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 49 points with 13 of those over the final 1:42 and hit eight 3-pointers, lifting the Golden State Warriors past the Boston Celtics 109-105 on Saturday night in what is already being hyped as a potential NBA Finals matchup come June.

Curry made a go-ahead 3 with 1:42 to play, scored on a driving layup the next time down before eight late free throws. He also made three of his 3s over the final 4:20 of the third quarter for the Warriors, who had lost the last two matchups to the Celtics and two in a row at home. The Warriors fell 92-88 at Boston on Nov. 16 in which they squandered a 17-point lead.

Kyrie Irving scored 37 points on 13-for-18 shooting with five 3s, but Boston failed to build momentum from a win at the Clippers on Wednesday night, losing for the fifth time in six games.

Kevin Durant added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Warriors, who haven’t lost to the same Eastern Conference opponent twice in the same season during fourth-year coach Steve Kerr’s tenure. Draymond Green had 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

Daniel Theis hit a 3-pointer to just beat the shot clock buzzer with 6:59 left that got Boston within four, then Irving connected from deep 70 seconds later. Irving’s two free throws at 4:53 made it 92-91.

Curry’s 3-pointer with 4:20 left in the third put Golden State up 70-63, he hit another at the 2:52 mark then connected once more at 2:12 as Golden State grabbed momentum heading into the final period up 80-73.

He missed from 3 off the front of the rim with 3:42 left in the game. Durant missed the first of two free throws with 2:40 to play and a jumper under pressure at 2:03.

The two-time NBA MVP, Curry scored 18 points in the third, shot 16 for 24 and 8 of 13 from long range while notching his second 40-point game of the season and 29th of his career in the regular season. Fans chanted “M-V-P!” as he made two free throws with 43 seconds left, two more at the 10.3 mark, another pair with 6.9 seconds left and two more at 1.6.

Irving was sensational himself.

Plenty familiar with Golden State from three straight Finals matchups with the Cavaliers, he hit his first seven shots with three 3-pointers while Jaylen Brown converted his first four field goals including two 3s. Boston built a 34-24 lead late in the opening quarter and stayed ahead by 10 going into the second.

He didn’t miss his first shot until a driving floater 4:16 before halftime.

Celtics center Al Horford was back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game at the Clippers as a precaution a day after he hit his head in a loose-ball scramble in the closing seconds against the Lakers. While he didn’t have a concussion Boston took no chances because he has a history of head injuries.

HAYWARD PROGRESS

Coach Brad Stevens still doesn’t expect Gordon Hayward to play again for Boston this season as he recovers from a gruesome broken left ankle suffered early in his Celtics debut last October.

Hayward hasn’t lost his shooting stroke as he rehabs.

“He makes a lot of shots standing still. I mean a lot. He’s a heck of a stand-still shooter now,” Stevens said. “He’s really good in a chair too. Nothing new. We don’t anticipate him being back this season.”

Kerr has been so impressed with the Celtics’ resiliency without the star guard.

“I was devastated for him and I’m happy to see he’s recovering well,” Kerr said. “Their recovery as a team without him has been amazing. Two losses to start the year and then they just took off.”

TIP-INS

Celtics: Second-year F Jaylen Brown, who played collegiately at nearby Cal, scored 20 points. Durant hit a 3 from the top of the arc over Brown midway through the first quarter. … Boston shot just 32.9 percent in beating the Warriors last time, including 7 of 32 from deep, but made 14 of 27 3s on Saturday.

Warriors: Curry has made at least five 3-pointers in five straight games. … G Patrick McCaw missed his second straight game but said he is improving from a strained mid-back and hopes a few days before the next game will give him time to be ready. … Rookie F Jordan Bell missed his fourth straight game with left ankle inflammation. … C Damian Jones was recalled from the G League Santa Cruz Warriors, who will play their second ever game at Oracle on Sunday night against the Austin Spurs. So Jones could play again in Oakland on Sunday if sent down again.

UP NEXT

Celtics: At Denver on Monday to conclude a four-game road trip.

Warriors: At Utah on Tuesday looking for a fourth straight road win in the series.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant make top 10 of Forbes highest-paid athletes list

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LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant make more money off the court in endorsements than they do in salary from their teams. Which is not a surprise.

It’s enough money to vault them into the top 10 of FORBES Magazine’s list of highest-paid athletes for the last year.

LeBron is fifth at $88.2 million, of which $37.4 million is salary (although Forbes lists it as much less). Stephen Curry is sixth at $74.4 million, and Durant is seventh at $69.3 million.

Rounding out basketball players in the top 20 are Russell Westbrook at 12th ($56 million), James Harden at 17th $47.8 million, and Giannis Antetokounmpo at $47.6 million. Overall, 34 NBA players are in the top 100, including rookie Zion Williamson at 57th ($27.3 million).

Tennis legend Roger Federer topped the list at $106.3 million, and he was followed by soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar, before we got to LeBron.

Despite all the work that goes into them, these Forbes estimates have a reputation for being off the mark. That said, it makes for a fun debate and ranking, and we could all use that right now.

Stephen Jackson speaks passionately at a rally in remembrance of his “twin” George Floyd

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Stephen Jackson, the former NBA player and current ESPN analyst, knew George Floyd from when he pair grew up near each other in Texas.

Friday, Jackson spoke about the man he called his “twin” at a rally Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda (an event with Timberwolves players Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie in attendance. (Video via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, there is NSFW language involved.)

“I’m here because they’re not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin. A lot of times, when police do things they know that’s wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up, and bring up their background, to make it seem like the bulls*** that they did was worthy. When was murder ever worthy? But if it’s a black man, it’s approved.

“You can’t tell me, when that man has his knee on my brother’s neck β€” taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket β€” that that smirk on his face didn’t say, ‘I’m protected.’ You can’t tell me that he didn’t feel that it was his duty to murder my brother, and that he knew he was gonna get away with it. You can’t tell me that wasn’t the look on his face.”

There has been a powerful reaction across the NBA world β€” and across the nation β€” in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery (a 25-year-old black man killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood) and Floyd. In a sport with many black players, the murders of these men were reminders of the systemic race issues still part of American culture. LeBron James captured the feelings of many players and others when he took to Instagram.

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STILL!!!! 🀬😒😀

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Derek Chauvin, the man pictured kneeling on Floyd’s neck β€” which he did for more than eight-and-a-half minutes β€” was fired from his job in the Minneapolis Police Department and was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder.

Vote on NBA restart format expected next Thursday, here are four plans on the table

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The NBA is almost guaranteed to return to action in July, with the games taking place in Orlando.

What format the return takes is undecided, but the owners are expected to vote on that next Thursday, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

On Friday’s conference call with owners, Adam Silver reportedly laid out four options for them, something Shams Charania of The Athletic reported.

There was no consensus behind any one option, teams are all lobbying for what they want to see. Come next Thursday, Adam Silver is going to have to make a recommendation and get everyone to line up behind it, something the owners and players will do. This is Silver’s call.

Let’s break those options down.

β€’ 16 teams going directly into playoffs. This is the cleanest, most straightforward option, and it has support from a number of owners. This keeps the number of people in the bubble relatively small, making it easier to maintain the safety of players, coaches, staff, and everyone involved. The league likely would keep the conference format rather than go to 1-16 seeding (many owners from the Eastern Conference and coastal cities reportedly are not fans of 1-16 and fear if they do it once, even in this unique season, it would become a regular thing).

One downside is players have asked for some regular season games β€” or games with meaning β€” before the playoffs to get their legs under them, this does not provide any (increasing the risk of injury). The other downside is this takes almost half the NBA’s markets and tells them “you’re done, no games from March until Christmas (the expected date for the tip-off of next season, or maybe a week or two earlier). That’s a long time without games and can hurt momentum for those franchises.

β€’ 20 teams, group play for the first round. This is the World Cup soccer idea, with four groups of five teams each and the top two teams in each group advancing to the playoffs. Some fans and teams backed this idea because it provided a bit of randomness to the mix β€” soccer sees a lot of upsets in this format. On the flip side, the top teams were not fans of this plan for the same reason.

The buzz around the league is this format is basically dead to the owners.

β€’ 22 teams with regular season games to determine seeding, followed by a play-in tournament to the 16-team playoffs. This idea, in a couple of different forms (one with just 20 teams, some with 24) has some momentum. The idea is the 22 teams β€” all teams within six games off the last playoff spot in each conference, which is the Wizards in the East and the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, and Suns in the West β€” would play eight regular season games, then standings at the end of those games would set up the play-in tournament for the eighth seed. After that, the playoffs would start. This gets more markets involved, gets some regular season games (helping some regional sports networks), and still has a full playoffs.

There are downsides. It brings more people into the bubble and is that risk worth the reward? There are going to be some meaningless regular season games here, both by teams eliminated and teams locked into their playoff spots (the Lakers and Bucks will treat these games like exhibitions). It also adds a couple of weeks to the season and pushes the end-date back deeper into September and maybe October.

β€’ 30 teams, a regular season to get to 72 games, then a play-in tournament followed by the playoffs. This is the idea to “finish” the regular season. We’re not going to waste time on it because my sources, and those of other reporters, have called this one dead on arrival.

Silver is going to get lobbied all week by different factions backing different plans, but by next Thursday he has to pick a one he can sell to owners and to players. There are no good options, he has to choose the least bad one.

From there, players will get called back to market for workouts and the clock will start.

So long as the league can keep everyone safe.

Bradley Beal: Contract extension gives Wizards opportunity, me flexibility

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Bradley Beal, through word and action, has shown an incredibly strong commitment to the Wizards.

But is there an opening to pry him from Washington?

Beal on his contract extension, via “All The Smoke“:

It was definitely tough. I came down to damn near the deadline on my decision, because I kind of play devil’s advocate. The whole year, I’m weighing pros and cons of staying or leaving, signing and not signing. Do I wait and try to sign this summer? Or do I wait and try to get traded? Or do I wait and play my contract out? So, I had a bunch of options.

I secured two more years. I have two more years here. Well, three. And, so for me, it was like that puts me – to me, I don’t think I’m going to hit my prime until I’m – what? – 29, 28, 29, 30? And so I feel like – at the end of this extension, it puts me right there. And it so kind of puts me in the prime time of my basketball. And so it still gives me the flexibility with also giving my respects and loyalty to the organization that drafted me. So, I’m still giving you all an opportunity here to make it with work with John, to make it work with everybody. So, here we go. We’ve got a couple more years. And granted, I think my extension is the length of John’s contract, as well. So, this is the time we’ve got. We’re going to see what we can do, and we’re going to make it work.

Beal on the Nets being interested in trading for him, via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of talk,” Beal told ESPN. “It’s interesting. To me, I look at it as a sign of respect, that I’ve been doing good things and guys want to play with me.

“That’s an unbelievable feeling. When you hear that Kyrie [Irving] and KD [Kevin Durant] want you, s—, that’s amazing. At the same time, you don’t know how much there is to it, or how easy it would be to do. And I’ve put down roots in D.C. I’ve dedicated myself to this town, this community. I love it here, and it would feel great to know I could grind out winning here instead of jumping to another team.

“But I’d be naive to say that I don’t think about it when these stories come up.”

Beal, 26, is locked up two more seasons. Both he and John Wall have player options for 2022-23. Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, declared: “There are no Beal Sweepstakes.”

Everything Beal has said and done about staying in Washington is far more concrete than anything he has indicated about leaving.

But…

It’s interesting how close he came to not signing his extension. It’s interesting he publicly admitted to thinking about trade interest from other teams.

To me, Beal sounds like Anthony Davis – after years of stating loyalty to the Pelicans – subtly hinting he was dissatisfied in New Orleans. The key: Davis requested a trade only after the Pelicans kept struggling to build around him.

Beal is giving the Wizards an opportunity. Maybe they can assemble a winner around him. But even if Wall gets healthy, that’s a tough job.

If Washington becomes successful in the next couple years, great. That’s easy. Beal seems to be looking for reasons to stay.

But if the Wizards keep losing the next couple years, other teams will definitely line up to acquire the star shooting guard. Many players in that situation have greased the wheels of their exit by saying they won’t re-sign or even outright requesting a trade.

We’ll see how Washington does. We’ll see what Beal does at that point.

Considering Beal previously said he’d finish his career with the Wizards if he can control it, these recent interviews leave the door cracked slightly – only slightly – more ajar for Beal to depart.