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Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson lead Warriors to a 2-0 series lead on Spurs

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry watched another lopsided win from the bench in sheer delight, wearing a sport coat and big smile.

The steady hands of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson certainly have made the two-time MVP’s absence far less daunting for the defending champions so far in these playoffs.

Durant sparked a decisive third-quarter run on the way to 32 points, Thompson added 31 points and five assists in another superb playoff performance and the Golden State Warriors rallied in the second half to beat the San Antonio Spurs 116-101 on Monday night for a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

As Curry remains out likely for the entire series nursing a sprained left knee, the Warriors used all the offensive power they had to take both home games in the best-of-seven series.

“No one can make up Steph’s contributions individually,” Thompson said. “That’s got to be done as a team and even then it’s hard with the way he can shoot the ball.”

Thompson has found his touch after missing two weeks in March with a broken right thumb.

He followed up his brilliant 11-for-13 shooting day in a 113-92 Game 1 rout Saturday by hitting 12 of 20 shots. Durant also had six rebounds and six assists for the Warriors, who went without key backup big man David West down the stretch after he sprained his left ankle early in the fourth.

Coach Steve Kerr stuck with JaVale McGee as his starting center and the 7-footer contributed 10 points and seven rebounds as the well-rounded defending champions again showed off their remarkable depth.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 34 for the Spurs despite facing double-teams and Rudy Gay moved into the starting lineup and scored 12 points.

Game 3 is Thursday as the series shifts to San Antonio.

Thompson managed just three shots in the first quarter and began 1 for 5. He pounded the basketball down with two hands, frustrated, midway through the second quarter. Then he found his groove.

“He hit some tough shots off one leg and you know had some opportunity bounces,” Aldridge said. “That’s why they are who they are. They made tough shots. KD made tough shots.”

A baseline 3 with 55.9 seconds left before halftime was his first of the night and got Golden State within 49-45 before the Spurs took a 53-47 lead at intermission.

Draymond Green began 0 for 5 before his first basket on the opening possession of the fourth quarter and Durant missed his five 3-point tries in the first half then finally hit from deep early in the third.

The Warriors opened the third on a 19-5 run to take charge but this time the Spurs didn’t go away.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich went with Gay in the starting lineup for Kyle Anderson in an effort to generate more scoring – and his team still struggled to make shots.

Popovich said before the game that Golden State in Game 1 played “the most stifling defense we faced all year long. That was the best defensive 48 minutes that we have competed against all year long.”

Kerr knew Popovich would have his team better prepared.

And the Spurs showed higher intensity on both ends through the first half, working to keep the ball out of Durant’s hands or contest shots while jumping in passing lanes to force mistakes.

Andre Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP, started a second straight game and had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Warriors beat the Spurs for the 10th time in 11 games covering the regular season and playoffs.

San Antonio struggled from the floor for the second straight game, finishing 35 for 85 (41.2 percent). In Game 1, the Spurs shot 40 just percent while going 9 for 22 from deep and got outrebounded 51-30.

 

Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart will be Team USA captains in World Cup

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Team USA is just about ready to get underway for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. The United States beat Australia on Wednesday night in a tune-up game, 102-86.

Several big-name NBA players have dropped out of participating with the Team USA roster this summer, but it appears that things have solidified as we enter late August. To that end, we now have confirmation about who Team USA’s captains will be moving forward.

According to Kemba Walker, he and fellow Boston Celtics teammate Marcus Smart will be the captains for the international squad in this year’s World Cup.

Via NBC Sports Boston:

“We have a bunch of guys who don’t mind being the underdogs,” Walker told reporters. “We are hungry, and we are going to go out there to try and win a gold medal…I take pride in being a leader and guys looking to me and I’m here to set the tempo and bring my experience and energy.”

This is a point of pride for Celtics fans, and Walker and Smart appear to be two excellent choices as captains of this young Team USA roster.

It’s not going to be easy for Team USA to win the World Cup. Leadership and camaraderie has often been the deciding factor in the USA’s performance in international play. The team rallied around a strong locker room after their poor performance in the 2004 Olympics, coming together to win the gold in the 2008 Beijing games.

Walker and Smart should provide leadership and calmness for a team that will have many challengers who view them as vulnerable.

Minnesota’s Gersson Rosas says Andrew Wiggins must be “main contributor” to T-wolves

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Last season in Minnesota — with Jimmy Butler torpedoing the team and ending the Tom Thibodeau era — was pretty much the figurative definition of a train wreck.

Out of that wreckage, the Timberwolves think they found some positives. Ryan Sunders was thrown into the fire as a young coach but bonded with Karl-Anthony Towns. Robert Covington sparked the defense before his injury. Josh Okogie emerged as a player. This summer the team drafted a player with a lot of potential in Jarrett Culver.

Minnesota also brought in the aggressive Gersson Rosas out of Houston to take over as team president and start reshaping the franchise into one that can live up to the promise of Towns’ potential. For that to start to happen, meaning a return to the playoffs, Rosas pointed to a couple of things needing to go right this season. First and foremost, they need more — and more consistency — out of Andrew Wiggins. Via Timberwolves writer/podcaster Dane Moore.

Most Timberwolves fans, and the rest of the league, have moved on from Wiggins, who has four years, $122 million left on his max contract. While he averaged 18.1 points per game last season, he doesn’t get those buckets efficiently nor consistently, and the result is an average/slightly below-average wing whose contract is an anchor on the franchise. We’ve learned no contract is untradable in the NBA, but this is as close to that line as it gets — the sweeteners Minnesota would have to throw in right now make a deal are prohibitive.

The only thing Minnesota can hope for is that in year six Wiggins takes some steps forward he did not take in the last five. Maybe continuity helps, but we’re all going to need to see it before we believe it.

The other thing Rosas said Minnesota needs: More consistent defense from Towns.

Saunders seemed to connect with Towns and got him to defend, and Covington played MIC linebacker calling out coverages and getting guys in position before his injury. Rosas said Covington would be good to go at the start of the season, if so that gives the Timberwolves real hope that the defense will improve.

Whether all of that will be enough to get them into the playoffs in a deep West is another question, but at least Minnesota seems to be moving in the right direction now.

President Donald Trump awarding Medal of Freedom to NBA star Bob Cousy

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WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump is set to present basketball legend Bob Cousy (KOO’-zee) with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The award is being handed out Thursday. It celebrates individuals with a wide range of achievements and is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The 91-year-old Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame member played for the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1963. He won six league championships and the 1957 MVP title.

Cousy is also known for speaking out against racism. He was an ardent supporter of black teammates who faced discrimination during the civil rights movement.

Cousy will be the second person to receive the award this year from Trump. Golfer Tiger Woods received the honor in May.

Report: Shelly Sterling, members of Clippers organization heard Donald Sterling audio in advance and didn’t act

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In 2014, published audio of a racist rant by then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling rocked the country.

It shouldn’t have. Sterling’s racism and sexism were well-established by then. But few cared. The audio poured gasoline on the fire and moved people to act. I wish it didn’t require that. But it did.

What if the audio didn’t become public through TMZ? Apparently, there might have been opportunity for another outcome.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The fact is Shelly and several people in the Clippers organization heard the recording and decided not to act on it or weren’t appalled enough to act on it. Maybe they didn’t understand how big a splash this tape could make.

It’s unclear when Shelly Sterling (Donald’s wife) and other members of the Clippers organization heard the audio. Maybe it was while TMZ was doing due diligence. If so, it was probably too late to change the course of history.

But perhaps it was when V. Stiviano – Donald’s girlfriend who made the original recording and was being sued by Shelly – was still the only one in possession of it. Stiviano was clearly upset with how things were going financially between her and the Sterlings. For the right price, maybe the audio would have gone away before becoming public.

I’m glad it didn’t happen that way. The world is better off knowing exactly who Donald Sterling is.

Yet, this leads to an incredible “what if?” What if the people who heard the audio in advance understood the magnitude, acted in Sterling’s best interest and paid to have the audio kept secret? Would Sterling still own the Clippers today?