Warriors, without Kevin Durant, snap Rockets’ nine-game win streak

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HOUSTON (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 30 points, DeMarcus Cousins had a season-high 27 and the Golden State Warriors snapped Houston’s nine-game winning streak Wednesday night with a 106-104 victory over the Rockets.

Playing without injured star Kevin Durant, the Warriors bounced back after a loss to Phoenix on Sunday and avoided being swept by Houston after the Rockets won the first three meetings this season.

Golden State, which had lost six of 10 overall, is 4 1/2 games ahead of Houston atop the Western Conference standings. The Rockets are tied with Oklahoma City for third place behind Denver.

After trailing by 14 in the fourth quarter, a three-point play by Chris Paul got Houston within one with 10.8 seconds left. Stephen Curry made two free throws with eight seconds remaining to make it 106-103, and James Harden hit one of two from the line at the other end with 6.4 seconds to go. The miss on the second one bounced high off the rim and was rebounded by Andre Iguodala, securing Golden State’s victory.

Harden had 29 points and 10 assists for the Rockets, but shot just 2 of 12 on 3-pointers. Paul finished with 24 points.

Curry added 24 points for Golden State. Durant missed the game with a sprained right ankle.

The Warriors were up by 13 after a reverse layup by Cousins with about 5 1/2 minutes left before Houston used a 7-2 run, with a 3-pointer from Eric Gordon, to get to 102-94.

Thompson added a basket for the Warriors before the Rockets used a 6-0 spurt to cut the lead to 104-100 with 47.7 seconds left.

Thompson made five 3s to give him 203 this season. He joined Curry as the only players in NBA history to have seven straight seasons with 200 3-pointers.

Golden State had a seven-point lead to start the fourth and scored the first seven points of the period, highlighted by a 3 from Thompson, to push the lead to 92-78.

The Warriors were up by 12 in the first half but Houston cut it to 54-52 by halftime. A 3-pointer by Gordon gave the Rockets their first lead early in the third quarter and one by P.J. Tucker seconds later made it 60-56.

The game was tied later in the quarter after a three-point play by Paul before the Warriors used a 9-2 surge to take a 76-69 lead with about five minutes left in the third. Curry had five points in that stretch.

Golden State was up by nine soon after that, before the Rockets got two 3-pointers from Gerald Green to power an 8-2 run that cut the lead to 81-78 with two minutes left in the quarter.

But the Warriors scored the last four points of the period to extend the lead to 85-78 entering the fourth.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Curry needs six points to become the fifth player in franchise history to reach 16,000 points. He made just three 3-pointers, ending a streak of 12 straight games with at least four – which was second in NBA history behind a 13-game streak by Harden this season. … Cousins added eight rebounds and a season-best seven assists.

Rockets: Gordon finished with 17 points. … Houston converted the two-way contract of Danuel House into a standard NBA contract. … Clint Capela had 13 points and 13 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Visit Oklahoma City on Saturday night as they continue a four-game road trip.

Rockets: Host the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Suns finally, mercifully, end 18-game losing streak to Warriors

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Devin Booker scored 13 straight Phoenix points during a decisive fourth-quarter stretch and finished with 37, and the Suns snapped the NBA’s longest active losing streak to one opponent at 18 games by beating the Golden State Warriors 115-111 on Sunday night.

The Suns beat Golden State for the first time since a 107-95 victory on Nov. 9, 2014, and earned their first road win in 20 tries against the Western Conference this season.

Klay Thompson‘s two free throws with 1:04 to go made it 111-108. Andre Iguodala secured a rebound after two missed Suns shots but Stephen Curry missed on a 3 with 23 seconds left. Booker then converted two free throws.

Booker’s jumper with 5:01 to play put the Suns ahead, then he made it 102-98 on a 3-pointer at 4:45. Booker hit a fadeaway at the 4:04 mark then scored on a driving one-handed dunk after Phoenix pushed in transition after Curry’s turnover.

Kevin Durant had 25 points before leaving with a bruised right ankle midway through the fourth on a night his teammates struggled from near and far. The cold-shooting Warriors couldn’t overcome Booker’s late onslaught in losing to lowly Phoenix.

Booker was 13 for 23, made all nine of his free throws and also dished out 11 assists for the Suns in a back-to-back and their fourth win in five games.

Splash Brothers Curry and Thompson were a combined 16 of 42 – 8 of 30 on 3s after a 4-for-22 start – and the Warriors went 10 of 43 from beyond the arc.

Curry started 0 for 5 and missed his initial four 3-point tries before connecting from deep 4:35 before halftime and finished with 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting.

Thompson made his first four shots and appeared poised for another shooting gem to follow up his 39-point, nine 3-pointer performance in Friday’s 122-105 win against Denver. He still scored 28 points, going 10 of 22.

Kelly Oubre Jr. added 22 points with four 3s for the Suns, who held a 49-47 rebounding advantage.

Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov knew limiting turnovers would be a key to the Suns staying in the game. They committed just eight but had a three-game winning streak snapped Saturday at Portland.

The Suns played only 21 hours, 30 minutes later with the Daylight Saving Time change.

The Warriors jumped to a 12-3 lead, getting a pair of quick 3s and a baseline drive and dunk from Thompson before a Phoenix timeout at the 7:56 mark. But Golden State’s lead was just 57-56 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Suns: Booker received a technical with 1:27 left in the third out of frustration on a no-call. … F T.J. Warren missed his 19th consecutive game with right ankle soreness. … Phoenix is 6-29 on the road overall.

Warriors: Draymond Green contributed 11 rebounds and eight assists. … Thompson played his 600th career regular-season game – the 11th player in Warriors history to do so. His 102 postseason games are most ever for any Golden State player. … Thompson had six of his team’s 16 turnovers.

PRACTICE FACILITY

On Monday, the Warriors will announce their plans for continuing to utilize the current practice facility in downtown Oakland at team headquarters after the franchise moves its operation across the bay to San Francisco before next season.

Part of it will include expanded opportunities and activities for youth basketball camps and further community outreach.

UP NEXT

Suns: Host Jazz on Wednesday night.

Warriors: At Houston on Wednesday night.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Draymond Green sticks up for DeMarcus Cousins’ defense

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Golden State has struggled defensively with DeMarcus Cousins on the court.

You could see it in the numbers. The Warriors preferred starting lineup with Cousins (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green) have a 113.4 defensive net rating (via NBA.com after Friday’s game), which would be tied with the Suns for 29th in the league on the season. Put Kevon Looney in at center and the defense gets 7.6 per 100 better. Put Andre Iguodala in, move Green to center and go small, and the defense gets 17.6 per 100 better.

Or, you could just see it with your eyes — the Sixers and Celtics both worked hard to drag Cousins into every pick and roll they could. It was the place they chose to attack in a defense that had been flat for weeks (for reasons beyond Cousins and more to do with caring).

Friday night against Denver, Cousins’ and the Warriors’ defense was not a problem. Golden State’s starting lineup had a defensive net rating of 81.8, holding the Nuggets to 8-of-28 shooting. After the game, Green stuck up for Cousins’ defense.

“Everybody wants to talk s*** about DeMarcus’ defense. I told y’all last game, we haven’t played with energy — or at practice. Everybody wanna ‘It’s a problem when DeMarcus is out there.’ Yet everyone picked the energy up, all of a sudden no one is talking about DeMarcus’ problems defensively. Now it’s a good matchup for him. That’s bulls*** to me.”

Green isn’t wrong.

While teams will target Cousins in the playoffs — the way they have targeted Stephen Curry in the past, not because he’s a terrible defender (he’s okay) but he’s the weakest link — but if the Warriors are playing well as a team it’s not going to matter. Denver was off its game Friday night, but the Warriors can slow down any elite offense when they are focused. Friday night they were focused.

Keep playing like that and Cousins will have a ring to shut up his critics.

Three Things to Know: Dwyane Wade hits H-O-R-S-E shot game-winner to beat Warriors

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Dwyane Wade hits H-O-R-S-E game-winner to beat Warriors. In his 16-year career, Dwyane Wade has hit more important shots. And tougher ones.

But it was fun to watch the future Hall of Famer dust off the magic one more time.

Golden State had taken the game in Miami just seriously enough to stay fairly close, then come back in the fourth quarter to take a two-point lead heading into the final possession. With 10 seconds remaining Wade started a drive but Andre Iguodala stayed in front of him and cut him off, so Wade passed back to Dion Waiters. However, Waiters was doubled. Wade sprinted back to the arc to give Waiters an outlet, and when Wade caught the ball he looked open at the top of the arc as he lined up a three…

Then Jordan Bell blocked the shot. Wade twisted, grabbed the block and…

Wade has not had his old magic this season, but for a night he found it.

The win also moved the Heat within half a game of Charlotte (and tied in the loss column with them) for the final playoff spot in the East.

2) Celtics play better, but too much Damian Lillard gets Portland win in Boston. That’s four in a row. The Boston Celtics have come out of the All-Star break and dropped four in a row. It’s the kind of streak that could well lock them into the fifth seed when all is said and done, which means starting the playoffs on the road somewhere.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, the Celtics looked better in this loss than they did the night before in losing to the Raptors — back home, Boston showed some fight. Kyrie Irving had 31 points on 24 shots, Marcus Smart was energy and defense personified, and Jaylen Brown had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

But at this point, a loss is a loss for Boston. Blowout or close. The team just needs some wins.

Jusuf Nurkic played some bully ball for Portland and got 16 points, while Moe Harkless played good defense and outworked everyone to 17 points and 10 rebounds.

And then there was Damian Lillard, just making plays all game long on his way to 33 points.

Portland has started 4-0 on a seven-game road swing, they are the current four seed in the West just half-a-game back of three seed Oklahoma City (and the Thunder have a much tougher schedule the rest of the way). Maybe Portland finishing as the three seed last season wasn’t such a fluke.

3) We hope Marvin Bagley’s injury isn’t as bad as it looked like it could be. Sacramento’s star rookie (and No. 2 pick) Marvin Bagley has steadily improved all season and really found his groove of late. In the three games leading into Wednesday night — against the Warriors, Thunder, and Timberwolves — Bagley had a combined for 72 points and 35 rebounds (24 points and 11.7 rebounds a game).

But against the Bucks Wednesday night he banged knees on a screen and went down hard.

Here’s what’s concerning: Bagley banged his right knee on the screen, but grabbed his left knee when he went down. Watch the replay closely and you can see his left foot kind of stick and his knee twist awkwardly.

Officially, it’s a sprain with an MRI coming on Thursday.

Bagley has been a big part of the Kings push to make the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years. Sacramento fell to Milwaukee 141-140 in overtime, putting the Kings a full two games behind the Clippers and Spurs (but one back in the loss column), the teams tied for the 7/8 seeds in the West with 21 games to play. The Kings need wins, and if Bagley is out for any stretch of time those will be harder to come by.

Warriors host kids from Stoneman Douglas for practice

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MIAMI (AP) — Stephen Curry would ordinarily be getting off his feet as fast as possible after a morning shootaround practice, saving his legs for the looming game that night.

Wednesday, however, wasn’t ordinary.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr invited some students – including ones from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the school in Parkland where 17 students and staff were killed in a massacre on Feb. 14, 2018 – into the Warriors’ game-morning practice in Miami. And long after the session was over, Curry was throwing alley-oop lobs and engaging in 3-point contests with kids who couldn’t believe they were hanging out with stars from the two-time defending NBA champions.

“You hate that you have these opportunities because of what happened at our school,” said Jeff Foster, a teacher and former coach at Stoneman Douglas. “But at the same time, it’s nice to have these contacts and meet people and coach Kerr has been at a few of the events with our kids … you’re always glad to sit around and talk to him, whether it’s about basketball or politics. And we just spent time doing both.”

While Kerr was chatting with teachers, some of the boys and girls got onto the court with the Warriors. Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Durant and Curry were among those who stuck around after shootaround for about an extra half-hour, posing for photos and talking about basketball.

“It’s special having them here,” Curry said as he watched the kids playing on the same court where the Warriors would visit the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. “They’ve done so much in the wake of the shooting, speaking out, using their platform that they have, the entire student body. They come to just have fun, enjoy themselves. I know that means a lot.”

Matt Fisher won’t forget it anytime soon.

Fisher is among the captains of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ boys team, which lost its district championship game in quadruple-overtime and then fell in the first round of the state tournament. He plans to play college basketball at Division III’s Washington University in St. Louis next season, but if that doesn’t work out at least he can say he caught a lob from Curry for a dunk.

“This is just a surreal opportunity that I really appreciate,” said Fisher, who talked Curry into having a 3-point contest against him. It was briefly tied at 1-1 before Curry prevailed.

Kerr invited the students into the practice, and makes no secret about his desire for gun reform. Kerr was 18 when his father Malcolm, then president of American University of Beirut, was murdered. He’s followed the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and their “March For Our Lives” organization’s efforts closely.

“The fortunate thing is the young people leading this drive are going to be much more impactful than old people like me,” Kerr said. “It’s true. Older people have been trying to do something but they haven’t made the impact. But the next generation, the country belongs to them. So I’m really proud of what they’re doing.”