Ronnie Price

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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.

Wade, Butler lead Bulls over Suns 128-121 in overtime

Associated Press
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CHICAGO (AP) — Dwyane Wade scored 23 points, Jimmy Butler added 22 and the Chicago Bulls rallied to beat the Phoenix Suns 128-121 in overtime Friday night.

Devin Booker scored 27 points for Phoenix, but missed a chance to win it in regulation after Wade fouled him on a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left. Booker hit the first two free throws to tie it, then missed the third.

Wade and Butler led the Bulls as they rallied from 11 down in the fourth quarter to beat the Western Conference’s last-place team. Both players scored 14 points after the third quarter to help the Bulls win their third straight.

Nikola Mirotic scored 20 points and hit four 3-pointers. Robin Lopez added 19 points. Denzel Valentine, who figures to get more playing time after Doug McDermott was traded to Oklahoma City along with Taj Gibson on Thursday, had 15 points. The rookie hit 5 of 8 3-pointers.

Eric Bledsoe added 17 points and 10 assists for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the sixth time in eight games.

The Bulls scored 20 points in overtime and were leading 116-110 after a seven-point spurt that Mirotic started with a 3.

Wade put back Butler’s airball and hit two free throws to make it 122-115. And he had the crowd roaring in the closing minute when he drove for a dunk on Alex Lin and gave the raise-the-roof gesture.

The Suns appeared to be in good shape leading 102-91 with 4:32 remaining in regulation after Booker nailed a 3 to finish a 14-2 run, but the Bulls came storming back.

A dunk by Wade and 3 by Mirotic with 1:53 left cut it to 104-103 and drew a huge roar from the crowd.

Butler hit a 3 to tie it at 106-all with 48 seconds remaining, and after a driving Bledsoe lost the ball out of bounds, he nailed a baseline jumper to give Chicago a two-point lead with 9.1 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Suns: The Suns waived F Mike Scott and C/F Jared Sullinger on Friday, a day after acquiring them in trades. … The Suns also signed G Ronnie Price for the rest of the season.

Bulls: Rajon Rondo will remain in the backup point guard role, coach Fred Hoiberg said. … G Cameron Payne (flu), acquired from Oklahoma City, was unavailable.

 

Thunder PG Cameron Payne fractures foot. Again

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Just as he was getting back into the flow after fracturing his foot this summer, Thunder point guard Cameron Payne hurt himself all over again.

Thunder release:

The Oklahoma City Thunder announced today that guard Cameron Payne suffered an acute fracture to his fifth metatarsal in Tuesday night’s Blue-White Scrimmage.

This is a troubling setback for the 22-year-old Payne, whom Oklahoma City drafted No. 14 last year. The Thunder didn’t play him enough last season to maximize his development, and now, they won’t the chance to make amends for a while.

Russell Westbrook will obviously still handle the large majority of point guard minutes, and this sets up Ronnie Price to open the season as the primary backup. The 33-year-old Price can play tough defense in limited playing time, but asking him to run the second unit offensively will likely turn out poorly.

Oklahoma City could stagger Westbrook’s and Victor Oladipo‘s minutes, using Oladipo as the lead guard when Westbrook sits. But Oladipo didn’t take to that role in Orlando.

This could also open the door slightly for Semaj Christon to make the regular-season roster as the third healthy point guard. But the Thunder already have 16 players, one more than the regular-season roster limit, with guaranteed salaries – and that doesn’t count Christon. Oklahoma City would have to drop Mitch McGary and one other player to keep Christon, which seems unlikely.

The Thunder will probably just have to grind it out with Price behind Westbrook.

Thunder sign Semaj Christon after two years of controlling his NBA rights

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The No. 55 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Semaj Christon has allowed the Thunder to maintain exclusive control of his NBA rights since draft night without paying him a dime.

No more.

Christon has twice rejected the required tender, a one-year contract (surely unguaranteed at the minimum) a team must extend to keep a player’s draft rights. Once, it was to play for Oklahoma City’s D-League affiliate for a low salary. Last year, Christon likely got a raise by going overseas.

But now, the point guard from Xavier is forcing the Thunder to give him… something.

Thunder release:

The Oklahoma City Thunder signed guard Semaj Christon, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti.

There are two realistic possibilities for this deal:

  • The Thunder gave Christon a small guarantee as an enticement to play for their D-League affiliate after they waive him in the preseason. That money – often $25,000-$125,000 – matters greatly to a player like Christon.
  • Christon took the required tender, knowing he’d likely get waived in the preseason without receiving any salary. At least this way, he’d become an unrestricted NBA free agent. He could still go to the Oklahoma City Blue, but if he played well – as he did two years ago in the D-League – any NBA team could sign him.

The Thunder already had 15 players – the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries, including three point guards: Russell Westbrook, Cameron Payne and Ronnie Price. It’s extremely unlikely Oklahoma City makes room for Christon.

But, one way or another, he’ll be in a better situation after training camp.

Report: Thunder reach deal to bring in Ronnie Price as backup point guard

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Oklahoma City is set at starting point guard, they feel comfortable trusting that to Russell Westbrook.

But when he sits things get interesting. Second-year guard Cameron Payne was going to get a heavy load, but last month he had surgery for a Jones fracture in his foot. The Thunder needed depth at the spot.

Enter Ronnie Price, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Price is a solid journeyman who will be a great fit in the locker room, is athletic, defends well, and plays hard. He’s just not a great shooter — last season in Phoenix 65 percent of his shots were from three, and hit just 31.3 percent of them.

For the price and expected role, this is a great fit. Price isn’t going to demand a lot of time on the court, and when he’s called upon he will be ready to go.