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Hawks’ Taurean Prince out at least three weeks with left ankle injury

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ATLANTA — Hawks forward Taurean Prince will miss at least three weeks after injuring his left ankle in a lost to Golden State.

The team announced Tuesday that an MRI revealed a ligament sprain, bone bruise and associated soft tissue inflammation.

Prince was injured in Monday night’s 128-111 loss to the Warriors when he came down on Shaun Livingston while shooting. The Atlanta player hobbled straight to the locker room and left the arena on crutches.

The 6-foot-8 Prince is the Hawks’ third-leading scorer at 15 points a game. A first-round pick out of Baylor, he’s in his third season with the rebuilding team.

Clippers knock off Warriors in overtime 121-116

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lou Williams couldn’t hit a lick in regulation, so of course he had the ball in crunch time.

The Los Angeles Clippers wouldn’t have it any other way.

Williams scored the Clippers’ final 10 points in overtime after they blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, and they hung on Monday night to beat the Golden State Warriors at home for the first time in nearly four years, 121-116.

Williams recovered after shooting 3 of 16 in regulation, when the Clippers were scoreless over the final 5:15 while the Warriors ran off 11 straight points to force overtime tied at 106-all.

“There would be no point for me to be on the floor if I didn’t have confidence,” said Williams, who finished with 25 points.

Montrezl Harrell added 23 points off the bench and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 18.

“It’s not about the run they go on,” Harrell said. “It’s about how we handle it. We stayed after it and kept going after them.”

The Clippers snapped a seven-game skid against the Warriors at Staples Center, where they last won on Dec. 25, 2014.

“Unfortunately we lost, but we’ll see them again at least three more times and that’ll be different,” Klay Thompson said.

Kevin Durant had 33 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Warriors before fouling out with 3:46 left in the extra session. Thompson added 31 points, but was just 5 of 16 on 3-pointers on a night without injured fellow Splash Brother Stephen Curry.

“Everything changes without Steph,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s one of the best offensive players in the history of the game so you take him out and they don’t have to worry about as much.”

Golden State lost for just the third time in 14 games.

The starless Clippers improved to 6-1 at home.

Thompson’s 3-pointer tied it 116-all in overtime, interrupting Williams’ run of 10 straight points for the Clippers.

“He’s been playing the same game for like 10 years now,” Shaun Livingston said of Williams. “He’s just a handful to guard.”

Down 106-95, the Warriors closed regulation on an 11-0 run, with Thompson scoring their last eight points. His second 3-pointer in the spurt tied it at 106. However, on the final play of regulation, Draymond Green tried to take it the length of the court rather than pass to Kevin Durant, and Green lost the ball without getting a shot off. That led to words between the two on the bench.

The Clippers crashed the boards – every player grabbed at least one – and they dominated in the paint, 62-36.

Williams’ 3-pointer gave Los Angeles its largest lead of 101-87 after they didn’t go up by double digits until Harrell’s basket to open the fourth.

The Warriors were held to 20 points in the third when they were outscored by six.

“I told our guys to empty the gun at the beginning of the third,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Our whole goal was to get more shots than them.”

The Clippers shot 60 percent and led 64-61 at halftime.

 

Three Things to Know: Stephen Curry strains groin as injuries start to hit 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) Stephen Curry leaves game with a groin strain, injuries mount as Bucks blowout Warriors. It’s the one thing most likely to derail the Warriors championship train: Injuries. And they are starting to hit the Warriors. Shaun Livingston remains out with a foot issue, and Andre Iguodala is limited by back and neck issues, for example.

Draymond Green was out Thursday night as the Milwaukee Bucks came to Oracle Arena and that mattered. On defense, they needed him to slow Giannis Antetokounmpo… as much as anyone is going to slow the Greek Freak right now. The Warriors couldn’t and Antetokounmpo dropped Green’s jaw like he was in a Tex Avery cartoon.

Antetokounmpo had 19 points, seven rebounds by the half and finished with 24 points on 16 shots, plus nine boards in a 23-point Bucks win, 134-111. The Warriors also missed Green on offense — he is by far the best screen setter on the Warriors and without him Stephen Curry and others couldn’t find the space they are used to against the length of the Bucks.

Then this happened.

Curry soon left the game with what is officially a strained left adductor, which is the groin muscle to the rest of us. Steve Kerr said there will be an MRI on Friday to figure out the severity. Groin strains (like hamstrings) can linger, and players can think they are healed when they are not, then re-injure them in the heat of competition. Which is to say, this early in the season the Warriors are going to be exceedingly cautious.

For the Bucks, this was a “take us seriously, we are contenders” game. Off to a 9-2 start this season they have the best net rating in the league — besting opponents by 12.9 points per 100 possessions, with the second-ranked offense and fourth-ranked defense in the league. They have the necessary superstar in the Greek Freak, and now quality talent around him — Eric Bledsoe was a problem for Stephen Curry all night, Kris Middleton is for real, their bigs Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova can space the floor, and the list goes on and on — to be a threat. Mike Budenholzer is using all that talent properly, with floor spacing on offense and a more conservative defense than Jason Kidd ran.

Bottom line, when you talk the best in the East, the Bucks need to be mentioned with Boston and Toronto.

Golden State is still the gold standard in the NBA, the team everyone needs to beat, and a November win does not vault the Bucks past them. The Warriors did not treat this like a playoff game, they did not adjust like they would (in the Finals). But the nagging injuries are catching up with the Warriors, and with Golden State focused on April and beyond — not November — expect them to be slow bringing guys back from injury, and to get other stars rest. The Warriors have been here before, they know how to handle this, but it will cost them some wins as they focus on the long term.

2) Boston comes from 22 down to beat the struggling Suns on the road. Every time I looked in on this game and saw the score with the Celtics down by 15 or 20, I kept saying “the run is going to come.” Except, it never really did, when Devin Booker hit a floater with 3:45 to play in the game the Suns were up 14 (94-80).

That’s when the run came. Which was capped off by former Sun Marcus Morris — the guy bitter at the franchise for splitting up he and his brother — draining a three to tie.

After the game, Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said he had instructed the Suns to foul on that final play and force the Celtics to shoot two free throws. They had a chance When Morris first had the ball 35 feet out with his back to the basket, they had a chance when he first handed off to Kyrie Irving, and the Suns didn’t follow their coach’s instruction. Then they left (and didn’t rotate over to) a shooter at the arc and… that’s how you blow a three-point lead in the final seconds.

Kyrie Irving took over in OT and the Celtics got the win, 116-109. Kyrie Irving had 39, Devin Booker 38. Just remember, this was the easy game on the Celtics’ road trip West.

3) Carmelo Anthony returned to Houston and… that looked familiar. And ugly. The Thunder were without Russell Westbrook. Houston had won three in a row, all on the road, they had James Harden and Chris Paul healthy and were starting to feel themselves…

And Thursday night was all Thunder. OKC’s defense was sharp, but mostly the Rockets were off — Paul and Harden combined to shoot 11-of-30. As a team, Houston shot just 37.8 percent from the floor. This continues a trend all season, the Rockets are just missing shots. Houston leads the league with 41.9 threes attempted per game, 47.5 percent of their total shots, but they are 25th in shooting percentage from deep at 32.7 percent.

Nobody in a Rockets’ uniform was colder Thursday than Carmelo Anthony, who returned to OKC and shot 1-of-11 — a sight familiar to Thunder fans.

All of this led to a Thunder win — their seventh in a row — behind a balanced attack led by Paul George with 19 points. The Rockets can chalk this one up to just an off shooting night… but there have been a lot of those in this 4-6 start.

Stephen Curry scores 51 points with 11 3-pointers, sits entire fourth quarter

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry just shrugged and grinned as he kept lighting up the floor, scoring 51 points and finishing with 11 3-pointers in only three quarters of the Golden State Warriors’ 144-122 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

Kevin Durant added 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and Draymond Green had 11 of his 12 assists in the first half to help two-time defending champions finish with 37 after dishing out 35 assists in a 20-point victory against Phoenix on Monday.

But this was all Curry’s show. No. 30 knocked down his 11th 3 of the night late in the third from 32 feet back and shrugged like no big deal whatsoever.

He scored 31 in the first half and finished with his sixth career 50-point game and made 10 or more 3s for the 10th time. The 51 points matched his most at Oracle Arena.

Curry hit his first five 3-pointers then after his fifth one drove to the basket and was fouled. He made two free throws to chants of “MVP! MVP!” The two-time winner of the award had the ninth 30-point half of his career and fourth at home.

The “MVP!” cheers continued. Curry shot 15 for 24, 11 of 16 from 3-point range and made all 10 free throws, missing his career high of 54 set in February 2013 by three points.

He has scored 30 or more points in four of the first five games and had 29 on Monday against Phoenix, also playing just three quarters. He has hit at least five 3-pointers in each game so far.

Bradley Beal bruised his sternum early then returned late in the first half and wound up with 23 points. Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 17 points off the bench for Washington.

The Warriors have won four straight against Washington.

TIP-INS

Wizards: C Ian Mahinmi missed the game with back spasms, Jason Smith starting in his place. … Washington hasn’t won at Golden State since Jan. 28, 2014, a five-game skid. The Wizards have dropped 10 of 12 on the Warriors’ home floor.

Warriors: Golden State had its first 80-point half since scoring 81 in the first half Jan. 13 at Toronto. … Curry’s third 3 of the night at the 3:30 mark in the first moved him past Jamal Crawford (2,153) for fifth place on the NBA’s career list. Curry now has 2,162 3s. He notched the 22nd 20-point quarter of his career and seventh in the opening period. … G Shaun Livingston returned from a two-game absence nursing a bruised left knee. … This marked Golden State’s initial matchup against the Eastern Conference so far and first of four straight with an upcoming three-game road trip to New York, Brooklyn and Chicago. The Warriors went 24-6 vs. the East last season, 11-4 at home.

1975 CHAMPS

The Warriors honored the 1975 championship team, which swept the Washington Bullets 4-0 in the finals that year. Five members of the team attended morning shootaround then Hall of Famer Rick Barry joined the group for the game.

Six players and assistant coach Joe Roberts took turns hoisting the trophy during a ceremony before the second quarter. Coach Al Attles wasn’t in attendance as originally planned because he wasn’t feeling well.

Golden State sported gold throwback jerseys for the occasion.

THOMPSON’S TOUCH

Klay Thompson missed his first three 3-point tries before connecting with 6:36 left in the third and scored 19 points.

Thompson is 4 for 27 from long range through the initial five games.

“One thing I love about Klay is he’s going to shoot his way out of anything,” coach Steve Kerr said.

MORRIS FINED

Wizards forward Markieff Morris was fined $15,000 by the NBA for unsportsmanlike conduct. Morris was on the bench when he twice pulled at guard Seth Curry‘s shorts during live play at the end of the fourth quarter in the Wizards’ 125-124 overtime victory.

UP NEXT

Wizards: At Sacramento on Friday.

Warriors: At Knicks on Friday.

Why Kevin Durant’s free agency is more about those who come after him

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Kevin Durant is set to begin his season-long game of chicken, one in which those outside of his camp — including NBA general managers — try to ascertain what the two-time Finals MVP wants come the summer of 2019.

His situation mirrors that of seemingly every megastar about to enter free agency. That is, there are rumors abound of What Kevin Durant Really Wants, none of the verifiable. The same goes for his contemporaries: Jimmy Butler wants to be in Los Angeles or New York, but as the number one option; Kawhi Leonard wants to be in Los Angeles, but also perhaps he wants to stay in Toronto; Kyrie Irving wants to team up with Butler; DeMarcus Cousins a big bag of money from just about everyone (this one is probably the closest to accurate).

The story around Durant is that he could want to break out on his own, grab a long-term deal, and once again the certified top option on his own franchise. A three-time champion after another trophy with the Golden State Warriors this season, Durant would re-shape his narrative as The Number One Guy with a new team.

Whether any of this is actually true is, truly, unknowable.

We have entered into a version of the NBA in which players are trying to both commodify their talents best they can while obtaining increasing agency over their own careers. It has helped that salaries in the NBA have risen such that top players don’t need to barter with franchises to ensure their financial security. Those days are over. If they could, all 30 NBA teams would offer a max contract to Durant on 12:01 AM. He’s going to get paid, no matter what.

To that end, players get to make choices based on exceedingly private factors that aren’t always known — even with continuing rumors floating heavy — as agents and handlers try to retain leverage for future bargaining.

These factors, by the way, reported early in the season have the distinct disadvantage of time working against them. Remember when Paul George was headed for the Los Angeles Lakers and nowhere else last season? It doesn’t matter whether the reports were untrue or if George simply changed his mind. The result is that he remains an Oklahoma City Thunder.

So now for the rumors about Durant.

LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 27: Kevin Durant (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Potential landing spots for Durant include the Los Angeles Clippers, Lakers, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and even the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant will no doubt be looking to sign a five-year max deal which probably puts him out of reach for the Warriors, lest they decide to drastically change the plan for their core moving forward. Klay Thompson needs a new deal, and the contracts of Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston will need tending to the season following.

I tell you all that to tell you this: there is zero sense debating where Durant will land come July 1, 2019. The “facts” are already well-known. They could also all be complete bullshit.

The teams who have the most open cap space are easy to Google. With a little research, it’s also pretty easy to understand which of those teams can do a little financial footwork to get in a better standing come summer. As of writing, the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Chicago Bulls all lead the way in potential open cap space, along with the previously aforementioned Nets, Clippers, Lakers, and Knicks.

Chop out the teams that couldn’t sign Durant to save their lives, and you end up with a short list. Chicago, New York, the Clippers, the Lakers, and Brooklyn seem most suited for his rumored wishlist.

While it would be better content from me to tell you with great certainty which team leads the way in the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes, I cannot. It would be disingenuous. Instead, what’s most interesting when it comes to Durant is the sociological experiment that has become NBA free agency in 2019.

That is to say that money has become so great in this league that after a certain threshold it just doesn’t matter how much it is anymore. It has been posited before that as salaries have risen in the NBA, the ability for players to realistically value dollar numbers of contracts has started to decline. It’s hard to wrap your brain around a contract that’s a quarter of a billion dollars. What’s $50 million here or there when you have the ability to choose with complete impunity?

The summer of 2016 was a boom for a few players, but not for the NBA employment pool at-large. Nevertheless, salaries continue to rise and the cap is projected to go up yet again as we move year-to-year. Along with player agency, the idea that max salaries matter more to players is starting to fade. Leonard certainly didn’t think so when he decided to eject himself from San Antonio, giving up the vaunted Super Max contract in the process. With a max deal guaranteed for Durant should he want it, the same could be assumed heading into his free agency period.

The summer of 2019 could be the start of an era in the NBA in which players decide to sign with new teams based off of minutiae unknowable to the public, away from “basketball reasons” and in Durant’s case, even championships. Yes, the Chicagos, New Yorks, and Los Angeleses will dominate destinations for big-time free agents. But it might no longer matter that a teams in those locations don’t hold any advantages, basketball-wise, over their rivals.

It’s a brave new world in the NBA, and the league’s superstar-centric marketing combined with ever-rising popularity and TV revenue have led us to this logical nexus between player, cash, and choice. No doubt whatever Durant does, it will be most telling about what we’ll see from the signings of max-level players who come after him, in 2019 and beyond.