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J.R. Smith to return to action for Cavaliers on Thursday night

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are about to get one of their two injured starters back.

J.R. Smith, who has been out since Dec. 21 following surgery to repair a broken thumb, will return to the lineup on Thursday night against Detroit, coach Tyronn Lue announced pregame.

But Smith had already said he was back.

This is a big boost for the Cavs. Smith will come off the bench until he gets his conditioning back, but he was scoring 8.6 points per game and was part of a starting five that Lue leaned on heavily, and that outscored opponents by 11.6 points per 48 minutes.

While Smith was out, the Cavaliers added Kyle Korver and Deron Williams. Still, Smith brings another weapon, another gunner to a team that already is the clear favorite in the East.

Kevin Love remains out and may be until around the start of the playoffs.

Nick Young’s home burglarized All-Star weekend, thieves got $500,000 in goods, took entire safe

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Nick Young was a great addition by the NBA to All-Star weekend, where the Lakers’ gunner was part of the Saturday night Three Point Contest. He didn’t win, but still, he got to go to New Orleans and have a little fun, and eat a little gumbo.

But that may not be how he remembers the weekend now.

His Los Angeles home was burglarized while he was away, according to a report on TMZ.

…this time, crooks struck the L.A. home of Lakers star Nick Young (again!) and made off with $500k in cash and jewelry after taking his entire safe!!!

Law enforcement sources confirm … Young’s Valley residence was hit in February when the bad guys entered through an unlocked door and pilfered the NBA star’s valuables. We’re told crooks took roughly $30k in cash plus 3 gold chains, a custom ring and a locked safe containing other valuables.

The details of this have since been confirmed by the Los Angeles Times. The home is in the San Fernando Valley and is the one he purchased with pop star Iggy Azaela when they were together.

If you steal an entire safe, that means you have a lot of time and some means to pull it off — this was no smash and grab. These were pros (which is bad news for Young, it means they are less likely to be caught).

(Hat Tip Yahoo’s Ball don’t Lie)

Suns Jared Dudley, Wizards’ Brandon Jennings each fined $35,000 by NBA for altercation

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It’s a fairly steep fine, but either of these guys could have been suspended a game for their actions so there shouldn’t be much complaining.

Phoenix’s Jared Dudley and Washington’s Brandon Jennings each got a $35,000 fine for their part in a recent incident between their teams. Dudley’s fine was for making contact with Jason Smith, while Jennings got his for “making menacing gestures on the playing court,” which is code for he shaped his hand like a gun and pointed it at Dudley.

You can see the incident above. It started when Smith was called for an offensive foul as he laid out Phoenix’s Tyler Ulis on a screen. Dudley took exception to the hard foul, ran across the floor get in Smith’s face, headbutting Smith when he arrived. This led to a bit of a scuffle, where Jennings made a very obvious gun and shooting gesture with his hand.

At the time, both were ejected from the game. Now they get to write some checks, too.

Three Things We Learned Thursday: Warriors still figuring out no Durant life, good teams like Celtics expose that

Associated Press
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It was a busy night around the NBA with 11 games, but if you were binging Luke Cage we understand, here are the big takeaways from Tuesday around the league. 

1) Golden State still has not figured out life without Kevin Durant, and good teams like Boston will make them pay.
The Celtics came into Oracle Arena and did what they do in the fourth quarter: Play disciplined defense, count on role players such as Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk to step up, and lean on Isaiah Thomas. It’s a model that works.

Golden State still hasn’t figured out what works with Kevin Durant sidelined. KD — who said he “got a boo-boo playing basketball” — watched the game from the locker room at Oracle and had to be itching to get back out there seeing the mess that unfolded.

The Warriors were up a bucket heading into the fourth quarter, then in the next 12 minutes they scored 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting with eight turnovers. Boston thoroughly outplayed Golden State in the fourth, went on a 15-0 run midway through the quarter, and pulled away for a 99-86 win. While there was still more than four minutes left, this Thomas three felt like the moment the Celtics closed the door on the game.

We need to give Boston credit here. They prioritized defending the arc and the Warriors shot 6-of-30 from deep. Thomas led the way with 25, but Olynyk’s 17 off the bench were huge (he was +29 on the night). They executed with the game on the line, as they have all season.

But the Warriors are just not right.

When Durant went down, I said that for the Warriors to hold on to the No. 1 seed they needed Stephen Curry to return to his MVP form of previous seasons. He has not been anywhere close to that. There were fourth-quarter “M-V-P” chants in Oracle Tuesday night, but they were for Boston’s Thomas. Maybe we can blame a harsh and packed stretch of the schedule for Curry’s 2-of-9 three-point shooting against Boston, or the fact Curry is shooting 29.5 percent from three in his last five games, but the Warriors can’t afford that now (although coach Steve Kerr postgame talked about resting key players coming up). With no Durant there is no safety net, no rotations where Curry can just coast and be fine, or where Warriors role players don’t have to step up.

It’s not just Curry struggling, and not just Klay Thompson either (2-of-8 from three Tuesday), you can throw coach Steve Kerr in the mix. He has not found rotations that work, particularly in the fourth. Kerr’s regular rotation this season was to rest Durant and Curry both to start the fourth, then bring them back midway through and at that time give a brief rest to Thompson and Draymond Green, then have them re-enter for the final three or four minutes as needed. Kerr hasn’t really varied from that, but most of the Celtics game-deciding 15-0 run had come before Curry got back on the court, and when he did he couldn’t begin to reverse it by himself. Having two of the Warriors three best players on the bench for three minutes in the second half of the fourth quarter is going to get them beat by good teams, such as Boston. Kerr can’t lean on James Michael McAdoo and Patrick McCaw in these moments without KD on the court.

When Durant first went down, I thought the idea of San Antonio catching the Warriors for the No. 1 seed was a crazy longshot (I didn’t think the Warriors would lose that many games). No more. As the Warriors stumble to reshape their identity, the Spurs are just 1.5 games back and poised for the run to the top.

2) Utah went into Houston and — thanks to Rudy Gobert and his hair — beat the Rockets. Utah is going to have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and if they play then against the Clippers (most likely the opponent) like they did against Houston on Tuesday, the Jazz could be in the second round. Do not sleep on this team.

Houston got 23 points each from Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert (the latter of whom has some interesting hair going on), they made James Harden work for his buckets (he was 0-of-8 from three), and the result was a 115-108 Jazz win. Also, of course, the Jazz were playing good defense and getting blocked shots — from Hayward.

With this win (and a Clipper loss to the Timberwolves) the Jazz are 2.5 games ahead of the Clippers for the four seed. That means Utah is going to be the four seed and have home-court in the first round, and that is going to be an interesting series (Gobert vs. DeAndre Jordan, how do the Jazz defend Chris Paul?). The Jazz could well win that series, which would be a massive boost to their efforts to retain Gordon Hayward this summer (and would lead to some real soul searching for the Clippers).

3) It’s just fun to watch Giannis Antetokounmpo play the game. Here he drops 32 on the Knicks. The Greek Freek’s line for the night — 32 points on 21 shots, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks — is far from out of the ordinary for him. Of course, he led the Bucks to a win over the Knicks, keeping their playoff dreams alive (both the Bucks and Heat are just half a game back of Detroit for the final playoff slot in the East).

However, we’re running these highlights just because it’s a joy to watch him play if you love the game of basketball.

Warriors fall at home to Celtics again: Boston wins 99-86

Associated Press
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Boston Celtics had their way in Golden State’s typically imposing building again. Last April, it was wrecking the Warriors’ record 54-game home winning streak.

This time, they spoiled Golden State’s lone appearance at Oracle Arena in a nearly three-week span.

Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points, Kelly Olynyk added 17 points, five rebounds and five assists off the bench and Boston beat the sloppy Warriors 99-86 on Wednesday night,

Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot just 4 for 17 from 3-point range as Golden State went just 6 for 30 from long range and struggled again without injured star Kevin Durant, who spoke before the game wearing a bulky brace on his injured left knee and using crutches.

“They did a good job of guarding the 3,” Thompson said. “Teams know we can kill them from 3.”

Curry had 23 points, five rebounds and six assists, and Thompson scored 25 points as the Warriors’ 10-game home winning streak was snapped – nearly a year after Boston last stunned Golden State here.

It was the Warriors’ first home defeat against the Eastern Conference this season and fifth in all out of 26 matchups.

“We’re in a tough spot in the schedule and with KD’s injury. Everybody goes through this at some point in the season,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You just make your way through and you let everybody else freak out and panic. You just keep your nose down, keep working and things work out.”

Golden State took a 74-72 lead into the fourth quarter when Curry knocked down a buzzer-beating 3 to end the third over rookie Jaylen Brown, with the two-time reigning MVP pointing and celebrating at the young forward.

“I didn’t say anything to anyone to be honest,” Brown said. “I think my defense was doing the talking, I was playing good D until he beat me on that head fake.”

Golden State trailed 76-74 with 8:41 remaining before Draymond Green came slashing through the key for a pair of one-handed slams in just more than a minute. Boston, which handed Golden State one of its two home losses last season with that 109-106 victory on April 1, kept answering every big play.

Jae Crowder knocked down a 3 for the Celtics and Golden State then committed two straight turnovers that led to four more points as Boston built its cushion to 90-79.

Green made a steal in his career-best 23rd straight game, the longest by a Warriors player since Curry did so in 33 consecutive outings in 2015-16.

TIP-INS

Celtics: G/F James Young was out with a bruised tailbone. He tried to go through shootaround to no avail. … The Celtics are 4-7 against Golden State since 2010-11.

Warriors: Curry (12,656) is 14 points from tying his father, Dell, for 210th place on the NBA career scoring list with 12,670. … Matt Barnes received a rousing standing ovation when he checked into the game at the 3:41 mark of the first quarter in his Oracle Arena debut after re-joining the team 10 years after his first stint. … Golden State’s streak of 11 straight games with at least 10 steals ended. … Thompson reached 200 3-pointers, joining Curry as the only players in NBA history with 200 3s in five straight seasons.

ROAD TRIPPIN’

With just more than one day at home, Golden State considered this game almost like a road test given the Warriors are playing eight times in 13 days and already went East, then home for one before a back-to-back Friday at Minnesota and Saturday at San Antonio.

“We’re still on the road trip, that’s the way we look at it,” Kerr said. “This is Game 6 of an eight-game road trip, they just happened to send us to Oakland in between Atlanta and Minnesota. I’m still trying to figure that out.”

Kerr will consider resting players as needed this weekend after checking with the training staff. Of leaving town again, he said, “it seems kind of crazy but here we go.”

“I know every guy in that locker room wants to play,” Curry said.

A NEW CAR

Evan Meredith of Oakland hit four 3-pointers during a third-quarter timeout to win a new KIA car.