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D’Angelo Russell drops 40, young Lakers make rested Cavaliers work for win

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LOS ANGELES — Tyronn Lue was channeling Apollo Creed’s trainer from Rocky: “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!”

“Sometimes you have to understand it is not a show but a competition,” the Cavaliers’ coach said after his team came from behind to beat the Lakers Sunday night at Staples Center. “When we get to L.A. and play teams like this we consider it a show instead of a competition. When you get down early it hurts your confidence, and now you got to fight and try and win your game.”

The Cavaliers coasted defensively through three quarters, the Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell got hot, and it took LeBron James taking over like an MVP for a stretch in the fourth — and Kyrie Irving dropping 46 — for Cleveland to get out of the building with a 125-120 win.

The Cavaliers should have been rested since LeBron, Irving, and Kevin Love all having sat out on Saturday against the Clippers (Irving and Love were coming off injuries, the Cavaliers didn’t want to play them in a back-to-back, so they chose to have them go against the Lakers). This is a game the Cavaliers should have won easily on paper.

They got the win, but it wasn’t easy. Call it treating the game like a show or just a late-season malaise, the Cavaliers weren’t at their peak and the Lakers took full advantage.

“We was out of sync a little bit, but they shot the ball extremely well,” LeBron said.

Russell got the start with Nick Young battling the flu, and he was knocking down threes and dropped a career-high 40 points.

“Honestly, I feel like I was aggressive from the jump,” Russell said. “Usually when I get myself in trouble turning the ball over it’s because I’m not being aggressive.”

“(Russell is) a great young player, I’ve been playing against him for a few years in the league and I understand what he means to the Lakers,” Irving said.

Lakers’ coach Luke Walton started Russell and Clarkson in the backcourt together, a pairing that had been a disaster most of the season — outscored by 22 points per 100 possessions in 464 minutes coming into the game — but it worked for three quarters this time.

The Clarkson/Russell pairing was also -14 Sunday because in the end they don’t defend well and no answer for Irving.

Cleveland’s big three combined to score 101 points, they carried the day for the Cavs, who in the end get the road win they wanted and a split in Los Angeles. It wasn’t pretty, but on the road late in the season a win is a win.

 

Doc Rivers shoots down rumor he could head to Orlando as coach and/or GM

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Speculation about what the Clippers will do this summer if/when they exit the playoffs in the first couple of rounds again is an NBA pastime right now. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and J.J. Redick will all be free agents. Will the Clippers just pay them all and run it back again with the same core lineup? Trade for Carmelo Anthony?

One of the questions is will coach and team president Doc Rivers be back in the same role? There are rumors he could be bound for Orlando, a team expected to have a front office shakeup of its own.

Saturday night, Rivers shot that idea down. From Jovan Buha of ESPN.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers shot down a question about him possibly retiring from coaching and moving to the front office full time. Rivers said his goal in Los Angeles is “pride of place,” and admitted he still has a ways to go to reach it.

That move was never likely this summer, but there is a little heat to the idea of Rivers eventually taking on some role with the team. This wasn’t a random rumor. Rivers has got a couple years left on his Clippers deal, but after that, who knows.

Stephen Curry looks like vintage self dropping 28 on Bucks (VIDEO)

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When Stephen Curry is knocking down shots, the Warriors look like the Warriors.

Which is exactly what happened Saturday night.

The Warriors stumbled out of the gate and trailed by 14, but then in the second quarter Golden State started knocking down threes. Matt Barnes ignited the fire, but then Curry took over and started draining everything. Video game Curry was back. And with that the Milwaukee Bucks were doomed.

Curry finished with 28 points and the Warriors won handily, 117-92. The win put them 2.5 games ahead of San Antonio for the top seed in the West.

NBA league office called Cavaliers GM “not happy” about three stars sitting out

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A week ago, Warriors coach Steve Kerr created controversy when he decided to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala against the Spurs in a nationally televised game. All were healthy, but the Warriors had played seven games in 12 days leading up to it, so Kerr chose a game the league had on in prime time to rest his guys.

This Saturday, the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to rest LeBron James and also sit Kyrie Irving (who sprained his ankle in the previous game) and Kevin Love (coming off knee surgery) against the Clippers on another nationally televised game. All three are expected to play against the Lakers on Sunday.

Needless to say, the NBA league office was pissed off and let Cleveland GM David Griffin know about it, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

If the NBA is unhappy about guys being rested in nationally televised games it is hyping, then it needs to start by looking in the mirror. If the league wants to promote these games like playoff previews, it needs to treat them that way, not have one team be on a back-to-back or in a rough stretch of the schedule. Have both teams rested and ready to go.

That said, there is a tipping point where the NBA’s broadcast partners and fans will start to push back against player rest in key games — and they will do it with dollars. There is no doubt — and studies bear it out — that players play better and are less likely to be injured when rested. The trend toward sitting players is about player health, and that should come first.

However, the NBA is an entertainment business and it’s putting out an inferior product on a big stage because of it. ABC/Disney is shelling out a lot of money to broadcast NBA games and for two showcase Saturdays in a row it has gotten a star-less blowout to put on the air. Fans are frustrated that buying a ticket to see LeBron James or Stephen Curry or other big stars can be like the purchase of a lottery ticket — will you get lucky and see them play? It’s become a talking point for fans and an embarrassment to the league.

This summer the league office, players union, and some team representatives need to sit down in a room and start hashing out how to avoid this in the future, especially for nationally broadcast games. Part of that is scheduling from the league, but it is more than that. The league needs to take some action before fans and broadcast partners do.

Stephen Curry scores 28, Warriors beat Bucks 117-92

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Warriors signed Matt Barnes for protection and depth once Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury in late February.

Scoring? Well, that’s icing on the cake for the feisty 37-year-old veteran.

Barnes made back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite a big run in the second quarter and Golden State overcame a sluggish start to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 117-92 on Saturday night.

“He’s not a great shooter but he’s a guy who you have to honor if you’re out there defending him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He doesn’t have to make shots to be effective. He does everything else so well. He’s already picked up our offense, like that. He’s been a tremendous addition.”

Stephen Curry scored 28 points with six 3-pointers, Draymond Green added eight points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, and Klay Thompson scored 21 points to help Warriors complete a season sweep of the Bucks.

Golden State improved to an NBA-best 55-14 with its second straight win by 25 points or more. It was also the Warriors’ third consecutive victory overall following a season-high, three-game losing streak.

The win came on the heels of news that Durant, out since spraining a knee ligament on Feb. 28, has progressed to taking jump shots, an encouraging sign for a team trying to hold on to the top spot in the West.

Golden State has been inconsistent since losing Durant and fell behind by 14 early in the opening period Saturday before outscoring the Bucks 36-15 in the second quarter.

Barnes scored seven straight points and fed Thompson for a short jumper to spark a 23-6 run, while Curry provided the game’s signature moment with a 33-foot shot just before halftime that brought the Oracle crowd to its feet.

“Matt played phenomenal tonight,” Thompson said. “We expect him to keep doing that. He just brings a certain of level of toughness we need off the bench. He’s a huge asset for us and a great pickup.”

The Warriors led by 27 in the third, allowing Kerr to rest his starters for most of the fourth for a second straight game.

Malcolm Brogdon scored 18 points while Greg Monroe had 12 points with seven rebounds for Milwaukee. The Bucks, playing the second half of a back-to-back, lost for the second time in 10 games.

“No excuses but we were fatigued,” Brogdon said. “If your second game on a back-to-back is one of the best teams, it’s going to be tough. Fatigue definitely plays a factor but it’s not the reason we lost.”

TIP-INS

Bucks: Milwaukee shot 23.8 percent in the second quarter. . Matthew Dellavedova was booed by the Oracle crowd every time he touched the ball. Dellavedova played at nearby St. Mary’s in college but is best remembered in these parts for helping the Cavaliers rally from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals last season.

Warriors: Kerr is encouraged by what he’s seeing from Durant. “I watched him go from sitting in a chair shooting to standstill shooting to now jump shooting,” Kerr said. “He’s clearly making progress. It’s great.” . Two days after putting up 21 points in the first quarter against Orlando, Thompson was shut out in the first against Milwaukee but came back to score seven straight to open the fourth.

KERR’S MESSAGE

Kerr took two quick timeouts in the first quarter to settle his team down. It obviously worked. “It was mostly about the defense and rebounding,” Kerr said of his message. “I thought we actually defended halfway decently to start the game but they kept getting one offensive rebound after the other. I liked the way we were going. It was just that nothing was going our way.”