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2016-17 NBA Regular Season  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 12:43 am
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lobo316



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OAKLAND, Calif. - Stephen Curry scored 40 points and hit a tying 3-pointer with 1:48 remaining, and the Golden State Warriors rallied from way down after Kawhi Leonard was lost to an ankle injury to beat the San Antonio Spurs 113-111 on Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

Draymond Green gave Golden State the lead for good on a three-point play after the Warriors trailed by as many as 25 points.

Leonard left in the third quarter after he re-injured his left ankle, and the Warriors capitalized with an 18-0 run.

Kevin Durant scored 10 straight points during a key fourth-quarter stretch on the way to 34 points, while Zaza Pachulia had 11 points and nine rebounds.

Leonard had 26 points and eight rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge delivered another clutch playoff performance with 28 points and eight boards.

Somehow, these unusually careless, cold-shooting Warriors found a way to keep their unblemished postseason record alive at 9-0.

Game 2 in the series is Tuesday night back at Oracle Arena.

Curry scored 19 points in the third quarter and went 7 for 16 on 3s and 14 of 26 overall.

Leonard first went down after stepping on a teammate's foot along the bench after taking a shot. Pachulia later slid into him as he came down from shooting and Leonard fell into the Spurs bench, grabbing his ankle.

Losing Leonard could be a story of this series. He shot 7 of 13 in 23 minutes to go with eight rebounds and three assists. He made all 11 of his free throws.

He sat out Game 6 of the last round against Houston, a 39-point, series-clinching win on Thursday, after injuring the ankle in a Game 5 overtime victory.

Durant has repeatedly spoken of elevating his game when it matters most - and wow did he do it at the very moment the Warriors needed a huge lift on their home floor.

His 3-pointer with 7:53 to play got Golden State within 94-88, then he drove to his left and right by Kyle Anderson for an emphatic one-handed slam the next possession to ignite a deafening sellout crowd. Durant hit another 3 at the 6:10 mark and a jumper the next time down before Shaun Livingston's driving dunk.

Gregg Popovich lost to good friend and old pupil Mike Brown, filling in as Warriors acting coach for the ailing Steve Kerr - who played for Popovich.

Yet for much of the afternoon, the Spurs outplayed the mighty Warriors on both ends of the floor. They crashed the offensive glass as they so like to do - something Golden State stressed all week - going right at defenders in the paint and forcing the Warriors into tough shots. Even the open looks weren't falling.

The Warriors missed their initial five 3-point tries before Curry hit 5:05 before halftime to ignite a stunned-into-silence sellout crowd as Golden State got within 46-32.

The next sequence the Spurs managed three offensive rebounds before scoring.

San Antonio had six steals among the Warriors' initial nine turnovers and Golden State wasn't getting the kind of easy shots it was used to going almost untested the first two rounds.

Even when the Warriors did things right the Spurs answered.

Kerr watched the game from behind the scenes in the arena a day after returning to the practice floor for the first time in more than three weeks.

''He's gone through hell,'' Popovich said pregame. ''I'm sure most people don't really know, and I'll leave that to him to describe as much as he wants to describe. But it's been very difficult for him. He's shown a lot of courage getting through what he's gone through.''

TIP-INS

Spurs: Patty Mills, a college star at nearby Saint Mary's, struggled in place of the injured Tony Parker - out for the remainder of the playoffs with a leg injury. Mills shot 1 for 8 and missed all six of his 3-point tries for five points. ''I don't want to talk too much about Patty Mills because the more good things I say the more we're going to have to pay him,'' Popovich cracked before the game. ... Pau Gasol picked up two quick fouls and his third 5:18 before halftime.

Warriors: Green received his second technical of the postseason when he celebrated a third-quarter steal and referee Marc Davis penalized him. ... Golden State's 16 points in the first were its lowest-scoring quarter of the postseason. ... Andre Iguodala was limited by a sore left knee.

POP OFF

Asked pregame whether the state of the world distracts him, Popovich went off again - without ever using President Donald Trump's name.

''Absolutely,'' he said.

Then, Pop popped off.

''It's got nothing to do with the Democrats losing the election. It's got to do with the way one individual conducts himself and that's embarrassing,'' the coach said. ''It's dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be, but for this individual he's in a game show. And everything that happens begins and ends with him, not with our people or our country. Every time he talks about those things that's just a ruse. That's just disingenuous, cynical and fake.''

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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 09:45 pm
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BOSTON - Will the banners, the history, save the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals?

Or will the Washington Wizards, who are trying to reach the conference finals for the first time since 1979, come into TD Garden and record the first road win in 11 games this season between two teams that have exchanged all kinds of unpleasantries throughout the year?

The answer will come Monday night, when the series comes down to one game. The winner moves on to oppose the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East finals beginning Wednesday.

"We believe we should be playing against Cleveland, and beat Cleveland and go to the championship," Boston's Avery Bradley said.

Celtics great Bill Russell, arguably the greatest winner in the history of the four major sports, never lost one a winner-take-all game. In fact, he was 10-0 in Game 7s in the NBA and also won two NCAA titles and an Olympic gold medal - and his banner will be looking down on the Red Auerbach court for this rather important contest.

The Wizards pulled even with a 92-91 victory Friday that was easily the best game of the series. It came down to the final seconds, and the NBA admitted that the Celtics should have had an extra second for a final shot.

That can't be fixed - so Boston, aiming for its first conference finals appearance since 2012, will have to win it at home.

This is a week that is fairly important in the current and future history of the Boston franchise. In addition to Game 7 on Monday, the draft lottery in which the Celtics will receive no worse than the fourth pick via the Brooklyn Nets is Tuesday, ahead of what they hope will be Game 1 of the conference finals against the champion Cavaliers.

The Wizards, who won Game 6 after the Celtics showed up at the arena wearing black funeral clothing, have other ideas.

They come in determined to win at TD Garden for the first time since 2014. Washington has endured eight consecutive losses, five this season, on the Celtics' home floor.

The Wizards go as their two guards - John Wall and Bradley Beal - go. Wall has overcome some shooting droughts to be outstanding throughout, and he hit the 3-pointer that won Game 6. He is averaging 27.9 points in the playoffs, and Beal is averaging 23.8 points. Both are tough to stop.

"Now those guys are not babies anymore. They're closers," teammate Ian Mahinmi told the Washington Post. "They're proven closers."

Mimicking what the Wizards had done before a regular-season game, the Celtics wore black into the Verizon Center for Game 6, and it may have backfired and helped add fire to the home team. Still, the Wizards were facing elimination and needed a 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left and the added drama of the final seconds to finish it off and bring it back to Boston.

"Don't come to my city wearing all black talking about it's a funeral," Wall said on ESPN after that game. "We worked too hard for this."

And there's more work to be done by both of these teams. One will advance Monday night, the other will go home and watch.

"Man, I don't believe in pressure," said Boston's Isaiah Thomas, who has ridden an emotional and physical roller coaster while averaging 25.1 points in the playoffs. "I work too hard to be scared of any type of pressure."

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 Posted: Wed May 17th, 2017 09:54 pm
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LaVar Ball has once again thrust himself into the national spotlight, this time thanks to a fiery exchange with FS1's Kristine Leahy.

During a Wednesday appearance on Colin Cowherd's show, "The Herd," Ball took exception to a question from Leahy about how many Big Baller Brand shoes his company has sold.

Lavar Ball goes in on reporter part 1 pic.twitter.com/fA1SC7gN1O

โ€” Frankie Vision (@Frankie_Vision) May 17, 2017
"Stay in your lane," Ball responded, pointing at Leahy without turning around to face her. "I don't even worry about her over there," Ball said of Leahy.

"She scares me to death...That's why I don't look her way. I don't look over there 'cause she scares me. I'm thinking of 'Saw' right now. Leave me alone."

Ball then said he had sold "four- or five-hundred pairs" of the shoes after pointing at Cowherd and saying "I'll tell you," without answering Leahy directly.

The tension likely stems from a late-March episode of FS1's "Speak For Yourself" when Leahy and Jason Whitlock criticized Ball's overbearing parenting techniques.

When asked by Leahy what Ball's problem with her was, he responded, "My problem is, you are a hater," before imitating a woman's voice saying "'I would never wear a Big Baller shirt.'"

Lavar Ball goes in on Reporter part 2 pic.twitter.com/ZnfQqWww8b

โ€” Frankie Vision (@Frankie_Vision) May 17, 2017
When Leahy explained that she believes Big Baller Brand needs to appeal to women in order to work with apparel giants like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour - and that the company will need women to like the brand - Ball responded, "Uh, yeah, if you have a women's company."

Lavar Ball goes in on Reporter part 3 ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ pic.twitter.com/ef91OyzbqI

โ€” Frankie Vision (@Frankie_Vision) May 17, 2017
Ball also took exception to Leahy's claims that companies wouldn't want to work with Ball due to his disrespect of women.

"Oh, I donโ€™t respect women?" Ball fired back. "But Iโ€™m the one whoโ€™s married. Iโ€™m good. She can say what she want. I never disrespect women."

When the conversation shifted to Whitlock, Ball seemingly mocked the FS1 personality's weight, saying "I donโ€™t think he can comment on anything but snacks."

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 Posted: Wed May 17th, 2017 09:55 pm
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The NBA draft lottery held to the form many had expected Tuesday night, with the Boston Celtics winning the right to select first overall, and the Los Angeles Lakers getting the No. 2 pick. The fact the Lakers stayed in the top three was a victory of sorts however, given they ran a 53 percent chance of falling out and conveying their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Despite all that - along with the fact Boston had the highest odds of landing the top pick anyways - Lakers president Magic Johnson wasn't about to congratulate his longtime rivals.

"I still hate them," Johnson said, according to ESPN's Baxter Holmes. "That's never going to change. I'm not going to ever like the Celtics."

The fact that two of the NBA's flagship franchises - and the pair that have met in The Finals a record 12 times - are picking 1-2 in this year's draft is not lost on many, although the current status of the franchises differ wildly. The Celtics are in the Eastern Conference finals, and landed their No. 1 pick by fleecing the Brooklyn Nets in a trade four years ago.

The Lakers are just bad, and have been bad for four years.

Beyond memories of his on-court battles with the Celtics in the 1980s, Johnson may have another reason to be a little off-put. This year will mark the third straight draft the Lakers will pick second in, and while it's an enviable spot to be in a deep draft such as this, there's likely a "bridesmaid once again" feeling.

Still, the Lakers have a good chance of drafting Lonzo Ball, the Chino Hills native and UCLA product, as there is much mutual interest.

"We have as good a young core - once we add this pick - as any in the league," general manager Rob Pelinka said. "Even the great teams that are dominant, like Golden State, they grew through the draft. We feel like we have that type of core, for sure."

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 Posted: Wed May 17th, 2017 09:56 pm
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Mark Cuban rarely minces words, and the Dallas Mavericks owner admitted Wednesday that his team did its best to tank after it was eliminated from postseason contention this year.

"Once we were eliminated from the playoffs we did everything possible to lose games," Cuban told The Dan Patrick Show.

The Mavs were mathematically eliminated on Apr. 1, and went 2-5 in their remaining games. However, Cuban was careful to stress that the younger players who coach Rick Carlisle put on the floor were trying their best.

"Once a guy walks on the court, they're going to play their heart out," Cuban said. "Particularly the young guys because they have something to prove. So, Dorian Finney-Smith, Yogi Ferrell, there's nothing you could do or say to them to say 'Don't play hard' or 'Try to lose this game.'

"That wouldn't be right and I don't think any NBA team would do that. But when you have Salah Mejri shooting threes?" Cuban added, laughing.

To be fair, 7-foot-2 center Mejri only put up one 3-point attempt down the stretch (and made it), in the Mavs' season-ending loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Yet Cuban's conundrum demonstrates the polar opposites that most NBA teams prefer to be at: Either extreme excellence - such as the current-day Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers - or in position to select in the top few spots of the draft. The mushy middle of mediocrity appears to be the enemy of progress in the NBA, and only time will tell if the Mavericks - who will select No. 9 on June 22 - can net a future star.

This season was only the second time since 2000 that the Mavs failed to make the playoffs.

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 Posted: Thu May 18th, 2017 09:42 pm
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One supporter of the San Antonio Spurs isn't willing to let the Golden State Warriors off the hook for what happened to All-Star Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

Juan Vasquez filed a lawsuit against the Warriors and center Zaza Pachulia on Tuesday on behalf of Spurs season-ticket holders, as well as San Antonio card shop What's On Second. One of its demands is a temporary restraining order against the defendants, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Nick Moyle.

"All we are asking from the court is that this type of behavior, that can and does cause serious injury to our team and those that love it, not be allowed in San Antonio," said lead attorney Alfonso Kennard Jr.

The incident in question occurred roughly midway through the third quarter Sunday when Pachulia undercut Leonard while he was in the air on a jumper, further damaging his already injured ankle.

Leonard sat out the remainder of the game as the Warriors overcame a 25-point deficit to defeat the Spurs, 113-111. Golden State then blew out San Antonio on Tuesday in Game 2, 136-100, with Leonard ruled out because of his injury.

The suit says Pachulia "acted without excuse or justification, intentionally and maliciously invaded the landing zone of an opposing athlete, Kawhi Leonard."

By doing so, the complaint says Pachulia "devastated the quality of the Spurs' chances of being competitive and having additional games in their home arena, both in the Western Conference finals and also potentially in the NBA Finals." The suit also blames Pachulia for a negative impact on ticket values.

Related: Popovich rips Zaza for 'totally unnatural closeout' on Kawhi

The plaintiffs' demands include the following, writes Moile:

Judgment against defendants for a sum within the jurisdictional limits of the court for all their actual and exemplary damages in a sum determined by the trier of fact but in no event greater than $73,000.00
A temporary restraining order be issued without notice to defendants and that defendants and others named herein be restrained from engaging in the conduct described above
Such other and further relief to which plaintiffs may be justly entitled.

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 Posted: Thu May 18th, 2017 09:44 pm
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BOSTON - LeBron James had 38 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 117-104 on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Kevin Love added a playoff career-high 32 points and had 12 rebounds to help the Cavaliers improve to 9-0 in the first three rounds of the playoffs. They opened 10-0 last season en route to their first NBA title.

James scored at will in the first half and the Cavs built a 26-point lead. Love opened up the floor for James, burying outside jumpers and forcing Boston to leave defenders one-on-one with James.

Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder led the Celtics with 21 points each. Isaiah Thomas had 17 points. Boston missed 11 of its first 14 shots.

Game 2 is Friday night in Boston.

Love averaged a quiet 13.8 points in the first two rounds, then broke out against a Boston team that knocked him out of the 2015 playoffs when he became tangled with Kelly Olynyk and dislocated his shoulder.

The shoulder was working just fine Wednesday, and he scored in the paint and from the outside.

Things got a little testy in the third quarter when Boston's Marcus Smart and Cleveland's Tristan Thompson got nose-to-nose and had to be separated by referees. Some jawing continued briefly before James stepped in to pull Thompson away.

Smart and Thompson were called for double technicals on the play, but got tangled again a few minutes later. This time, Smart fell to the floor during that exchange, drawing a foul on Thompson.

The Celtics found some energy after the incident, closing the third quarter on an 11-3 run to pull to 92-75.

It didn't last long, though, as the Cavs quickly got the lead back up to 20.

James picked apart every defender that the Celtics threw at him in the first half.

He backed down defenders to set up 15-foot fadeaway jumpers. Other times, he simply took defenders off the dribble or sliced through double-teams on the way to layups.

Boston also seemed content to make every switch created by Cleveland screens, leading to some awkward matchups for James in the first half. In one such instance, Olynyk found himself one-on-one with James, who promptly drove past him and drew a foul at the rim.

The Celtics couldn't get anything working when they had the ball, held to just 35 percent from the field in the first half and 2 for 16 from beyond the arc.

The Cavs also held Thomas at bay offensively. He was 3 for 11 overall and 1 for 4 from the 3-point line after 24 minutes.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Since Game 5 of NBA finals, Cleveland has won a franchise-record 12 straight playoff games. ... The Cavs hold a 33-4 playoff record against Eastern Conference opponents (16-3 on the road)

Celtics: Finished with 14 turnovers, and were outrebounded 32-27. ... Lost at home for the first time since Game 2 of first round against Chicago.

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 Posted: Thu May 18th, 2017 09:45 pm
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The Boston Celtics didn't just get off to a bad start. They got off to a historically bad start.

The team trailed the Cleveland Cavaliers 61-39 at recess in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, with the 22-point hole tying a franchise record for the largest halftime deficit at home in the postseason.

LeBron James led the charge for the defending champs, posting 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting. The Celtics as a team were far less efficient, shooting 35.6 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from the free-throw line at TD Garden.


Boston posted the best regular-season record in the East, and is coming off a Game 7 victory over the Washington Wizards just two nights ago.

The Celtics have made 54 playoff appearances over their storied history, claiming a league-record 17 championships.

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 Posted: Thu May 18th, 2017 09:46 pm
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The LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers freight train continued moving in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night, and Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows there's little time to make adjustments.

One of those, he conceded, may be taking the risk of double-teaming James.

"Doubling is really scary against these guys, but it may be necessary," Stevens said after Cleveland's 117-104 win, according to ESPN's Chris Forsberg.

"The conundrum is, do you double and risk giving up those easy step-in 3s and the rebounds? Or do you try to stay at home and do the best you can and make them make a tough shot? It's all easier said than done, but we've got to figure out our best avenue quickly."

James, who scored 38 points in Game 1, freely bulldozed the lane against the Celtics. Boston tried giving him different looks with players like Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and Kelly Olynyk, which didn't go well.

LeBron turning his back on Kelly Olynyk showing no respect pic.twitter.com/pxXhAmA3lY

โ€” gifdsports (@gifdsports) May 18, 2017
"He made it clear - it was very clear - that he was trying to get to the rim on us no matter who was on him," Stevens said.

As the coach suggested, the risk in doubling James is opening up the rest of the Cavs' attack from beyond the arc. Cleveland is shooting a league-leading 42.6 percent from deep in the playoffs, and Kevin Love was 6-of-9 from long range in Game 1.

The one player who appeared to have a modicum of success checking James Wednesday was Jaylen Brown. The rookie didn't sound intimidated afterward, either.

"It was just playing basketball," Brown said. "He laces his shoes up like I lace mine up. Coming out, playing basketball and trying to make it tough for him. I feel that's my job ... if coach tells me, I'm going to be ready to guard whoever. If it's the waterboy, I'm guarding him, too. It doesn't matter to me."


With their ninth straight win of the playoffs, the Cavs now lead the postseason in offensive rating at 118 points per 100 possessions with a true shooting percentage of 61.5. James is averaging close to 35 points per game on 56 percent shooting.

"He's always picking the matchup that he wants," Stevens said. "I just said in the coaches' meeting ... it's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league. A lot better ... I didn't think he could get any better after that, but he is."

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 Posted: Fri May 19th, 2017 09:30 pm
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Masai Ujiri is tired of the hearsay surrounding Kyle Lowry.

The Raptors president shot down a recent report suggesting the All-Star point guard didn't want to re-sign with the Raptors, saying that any rumor regarding Lowry is nothing but speculation at this point.

"All I say is, our job is to bring back this player - if that is what's supposed to happen or we to happen - and convince them to come back here," Ujiri said on TSN's Overdrive. "It's our job. It's my job to do it. I don't listen to any VP of basketball operations from ... where the hell is he getting his information from? Or, you know what, why don't you put a name to it? Why does it have to be a source or something? It's the same sources that said DeMar (DeRozan) wants to go to the Lakers, DeMar wants to do this, he wants to do that. Every year, same old Kyle stuff from two-to-three years ago, it's the same old thing."

While Ujiri didn't explicitly say he expects Lowry to re-sign, he suggested the 31-year-old's love for Toronto will likely a play a factor in his free-agent decision.

"I think Kyle loves it here," Ujiri said. "I think his wife loves it here. I think his kids are doing excellent in school. Kyle is here for the next five weeks, or since after the season it will be five weeks. People are always going to speculate and say all these things. That's what this kind of thing brings."

Lowry officially opted out of his contract with the Raptors last week in an attempt to cash in on a much larger deal. The 6-foot point guard averaged 22.3 points, seven assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals on 46.4 percent shooting this season.

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 Posted: Fri May 19th, 2017 09:32 pm
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Both the Golden State Warriors and reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers remain undefeated in the postseason, with a third meeting in three years in the Finals feeling inevitable for quite some time.

Commissioner Adam Silver feels it's a non-issue, though, as the notion that there's a lack of competitive balance in the league comes to the forefront once again.

"It's not a concern. I think that we should be celebrating excellence," Silver said on "Face to Face" with ESPN's Hannah Storm. "People are already anointing these teams as dominant and franchise teams. On the other hand, I look at the Golden State Warriors that hadn't won a championship in 40 years. The Cavaliers, of course, won last year, and had never won a championship before in this league."

Silver went on to mention that franchises like the Boston Celtics (17 championships) and Los Angeles Lakers (16 championships) are almost in a class of their own in terms of excellence, and that the Warriors and Cavaliers still have a long way to go before being mentioned in the same breath.

For now, Silver's going to sit back and appreciate how well the two sides are performing.

"Of course, you want to see balance throughout the league. At the same time, when teams are excelling and playing at that level, I think, the fan in me, it's fantastic to me," he added.

The Warriors are up 2-0 on the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals, while the Cavaliers took Game 1 out East with a convincing 117-104 victory Wednesday over the Boston Celtics.

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 Posted: Sun May 21st, 2017 10:59 pm
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Can anyone stop the Golden State Warriors? Certainly no one in the Western Conference can, as of yet.

The Warriors went into the AT&T Center Saturday night and put away a hurting San Antonio Spurs squad, taking Game 3 120-108.

That pushes Golden State's undefeated streak this postseason to 11-0, matching the 1988-89 and 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers for the best start to a playoff run in NBA history.

The 2011-12 San Antonio Spurs and 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers both went 10-0 before finally suffering defeat during their respective postseasons.

This year's Cavaliers squad can go 11-0 themselves if they hold down their home floor Sunday against the visiting Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Warriors can close out the Spurs in a clean sweep with a victory Monday in Game 4.

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 Posted: Mon May 22nd, 2017 11:43 pm
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Despite blowing a 21-point second-half lead to the Isaiah Thomas-less Boston Celtics in Game 3 on Sunday, the Cleveland Cavaliers remain firmly in control of the Eastern Conference finals, up 2-1 in the series with home court still in their favor.

The loss - which, based on the point spread going in, could be called the biggest single-game upset in NBA playoff history - snapped the Cavs' record-tying 13-game postseason winning streak, which stretched all the way back to Game 4 of last year's Finals.

LeBron James, who put forth one of his worst-ever playoff performances after successively stringing together 13 of his best, was looking for silver linings after the letdown. And while he stopped just short of calling it a positive, he's hopeful it'll serve as a wake-up call to a team that's been on cruise control.

"I feel some adversity is all part of the postseason," James told reporters after the game. "I feel like you have to have some type of adversity in order to be successful. So I'm glad it ... I mean, if it was going to happen, let it happen now. Let's regroup and get back to playing desperate basketball, like (Boston) did tonight."

James came into the game averaging 34.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1.5 blocks this postseason, but was held to just 11, six, six, one, and one, with six turnovers in Game 3. He was also held scoreless in the second half, something that hadn't happened to him in a home game in over a decade.

Game 4 goes in Cleveland on Tuesday night.

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 Posted: Mon May 22nd, 2017 11:46 pm
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Paul Millsap appears set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The power forward has informed the Atlanta Hawks he's opting out of the $21.4-million player option on his deal for 2017-18, sources told ESPN.

It was expected that Millsap would decline the player option on the final year of his three-year pact in order to seek a max deal on the open market. At 32 years of age, the next contract the veteran signs will probably mark his last big payday.

The All-Star said earlier this month he wants to remain with the Hawks, whose Bird Rights allow them to offer him a five-year deal worth about $205 million. Meanwhile, the organization expressed optimism in retaining him.

The 11-year pro is considered by many to be the best power forward available in this free-agent class, which could also include Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, and Danilo Gallinari.

Millsap averaged 17.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.2 blocks over four years in Atlanta, making the All-Star team in each of those campaigns.

He also led the team to a .576 winning percentage over that span, which was highlighted by a 60-win regular season and run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2015.

Atlanta has roughly $64 million tied up in guaranteed salary for next season.

The Vertical's Shams Charania was the first to report the story.

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The Orlando Magic have agreed to a deal with Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman to make him their new president of basketball operations, sources told The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Weltman has been with the Raptors since 2013, coming aboard soon after Masai Ujiri. He was promoted to general manager last September, reporting to team president Ujiri. Weltman has previously had front office roles with the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets.

The Magic were in the market for a new basketball operations manager after firing GM Rob Hennigan in April. Multiple reports had also indicated the team was aggressively courting David Griffin of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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