Two Warriors named All-Star Game starters


Two Warriors named All-Star Game starters

After sending four players to the NBA All-Star Game last season in New Orleans, the Warriors are halfway to repeating the feat this season.

Point guard Stephen Curry and small forward Kevin Durant were voted in as Western Conference starters for the game scheduled for Feb. 18 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the NBA announced on Thursday.

Though Curry has missed 15 games -- nearly one-third of the season -- it has not hurt his popularity; His No. 30 is the NBA’s best-selling jersey for the third straight season. He is averaging team-leading 27.7 points, 6.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds, and 1.65 steals per game.

Curry is the first member of the Warriors to be named a starter for five consecutive All-Star games. As the player with the most fan votes, Curry becomes a captain and is in position to select the members of his team.

Durant, who has missed eight games this season, was named as a starter for the sixth time, the first four coming when he was a member of the Thunder.

Durant is averaging 26.2 points (fifth in the league) 6.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.05 blocks (fourth in the league) per game.

LeBron, Cavs force Game 7 in East Finals vs Celtics


LeBron, Cavs force Game 7 in East Finals vs Celtics

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James chose Boston as the place he'll play next.

Game 7 is on. And any talk about James' future is on hold.

James scored 46 points and preserved his reign atop the Eastern Conference for at least one more game as the Cleveland Cavaliers shook off losing All-Star Kevin Love with a head injury and beat Boston 109-99 on Friday night to force a decisive climax to this back-and-forth series.

James, playing in perhaps his final game for the Cavs in Cleveland, delivered another sensational performance - he added 11 rebounds and nine assists while playing all but two minutes - to avoid elimination and delay any decisions about where he'll continue his remarkable career next season.

"Greatness," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "Gave it his all. We needed that, especially with Kevin going down. He delivered. He carried us home as usual."

The king is not dead, and he still has a chance to make his eighth straight NBA Finals.

"It feels good just to be able to play for another game," James said. "Like I've always said, Game 7 is the best two words in sports. ... We should relish the opportunity and have fun with it."

This series, in which home court has meant everything, will have a fitting conclusion Sunday at TD Center, where the Celtics are 10-0 this postseason.

"We have one game to be able to compete for a championship, and what more could you ask for?" James said. "If I'd have told you at the beginning of the season we only needed one game to make the NBA Finals, we'd take it."

George Hill added 20 points, and Jeff Green 14 for the Cavs, who lost Love in the first quarter after he banged heads with Boston's Jayson Tatum.

Terry Rozier paced the Celtics with 28 points, and Jaylen Brown had 27.

The Celtics were still within seven in the final three minutes before James made consecutive 3-pointers, punctuating the second by pounding his chest with both fists and screaming along with 20,562 others.

Just for good measure, he added a three-point play and then was taken out of the game to a rousing ovation and chants of "Cavs in 7!"

"Just a lot of heart, a lot of grit, being resilient," James said.

Boston's improbable run through the postseason without injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward will now take the Celtics back home, where they play with more intensity, togetherness and before fans hungry to see an 18th title banner raised to their arena's rafters.

Love went out with a head injury in the first quarter, forcing Lue to juggle his rotations and keep James on the floor longer than he wanted to. The three-time champion played the first 35 minutes without a break and then endured the final eight while nursing a sore lower leg.

Backed by a sea of towel-waving fans wearing white "Cleveland Whatever It Takes" T-shirts, James did just that to push the series to Boston, where he has had some of his biggest moments on the renowned parquet floor.

In 2014, he had 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in Game 6 for Miami, which went on to win Game 7 and the NBA title. He also scored 45 in a Game 7 loss for Cleveland in 2008, and now has a chance to boost his stunning resume further if he can get the Cavs to a fourth consecutive Finals.

James has also had some bitter memories in Boston. He lost Game 6 in the East semifinals in 2010 to the Celtics and was soon on his way to joining the Heat.

The game began ominously for the Cavs as Love was forced to leave following his violent collision with Tatum.

Love and Tatum were away from the ball and didn't see each other until it was too late. They banged heads and both immediately dropped to the floor with Love raising his left arm as if to signal he needed help.

As Love stayed down, the Cavs huddled around him. He was helped off and walked to the bench unsteadily before heading to the locker room for further treatment and evaluation.

The Cavs announced an hour later at halftime that Love wouldn't return. His status for Game 7 is uncertain.

The real possibility that James was playing his last game in Cleveland hung over the game - and this city - in the hours leading to tip-off. Everyone had an opinion on what James will do next and that discussion filled the sports talk radio airwaves, bars and barber shops.

The 33-year-old has said several times since coming home in 2014 that he wants to retire with the Cavaliers, but fans are uneasy because he can opt out of his $35.6 million contract this summer and test free agency.

And, of course, he left once before in 2010, bolting for Miami.

James has said he'll sit down with his family after the season ends to plot his next move, and he's already being courted in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York who can only dream about adding him to their rosters.

For now, though, he's only going to Boston.


Celtics: Own a 37-0 record when leading a series 2-0. ... Dropped to 1-4 in Game 6s over the last four postseasons. ... Coach Brad Stevens praised James for his consistency, and ability to exceed expectations. "Nobody else has what he has on his shoulders playing the game," he said. "I think that the way in which he's done that and all of the years now that he's made The Finals and gone deep into the playoffs, it's unbelievable."

Cavaliers: Improved to 6-2 in elimination game since 2015. ... James' teams are 5-2 in Game 7s. ... This was the seventh 40-point game for James this postseason. Michael Jordan also had seven, one off Jerry West's record set in 1965. ... James passed Karl Malone (2,062) for sixth place on the career postseason rebounds list.

Warriors brief: How Chris Paul's injury changes the Western Conference Finals

Warriors brief: How Chris Paul's injury changes the Western Conference Finals

It is incredibly disappointing to see the news that Chris Paul will not be available to play in Game 6, after going down with a hamstring injury late in Game 5 

Obviously the human element of him being in pain is unfortunate, but the entertainment value and suspense of the series has taken a big hit with this injury. To write off the Rockets, who as you may know still own a 3-2 lead in the series, would be foolish. But the Rockets are significantly worse without Paul. Fans of the NBA want to see the very best play, and Warriors fans should want to see their team compete against the very best.

If Paul were to not play in Game 7 as well or be hampered by his injury and the Warriors were to move on to the NBA Finals, many would be left wondering "what if". However, the Warriors and their fans should also have a good counter that is being overlooked. If Iguodala were to have played in Game 4 and Game 5, would the series have even made it to Game 6?

The Warriors lost by three points and four points in the games respectively, and one of the main focal points of those losses were subpar bench play and turnovers. Iguodala led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio in 2016 and is known on the Warriors as one of the best at securing the basketball and not giving it up. If Iguodala were to have played, the starters would not have been as taxed, the thin bench wouldn't have been used as much, and of course the Warriors would have had one of their best defenders on the court for over 30 minutes.

The big question is, isn't it fair to assume that Iguodala at the very least would have been worth three or four extra points in a game? It's another big "what if", but it seems like the series will end full of them.

The iso-heavy offense the Rockets have been displaying this whole season and series is going to be put to the test in Game 6

Paul has averaged a usage rate of 25.4 percent this series, second on the Rockets to James Harden at 35.7 percent. Especially when Harden is out of the game, Paul is usually the player handling the ball and having a switched big man (or Steph Curry) forced to guard him. That usage will now have to be divided probably between Eric Gordon and even more James Harden. Gordon is not close to the ball handler that Paul is, and adding even more usage to Harden can be very taxing. Expect the Warriors to force Harden and Gordon to expend energy on the defensive end to wear their legs down even more on offense.

It is clear that the Rockets' offense is going to change dramatically without Paul, but the biggest hit to their strategy may come in their depth

As of now, the Rockets use primarily seven players in their rotation: Harden, Paul, Ariza, Gordon, Capela, Tucker, Green. Without Paul, they will have to turn to either Mbah a Moute, who cannot shoot due to a lingering injury, or Ryan Anderson, Nene, and Joe Johnson, all of whom can be exploited on defense. The Rockets have not been shooting well this entire series, mostly due to exceptional Warriors defense, so instead of relying on their historically good regular season offense, they have been riding their tough and overwhelming defense. This Paul loss not only removes one of their best on-ball defenders, but now forces the Rockets to include a player that will be a weakness on one or both sides of the ball.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2 Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3 Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4 Rockets 95, Warriors 92
Game 5 Rockets 98, Warriors 94
Game 6 Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm
Game 7 Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm