Celtics

Curry dazzles from deep, Warriors take 2-0 NBA Finals lead

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Curry dazzles from deep, Warriors take 2-0 NBA Finals lead

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry backpedaled in pure joy. He skipped, hollered and let the ball fly from everywhere with that feeling he gets when there's no way it will miss - unwavering even with a defender's hand in his face.

Curry dazzled in outdueling LeBron James as the two superstars traded big shots and celebratory moves, hitting an NBA Finals-record nine 3-pointers and scoring 33 points to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 122-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night for 2-0 lead.

"Pretty special night," Curry said, "and hopefully some more special things happen and we get two more wins."

Kevin Durant found his steady stroke to score 26 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists while also handling a load of the defensive assignment against James. Klay Thompson added 20 points playing on a tender left leg to put the defending champions two wins from a repeat title they have talked about since the season began last fall.

James followed up his 51-point performance in Game 1 with 29 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds in a far tamer finals sequel - and a much more lopsided one - minus the utter craziness of a drama-packed opener three days prior.

Game 3 is Wednesday night in Cleveland.

"We want to continue to be uncomfortable," James said. "Just because we're going home doesn't mean we can relax."

Kevin Love had 22 points and 10 boards for the cold-shooting Cavs, who will now try to gain some momentum back home.

Curry had the shot of the night with 7:54 to play, making an off-balance swish from several feet behind the 3-point arc over Love as the shot clock wound down, then scooted backward in delight. Curry fell into the first row of fans with a baseline 3 again over Love and four-point play at the 5:44 mark of the fourth.

"He's a big shot taker, big shot maker," Draymond Green said. "Tough shot taker, tough shot maker."

The long shot over Love stood out to Curry's Splash Brother, Thompson.

"About seven seconds on the clock he just kept going backward, I don't know why, but he just threw it up and I didn't think it had any chance of going in," Thompson said. "That was kind of like a dagger shot. It just gave us all the momentum back."

The two-time MVP made 11 of 26 shots and was 9 for 17 from deep.

James pointed with both hands after his 3 with 11:04 remaining got his team within seven, before Curry answered from deep the next two trips down the floor.

"Those moments when you can come down and answer and keep the momentum on our side, it's big," Curry said. "Keep the crowd into it."

Curry and James had a tense moment in the third, too.

James became irate at the officials for a no-call on Curry, who ran beneath the Cavs star and didn't let him land with 3:54 remaining in the quarter as James caught Love's long pass and went out of bounds. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was hit with a technical, saying afterward he didn't say much but was on the court.

JaVale McGee scored 12 points, making all six of his shots in his first career NBA Finals start as Kerr made a lineup switch that proved spot on.

The typically efficient Durant connected on 10 of 14 shots after going just 8 for 22 - 1 of 7 on 3s - in the opener but still scoring 26 points.

Last year's NBA Finals MVP made his initial five field goals Sunday, driving right at James on offense and doing all he could to fluster him on defense.

James hit a 3 over Durant's outstretched arm midway through the third, then Tristan Thompson's basket the next possession pulled the Cavs within 72-66. But they couldn't contain Curry and the rest of the Warriors for extended stretches.

The Warriors vowed to make it harder for James to generate good looks after he shot 19 for 32 in the series opener, and James went 12:06 of game time between made baskets.

James went 10 for 20, showing few signs his shot was altered by a bloodshot left eye. He had been taking antibiotics and using drops after being poked in the eye by Green in the first half Thursday.

The Warriors earned a wacky 124-114 overtime win in Game 1 Thursday night - featuring J.R. Smith's blunder when he grabbed an offensive rebound in the waning moments of regulation and dribbled back toward halfcourt rather than shooting for the victory, and an overturned charge call against James.

Smith received rousing cheers from the home fans during pregame introductions and "M-V-P!" chants greeted him when he went to the foul line.

Thompson played after bruising his lower left leg when Smith slid into him in the first quarter Thursday. The Warriors All-Star has never missed a postseason game.

Kerr went with 7-foot big man McGee to start in place of Kevon Looney - McGee's 10th career start in the postseason.

McGee scored the first four points as Golden State made its initial seven shots and 10 of 11.

Another key role player, Shaun Livingston, made his five field-goal tries for 10 points to give Golden State a lift in the first half after making all four of his shots Thursday.

"They're a dangerous ballclub no matter what," James said. "It starts with those four guys, those four All-Stars. Everybody else just does their job and they don't miss a beat when they put someone in or they take someone out."

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: James' first-half line: 15 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, two steals. His first points - the first for Cleveland - came on a goaltend by McGee. ... After holding a 19-4 edge on the offensive glass in Game 1, the Cavs were 15-7 on Sunday.

Warriors: Curry broke Ray Allen's mark of eight for most 3s in a finals game. ... Thompson played in his franchise-record 100th postseason game. He also became the sixth player to ever make 300 3s in the postseason, joining Curry as the Warriors to reach the feat. ... The Warriors were 13 of 15 from inside the arc in the opening quarter. They shot 59.5 percent in the first half despite going 6 of 19 on 3s. They finished 15 for 36 from long range.

IGUODALA STILL OUT

Warriors forward Andre Iguodala missed his sixth straight postseason game nursing a bone bruise in his left knee.

Kerr remains optimistic the 2015 NBA Finals MVP will play at some point in the series.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics learn something while caught in the crunch

Celtics learn something while caught in the crunch

The Boston Celtics really should not have needed overtime to edge a shorthanded Orlando Magic team in a rather meaningless seeding game on Sunday night. But the fact that Boston had to scrap its way to a very ugly win wasn’t such a bad thing.

Because of Kemba Walker’s minute restrictions, the team’s preferred starting 5 — Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Daniel Theis — hadn't gained much crunch-time experience together inside the bubble. But in need of a rally, Celtics coach Brad Stevens went with his first 5 for the last five minutes of regulation and was rewarded with a feverish final-minute rally that helped Boston escape with a 122-119 triumph.

The key sequence came with 38 seconds left, and Boston still down 5, when, after Brown missed a 3-pointer, a crashing Walker leaped between two white jerseys and deflected the ball back out to Tatum for a second-chance triple.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

A Daniel Theis block at the other end set up Tatum’s baseline spin move in which he shook fellow 2017 first-round pick Markelle Fultz and tied the game with 3.8 seconds to play. And, as if he hadn’t done enough in crunch time, Tatum blocked Terrence Ross’ last-gasp 3-point attempt to ensure an extra session.

"You’d never want to script it that way but it wasn’t at all bad to be down 5 [late in regulation] just to have to find a way in that moment, have to get stops, have to put our defense in a situation where we had to get a stop to go to overtime, had to get a bucket right before that,” said Stevens.

"It’s not all bad but there’s a lot that led up to that that we didn’t like as well that we’ll go back and look at to make sure we’re better.”

Boston’s starters, who played just 188 minutes together in 17 games before the season paused, have now logged 63 minutes together in Orlando. They’ve actually performed even better than the regular season with their net rating jumping from plus-12.5 to plus-13.1.

While the offense hasn’t been as crisp, Boston’s first-unit defense has been elite while limiting opponents to 94.6 points per 100 possession inside the bubble.

With Walker at his minutes limit after the fourth quarter, Stevens wasn’t able to trot that starter group out for even more time in the extra session. Instead, he simply swapped in Marcus Smart and the Celtics stiff-armed the Magic late to emerge with the victory.

From Walker making the hustle play to give his team a shot late, to Tatum thriving in the late-game spotlight, there’s a lot Boston can take into the postseason.

Boston’s playoff spot is already locked up with the team ensured the No. 3 seed. The Celtics’ final three seeding games, including Sunday’s dance with the Magic, are largely perfunctory. But Stevens stressed the importance of conditioning given that the playoffs won’t start for eight more days, and the situational work Sunday could aid this team when things are invariably tense in the postseason.

Hayward (31 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block) turned in his best game of the bubble (and maybe in a Celtics uniform); Robert Williams continues to look like someone Stevens can lean on in small doses of minutes; Tatum and Brown had really good moments at various points Sunday; and the team overcame a rare Walker dud to find a way to win (Walker more than redeeming himself with the late-game tip-out to Tatum).

The Celtics probably wouldn’t have plucked much from a breezy, lopsided win. Having to tough out a victory, even if it was avoidable, might have maximized the value of Sunday’s tilt.

Boston must wait to see who emerges as the sixth seed in the East. Philadelphia was at nearly 55 percent to finish 6th, based on projections from ESPN’s Basketball Power Index entering Sunday’s action. And that probability will almost certainly jump up a bit because it was before the Sixers’ lost to Portland.

Right now Boston’s focus has to simply be on keeping everyone healthy and restoring the starters' confidence before the playoffs arrive. The starting 5 finally got some crunch-time tests. Hey, better late than never.

And Sunday’s finish couldn’t have been better for Boston.

Celtics' Jaylen Brown shares thoughtful messages about police brutality, mental health

Celtics' Jaylen Brown shares thoughtful messages about police brutality, mental health

Jaylen Brown continues to use his platform to share inspiring and thoughtful messages about important issues beyond just basketball.

Following the Boston Celtics' win over the Orlando Magic on Sunday, Brown took time during his postgame press conference to discuss the ongoing social injustices in the country as well as the issue of mental health.

After mentioning the tragic, senseless deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers, Brown explained his position on the issue.

"I'm aware that some Americans have the birthright and the privilege to see police officers as protectors or maybe even peacekeepers, or even embrace heroism," Brown said. "Unfortunately, I'm not from that side of America. I'm from the other side where people are in fear or in terror of the police where you can be killed in your own backyard by reaching for your wallet. Your parents have to teach you certain behaviors because they're in fear that if you run into the police, you might not come home.

"And I'm aware that without being drafted by the Celtics, without being in the place I am now, that I would still be on that other side of America. So I want to take a look at the term 'police brutality' and maybe offer another term as 'domestic terrorism.' Because that's what it was in the eyes of George Floyd, and that's what it was in the eyes of Trayvon Martin, and that's what it is in the eyes of a lot of people in color in minority communities. I'll be posting an article on my social for guys to learn and tune in more, but thank you guys for listening."

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Brown then shifted to a discussion about mental health, which was equally inspiring and even had some comic relief as he took a jab at Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell in the process.

"I also want to bring attention to mental health, and awareness. Being here in this bubble, I guess people might not speak on it but it is a challenge to a lot of guys," Brown said. "It's like you're at work all the time. Like, a lot of time a lot of guys when they get done playing basketball, they want to be able to leave and forget about basketball for a little bit. It's impossible here in the bubble. You go out and chill, you might see Donovan Mitchell sitting there and you're like, 'Man I don't want to see him right now.' But it kind of is what it is.

"I definitely want to bring awareness to mental health, anxiety, and forms of depression in times like this and places like this in the bubble. Our athletes probably struggle with that and don't feel confident enough to speak openly about it. So being able to talk to somebody, being able to find ways to replace those tires is conversations that need to be had ... It's tough being away from our family and being isolated from the rest of society.

Former Celtic Kendrick Perkins came away impressed with what he heard from Brown, and it isn't difficult to see why.

You can hear the entirety of Brown's important message in the video above.