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Warriors win in Finals rematch

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Warriors win in Finals rematch

CLEVELAND — Kevin Durant scored 32 points, Stephen Curry added 23 and the Golden State Warriors extended their road winning streak to 13 games with a 118-108 Martin Luther King holiday victory Monday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, their struggling NBA Finals foes.

Durant scored 16 in the third quarter for the defending NBA champions, who haven't lost outside Oracle Arena since Nov. 22.

LeBron James scored 32 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, which had its home winning streak stopped at 13. Isaiah Thomas, getting his first taste of the Warriors-Cavaliers rivalry, had 19 points in a season-high 32 minutes as he works his way back from a hip injury.

It was Golden State's second straight win over the Cavs, who have dropped eight of 10 dating to a loss to the Warriors on Christmas Day. Cleveland was down just 93-91 entering the fourth, but the Cavs missed 17 of 19 shots to open the period, allowing Golden State to throttle away.

The Warriors and Cavs have met in the Finals each of the past three years. There's no guarantee there will be a fourth matchup, and at this point only one of them looks prepared for June (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo posts 27 points, 20 rebounds in Bucks' win
WASHINGTON — Now that he has this basketball thing figured out, Giannis Antetokounmpo showed he wouldn't make a bad long snapper in football, either.

Antetokounmpo hiked the ball through his legs to teammate Khris Middleton for a fast-break dunk and the highlight of his all-around dominant performance as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Washington Wizards 104-95 on Monday. Antetokounmpo scored 27 points and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds in the Bucks' second road victory against the Wizards in 10 days.

"It's not important," Antetokounmpo said of his 20 rebounds. "I was just in the right spot, and the ball just came into my hands."

The Wizards got 27 points and nine assists from John Wall and 19 points off the bench from Kelly Oubre. But just like on Jan. 6 when these teams last met, Antetokounmpo was the difference in Milwaukee pulling away in a tight game late (see full recap).

Porzingis, Beasley help Knicks beat Nets
NEW YORK — Though it hardly appeared like it with thousands of blue-and-orange-dressed fans standing and screaming for them, this was a road game for the New York Knicks.

"It feels like we're playing at home, so it was a good atmosphere for us," Kristaps Porzingis said.

It gets harder from here.

Porzingis had 26 points and nine rebounds, Michael Beasley added 23 points and 10 boards, and the Knicks opened their longest road trip in nearly 30 years by beating the Brooklyn Nets 119-104 on Monday (see full recap).

Schroder leads Hawks over Spurs
ATLANTA — Dennis Schroder loves taking charge with the outcome uncertain in the closing seconds.

It means even more when he can push the Atlanta Hawks to a rare victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

"I'm glad we got the win, first off," Schroder said. "I hit my shots in crunch time. Dewayne Dedmon set great screens and got me open. I just shot with confidence, so it feels great."

Schroder scored 26 points, Ersan Ilyasova added 20 and the Hawks held off the Spurs in the closing seconds to win 102-99 on Monday.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio, which lost guard Manu Ginobli to a right thigh contusion in the first quarter and played without Kawhi Leonard as the star forward comes back slowly from injuries (see full recap).

NBA draft profile: Villanova G Jalen Brunson

NBA draft profile: Villanova G Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson

Position: Guard

Height: 6-2

Weight: 198

School: Villanova

As Mikal Bridges cements his status as a consensus lottery pick and Donte DiVincenzo’s name becomes hot enough to reportedly receive an invite to the green room of the draft, their Villanova teammate who was the consensus national player of the year has seen his stock remain static.

Jalen Brunson was the leading scorer on Villanova’s national title team last season, pouring in 18.9 points per game while dishing out 4.6 assists. Bunson, a three-year starter and two-time national champ, was also highly-efficient, shooting 52.1 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from deep and 80.2 percent from the free throw line. And as a result of his remarkable junior season, the Villanova point guard took home a ton of hardware in sweeping the major national player of the year awards.

But, Brunson isn’t considered a surefire first-round pick.

Two of the main reasons for this? His position and age. The point guard position has the greatest depth in the NBA so lead guards don’t tend be high draft picks unless they have All-Star upside. If Bridges was five inches shorter, he wouldn’t have the same kind of value. Teams are starving for rotation three-and-D wings and not so much for high-floor/low-ceiling point guards. 

With Brunson set to turn 22 years old in August, he doesn’t possess the tantalizing upside of the top point guards in this draft like Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Even so, there's still a place for Brunson in the NBA.

Strengths
As a three-level scorer, Brunson can fill it up in a variety of ways. He has a smooth jumper that extends beyond the three-point line. In the mid-range area, he makes up for his lack of quickness with crafty moves to create separation for pull-ups. On drives, Brunson can initiate contact to draw fouls, contort his body to avoid contests and has good touch around the rim. And believe it or not, the 6-2 guard utilizes his craftiness to be an effective post player as well. 

When Brunson has the ball in his hands, he carries a calming force with him. He plays at his own pace and just always seems in control, rarely committing egregious turnovers or taking bad shots. He's also a willing, talented passer who will make the unselfish extra pass and can also fit the ball into a tight window to a cutter/roller.

Weaknesses
Brunson’s weaknesses have less to do with his skills and more with his physical traits and tools. He’s not an explosive athlete with crazy bounce and doesn’t possess game-changing speed or quickness. So will he be able to create enough space against more athletic wing defenders to penetrate to the rim or get off his pull-up jumper? 

Defensively, Brunson works hard and isn't way undersized as a point guard. But he doesn't have the size to switch across multiple positions and the one position he will defend is deep with high-level talent. He can survive against backups, but how will he fare against quality starters and stars?

NBA comparison
Lefties tend to get compared to other lefties, but I'm passing on the Derek Fisher comp and going with fellow Big 5 alum Jameer Nelson. The St. Joe’s product is shorter and had a little more quickness during his prime, but was a solid starter capable of scoring at all three levels despite some physical limitations. Brunson projects more as a backup but has the ceiling of a player like Nelson.

How’d he fit with the Sixers
Let’s look at the Sixers’ current guards beyond Ben Simmons. Markelle Fultz is an unknown. T.J. McConnell is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. And the only others under contract are Jerryd Bayless, Timothe Luwawu-Caborrot and Furkan Korkmaz.

This team needs guard depth, specifically ball handlers and shot creators/makers. While it may not come at an elite level, Brunson could fill both of those needs. And because of his shooting ability, he could also play off the ball as a spot-up shooter and secondary creator alongside Simmons and Fultz.

Draft projection 
A fringe first-rounder, Brunson's range will start right around the Sixers’ second pick at No. 26. If they pass on him there, they shouldn’t count on him still being on the board at their next pick at 38.

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Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

We’re counting down the hours now until the 2018 NBA draft, which means all of the chatter surrounding teams is heading into overdrive.

That includes the Sixers, who are reportedly still attempting to move up the draft board.

Per a report Tuesday by Sports Illustrated’s Jake Fischer, the Sixers are continuing to make calls about moving into the top five. However, “they have offered packages of picks, but have thus far rebuked including oft-mentioned Robert Covington and Dario Saric,” according to the report.

There has still been no mention of exactly which prospect the Sixers are interested in trading up for since former Cavaliers GM David Griffin made the claim during a radio interview last week (see story).

With six total selections in Thursday’s draft, including Nos. 10 and 26 in the first round, it makes sense that the Sixers would offer draft picks first in any potential trade.

However you feel about the streaky Covington, the team was high enough on the All-NBA defender last season to lock him into a long-term deal while Saric has proven to be a rock-solid contributor that keeps improving every day.

We’ll see if the Sixers ease off those demands as we get even closer to the draft.

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