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NBA Finals: Warriors blitz Cavaliers for Game 1 win

NBA Finals: Warriors blitz Cavaliers for Game 1 win

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Kevin Durant drove through the lane untouched for dazzling dunks. He dished off even when he could have slammed it home, and did it all on defense.

Oh, he hit from long range, too.

What a dominant NBA Finals opener with the Warriors.

Durant finished with 38 points, eight rebounds and eight assists to lead Golden State past LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, 113-91 on Thursday night in Game 1.

Stephen Curry scored 28 points with six 3-pointers and 10 assists as this sure-to-be thrilling trilogy began at last, a long-expected, spectacular grand finale envisioned ever since that July day Durant left Oklahoma City to join the loaded Warriors.

"We could be a lot better than we were tonight but in the Finals you get a `W,' we'll take it," Durant said.

James wound up with 28 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists a day after dealing with bigotry far away from basketball. Someone painted a racial slur -- the N-word -- on the gate of his Los Angeles home, leaving James to address racism rather than his seventh straight Finals appearance or stopping KD. James said he would do his best to be ready for the series opener when his mind was elsewhere, concerned for his wife and children back in Ohio.

Durant punished Cleveland for leaving him free, taking the ball to the hoop for emphatic dunks as a man on a mission to deliver exactly what he came for: a championship. He had six slams in the first half alone for the Warriors, who at 13-0 are already the first team to go this far in a postseason unblemished.

"They're the best I've ever seen," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "They're 13-0, they're constantly breaking records every year."

Game 2 in the series is Sunday night back at Oracle Arena with its deafening sellout crowd.

Durant won the first battle with King James.

"Those are two big household names, so we know you guys and the fans are going to want to see that and pick up on it," said acting Warriors coach Mike Brown, facing a Cleveland franchise that fired him not once but twice. "I'm sure LeBron probably thinks he could play better, and you tip your hat off to KD."

Kyrie Irving, who hit the deciding 3-pointer with Curry's hand in his face last June as Cleveland rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win the city's first major team title in 52 years, scored 24 points on 10-of-22 shooting. Kevin Love grabbed 21 rebounds and scored 15 points, while Tristan Thompson was held scoreless and to four boards.

Durant's only other Finals ended at the hands of LeBron and Miami in 2012. He shot 14 for 26 in his fifth 30-point performance this postseason, receiving a rousing ovation when he sat down for good with 2:16 remaining.

Once his night was finally done, Durant found mother Wanda at the end of the Warriors bench and held her in a warm embrace.

Curry sported a fresh haircut for the occasion and the two-time reigning MVP initially wore a black sleeve on his shooting arm to protect a tender elbow that still had some swelling, but he quickly removed it and found his stroke. He shot 11 for 22, 6 of 11 on 3s.

This marks the first time in NBA history the same two teams played in three straight Finals and just the fourth time it has happened in the four major sports leagues.

The shooting was far from pretty, and Cleveland's defense was a step behind most of the night, unable to stop the star-studded roster of All-Stars and key role players on the other side. Golden State finally warmed up after nine days off, while the Cavs had a six-day break since beating Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.

Warriors starting center Zaza Pachulia returned after missing the final two games at San Antonio with a bruised right heel and contributed eight points and six rebounds while plugging the paint.

Golden State's four turnovers tied an NBA Finals low.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James' 3-pointer in the third quarter moved him past Reggie Miller (320) for second place on the NBA postseason list, which is led by Ray Allen with 385. ... Cleveland committed 12 of its 20 turnovers in the first half -- "20 in the Finals is not going to get it done," Irving said.

Warriors: Coach Steve Kerr had hoped to feel well enough to return to the bench but stayed behind the scenes in the locker room as he continues to deal with complications from back surgery nearly two years ago. "My heart goes out to him," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. ... Curry became the fifth player in NBA history with 300 career playoff 3s after coming in with 295. ... Klay Thompson, playing more stellar defense while missing all five of his 3-point tries and scoring just six points, notched his 77th career postseason game to tie Jeff Mullins for most in franchise history.

Elton Brand should help Sixers fuse new school with old school

Elton Brand should help Sixers fuse new school with old school

CAMDEN, N.J. — Elton Brand was a phenomenal basketball player.

The 1999 No. 1 overall pick played 17 seasons and made two All-Star appearances. He was on the court for the Sixers a little over two years ago. 

When the team named Brand their GM, it seemed like an odd fit. On the court, former NBA player and Philly native Malik Rose referred to Brand as an “old school Chevy.”

Now, Brand is charged with leading an NBA team in 2018. And not just any NBA team, but one that’s had a heavy focus on analytics, starting with former GM Sam Hinkie and “The Process.” 

“Analytics is a great tool,” Brand said Thursday at his introductory press conference at the team’s practice facility. “We’ve built one of the strongest analytical departments in the league in my opinion. But I’ll bring the human side. I’ll bring the 17 years of evaluating talent and being on the court to add to the analytics.”

This makes a ton of sense. With Brand’s promotion to GM, Alex Rucker took his former position as executive VP of basketball operations. Rucker’s most recent position was senior VP of analytics and strategy. 

With Brand embracing the analytical side of things, the Sixers appear to have an ideal front office situation. Everyone surrounding Brand will be able to provide him with all of the data that is out there when it comes to personnel decisions. Brand will then be able to couple that research with years of basketball experience.

“I’m not old school and trying to fight that and say, ‘let me pick with my gut,’” Brand said. “I think those little nuances, with the way the game is trending, I’m on top of that. I think I have the pulse of that.”

Brand was named the GM of the Delaware Blue Coats, the team’s G-League affiliate, just this past season. So it’s a quite a leap to go from that position to running an NBA franchise. 

He’ll rely heavily on the experience of people like assistant GM Ned Cohen and senior VP of player personnel Marc Eversley. After all, that group has led the way since Bryan Colangelo was relieved of his duties and head coach Brett Brown was given the interim GM title. 

But don’t expect Brand to simply just be the face of the franchise. Sure, that is part of his appeal after the unceremonious departures of Hinkie and Colangelo, but make no mistake, Brand will have the “loudest voice off the court,” according to managing partner Josh Harris.

Brand will bring his wealth of experience on the court into the front office. That’s another reason the Sixers hired him: his ability to relate to players as a former player himself. Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnel were among the players in attendance during his introductory press conference. 

But expect Brand to mix his old school approach with today’s way of thinking.

“In the parlance of basketball ops,” Harris said, “he’s a new school Tesla.”

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We finally have footage of Markelle Fultz's rebuilt jump shot

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The Players Triune/Facebook Watch

We finally have footage of Markelle Fultz's rebuilt jump shot

No more cryptic Instagram posts. No more Zapruder-type videos.

On Thursday, Markelle Fultz gave us a glimpse of his much-anticipated jumper via an interview with the Denver Nuggets’ Isaiah Thomas for The Players' Tribune.

The biggest takeaway? What a huge improvement from anything we saw last season.

It’s certainly encouraging, but there are still things we need to see. All of those shots were set shots off the catch. We still need to see him shooting off the dribble, at the free throw line and in game situations.

During an almost 20-minutes conversation with I.T., Fultz talked about the injury that affected his shot. He dealt with a scapular muscle imbalance, which was finally diagnosed in late October after a weird start to the season.

The biggest question involving Fultz is whether the shot change caused the injury or the change occurred because of the injury. Fultz gave a clear answer.

“There was a lot of things going about changing shots and all this, but there was an injury there,” Fultz said. “For me, I’m a hooper so I was like ‘this ain’t going to stop me.’ Once I realized I really couldn’t do stuff to my full capacity, I was like ‘it really is something’ so I had to find out what it was and we did that throughout the season.

“It took a long time, which people really didn’t understand. They thought I was just being soft but it was really an injury. And now I got a chance to just sit down and pick apart all these doctors – we figured it out and I’ve been back to work this summer and everything’s even better than what it was.”

Fultz was the No. 1 overall pick in 2017 and for good reason. He had a stellar one-and-done season with Washington. The Sixers traded up to acquire the rights to select Fultz, primarily because of his fit with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Part of that fit centered around Fultz’s jumper.

When Fultz got hurt, all of that changed. He played in just 14 games and struggled in his limited playoff action. The team won 52 games and a playoff series with him mostly as a spectator.

Now fully healthy, Fultz has spent the summer in L.A. working with training guru Drew Hanlen, who’s worked with Embiid and Jayson Tatum, among others. The work appears to be paying off.

“Sixers fans are gonna get somebody that’s going to come in and play hard,” Fultz said. “I think I’m going to be that guy that’s going to be able to create shots for himself and his teammates. That guy at the end of the game when you need a bucket – you don’t really have to call a play. I’m going to get out there on defense. Most people don’t know I like to block shots so I’m going to be a big point guard out there.”

You can check out the full video here.

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