A Ball-Slapping, Board-Breaking Review of Warriors v Cavaliers

Game 1 of the NBA 2016 Playoff Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers ended predictably – a comfortably win for the Warriors, who were playing at home. The highlights though, are unlikely to feature any of Warriors’ usual suspects.

Going into the finals, Cavaliers and James made a big deal of how the team had all the key players fit and had gelled better as a team this season than the last (when they lost to the Warriors in the finals). However, the same could also be said of the Warriors and the NBA’s record-breaking team continued it’s unstoppable dominance, using it’s bench strength to comfortably pick apart the Cavs in a 104-89 win.

Curry and Thompson combined for just 20 points in the win, as Shaun Livingston came off the bench and scored 20 points in a virtuoso performance, ably supported by Andre Iguodala (12) and Leandro Barbosa (11) while of the regular starters, Draymond Green led the pack with 16.

For the Cavs, the best efforts of LeBron James (a near triple-double of 23 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists) and Kyrie Irving (26 points, four assists) were wasted when the rest of the team, and critically their bench, couldn’t get going.

Here are the highlights from the game:

Despite the deflated nature of the Cavaliers’ performance, there was the now-usual ‘manhandling’ incident with Matthew Delladova the culprit, this time fouling Andre Iguodala by slapping him in the crotch.

The play was reviewed and called as a common foul. Iguodala hit a three the very next play, so there’s little to suggest Delladova’s overhand tactics were successful.

The Warriors cruising to a win was clearly not enough for coach Steve Kerr, who smashed his whiteboard in anger on the sidelines during the game.

Cleveland put down the loss to a poor fourth quarter but if Game 1 is any indication, it doesn’t matter if they keep up a tight game throughout – as long they are competing with the Warriors in a shootout, they will lose.

The Cavs need to make their size advantage count, and stop the Warriors from running their shooting game. And if the best response is a crotch-shot, this could be over by next Friday.

Game 2 is on Sunday night, and James and co need to think of something new fast.

Curry keeps Warriors alive; Cavaliers one game from final

It may not have been the dazzling Steph Curry performance people have become accustomed to, but his 31-point haul was enough to lead Golden State Warriors to a 120-111 victory against Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday and keep their NBA Championship hopes alive.

Despite question marks over his fitness, Curry dug deep to inspire the Warriors to the win which pulled them back to 3-2 down in the seven-game Western Conference final series.

“We just did what we’re supposed to do – we’re supposed to win at home,” Curry said. “We know what we still have to do going forward.

“We knew if we didn’t win we were going home. There’s no other motivation you need.”

He made just three out of eight three-point attempts, but hit all 10 of the free throws he took to keep Warriors’ hopes alive.

Head Coach Steve Kerr said: “I thought he looked like 91 percent. He came out and played a really good game. That’s all I can tell you.

“He’s going to compete every night. He had an excellent night and helped us get it done.”

Warriors’ record-breaking 73-9 regular season has been a distant memory at times during this series.

Thunder have been dominant at home so far, winning both games in Oklahoma City by a combined 52 points, but Kerr was impressed with how his team fought back.

“I liked our will, I liked our fight,” Kerr added. “We were embarrassed in OKC the last couple games.”

History is against the Warriors as the look to clinch back-to-back NBA titles.

Only nine teams have previously recovered from 3-1 deficit in the playoffs, while their record of just two wins in their last 16 visits to Oklahoma City shows the size of the task they face in Game 6 on Saturday.

Klay Thompson, who backed up Curry with 27 points last night, believes they are capable of completing the comeback.

“None of us want to go home,” Thompson said. “We’re having too much fun out there.”

Curry’s celebrations after extending Warriors’ lead to 10 with just over a minute remaining showed just how much they want a second successive championship.

“We ain’t going home, we ain’t going home,” he yelled.

With Curry leading the charge there’s still plenty of life left in this series.

In the Eastern Conference, Cleveland Cavaliers lead the Raptors 3-2 heading into Friday’s Game 6 in Toronto.

The Cavaliers are 0-4 this season in Toronto and lost Games 3 and 4 on the road in this series.

After going 32-9 at home during the regular season, the Raptors are 8-2 in the playoffs, and recorded Game 7 wins against Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat in the previous rounds.

“We’ve got to play the same way we played the two home games we’ve had so far,” Raptors’ guard Kyle Lowry said. “That’s all we can do. Can’t worry about the road. We might not get a chance to go back on the road if we don’t play the right way.”

The Cavaliers have had the edge over the Raptors during the last decade, winning 27 of their previous 44 meetings.

Thunder through to face Warriors in Western Conference final

Oklahoma City Thunder beat San Antonio Spurs 113-99 on Thursday to win the NBA Western Conference semi-final series 4-2.

Kevin Durant scored 37 points, with Russell Westbrook adding 28 as Thunder set up a mouth-watering Conference final against the Golden State Warriors.

After losing 124-92 to the Spurs in Game 1, Thunder bounced back in style in win four of the next five.

Westbrook believes the defeat was the wake-up call the team needed.

“We had that game, and we left it behind us,” he said. “We came out after that and had a different mindset.

“We knew what we had to do to win the series. They’re a great team. They’ve been winning for 10-plus years, same pace. I’m just proud of our guys.”

Thunder dominated the first half, racing into a 55-31 lead. They kept up the pressure in the third quarter and led 91-65 at the next break.

Spurs rallied in the final session, but could get no closer than 11 points as the Thunder comfortably closed out the game.

Elsewhere, attention switches to the Eastern Conference on Friday, with the Miami Heat looking to take their series against the Toronto Raptors to Game 7.

Raptors’ 99-91 victory on Wednesday gave them a 3-2 lead in the battle to face Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern final.

The Heat struggled during the early stages of Game 5, but rallied during the second half before eventually falling just short.

“We’ve gotta stay positive,” Tyler Johnson said. “If we eliminate that slow start, we have a good chance at winning. We’ve gotta learn from it. If we win at home, after that it’s anybodyís game.”

If the Heat can overcome the Raptors they would become the first in NBA history to overcome two 3-2 deficits in the same post-season after winning Games 6 and 7 to defeat the Charlotte Hornets in the previous round.

“We’ve been in a lot of tough positions this season, but recently we have been in this exact position,” Gerald Green said.

“We’ve done this. We feel we can get it back to Toronto, and then in Game 7 anything can happen.”

While the Eastern final line-up is yet to be decided, Steph Curry and the Warriors are enjoying some much needed rest ahead of Monday’s opening Western Conference final game against the Thunder.

The reigning champions eased past Portland Trail Blazers in the last round and with Curry now fully recovered from knee and ankle injuries, head coach Steve Kerr is confident his team can successfully defend their title.

“Anytime you win a series, you’re just relieved and then you move on and at that point you have a brand new set of challenges,” said Kerr.

“So this was a great series and I’m happy we pulled through. Now we’ll get a little rest and see what happens on the other side of the bracket.”

Having won six of their previous seven meetings with the Thunder, it would be a major surprise if the Warriors failed to earn a crack at winning a second successive NBA championship.

Refugee’s NBA dreams dashed after arrest by immigration authorities

A promising basketball player who arrived in Canada as a refugee has had his sporting dreams shattered, after he was accused by immigration authorities of lying about his age.

Jonathon Nicola arrived in Ontario from South Sudan in November, under a programme for refugees called Canada Homestay.

According to the Windsor Star, Nicola, has been arrested for violating the Immigration Refugee Protection Act, and is thought to be 30-years-old.

Since arriving in Canada, Nicola has been posing as a 17-year-old student, with his application for the scheme supported the coach of the basketball team at Catholic Central High School in Windsor.

Peter Cusumano took Nicola under his wing, allowing him to stay in his home after another Sudanese player, Deng D’Awol, brought him to his attention.

The pair helped Nicola move from South Sudan, believing they had a possible future NBA star on their hands.

The Detroit Pistons, who are based near Windsor, donated clothing and equipment for Nicola to use.

The Canadian Border Services Agency confirmed on Wednesday it had arrested Nicola and he still remains in custody, with another hearing next week.

There have been many cases in sport of players and even teams lying about their age.

In 1989, Nigeria were banned by FIFA from taking part in their youth tournaments because they had been fielding over-age players.

Tanguy Ngombo is a Congo-born Qatari citizen who has played basketball internationally for Qatar.

Back in 2011 he was drafted 57th overall by the Dallas Mavericks, before being traded to the Portland Trailblazers and then the Minnesota Timberwolves.

At the time he claimed he was born in 1989, but it subsequently emerged that back in 2005 he was listed as being born in 1984, which would make him 27 ñ much too old for the NBA draft.

Knocking years off your age to benefit in sport is one thing, but Danny Almonte took a different approach in the 2001 Little League World Series.

After striking out 18 of the 21 batters he faced, MLB teams began to show an interest but doubts soon emerged over Almonte’s real age.

It quickly came to light that just before immigrating to the US from the Dominican Republic a year earlier, his dad had chopped a couple of years off his age.

The supposed 12-year-old was actually 14 at the time of his ‘stunning’ performance, meaning he wasn’t quite the phenomenon he appeared to be.

Warriors start play-off bid with easy victory

Golden State Warriors kicked off their NBA play-off series against Houston Rockets this weekend with a comfortable 104-78 victory.

The reigning champions, fresh from setting a new regular season record of 73-9, were never threatened by the Rockets although an ankle injury to star man Steph Curry is a concern ahead of the second game.

Curry bagged 24 points against the Warriors and he is confident he will be in the line-up on Monday.

“Right now I don’t see a scenario I would be out,” Curry said. “Pain tolerance, all that stuff, I kind of know what I can deal with on the court.”

Things got a little heated during the game, with Curry taking exception to Patrick Beverley’s close attention midway through the first quarter.

Both players received technical fouls, although Curry played the incident down after the game.

“It felt it was a little too much, so I protected myself and moved on,” he said.

Elsewehere, San Antonio Spurs took a 1-0 lead in their seven-game series against Memphis Grizzlies after a 106-74 success.

Kawhi Leonard bagged 20 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points and Tony Parker had 15 points and six assists for San Antonio.

The Spurs sat their starters in the final quarter to freshen them up for Tuesday night’s second game.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love proved Cleveland aren’t a one-man band as they inspired the Cavaliers to a 106-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Irving scored 31 points, while Love added 28 to leave star man LeBron James in their wake.

James grabbed 22 points and with both Irving and Love suffering injuries in last season’s play-offs he was happy to have them by his side against the Pistons.

“For these two guys, they were just excited to get back to this moment,” he said. “These guys have been working hard, Kyrie on his knee, Kevin on his shoulder just to get back to this moment.

“It was great to be out on the floor with them and for them to put together the performance that they did.”

Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers all secured victories in their opening play-off games.

Monday night sees three Game 2 match-ups, with the Warriors facing the Rockets, Thunder meeting the Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors hosting the Pacers.

Warriors match Bulls on 72, one game away from new record

The Golden State Warriors have equalled the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record for most NBA wins in a season and they’ve got their sights firmly set on beating it.

Sunday’s 92-86 victory at San Antonio Spurs gives the Warriors their shot at history on Wednesday at home to Memphis Grizzlies.

Star man Steph Curry led the way once again with 37 points as Warriors ended a 33-game losing streak in San Antonio that dated to 1997.

“Obviously, we’re in the moment, enjoying the ride,” said Curry.

“The goal is to win a championship. That’s the goal. But we put ourselves in a great position to end the season with a win and do something no team has done in history.”

“That’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The win gave Warriors a 34-7 road record while handing Spurs their first home defeat in 13 months.

Warriors guard Klay Thompson said: “It’s definitely sweet because we broke the streak. That’s all the media would talk about for the last few years. It’s tough to win here. It definitely was huge for us.”

The Warriors are also the first team in NBA history to go a full season without losing to the same team more than once or lose back-to-back games.

Despite tying the best-ever season record, the Warriors’ achievement isn’t meeting with the full approval of everyone who played on the Bulls’ team.

Scottie Pippen’s recent declaration that his 1995/96 teammates would sweep the Warriors in a hypothetical series between the teams might appear dismissive, but Draymond Green says it’s not a problem to the joint-record holders.

He also confirmed he’d received some support from former Bulls legend Michael Jordan.

“With Pip coming out and saying what he said, that’s cool – at the end of the day, we respect those guys,” he said.

“Mike told me, at All-Star Weekend, ‘Go win the record. Go get the record. If y’all don’t win this record, I’m ‘a be hot and I’m blaming you.’ We’re almost there. We got one more game or he gonna blame me.”

Warriors’ date with destiny on Wednesday sees them face a Grizzlies team they’ve beaten in seven of their previous eight meetings.

The teams met in Memphis on 9 April, where the Warriors came from 10 behind midway through the fourth quarter to record a 100-99 win.

Bryant and the Lakers stun Curry’s Warriors

The Golden State Warriors were brought down to earth with a resounding bump on Sunday as the Los Angeles Lakers secured a 112-95 victory to become only the sixth team to beat them this season.

Jordan Clarkson bagged 25 points, with D’Angelo Russell adding 21 to cause one of the biggest shocks in NBA history.

The Lakers went into the game with a 12-51 record, but produced a polished performance that restricted Warriors’ star man Steph Curry to just 18 points.

Warriors are now 55-6 for the season, leaving them one game ahead of the pace set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the best regular season record in league history.

Michael Jordan’s team were 54-7 after 61 games and with a run of six home games to come the Warriors could easily stay ahead of the game as they enter the final straight.

The defeat was the Warriors first since a 32-point at Portland Trail Blazers on February 19 and head coach Steve Kerr didn’t make any excuses after the game.

“We got what we deserved,” he said. “When the ball doesn’t go in, you have to win with energy and defense and toughness and we didn’t have any of that.”

“We looked like the millennials tonight. We couldn’t focus. We weren’t ready. Zero attention span on either end.”

With Curry and Klay Thompson struggling to hit three-pointers – they were a combined 1 from 18 on the night – Warriors offensive performance ranked as one of their worst of the season.

Overall the team hit just four out of 30 three-point attempts, but Curry refused to criticize his teammates.

“I would say 24 of them were good shots that just missed – it happens,” said Curry.

“We haven’t brought our A-plus game, but we’ve found different ways to win. That’s what we’ve been most proud of this year.”

“Today could have been the same story had we made shots in the third quarter and not dug ourselves such a huge hole.”

For Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant the game was a final chance to pit his wits against the NBA’s latest star.

“We executed the game plan very well. We paid attention to detail very well,” Bryant said. “For the young guys, it’s extremely important to see the results of it.”

“As they grow, they start trusting that more and more, they start trusting the process more and more. From that aspect, it was a big game.”

The Warriors are back in action on Monday night at home to Orlando Magic.

Curry’s wonder shot draws praise from James

With the score tied at 118-118 between Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, anyone harbouring doubts about Steph Curry’s talent were about to be given a rude awakening.

With just six seconds of overtime remaining, Curry took a pass from Andre Iguodala and slowly ambled up the court.

Thunder may have been expecting Warriors to call a timeout, but Curry had other ideas as launched the ball towards the basket from over 32 feet out.

The shot went in sparking wild celebrations as Curry equalled the record of 12 three-pointers in a game, shared by Kobe Bryant (2003) and Donyell Marshall (2005). He also broke his own record of 286 three-pointers (2015) in a season, ending at 288 3s after the win against Thunder.

With 24 games left it’s anyone’s guess as to where he takes the record to, but judging by fellow NBA star LeBron James’ reaction on Twitter it’s clear that Curry is held in high regard.

The victory moved Warriors to 53-5 for the season as they close in on the record for most regular-season wins set by the Chicago Bulls with 72-10 in 1995/96.

Curry’s 46-point performance may have had James waxing lyrical but not everyone has been praising him, with former player Oscar Robertson seemingly less-than-impressed with the Warriors’ star man.

During a recent interview with ESPN Robertson claimed the 2006/07 team would beat the current team, saying the modern game is less physical than the past.

Curry said he found the comments strange: “When you hear, honestly, legends, kind of come at you, it’s kind of just weird,” he said.

“It’s starting to get a little annoying just because it’s kind of unwarranted from across the board. We have a very competent group, and we have fun when we’re out there on the floor, and it shows, obviously.”

Elsewhere, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ recent troubles continued on Sunday as they slipped to a third defeat in four games with a 113-99 loss against Washington Wizards.

Coach Tyronn Lue rested James with Cavaliers in the middle of a run in three games in four days, but the move backfired as the Wizards controlled the game from the start.

Otto Porter Jr and John Wall topped Wizards’ scoring with 21 points apiece to help the team move to 27-30 record for the season.

Curry hits 51, hits 3 in record 128th straight game as Warriors go 52-5

Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors continued their march to NBA greatness and set new records in a 130 – 114 victory against Orlando Magic on Thursday.

Warriors extended their record to 52-5 for the season to remain on course to beat the 1995/96 Chicago Bulls’ record 72 regular season wins.

Curry’s three-pointer with 5:45 remaining in the opening quarter was the 128th consecutive game he’d scored from long distance, edging him past Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver’s previous record set between November 2012 and March 2014.

His last game without a three-pointer was on November 11, 2014, and he has made at least one in 202 of his past 203 games.

Curry now has 276 three-pointers this season and remains on course to smash his own record of 286 set in 2014/15. He owns the three highest single-season totals for 3-pointers – the current season, last season and his haul of 272 in 2012-13. The next best on the list is Ray Allen (269, 2005-06).

“Steph is a lot better,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Which is scary, because he was the MVP last season.”

However, Kerr played down the significance of the record, saying that Curry had made 3-pointers too easy to be considered special.

“Why is that significant? I don’t know if the record is that significant because it’s so simple for him,” Kerr said. “A 3-point shot is like a layup. A half-court shot is like a 3-point shot. Steph just, that’s what he does, so it’s to the point where we expect everything to go in.”

Curry topped 50 points for the third time this season, the first player to do it that many times since LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in 2008-09. This comes a day after a 42-point performance in a six-point win over Miami on Wednesday night.

The record-breaking moment wasn’t the best highlight of the game – that came at the end of the third quarter, when the reigning MVP received a pass following a free throw, took a couple of dribbles before launching a 44-foot shot that banked in at the buzzer. Curry struck a pose, then chuckled as he made his way back to the bench.

“I was laughing, sure. That really isn’t supposed to happen,” Curry said. “I made a bunch of 3s in the third quarter and then finished with that one,” he added. “It was really funny to me, it just banked off the glass.”

“Are you guys surprised?” Magic guard Evan Fournier asked reporters. “I’m not. It’s just what he does.”

The win pushed the Warriors to the best 57-game start in NBA history. The Bulls were 51-6 through 57 games in 1995-96.

With eight of their next ten games at home and just eight of their remaining 25 games on the road, Warriors look well placed to challenge the Bulls’ mark.

Interim coach Luke Walton may have been playing down Warriors chances of breaking the record, but Curry confirmed if the team has an opportunity to go for it they will.

He said: “How many chances are you going to get to be a team that passes that record?

“Obviously everybody’s still talking about the 95-96 Bulls – one, because of their record, and two, because they finished it off with a championship.

“We want to be able to do both, too.”

Warriors are back in action on Sunday when they travel to face Oklahoma City Thunder. The two teams met at the start of February, with the Warriors running out 116-108 winners.

Thunder have lost their last two games at home to Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

NBA returns to London as Raptors down Magic in overtime

The Toronto Raptors beat Orlando Magic 106-103 after overtime in front of a packed house at London’s O2 Arena on Thursday.

The victory, inspired by 24 points by Kyle Lowry, was Raptors’ fourth straight NBA win.

The Canadian team led by over ten points on three occasions, but Magic refused to lie down before eventually falling to their sixth defeat in their last seven games.

Raptors previously lost a double-header against the New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn) in London in 2011, including one game which ended with triple overtime.

DeMar DeRozan, who added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors, had played in the 2011 games and Thursday’s game brought up a few bad memories.

“I thought, how ironic,” he said. “But it was a great game. The last time we played here it was a great game, both teams wanted to win, the crowd was into it, and it was the same tonight. We put on a great show. I’m glad we got a win out of it though.”

The game was the sixth NBA regular season match in the last six years to be held in London and attracted stars from across the world of sport and entertainment, including footballers Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Olivier Giroud.

Current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and former Commissioner David Stern were also amongst a sell-out 18,689 crowd.

Silver said the atmosphere felt like a ‘European All-Star Game’ and hinted it was something the NBA was considering for the future.

“We would love to figure out a way to do it,” he said. “Logistically it’s very difficult to travel to Europe and travel home from Europe.

“No question it’s something we would like to figure out a way to do at some point, I think it would be fantastic experience for everyone.”

The clash between Toronto and Orlando formed part of NBA’s Global Games – a series designed to globalize the sport of basketball.

Pre-season games in Italy, Spain, China and Brazil have been followed by regular season matches in Mexico and the UK, with top NBA outfits Boston Celtics, L.A. Clippers and Sacramento Kings amongst the teams who have taken part.

Interest in the NBA in the UK continues to grow, with BT Sport’s multi-year expansion of their television partnership with the league bringing the sport to a new audience.

The broadcaster is showing up to seven live games per week throughout the regular season, along with the first and second rounds of the play-offs, plus every game of the conference finals and NBA Finals in June.