Cavaliers-Warriors set for ultimate Finals rubber match

UNTV News   •   May 31, 2017   •   2517

Jun 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) go after a loose ball during the third quarter in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

An NBA season that has had little in the way of drama will come to a gripping close over the next two weeks when two familiar foes fittingly battle in the Finals for an unprecedented third consecutive year.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are four wins away from repeating as NBA champions in what may go down as one of the greatest championship showdowns ever, but standing in their way is a sharpshooting Golden State Warriors team that beat them in the 2015 Finals.

The ultimate championship rubber match, which most everyone expected the moment last year’s Finals ended, begins on Thursday in Oakland and will cap what has been a predictable 82-game regular season and lopsided postseason.

Golden State, led by two-times reigning league MVP Stephen Curry, are in remarkable form after becoming the first team in league history to enter the Finals undefeated (12-0) since the NBA went to the current playoff format in 2003.

And unlike the Warriors squad that blew a 3-1 Finals lead last year after a record-setting 73-9 regular season, this version of the team is even more dangerous after adding former league MVP and four-time scoring champion Kevin Durant.

The acquisition sent quakes throughout the NBA and all but assured the Warriors, who went on to post the league’s best record, a ticket back to the Finals.

But despite returning to the Finals with relative ease the Warriors are well aware of the value of not becoming complacent.

“Obviously it’s a new season, especially this last series of the season, and we gotta bring it,” Durant said of the best-of-seven clash.

“You can’t expect us to just say ‘oh we’re a great team on paper together and it’s just going to happen.’ You know, we got to go out there and try and take it.”

The series will feature a number of compelling individual matchups, most notably James versus Durant at small forward, Kyrie Irving versus Curry at point guard and Kevin Love versus Draymond Green at power forward.

There will be no love lost between these teams, especially after Green, whose Game Five suspension in the 2016 Finals was considered by many to be the turning point, said last November he wanted to “destroy” and “annihilate” the Cavs in a championship rematch.

But none of that will matter to Cleveland since James, who stretched his Finals streak to an astonishing seven straight years dating back to his time in Miami, is playing the best playoff basketball of a career that already includes three NBA titles and a trio of Finals MVP awards.

For their part, the Cavs have also made an impressive run to the Finals with their only playoff blemish a Game Three loss to Boston in the East final.

“Both teams are better than last year’s teams. We are a better Cavaliers team and they are a better Warriors team but what does that mean? We don’t know yet,” said James.

“But we are both better. We’ve both added pieces that have helped our offensive packages and defensive packages be even more scary and obviously you can see that.

“We are both playing at a high level and when you look back on it at the end of the day you’ll look back and say that was two great teams who competed for championships.” — By Frank Pingue

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Both)

Harden drills OT winner as Rockets nip Warriors

UNTV News   •   January 5, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Feb 10, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) points to the sky against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

James Harden capped his second consecutive triple-double by sinking a 25-foot 3-pointer with one second remaining in overtime Thursday night, giving the Houston Rockets a 135-134 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif.

After Stephen Curry put Golden State up by two with an 18-footer with 23.1 seconds to go, the Rockets got possession after a kicked-ball violation on the Warriors with 5.5 seconds left.

The ball was inbounded to Harden, who was able to get off — and make — a heavily contested 3-pointer to provide the game-winning points and cap a game-high, 44-point night.

Kevin Durant’s desperation 40-footer caromed off the rim at the buzzer, allowing the Rockets to win their sixth straight and 11th in their past 12.

In scoring 40 or more points for the fifth consecutive game, Harden also found time for 10 rebounds and a game-high 15 assists for his fifth triple-double of the season. He turned the ball over seven times.

Curry led the Warriors with 35 points.

The Rockets forced the extra session by scoring the last six points of the fourth quarter on a three-point play by Clint Capela with 1:03 to go and a 3-pointer by Harden with 51.4 seconds left.

After Durant misfired for Golden State, Harden had the last shot of regulation but couldn’t connect from 32 feet, sending the game into overtime tied at 119-all.

Thirty of Harden’s points came on 10 3-pointers as the Rockets went 21-for-54 from beyond the arc and outscored Golden State 63-42 on threes.

Capela recorded a 29-point, 21-point double-double for Houston, which beat Golden State for the second time this season after falling to the eventual champion Warriors in seven games in last year’s Western Conference finals.

Austin Rivers added 18 points, Danuel House Jr. 17 and Gerald Green 16 as the Rockets rallied from as much as a 20-point, third-quarter deficit.

Curry managed his 35 points despite just 5-for-15 shooting from 3-point range. The Warriors were 14-for-37 from long distance as a team.

Durant and Klay Thompson finished with 26 points apiece for the Warriors, while Draymond Green flirted with a triple-double of his own with nine points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

The loss was Golden State’s third straight at home.

—Field Level Media

Magic topple Lakers again

UNTV News   •   November 26, 2018

FILE PHOTO: LeBron James (REUTERS / USA-Today)

Nikola Vucevic scored 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds Sunday as the visiting Orlando Magic upended the Los Angeles Lakers for the second time in eight days, earning a 108-104 victory.

The Lakers tied the game at 104 with 2:24 remaining on a pair of free throws by LeBron James, but Los Angeles missed four 3-point attempts down the stretch.

Terrence Ross made a cutting layup with 34 seconds remaining to give the Magic a 106-104 lead, and Aaron Gordon sealed the victory on a dunk with 10 seconds remaining.

Gordon finished with 17 points, while Ross had 16 as Orlando ended a two-game slide. The Magic now have four victories in their past six games.

James scored 24 points for the Lakers, who have seven victories in their last nine games, but both of those defeats came to the Magic.

After losing 130-117 at Orlando, the Lakers made a commitment to defense, holding their next three opponents to an average of 95 points per game. That defensive focus was evident early in the Sunday game as the Lakers held Orlando to 19 points in the first quarter.

The Magic, though, turned things around, starting with a 12-2 run with just under three minutes to play in the first half. Orlando held its first lead of the game at 51-49 with less than a minute to play in the second quarter before a James 3-pointer put the Lakers up 52-51 at the half.

The Magic’s surge continued in the third quarter as they opened on a 15-7 run, forcing the Lakers into eight consecutive missed shots during the stretch. Orlando held an 86-71 lead after three quarters, having limited the Lakers to 19 points in the period.

Vucevic’s 31-point performance came after he scored a season-high 36 points the first time the teams met. Two of his three games with at least 30 points this season have come against the Lakers.

D.J. Augustin scored 12 points and had nine assists for the Magic, while Jonathon Simmons added 10 points.

Kyle Kuzma scored 21 points for the Lakers, while Brandon Ingram added 17. Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball scored nine points and pulled down 10 rebounds.

—Field Level Media

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Lakers boast .500 record after win over Kings

UNTV News   •   November 12, 2018

The Lakers’ LeBron James speaks during a news conference on Monday in El Segundo, California. | USA TODAY / VIA REUTERS

The Los Angeles Lakers have a .500 record for the first time this season after a 101-86 win against the host Sacramento Kings on Saturday night.

LeBron James scored 25 points for Los Angeles, which has won four of five and six of nine. The Lakers have another winnable game Sunday against the visiting Atlanta Hawks.

Brandon Ingram had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma scored 11 apiece for the Lakers. Tyson Chandler had a team-high 12 rebounds off the bench in his second game since joining the Lakers.

De’Aaron Fox scored 21 points to lead Sacramento. Marvin Bagley III had 13 points off the bench and Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Kings, who had won six of eight coming in.

Kuzma made a 3-pointer on the first possession of the second half to extend the lead to 53-44. Los Angeles missed its next seven shots, including three open 3-point attempts on one possession, which would have extended the lead back to double digits.

At the same time, the Kings went on a 7-0 run to get within 53-51 and they pulled as close as one point on two occasions before Lakers backup point guard Rajon Rondo capped a 10-0 run by hitting a wide-open 3-pointer for a 67-56 lead with 3:50 left in the third quarter.

The Lakers took a 76-65 lead into the fourth and Lance Stephenson sank a 3-pointer off a loose ball on the first possession, extending the lead back to 14. They soon went up by 20 on Josh Hart’s 3 with 8:01 left and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

The Lakers led by 16 midway through the second quarter before taking a 50-44 lead into the half.

James led the way with 15 points in the first half for the Lakers.

—Field Level Media

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