Stephen Curry scored 42 points to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 129-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday in an NBA Finals rematch in name only.
Curry drained nine three-pointers and Kevin Durant added 25 points on nine of 16 shooting as the Warriors pulled away in the second half against a Cleveland team that bears little resemblance to the LeBron James-led Cavs that battled the Warriors in the last four championship series.
Curry, looking fully recovered in his third game back from a groin injury that sidelined him for 11 games, added nine rebounds and seven assists. Durant pulled down 10 rebounds and handed out nine assists. The Warriors were back in Cleveland for the first time since June, when they beat the Cavs to win their second straight NBA title and third in four years.
Since then the Cavs have seen James depart as a free agent to the Los Angeles Lakers. Forward JR Smith was also absent from the team, Kevin Love was nursing a foot injury and Kyle Korver was recently traded to Utah.
Tristan Thompson, one of the only holdovers from the Cavaliers teams that challenged the Warriors – and beat them for the crown in 2016 – scored 14 points with 19 rebounds. Rookie Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers with 21 points.
“It just felt quiet, from what we’re used to,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the atmosphere in Cleveland. “For obvious reasons – it’s not the same out there.”
Despite Curry’s 25 first-half points, Cleveland led at the break, closing the half on a 19-5 scoring run. “I thought they competed really hard,” Kerr said of the Cavaliers. “First half, they knocked down shots, they controlled the whole half. Our talent took over in the second half.”
The Warriors improved to 17-9 – still fourth in a Western Conference led by the Denver Nuggets, who edged the Orlando Magic 124-118 in overtime for a seventh straight victory that pushed their record to 17-7. They finished the night half a game in front of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who erased a 23-point deficit with less than five minutes to play to beat the Brooklyn Nets 114-112. “This is a special night,” said Thunder forward Paul George, who scored 25 of his 47 points in the fourth quarter. “We came together when we were down - our backs against the wall. We showed who we are tonight.”
George drained the game-winning three-pointer with three-seconds remaining, taking a feed from Russell Westbrook who drew two defenders then passed to George on the perimeter. Westbrook finished with 21 points, 17 assists and 15 rebounds, his 108th career triple-double moving him past Jason Kidd for third place on the NBA’s all-time list.
Only Oscar Robertson with 181 and Magic Johnson with 138 have achieved more triple-doubles – reaching double digits in three key statistical categories.
The Los Angeles Clippers, who came into the night tied for the lead in the West, fell a game behind the Nuggets with a 96-86 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis avenged their overtime loss to the Clippers less than two weeks ago, holding Los Angeles to their lowest points total of the season. Center Joakim Noah, signed by the Grizzlies on Tuesday, made his first NBA appearance in 11 months, scoring four points in 13 minutes on the floor. In Los Angeles, LeBron James scored 20 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 121-113. In Toronto, Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 18 of his 26 in the fourth quarter as the Raptors defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 113-102.
The Raptors rebounded from a loss to Denver on Monday to improve their league-leading record to 21-5. Leonard connected on 13 of 24 shots from the field, including five of six from three-point range as the Raptors withstood a 38-point performance from Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler.
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