Durant delivers on both ends


Warriors beat Cavaliers, 99-92

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — LeBron James drove to the basket in the waning seconds and Kevin Durant swatted away any chance Cleveland had at a Christmas Day comeback.

Durant pumped his fist again and again, emphatically shook his head and pounded his chest in delight. It looked a lot like the dominant Durant from the NBA Finals six months ago.

Klay Thompson hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:33 left, Durant delivered on both ends of the floor, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Cavaliers 99-92 on Monday in a festive holiday rematch of the past three Finals.

“There’s just so much joy in the arena today because it’s Christmas and we all feed off of that,” Durant said.

Durant’s block against a driving James with 24.5 seconds left went out of bounds off James, who said he thought he was fouled on the play. Durant finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots.

“He’s one of the leaders in shot blocks a game and obviously he had five tonight, so he’s been doing a heck of a job of first of all taking the individual matchup and protecting the rim, too,” James said.

Kevin Love had 31 points and a season-best 18 rebounds, while James contributed 20 points, six rebounds and six assists in a rivalry missing one key piece: Warriors star Stephen Curry, who missed his eighth straight game with a sprained right ankle.

Thompson scored 24 points and Draymond Green had a triple-double with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. It was Golden State’s 12th win in 13 games after its 11-game winning streak was snapped by Denver on Saturday night.

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell traveled with 2:13 left and James tied it. Bell made up for that mistake with a key offensive rebound and pass to Thompson for his fourth 3.

James’ 3-pointer with 10:39 left pulled Cleveland within one, but Green answered with a 3 and Andre Iguodala scored two of his nine points the next time down. In another key sequence, Durant blocked Tristan Thompson’s shot with 6:23 to go and dunked moments later.

No surprise, the up-tempo, running rivals provided high entertainment once again. The Warriors last June captured a second championship in three years against James and the Cavaliers.

“I forgot all about it,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said with a chuckle.

The teams will see each other again soon, playing Jan. 15 in Cleveland.

KD requested James for his defensive assignment, to which he explained simply, “I just like guarding my position.”

The Cavs, having won six of seven and playing for the first time since Thursday, had their run of scoring at least 100 points end at 26 games.

The Warriors were at nearly full strength again aside from Curry, who could return this week once he goes through some scrimmages at practice.

Center Zaza Pachulia was available but didn’t play after sitting out seven consecutive games, while Shaun Livingston came back after missing four games with a sore right knee.

Bell — who addressed the sellout crowd at midcourt moments before tipoff — started at center and had eight points and six rebounds.

SHOOTING WOES

The Cavs’ 31.8-percent shooting was the lowest by a Warriors opponent in nearly four years, since Charlotte shot 31.2 percent from the field on Feb. 4, 2014.

“We just didn’t make shots,” Lue said.

A REAL RIVALRY

Sure, this one felt a little strange without Curry or Kyrie Irving, now in Boston.

“Golden State-Cavaliers, that’s a big game, no matter who’s playing, who’s out,” Lue said.

“It will be weird, without Steph, without Ky, especially the battles we’ve had over the last three years. So both teams look different.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr knows just the uniforms are enough to get everybody going — and this marked the third straight Christmas matchup between the franchises, alternating home floors based on who won the title.

“It’s always great to play the Cavs, they’re an awesome team,” Kerr said. “LeBron is so amazing and it’s so fun to feel the energy in the building when the two teams get together. Neither team will look the same as we will even a month from now because Steph and Isaiah Thomas both should be back, hopefully they’ll both be back. … But it doesn’t even matter sometimes, just the two uniforms in the same building gets people going.”

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Lue isn’t yet ready to guess when Thomas will return following his right hip injury. “He is progressing very well,” Lue said. “The most important thing is that he is getting to practice and playing 5-on-5 and having a chance to experience feeling well after it and not having soreness.” … Cleveland is 19-3 since Nov. 11, including 8-3 on the road.

Warriors: Durant averaged 32 points over his seven previous Christmas Day games. … Golden State played its fifth consecutive Christmas game and seventh in eight. … The Warriors were 10 of 37 on 3s after they went a dismal 3 for 27 from 3-point range in losing to the Nuggets. … Kerr began his pregame session by thanking all of the arena staff and Golden State employees for their service and for working on the holiday. … Thompson’s holiday sneakers might have stood out most: neon green on the left foot, neon pink on the right.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: Visit Kings on Wednesday as they play the middle contest of a three-game West trip.

Warriors: Host Utah on Wednesday.

THUNDER 112, ROCKETS 107

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 31 points and 11 assists to help Oklahoma City to its fifth straight victory.

Paul George scored 24 points and Carmelo Anthony added 20 for the Thunder, who shot 54.4 percent from the field.

James Harden led the Rockets with 29 points, but he made just 7 of 18 field goals. The league’s leading scorer was coming off back-to-back 51-point games.

Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon each scored 20 points and Clint Capela added 19 points and 10 rebounds for Houston, which lost its third straight.

Houston point guard Chris Paul was sidelined by a groin strain. The Rockets are 15-1 when he plays and 10-6 when he sits out.

WIZARDS 111, CELTICS 103

BOSTON (AP) — Bradley Beal scored 25 points, John Wall had 21 points and 14 assists, and Washington beat Boston in the Celtics’ first Christmas Day home game in franchise history.

Otto Porter Jr. added 20 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. finished with 16, helping Washington take the first meeting between the teams since Boston’s Game 7 victory at home in the second round of the playoffs last spring.

Boston lost for the third time in four games. Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum each scored 20 points for the Celtics, and Terry Rozier had 16.

Boston opened a 95-90 lead on Irving’s 3-pointer with 6:18 left, but the Wizards responded with a 12-0 run.

TIMBERWOLVES 121, LAKERS 104

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jimmy Butler scored 23 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Minnesota got its first-ever Christmas Day victory.

Former Southern California standout Taj Gibson had 23 points and nine rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have won four straight. Jamal Crawford added 19 points.

Kyle Kuzma scored 31 points for the Lakers, who have lost three in a row and six of seven. Jordan Clarkson had 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Julius Randle had 16 points and seven rebounds.

Minnesota pulled away when Towns and Crawford combined to score 12 straight points after Randle put Los Angeles up 84-83 with 11:14 to play.

76ERS 105, KNICKS 98

NEW YORK (AP) — Joel Embiid had 25 points and 16 rebounds, JJ Redick scored 24 points, and Philadelphia snapped a five-game losing streak.

Embiid and Redick were cleared to play after going through pregame warmups, and their presence gave the 76ers just enough to win their first Christmas Day appearance since 2001.

Embiid, who has been battling a bad back, powered through a big-man duel with Enes Kanter, who had a season-high 31 points and a career-best 22 rebounds.

Redick, who missed the last game with right hamstring tightness, helped the 76ers pull away from an 89-all tie midway through the fourth quarter.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 22 points for the Knicks, who fell to 22-30 on Christmas with their fifth straight loss on the holiday.

Warriors beat Cavaliers, 99-92