NBA

LeBron James gets ejected for first time in his career but Cavs still down Heat

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There's a first time for everything.

LeBron James was ejected for the first time in his NBA career on Tuesday, but it didn’t stop his Cleveland Cavaliers from marching to a 108-97 home win against the Miami Heat.

James was angered at the lack of a foul call on a drive to the basket on which he came up empty.

Shouting, he made a beeline for referee Kane Fitzgerald, who quickly whistled the superstar for a technical foul and then pointed to the exit with 1:59 remaining in the third quarter.

It was the first time James was ejected in 1,082 career regular-season games.

“I got fouled,” James said. “I showed my frustration to the ref and he sent me to the locker room.”

James, who had stripped the ball from Miami’s James Johnson at the other end, said he was “fouled all the way up the court, from the time that I stripped him all the way til I got to the rim.

“I said what I had to say and I moved on but (Fitzgerald) decided I should get two (technical fouls).

“It is what it is,” added James, who scored 21 points with 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals. “We got the win and that’s the most important.”

The Cavs were leading 93-70 at the time, and the absence of James for the final period didn’t stop the Eastern Conference champions from notching a ninth victory in a row.

Kevin Love scored a season-high 38 points for the Cavaliers and Dwyane Wade added 17 off the bench against his former team.

Cleveland led by as many as 34 points and now have their longest regular-season winning streak since January 15-February 5 of 2015.

Love added nine rebounds and connected on 14 of his 17 free-throws. Cleveland seized control of the contest with 75 points in the first half — 32 of them from Love. Dion Waiters led the Heat with 21 points and Bam Adebayo scored 19.

The game marked the first time that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went up against his former Miami stars James and Wade at the same time.

He coached Heat teams led by James and Wade to four straight NBA Finals appearances from 2011-2014, winning titles in 2012 and 2013.

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Steph Curry is reminding of just how good he is

Jay Asser 20/11/2017
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Rolling: Stephen Curry. Picture: Getty Images.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that even though he’s not necessarily the best player on his own team, Stephen Curry is an MVP calibre talent who is more than capable of carrying his side to wins.

Curry’s past two games have served as a reminder of that, coming on the heels of arguably one of his worst performances in recent memory.

After being held to just nine points in the high-profile loss to Boston, Curry has returned to peak form by scoring a combined 74 points on 54.3 per cent shooting from the field and 42.1 per cent on 3-pointers in victories over Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

21 11 17 NBA

As he’s done during much of Golden State’s run of dominance and at times last season, Curry powered the Warriors to a 118-111 win over the Nets on Sunday without Kevin Durant on the Durant, who is averaging 24.9 points per game, missed his second contest of the season, this time to a sprained left ankle, which put more onus on Curry to shoulder the scoring load.

“It’s 25, 26 points that are missing and you’ve got to try to put pressure on the defence to kind of honour your scoring threat and open up the floor for everyone else,” Curry said.

Curry didn’t see out the win, fouling out with three minutes left after drawing a charging foul on a drive.

But his effort through the game’s first 45 minutes were enough to stave off a second-half surge by Brooklyn as he finished with a season-high 39 points on 14-of-24 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Now at 29 and with his two MVP seasons in the rear-view mirror, Curry may not be fully at the height of his powers anymore.

His current field goal percentage of 46.7 is his lowest since 2012-13, while he’s shooting under 40 per cent from long range (38.3) for the first time in his career.

Curry’s pull-up shooting efficiency has also dipped since his supernova season in 2015-16, dropping from 44.3 per cent overall and 43.0 on 3s that season, to 38.9 and 36.7 per cent last year, to 46.2 and 36.2 per cent so far this season – all while his attempts have also dropped.

Despite what has so far been an ‘off’ shooting season for Curry, he still ranks 22nd among qualified players in true shooting percentage – calculating a player’s field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage together – with a mark of 64.6.

Even at less than his best, arguably the greatest shooter in the history of the game remains deadly and if his past two performances are any indication, the Warriors will have no shortage of firepower even when Durant sits.

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Ainge and the Celtics' plan has already been validated

Jay Asser 18/11/2017
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Mean green machine: Kyrie Irving and the Celtics are 14-2. Picture: Getty Images.

It only took 16 games into the season for the Boston Celtics to earn a victory lap.

Not that they’ll take it because the only cause for celebration the franchise is concerned with involves duck boats parading through the streets of Boston, but they’ve earned a small one nonetheless for batting practically 1.000 on decisions of significance over the past few years.

Even before Danny Ainge’s process began to bear fruits this season, the Celtics general manager had done about as well as imaginable in rebuilding the team in the post Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo era.

Built on Isaiah Thomas and a cast of dependable role players, Boston secured 53 wins and the top seed in the East last year before being ousted by LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals. It was good, but not good enough for Ainge.

So he took a blowtorch to the team and reconstructed the roster, bucking conventional wisdom along the way.

The number one overall pick was traded, essentially swapping Markelle Fultz for Jayson Tatum while netting a potential future lottery pick in the process.

Fultz has been injured to start his career, but even basing the deal solely on how good Tatum looks, it’s shaping up as a home run.

Then there was the trade that sent fan favourite Thomas, along with Jae Crowder and the highly-coveted Brooklyn pick, for Kyrie Irving.

It was a gamble on Irving having not reached his full potential and so far, that gamble has been validated. While his counting stats are down, Irving’s defence has been at an all-time high and he’s almost seamlessly meshed himself within Brad Stevens’ offence.

Speaking of Stevens, perhaps Ainge’s biggest bet has been on one of the game’s brightest minds. Even with Gordon Hayward expected to be on the floor, this roster was always going to heavily rely on players still on their rookie contracts, meaning Stevens had his work cut out in assimilating the young guys.

And yet, Boston have come together in record time to boast the league’s best record and defence, allowing a ridiculous 95.4 points per 100 possessions.

The crazy part isn’t that Ainge and the Celtics’ approach has been proven right – it’s how quickly it’s all worked out.

Boston may very well be the team of the future in the East, as Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, but they also may be arriving sooner than everyone thought.

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