Defending champions Golden State Warriors fall to Houston Rockets in NBA season opener

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The new-look Houston Rockets roared back to beat NBA champions Golden State 122-121 on Tuesday, spoiling a celebratory night at the Warriors’ Oracle Arena in Oakland.

The Warriors marked the opening of the new season by handing out their championship rings and raising their 2016-17 championship banner.

Despite a furious rally by the Rockets, the Warriors thought they had won the game with a last-gasp basket from Kevin Durant, but the clock had expired a fraction of a second before the ball left Durant’s hand and it was the Rockets celebrating at the end of the night.

P.J. Tucker had given Houston the lead with a two free throws with 44.1 seconds remaining.

The Rockets trailed by as many as 17 and by 11 points entering the fourth quarter. They were down 114-107 after a three-pointer from Warriors star Stephen Curry with 5:12 remaining.

But the Rockets wouldn’t go away, producing a late flurry that included a three-point play by Eric Gordon and a three-pointer by Tucker.

Two offensive rebounds gave the Rockets another possession in the final minute. They trailed 121-120 when Tucker was fouled and made both his free throws.

Golden State, who lost only 15 times last season, turned the ball over on their next possession.

They had a chance to win when Curry missed a three-pointer with five seconds left.

A deflection brought the ball to Durant, whose attempt from the baseline fell to thrill the crowd, only for a review to show it left his hand too late.

“I knew I was cutting it close,” Durant said.

James Harden had 27 points, Gordon 24 and Tucker 20 for the Rockets. Former Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, brought in to help the Rockets challenge the Warriors in the West, had just four points with 11 assists and eight rebounds in his debut for Houston.

Nick Young, a new arrival at Golden State this season, led the Warriors with 23 points off the bench.

Curry scored 22 and Durant 20 for the Warriors, who saw Draymond Green depart in the third quarter with a knee strain.

Before exiting, reigning defensive player of the year Green pulled down 11 rebounds and handed out 13 assists to go with nine points.

“He was our best player tonight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He was the guy bringing the energy and the life. We didn’t have much energy from most of the group tonight.

“As soon as he went out of the game things went south for us,” Kerr added. “We just couldn’t get any traction.”

The Warriors became just the fourth defending champions since 2000 to lose their opener the following season.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Kevin Durant to stay with Golden State Warriors while Jerry West joins Los Angeles Clippers

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Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is set to make a new contract deal and stay with the Golden State Warriors, but the new NBA champions did lose a legendary player on Monday.

Multiple reports said Durant, the Most Valuable Player of this month’s NBA Finals triumph over Cleveland, will opt out of his contract but re-sign with Golden State in a money-saving move under NBA salary cap rules.

But the Warriors lost Jerry West, a member of the team’s executive board who on Monday was named a consultant to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The 79-year-old Hall of Fame guard was an iconic star for the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA’s logo is designed around his silhouette.

Durant, who joined the Warriors last July after finishing his contract with Oklahoma City, plans to decline his player option for the 2017-18 campaign and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, according to reports.

The 10-year NBA veteran would then re-sign with the Warriors, the move enabling the team to have more money for contracts with forward Andre Iguodala and other players.

Durant was to be paid about $28 million in salary next season, but he will take about $4 million less than the maximum deal he could have been paid.

That will better enable the Warriors to keep together the championship roster that includes Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Georgian center Zaza Pachulia and reserves.

Durant won his first NBA crown and helped Golden State claim a second in three seasons by averaging 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists in the best-of-seven NBA Finals, which the Warriors won over Cleveland in five games.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry becomes a free agent, but has taken less than maximum money in recent years to set up an expected five-year deal worth $205 million. Curry made $12.1 million last season.

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NBA Finals: Kevin Durant-led Golden State Warriors beat Cleveland Cavaliers to win title

Sport360 staff 13/06/2017

Sparked by 39 points from Kevin Durant and 34 from Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors won their fifth NBA title Monday, beating Cleveland 129-120 to capture the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons.

Golden State took the best-of-seven series 4-1, reclaiming the throne they lost to the Cavaliers a year ago. The Warriors completed a 16-1 playoff run, the best post-season win percentage in NBA history.

It was the first career NBA title for Durant, who left Oklahoma City last July to join the Warriors amid expectations he and Golden State would fill trophy cases.

"I couldn't sleep for two days," Durant admitted. "I was anxious. I was jittery. I just wanted to put it all out there. "We battled. But we did it. We're champions. And we're celebrating on our home court." Durant, who was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, became the first player with five consecutive 30-point performances in the NBA Finals since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000. The Warriors also won titles in 1947 and 1956, when the team was based in Philadelphia, and took the crown in 1975 and 2015 after moving to the San Francisco Bay area, but had never clinched a title at home. "These guys are so gifted and committed to each other and so unselfish," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "It's a combination of talent and an unselfish nature." LeBron James scored 41 points to lead the Cavaliers. He also had 13 rebounds and eight assists, giving him a triple-double average for the finals, an unprecedented feat. But James, in his seventh consecutive playoff series and eighth overall, fell to 3-5 in the championship round. Kyrie Irving added 26 points and J.R. Smith 25 in a losing cause. "Lebron and Kyrie, I've never seen nothing like them," Durant said. "LeBron was the only person I've looked at that could look me eye to eye." 'JUST WANT TO DO IT AGAIN' After dropping last year's title to Cleveland making the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history from a 3-1 deficit, the Warriors vowed not to stumble again. "We've learned from everything we've been through to bring (the trophy) back home," Curry said. "I'm just proud to be part of something special and I just want to do it again." Excitement was high for the contest. Two courtside seats reportedly went for $133,000 on the resale market while other confirmed resale prices for pairs of seats were at $82,000 and $90,000. James hit a layup to open the fourth quarter and pull Cleveland within 98-95, as close as the Cavs had been in the second half after trailing by 17 in the second quarter. Golden State responded with a 10-3 run, Durant scoring five as the Warriors stretched their margin back to 108-98. Kyle Korver's 3-pointer pulled the Cavaliers within 108-102 but dunks by Durant and Andre Iguodala boosted Golden State's lead to 110-102 and the Warriors kept Cleveland at bay, a Durant driving layup stretching Golden State's edge to 118-106 with five minutes remaining. From there, the Warriors defense stiffened and the Cavaliers congratulated the Warriors as the finals seconds ticked off the clock and the crowd went wild. "This is a great group of guys, great community, great fans," Durant said. "I can't wait to celebrate with my teammates." WARRIORS SEIZE LEAD EARLY After leading from start to finish in game four, the Cavaliers began aggressively Monday as well. Irving and James turned back-to-back steals into impressive tone-setting layups as part of a 16-3 Cleveland run for an 20-12 edge, James hitting 4-of-5 for 10 points at the start. The Cavaliers made 15 of 24 shots in the first quarter to seize a 37-33 lead, James and Irving each scoring 12 points in the period, as did Curry for Golden State. Source: AFP

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