Warriors beat Spurs in epic 25-point comeback

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Stephen Curry.

Stephen Curry scored 40 points and Kevin Durant 34 to power a stunning second-half comeback that lifted Golden State over San Antonio 113-111 Sunday in an NBA playoff thriller.

The Spurs squandered a 25-point lead and might have lost star forward Kawhi Leonard, who left the game for good with a sprained left ankle early in the third quarter.

Golden State seized a 1-0 edge in the best-of-seven Western Conference final, which continues Tuesday in Oakland. The winner plays defending champion Cleveland, Boston or Washington in the NBA Finals.

The much-anticipated matchup between the most productive NBA scoring attack of Golden State, which led the league with 67 wins, and the top NBA defense of the Spurs, next best at 61 wins, met high expectations.

Kawhi Leonard scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half and LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 of his 28 in the opening two quarters as the Spurs seized a 62-42 half-time lead.

But Leonard left the contest for good with 7:53 to play in the third quarter, limping to the locker room with a left ankle sprain.

The Warriors responded by scoring the next 18 points, pulling within 78-73 on Durant’s fast break slam dunk.

The Warriors were given a half-time pep talk by Kerr, who has given way to Brown since the second playoff game due to complications from back surgery.

Curry scored 19 points in the third quarter to ignite the fightback, going 5-of-6 from 3-point range, but the Warriors still trailed 90-81 entering the fourth quarter, Curry being treated on the bench for a right arm issue.

Two Durant 3-pointers and a dunk trimmed the Spurs’ lead to 96-93 and after two baskets by Shaun Livingston and some Spurs misses, Durant’ dunk with 4:09 remaining put Golden State ahead 101-100, their first lead since 8-7 in the opening minutes.

Draymond Green’s three-point play put the Warriors ahead 109-106 and after an Aldridge miss, Curry made a driving layup to lift the Warriors ahead 111-106.

Argentina’s Manu Ginobili responded with a dunk for the Spurs and Australian Patty Mills, starting in place of injured Tony Parker, made a steal and two key free throws to pull San Antonio within 111-100.

Curry made a shot over Aldridge for the final Warrior points and a 113-110 edge, Aldridge missed a tying 3-pointer but Mills was fouled with a half-second remaining. He made the first free throw but missed the second, hoping for a game-tying tip in basket.

Instead, the Warriors swatted away the ball and the clock expired.

The Spurs closed the first quarter on a 12-2 run to lead 30-16, then began the second quarter with a 14-3 spurt to grab their largest lead at 44-19.

The Warriors shot only 34 percent from the floor in the first half and committed 10 turnovers in the first two quarters.

Golden State went the latest of any game this season to make a 3-pointer, their first hoop from beyond the arc coming after Curry made a steal and a long-range shot with 5:05 remaining in the first half, capping at 11-0 Warriors run to climb within 46-32.

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STATESIDE: Another season of hurt for Washington fans

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Move over Chicago – there’s a new curse doing the rounds.

Seeing the Cubs extinguish 108 years of hurt and goat-infused paranoia saw the battered sporting souls of the Windy City unleash a huge collective sigh of relief.

Everyone looked at Chicago baseball with a mix of sympathy and dark humour. Now, though, the jokes and tears are directly firmly towards Washington DC.

The Wizards may have brilliantly kept their NBA playoff dream alive in dramatic fashion on Friday night, yet it was the NHL Game 7 defeat for the Capitals which really stung the country’s capital.

A 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, in the second round of the playoffs was a crushing blow and added to arguably the worst sporting Stateside stat right now: It is 66 combined seasons (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB) since a team from DC reached a Conference Finals. And they are 1-for-86 in reaching the semi-final since 1992.

With Cincinnati coming in quite a distant second with 43 , that’s one hell of an awful tally.

While the last of the Redskins’ three Super Bowl wins came 25 years ago, at least there’s been some joy on a football field in amongst a series of car crash seasons since.

No-one expects too much from the Wizards, even with John Wall firing. Their only championship came 39 years ago under the guise of the Washington Bullets.

Over in the MLB, the Nationals, who used to be the Montreal Expos until their move in 2005, have never won a National League pennant let alone trodden the boards during the World Series.

In 2012, the Nationals had the best record around but blew it at the start of the postseason despite being one win away from a first-round victory.

It was more of the same last term, with a super-charged five-game series with the LA Dodgers not going their way.

It’s on the ice, however, where hope has sprung eternal even if the franchise has just ONE Stanley Cup appearance since 1915 (defeat to the Detroit Red Wings in 1998).

The arrival of Russian ace Alex Ovechkin 12 years ago was supposed to signal the start of a brand new era. Millions of dollars have filled his pockets, yet all it’s guaranteed is more heart-wrenching agony.

Nine playoff appearances. Nine series shrouded in disappointment.

There was hope that following an impressive campaign this season – the Caps boasted the best record in the NHL – 2017 would be their year.

Just get past the Penguins and Sidney Crosby. Even when it went to a deciding match and with superstar Crosby sitting out with concussion, hopes were high.

Well, they were until the buzzer sounded. Washington drew a blank, Ovechkin had a stinker before admitting he was playing with an injury which has ruled him out of the World Championships this summer.

The Russian isn’t the player he was – in 82 games this campaign,he netted scored 33 goals with 36 assists. That’s two less in the assist department and 17 fewer goals than last year.

Five goals and three set-ups in 13 postseason matches wasn’t too shabby, but, ultimately, not enough.

Nevertheless, it was a rotten end to a promising season for a team hailed one of best for years.

Ovechkin, at 32 years-old, is past his prime but with four years of a $10 million deal remaining, won’t be going anywhere fast. He remains popular with fans although, tellingly, some sections of the local media have begun to rip into their star turn.

Standout players like TJ Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky were expected to have fired the Caps to glory, but will now look on as the rebuilding starts.

New hopes. New dreams. Yet will reality bite once again?

“As I said to everybody in the room, I hope you get this opportunity again,” said coach Barry Trotz. “You don’t know if you will. You don’t know if you’ll ever get back to the playoffs.”

“When you lose the right to keep playing, when you’re in the playoffs and you feel that you can be a team that can do some damage, it always is a bitter pill to swallow.”

Wizards: It’s over to you.

No pressure.

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Madden NFL's most cursed cover athletes

Jay Asser 13/05/2017
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Madden legend: Michael Vick. Picture: Getty Images.

Black cats, breaking mirrors, opening umbrellas indoors… All child’s play compared to the ‘Madden Curse’.

Landing on the cover of one of the most popular video game titles sounds cool, right? Not if that game is Madden NFL.

The popular franchise has claimed many victims during it’s brief run. After originally being released as ‘John Madden Football’ in 1988, it featured its namesake on the cover every year until 2001. Players were also shown alongside the former broadcaster and Hall of Fame coach in some of the editions, but 2001 was the first year the game had a cover athlete, with Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George blazing the trail.

Ever since, a weird thing has happened. Several cover athletes have suffered injuries or fallen well short of their previous season output that earned them a spot on the cover in the first place. Prior to Madden 17, however, it looked as if the curse was dying off, with the previous four cover athletes – Odell Beckham Jr, Richard Sherman, Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson – all faring just fine. But then, Madden 17’s Rob Gronkowski missed half the regular season and all of the playoffs with a back injury to revive the voodoo.

Now, Tom Brady of all people will take on the curse by appearing on Madden 18 and attempting to be one of the lucky ones to get through the upcoming season unscathed. If anyone can beat a mythical curse, it’s Touchdown Tom, who at the age of 39 defied Father Time to lift the Lombardi Trophy for the fifth time in his legendary career. What’s a silly curse to Brady?

The New England Patriots quarterback laughs in the face of danger, but if he’s not careful, he could join the following players on one list he wants no part of.

Here are the five most cursed Madden cover athletes:

5. Peyton Hillis Madden 12

at M&T Bank Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Of all the Madden athletes, the Cleveland Brown running back stands out as the one with the least star power. That’s what you get though when you let the fans vote for who should be on the cover. Almost no one expected Hillis to match his 2010 campaign, in which he captured lightning in a bottle by rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns, while reeling in 61 receptions for 477 yards, but his decline was sharp. In 2011, he managed 717 yards and three touchdowns in total, playing just 10 games due to hamstring injuries. At least he got his 15 minutes…

4. Donovan McNabb, Madden 06

GettyImages-82903402

On paper, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback didn’t fare too badly in the games he played in 2005, notching 2,507 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The problem was he only played in nine games as a groin injury cut his campaign short, one year after he led the Eagles to the Super Bowl and nearly captured what would have been his only ring.

3. Shaun Alexander, Madden 07

GettyImages-116609845

One of the issues with being named to the Madden cover is it often comes after you’ve had a career season, so it’s incredibly difficult to replicate that. For Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, he was never going to be able to match his bonkers 2005, when he rushed for 1,880 yards and an NFL record 27 touchdowns. Alexander likely would have still had a strong 2006 if he didn’t suffer a broken foot in Week 3 that limited him to 10 games, in which he managed 896 yards and seven touchdowns.

2. Rob Gronkowski, Madden 17

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It’s probably not fair to give the Madden Curse credit for this one. At least not full credit. The New England Patriots tight end has been injury prone during his seven-year career and last year was no different. After taking his time to recover from a hamstring injury that kept him out the first two weeks, Gronkowski came back and did his thing in eight games (540 yards, three touchdowns) before a back injury put him on the shelf again. He did end up getting a ring out of it though, so again, was he really cursed?

1. Michael Vick, Madden 2004

No player has experienced Madden’s give and take quite like the former electric Atlanta Falcons quarterback. As far as dominant athletes in video games go, Vick is right near the top thanks to how ridiculously unstoppable he was in Madden 2004. His speed and elusiveness in the game practically made him a cheat code and helped grow the legend of the highlight-reel star. But it wasn’t all good. Before the 2003 season even started, Vick broke his leg in the preseason and missed the first 11 weeks. He eventually got back on the field and had 585 passing yards, 255 rushing yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions, but the Madden Curse had done its damage and established itself as a real threat.

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