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Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry out vs. Toronto Raptors with lingering tailbone injury



Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is out for Friday’s game against the Toronto Raptors in Tampa as he continues to deal with a lingering tailbone injury.

After playing 36 minutes in a 116-109 loss to the Heat on Thursday night, Curry said he would need to see how he felt Friday morning to decide his availability against the Raptors.

After the loss to the Heat, Curry was asked how the pain level with this injury compares to other injuries he’s played through in the past.

“That’s kind of hard to say just [because] they’re all different,” Curry said. “When you’re out there, whatever the injury is or playing quote, unquote hurt it’s not really anything you try to think about when you’re out there. This one just lingers and you know it’s going to be there, but as long as I can be functional, make the moves that I want to do, whatever I feel like, try to put it in the back of your mind and you just try not to land on it. I haven’t done a great job of that the last few games.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said it is a matter of pain tolerance and that the Warriors don’t think Curry can worsen the injury by playing.

Curry injured his tailbone on March 17 during a 108-94 win over the Rockets after tripping over a set of risers near the Houston bench.

ESPN’s Nick Friedell contributed to this report.

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Stephen Curry claims second scoring title as Warriors clinch No. 8 seed



SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is the NBA’s scoring king for the 2020-21 season.

An 11-foot floater late in the first quarter of Sunday’s 113-101 win over the Memphis Grizzlies gave Curry enough points to clinch the scoring title over Washington Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal.

After Beal scored 25 points in Sunday’s 115-110 win over the Charlotte Hornets to finish with a season average of 31.3 points per game, Curry needed only three points to take the scoring crown, which he accomplished with a pair of field goals, including the clincher with 3:24 to play in the first.

The former MVP left little doubt by game’s end. Curry attempted a career-high 36 shots, including a career-high 22 3-pointers, en route to a 46-point game. He ends the season with 11 40-point games, just one shy of Michael Jordan’s record for the most by any player in his 12th season or later.

The Warriors clinched the eighth seed in the Western Conference with the win, setting them up for a Wednesday road game against either the Los Angeles Lakers or Portland Trail Blazers, pending Sunday night’s results.

Curry, who has already won two MVP awards during his illustrious 12-year career and was showered with “MVP” chants during Sunday’s game, has played arguably his best regular season during this condensed, coronavirus-shortened campaign. He averaged 37.3 points per game during 15 April contests — a stretch that left even his teammates and coaches in awe.

“We’ve just been really scrappy,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said before Sunday’s game. “We’ve been playing some small lineups, but we’ve had phenomenal seasons from both Steph and Draymond [Green] that have given us our foundation.”

Curry ends this season averaging 32 points per game. His previous career best of 30.1 points per game came in 2015-16, when he also became the first unanimous MVP in league history and won his other scoring title.

At 33, Curry becomes the oldest scoring champion since Jordan led the league with 28.7 points per game in 1997-98 at age 35. Curry also joins Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players with multiple scoring titles, MVPs and championships, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

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Washington Wizards finish improbable run to lock No. 8 seed for play-in tournament



For months, the 2020-21 season looked like it would be a lost one for the Washington Wizards. There were injuries early on, rumors swirling about a Bradley Beal trade and eventually, COVID-19-related absences that took the Wizards off the floor for nearly two weeks.

The Wizards were 17-32 on the morning of April 7. That’s when ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gave them just a 4% chance of even making the play-in tournament.

However, things started to change, as the Wizards won 17 of their final 23 games, culminating in a 115-110 come-from-behind win over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday to lock up the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

“We went through those rough periods we had and we came out stronger for it,” said Wizards center Robin Lopez, who finished with 18 points Sunday.

Now, a team that didn’t look like it had a viable chance to even make the play-in has two chances to try to secure a spot in the playoffs.

It looked bleak on Sunday as Charlotte jumped out to a 16-point lead in the first half before the Wizards wrestled the game away late.

“This game kind of mimicked our season,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “A lot of crazy things happened to us. We were getting punched left and right and we just somehow kept battling and coming up with a play here and a play there. They had us on the ropes early. They had us on the ropes [in the] middle of the game. They had us on the ropes toward the end.

“But we just kept getting up and fighting for one another. I’ve been talking about brotherhood for a while now. This group gives a really cool definition of brotherhood, and I can see it firsthand.”

The Wizards finished off the Hornets even thought leading scorer Beal didn’t look like himself. Beal, who ended the season second in the scoring race to Golden State’s Stephen Curry, finished with 25 points but was 8-of-27 from the field and 3-of-11 from deep.

He had missed the previous three games with a hamstring strain and was clearly laboring through the first half.

Brooks said he was preparing not to play Beal, but roughly 30 minutes before tip, Beal told him he wanted to go and Brooks and the medical staff carried out their plan to monitor Beal throughout the game.

“I cannot say enough about Brad’s toughness,” Brooks said. “He is so skilled and athletic, but the four years I’ve been here, there’s not a lot of guys who have his mental toughness, his focus and his determination. He’s been put in very difficult positions over the last three years because of injuries and he had to lead our group by himself. Now he has a partner.”

That partner is the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles, Russell Westbrook, who added another one against the Hornets with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.

Westbrook finished the season averaging 22.7 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds per game. It’s the fourth time he has averaged a triple-double for the season as he posted career highs in assists and rebounds per game. He also locked up his third season assist crown.

“Like I said all season long, I’ve always had the utmost confidence in everybody in the locker room,” Westbrook said. “Always try to find ways to weather the storm. You gotta give credit to our coach because he’s done an amazing job of making adjustments on the fly. The players always get the recognition but Scotty has done a hell of a job of being consistent and finding ways to make us better along with the coaching staff. We’ve had a lot of guys step up.”

Washington will take on Boston in the play-in tournament’s 7-versus-8 game on Tuesday night. The winner will advance to the playoffs as the seventh seed while the loser will face the winner of the Indiana-Charlotte contest on Thursday to see who makes the playoffs as the eighth seed.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Wizards are looking to become the first team since the 1996-97 Phoenix Suns to be 15 games below .500 at any point in the season and still make the playoffs.

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New York Knicks clinch No. 4 seed, set up series vs. Atlanta Hawks



After leading the New York Knicks not only to their first playoff appearance in eight years, but also securing the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 96-92 win over the Boston Celtics, Julius Randle said he isn’t interested in discussing how far the Knicks have exceeded their lowly preseason expectations.

“It didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now,” said Randle after finishing with 20 rebounds, seven assists and seven rebounds in Sunday’s win over the Celtics. “People really didn’t believe in us at the start of the season … it’s about what we believe in the locker room.”

And, after a season in which the Knicks have repeatedly defied expectations, they feel confident they can continue to do so in the postseason. They’ll have homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs against the No. 5 seed Atlanta Hawks.

But while everyone in Gotham was happy after Sunday’s game, there were plenty of anxious feelings when the Celtics — sitting virtually everyone in their rotation ahead of Tuesday’s play-in game, having already been locked into the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference — pulled to within one possession late in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks, though, eventually held on, ensuring they would finish ahead of Atlanta by virtue of sweeping the series between the two teams and earning the right to host the first two games in their first-round series beginning next weekend at Madison Square Garden.

“Hey look, the bottom line is getting a win,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said, when asked if his team took their undermanned opponent lightly. “We talked about it before the game, if you’re in the NBA you’re a great player. And so they pose a lot of problems. They played a terrific game, which I knew they would they’re a well-coached team. And no matter who you’re playing against, you have to play for 48 minutes.”

Ultimately, though, the Knicks did just enough to win, and get themselves into a first round series with the Hawks, another young team making its first appearance in the playoffs in a few seasons. And while the Knicks did sweep the three meetings between the two teams in the regular season, Thibodeau wasn’t hearing anything about the Knicks having an advantage over their playoff opponents.

“That means nothing going into the playoffs,” Thibodeau said. “So the regular season is the regular season. When you play those games there are a lot of things that go into it. There could be players out. There could be travel involved.

“We know how well they’re playing. They’ve gotten a lot better as the season has gone on. So we’re going to have to be ready. We’re going to have to play a 48 minute game.”

Sunday’s win also marked a notable occasion for the team’s top two players, Randle and RJ Barrett — both of whom are making their first trip to the playoffs.

For Randle, it’s been a long time coming, as this is his seventh NBA season and his third team.

“Extremely,” Randle said, when asked if he was ready for the playoffs. “The way I prepare from game to game I don’t think my habits are going to change. I think I do a good job of preparing myself to play on a night-to-night basis and it will be the same thing [for the playoffs].”

For Barrett, Sunday’s win was validation for an impressive sophomore season for the 6-foot-6 guard, who said he accomplished a goal he set for himself when the Knicks took him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

“It feels amazing, especially doing it with a group of guys who were here last year through some tough times,” Barrett said. “We were able to turn the program around and we have a bunch of new pieces. That’s really what it is how we worked hard and nobody really gave us a shot but we’re here.”

“We brought Knicks fans what they want — brought them back to the playoffs. But before I got drafted, this is what I envisioned. This is what I wanted to do. I’ve always said I’m a winner. I had a feeling I’d be part of multiple teams that will get to the playoffs.”

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