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Stephen Curry, in battle for scoring title with Bradley Beal, scores 49 points in 29 minutes

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SAN FRANCISCO — Stephen Curry‘s incredible run shows no signs of stopping any time soon. The Golden State Warriors superstar scored 49 points in Saturday’s 136-97 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, putting together yet another brilliant performance in a season that’s been full of them.

Curry, who is now averaging a league-high 31.9 points per game, got a little extra motivation prior to the game knowing that Washington Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal went off for 50 points in a 133-132 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers.

Curry has been in a back and forth battle with Beal over the last month for the scoring title and seemed to take the challenge of seeing how many he could put up on a night when Beal had already done so much damage. When asked if he knew before the game how many Beal scored, Curry didn’t hesitate.

“Of course I did,” Curry said. “I know what he’s doing. He’s obviously been playing at a high level, but any time somebody gets 50 you hear about it.”

Curry finished the night going 14-for-26 from the field, including 11-for-21 from beyond the arc. It marks the seventh time this season that Curry has hit at least 10 three-pointers in a game and the 22nd time he’s done it in his career. It’s also the fifth time he has hit the mark in his last 15 games. To put that in perspective, Curry’s longtime teammate Klay Thompson has the second most such games in NBA history with five — in his career.

Thanks in large part to Curry’s 11 threes, the Warriors set a new franchise record for threes in a game with 27 against the Thunder. Curry still trails Thompson for most three-pointers in a game, with 14, but after seeing the way Curry has been shooting throughout the season, head coach Steve Kerr said he’s confident that Curry will get that record at some point soon.

“I’m sure he’ll get it,” Kerr said. “It’s just a matter of time the way he shoots the ball and the way the game has evolved. We shot 54 threes tonight and I didn’t bat an eye. When I got here seven years ago, I could not have imagined our team taking 54 3s, but everything’s different now. And in an era where the three-point shot is king, Steph is the best one of them all so he’ll probably break that record some time soon.”

Curry was showered with “MVP!” chants throughout the night, but after raining down several shots late in the third quarter, Chase Center, which late last month finally started allowing fans back in the building, was the loudest it had been in over a year as fans cheered wildly while he put on another impressive show. As has become custom since their return, many fans waited in their seats after the game to give Curry one more ovation as one more round of “MVP!” chants rained down as he left the floor.

“It’s been a great run, obviously,” Curry said, noting that he appreciated the “love” from the fans. “Trying to continue it … obviously when you see the first two go down you start to find another level of confidence even to start the game and try to create an avalanche from there. We did a good job sharing the ball, taking care of it so that we got great opportunities every possession.”

The fact that Curry did all his damage in just 29 minutes made this particular showcase even more impressive. Saturday marked just the third time in Curry’s storied career that he’s had two 20-point quarters in the same game, according to ESPN Stats and Information. The other two games came on October 24, 2018 and April 13, 2016.

The win kept the Warriors (35-33) a half-game ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies (34-33) for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff standings with four games left to play. Curry didn’t bite when asked if the NBA was looking forward to a potential No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchup between the Warriors and LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers — but that would be the star-powered matchup if the season ended now, given that the Lakers currently sit in the seventh place.

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Center Serge Ibaka exercises option, will return to LA Clippers for second season, sources say

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Serge Ibaka has exercised his player option and will return to the LA Clippers for his second season, sources confirmed to ESPN on Saturday.

Ibaka picked up his $9.7-million option. The veteran center was the Clippers’ biggest addition during the past offseason in free agency but Ibaka was limited to just 41 regular season games with a back injury.

Ibaka missed 30 straight games with the injury before returning for the final two games of the regular season. He played in the Clippers’ first two playoff games against the Dallas Mavericks before undergoing back surgery later in the postseason.

Ibaka averaged 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in more than 23 minutes per game — his lowest average in playing time in a regular season since his first year in Oklahoma City in 2009-10. Ivica Zubac emerged as the starting center during Ibaka’s absence in the regular season. But Zubac missed the last two games of the Western Conference finals with a sprained MCL.

Ibaka’s player option decision was first reported by The Athletic.

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Bobby Portis declining his option with Milwaukee Bucks, agent says

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Milwaukee Bucks forward Bobby Portis is declining his $3.8 million player option and will become a free agent, agent Mark Bartelstein told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday.

The most the Bucks can offer Portis is a $5.9 million exception, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

The 26-year-old Portis was one of the more effective sixth men in the NBA, averaging 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds during the regular season while averaging 52.3% shooting from the field.

He was a major contributor during the Bucks’ run to the NBA championship, averaging 8.8 points and 5.0 rebounds during the postseason.

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Kevin Durant powers Team USA’s rout of Czech Republic on record night

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SAITAMA, Japan — The best thing Team USA had going for it this summer was Kevin Durant committing to play. Saturday he reminded everyone why.

On a night when he became the all-time leading American scorer in the Olympics, Durant added another tremendous performance to his Team USA resume in a 119-84 victory over the Czech Republic.

The victory assured Team USA second place in their group and a place in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Their opponent and game time will be determined in a draw Sunday with the only certainty being there cannot be a rematch with France until at least the semifinals.

Because of their two blowouts wins the last two games, Team USA will end up with a favorable position and avoid top medal contenders Australia, Spain and potentially even Luka Doncic-led Slovenia in the quarters.

Durant finished with 23 points on 8 of 11 shooting, which of course was important for the cause, but his playmaking and defense was just as helpful as he put up eight rebounds and six assists as well. In the third quarter he was masterful, scoring 10 points with four of his assists as it went from a tight game into a comfortable blowout.

He’d had a pedestrian start in Tokyo, scoring just 20 points total in the first two games and shooting just 40%. Even in the run-up games in Vegas, Durant wasn’t moving at full speed as he admitted everything seemed like practice and he shot just 43% percent. Then he fouled out of the opening loss to France, a key factor in the Americans’ offensive struggles.

With Doncic, who scored 48 points in his first Olympic game, off to an impressive start and Australia’s Patty Mills putting up great performances, Durant had faded into the background in the tournament’s first week.

All that lethargy was gone Saturday as he looked for his shot early. The Czechs had gotten off to a strong start, making eight of their first 11 shots and building a 10-point lead. But Durant led a charge to overtake them, his 3-pointer in the second quarter giving the U.S. the lead for good.

It was a relevant basket, not just because it put the team in front, but because it pushed Durant past Carmelo Anthony for the all-time scoring lead. Durant’s international career is impeccable including the 2010 World Cup in Turkey, where he established himself as a centerpiece of the national team for the next decade.

It was also a slump-breaker evening for Jayson Tatum, who had his best game of the summer as he put up 27 points with five 3-pointers. Tatum, who was bothered by a minor knee injury in Vegas, had lost his starting spot. Coach Gregg Popovich had positioned him to be an impact scorer off the bench but he was shooting just 40% in the first two games.

Jrue Holiday, who was again terrific defensively as he pressured the ball relentlessly and picked off three steals, had 11 points.

The Czechs were led by Blake Schlib, who played at Loyola-Chicago, with 17 points.

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