New York (AFP) – Kevin Durant scored 25 points, Klay Thompson added 24 and both made crucial plays in the final seconds Monday, lifting the NBA champion Golden State Warriors over Cleveland 99-92.
In a Christmas rematch of the NBA Finals that marked their third consecutive meeting on the holiday, the host Warriors won for the 12th time in 13 games to reach 27-7 while the Cavaliers fell to 24-10. [restrict]
Golden State grabbed a 90-81 edge, the Warriors’ biggest of the night, before the Cavaliers answered with an 11-2 run, pulling level at 92-92 on a LeBron James layup with two minutes remaining.
Thompson sank a 3-pointer to put Golden State ahead to stay and tough defensive pressure by Durant forced James to lose the ball out of bounds.
“He wants to guard him,” coach Steve Kerr said of Durant’s desire to defend James. “It just so happens that KD is the right matchup for us and he wants the job.”
The Cavaliers got the ball back after the Warriors missed two 3-point shots. James drove to the basket and appeared to be fouled, but no whistle was blown and the ball was ruled to have gone out of bounds off James.
“He fouled me twice,” James said. “But whatever. What are you going to do about it?”
Durant said his moves were clean.
“He’s too big,” Durant said. “He’s too big for that. He’s too big. That ain’t no foul.”
The Cavs were forced to foul to stop the clock and Thompson sank four late free throws to seal the triumph.
“Klay was great down the stretch and we were able to pull this game out,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green.
“Kevin was great. He made a big play on LeBron. He was able to put his heart out there and make the big play and get us the ball.”
Green contributed 12 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his first triple double of the season.
Cleveland’s Kevin Love had game highs of 31 points and 18 rebounds while James added 20 points but made a game-high seven turnovers.
The Warriors were without Stephen Curry, who has missed three weeks with an ankle injury and could miss another week, while the Cavaliers were without Isaiah Thomas, who has been sidelined since being obtained in a trade with Boston involving Kyrie Irving.
– Wizards dump Celtics –
At Boston, the Celtics took a 95-90 lead with 6:18 remaining on an Irving 3-pointer in their first-ever Christmas Day home game.
But Washington scored the next 12 points, Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre each making five points in the pivotal run, and the Wizards closed the game with a 21-8 run in a 111-103 victory.
Beal scored a game-high 25 points while John Wall added 21 points and 14 assists and Otto Porter added 20 points for the Wizards. Irving and Jayson Tatum each scored 20 to lead the Celtics.
Minnesota had 23 points each from Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler while Karl-Anthony Towns added 21 points and 10 rebounds to power the Timberwolves over the host Los Angeles Lakers 121-104. Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with a game-high 31 points.
– Thunder downs Houston –
At Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook scored 31 points and passed off 11 assists to spark the host Thunder over Houston 112-107.
Paul George added 24 points and Carmelo Anthony contributed 20 as Oklahoma City surged ahead in the final minutes for the victory.
James Harden had 29 points and 14 assists to lead the Rockets, who fell to 25-7 and a game behind Golden State for the NBA’s best record.
At Madison Square Garden, Joel Embiid scored 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while J.J. Redick added 24 points to power the Philadelphia 76ers over host New York 105-98.
Redick sank four 3-pointers while Australian Ben Simmons, who finished with only eight points, made a steal and breakaway slam dunk with 66 seconds remaining to give the 76ers an eight-point cushion.
Enes Kanter had 31 points — 14 in the third quarter — and 22 rebounds to lead the Knicks while Kristaps Porzingis added 22 points in a losing cause. [/restrict]