Kevin Durant ‘not happy at all’ with Dirk Nowitzki’s success at his expense


The Mavericks finished the job on Wednesday, coming from behind late for the second straight game to advance to the NBA Finals.  The Thunder’s season came to an end, but it was much more due to the fantastic play of Dirk Nowitzki than it was due to any shortfalls in play from Kevin Durant.

The Thunder’s main man had his share of heroic moments in the series, and played the role of superstar for his team admirably, finishing with averages of 28 points, 9.4 rebounds, and four assists over the five-game series. While Durant has always been polite and pleasant during postgame interviews, we saw the competitor in him sneak out just a bit after Game 5, when a question about Nowitzki’s success was thrown his way at the postgame podium.

Durant was essentially asked how he felt about seeing Nowitzki succeed at his expense, getting back to the Finals at this stage of his career after so many missed opportunities. To be honest, this was not the most intelligent of questions to be lobbed at the best player of the team which just got bounced from the postseason, but Durant handled it both honestly and admirably. Check out his response in the video clip below.

“I’m not happy at all,” Durant answered. “I’m a competitor, man, I really didn’t care about what he went through the last three or four years. I know it’s been tough for him; he lost three of the last four years in the first round. I’m sure he’s happy now that he’s going back to the Finals, but I’m not happy for him at all because I wanted to be there.”

Durant chuckled when he began to answer, and there was laughter in the room as he delivered that opening line. But really, this was the only way to handle a question like this under these circumstances.

Certainly, whoever asked the question was working on a story about Nowitzki’s struggles, and this season’s story of redemption in getting back to the Finals. He was clearly looking for a sympathetic quote from one of Dirk’s All-Star peers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But at the same time, you have to understand the feelings on the other side, and that a young, fiery competitor like Durant isn’t simply going to heap praise on the best player of the team that just officially ended his own dream of getting to the Finals this season.

Durant’s answer was perfect; it didn’t come across as angry or bitter, and he still managed to seem affable while verbalizing his distaste for the question, and in a larger sense, the outcome of the series. It wasn’t only the competitive way he responded that was impressive, but the way he delivered it without animosity made him seem even more likable in the process.

It wasn’t a great question, and the timing of it was even worse. But Durant’s response showed that this loss will sting for a long time, and that as a young, competitive superstar in this league, he’s not simply willing to accept defeat, even though it came as close as possible to the highest stage the sport has to offer.

Alvin Gentry on refs after controversial James Harden foul: “You can’t guess on plays”

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Alvin Gentry was heated after the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, all thanks to a late foul on James Harden. Oh boy.

Gentry was given a technical foul after speaking with officials with 5:39 to go in the fourth quarter in a tight matchup between the two Western Conference playoff teams. The Pelicans coach was heated about a foul called on Jrue Holiday after Harden swung through the defender’s area to get free throws on a 3-point attempt.

That didn’t sit right with Gentry, who went after referee David Guthrie. After complaining for some time, Gentry got a handle on himself and went back to his seat on the bench. That’s when he was called for a technical foul.

Here’s the play in question, and Gentry’s response after the game:

Gentry does have a general point, and sounds like just about any non-Houston fan you overhear at games or in bars regarding Harden’s wacky inflatable flailing arm tube man style. Nevermind his driving — which consistently gets players to legitimately hack away at his arms — the question on the play in New Orleans is whether the defender has a right to that space, and whether Holiday made a move.

Pelicans broadcaster David Wesley pointed out that if a defender is in his own defensive space and not moving, it shouldn’t be a foul if the offensive player jams his way into the defender’s arms. That’s part of why the idea of verticality works for modern NBA big men defending the rim.

Offensive players are getting more astute at drawing contact, then finding a way to immediately get fouled after the contact. It’s something that will need to be addressed by the NBA in coming seasons, as there are quite a few instances of contact specifically being drawn by an offender by moving into the defender’s space and drawing contact with their arms.

However, on the play in question, if you rewind it enough times you can barely see Holiday’s arm and elbow flex reactively before Harden moves the ball up. Thus, in the purview of instant replay, it was probably a foul.

Here it is in super slo-mo:

Gentry is likely to get a nice big fine as others have this season for criticizing officials. It seems that even after the All-Star Break meeting to sort out some issues between the NBPA and NBRA not everyone is happy.

Expect a bigger overhaul and more announcements regarding NBA refereeing in the offseason.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue sits out second half Saturday with illness

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CHICAGO (AP) Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue remained in the locker room to start the second half of their game against the Chicago Bulls because of an illness.

Lue was on the sideline as the Cavaliers used a strong second quarter to build a 17-point halftime lead. He did not come out for the start of the third Saturday night, and he did not return to the game.

Lue has missed one other game this season due to illness. He is expected back on Monday when the Cavs host the struggling Bucks.

The Cavaliers went on to get the win over the Bulls Saturday, 114-109.

Grizzlies snap 19-game skid with 101-94 win vs Nuggets

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Dillon Brooks scored 24 points, Tyreke Evans added 20 and the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a 19-game losing streak with a 101-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Wayne Selden scored 16 points for Memphis by hitting 6 of 7 shots, including 4 of 5 from outside the arc. Marc Gasol added 14 points as Memphis won for the first time since Jan. 29.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamal Murray finished with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Denver shot just 37 percent overall and 27 percent from 3-point range.

Denver entered the night in ninth place in the Western Conference, a game out of the playoff race. Denver played without leading scorer Gary Harris, who is expected to miss the next few games with a right knee sprain suffered against Detroit on Thursday.

The Nuggets struggled through a miserable first half of shooting, connecting on 22 percent in the first quarter. Memphis stretched its lead to 21 early in the second quarter before Denver cut it to 53-48 at halftime.

Brooks hit four 3-pointers to start the second half and keep Memphis ahead.

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LaMarcus Aldridge’s 39 points lead Spurs past Wolves, 117-101

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) – LaMarcus Aldridge had 39 points and 10 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a sluggish start to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-101 on Saturday night.

San Antonio won its third straight to move into fifth in the Western Conference five days after dropping to 10th and out of playoff position.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota, which dropped to sixth in the West.

The Spurs had lost three straight and nine of 11 but are now unbeaten halfway through a six-game homestand.

San Antonio shot 84 percent in the second quarter, their best shooting quarter since 2010.

Two nights after battling New Orleans’ Anthony Davis on both ends, Aldridge had to take on another All-Star in Towns. Aldridge responded by leading the Spurs in scoring for the 49th time this season while helping keep Towns in check.

Aldridge scored 18 of 21 points during a five-minute stretch in the second quarter, including 12 straight. He capped the run by coming from the weak side to swat Towns’ floater deep into the seats.

Minnesota started quickly, shooting 78 percent from the floor in the first 5 1/2 minutes while San Antonio floundered at 17 percent. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called timeout, only to watch the Timberwolves’ Jeff Teague steal the ball once play resumed.

The Spurs responded behind veteran reserves Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay. San Antonio went on a 16-4 run bridging the first and second quarters to take a 29-26 lead.

Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points for Minnesota and Teague had 16.