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

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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.

Markieff Morris calls Paul Millsap a “crybaby,” Millsap responds “It definitely got personal now”

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The Atlanta Hawks owned the Washington Wizards from the opening tip Saturday, making it a 2-1 series with an easy win.

It’s a series now — and that includes trash talk.

Paul Millsap had 29 points, pulled down 14 boards, got to the line 11 times, and led the Hawks to the win. He got the calls he wanted this game, but Washington’s Markieff Morris was not exactly down with high praise for Millsap.

The key line here: “”He just did more for his team. He’s a crybaby. Get all the calls and you a crybaby.”

Millsap was asked about that comment in his postgame presser — and the best part may be Dennis Schroeder’s reaction.

“It definitely got personal now, yes. I mean, I don’t care. So what? He can take his loss and go back to the hotel and be ready for the next game.”

These two have already had a beef this series.

Game 4 in this series just got a lot more interesting.

Marc Gasol game-winner tops Kawhi Leonard’s brilliance, evens Spurs/Grizzlies series 2-2

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Best. Game. Of. The. Playoffs.

So far at least.

Kawhi Leonard scored 16 consecutive points for the Spurs down the stretch of regulation to force overtime, then in OT hit a corner three with 7.2 seconds left to tie the game at 108-108. Leonard finished the game with a career playoff high of 43 points.

It wasn’t enough. Because in those final seconds Marc Gasol did this.

The 110-108 Memphis win ties the series at 2-2 as it heads back to San Antonio for Game 5. I might not want to sit next to Gregg Popovich on the flight home.

While Gasol hit the big shot, he never gets the chance if Mike Conley isn’t every kind of amazing through the clutch parts of this game. Conley finished with 35 points, and that includes a floater in the lane that forced OT (although Leonard got a pretty good look to end it in regulation and just missed). I’m surprised the Spurs switched on the pseudo pick on this play.

The Spurs struggled to get stops down the stretch, mostly because they had David Lee and Tony Parker both on the floor and Memphis did a good job getting switches onto those defenders. Spurs starting center and best defensive big Dewayne Dedmon missed the game due to an illness, and that ended up mattering.

Hawks take control early, romp past Wizards 116-98

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ATLANTA (AP) — Paul Millsap scored 29 points, Dennis Schroder had 27 and the Atlanta Hawks delivered an early knockout blow against Washington, cruising to a 116-98 victory Saturday that sliced the Wizards’ lead to 2-1 in the opening-round playoff series.

After two tight losses in Washington exposed some bad blood between the teams, Atlanta returned home and built a 25-point lead by late in the first quarter.

The Hawks were never seriously challenged by the Wizards, who were essentially a one-man team. John Wall kept up his dazzling play in the series, scoring 29 points, but the point guard got no help from his teammates.

The other Washington starters combined to score 30 points on 14-of-45 shooting.

Millsap also had 14 rebounds, while rookie Taurean Prince chipped in with 16 points.

Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.

The Hawks came out intent on moving the ball, getting open looks and cutting down on the turnovers that plagued them in the first two contests.

Talk about following the game plan.

Atlanta pushed out to a double-digit lead before the game was 3 minutes old and stretched the margin to 38-13 with just under a minute to go in the opening quarter on Schroder’s 3-pointer.

Wall did everything he could to spark the Wizards. He posed along the baseline after a thunderous dunk, which might have had more effect if the Wizards weren’t losing by 23 at the time. He also darted through the lane against a collapsing defense to bank in an improbable shot, drawing gasps from the Atlanta crowd.

Wall made all but one shot and scored 21 points in the first half, but the Wizards trailed 64-46 heading to the locker room. The other four Washington starters had just 18 points.

Beal, in particular, had a miserable night after averaging 26.5 points in the first two games. He was held to 12 points on 6-of-20 shooting, missing all six of his attempts beyond the arc.

TIP INS

Wizards: Wall is averaging 31 points per game in the series. … F Otto Porter Jr. left in the third quarter with a strained neck and didn’t return. … After a video review, Jason Smith was called for a flagrant foul against Millsap late in the third quarter.

Hawks: C Dwight Howard remains a non-factor in Atlanta’s offense. He scored five points and took just four shots, giving him a mere 15 attempts over the first three games. He did have 11 rebounds. … Schroder had some issues at the free-throw line, making only half of his eight attempts. Millsap did, too, going 5 of 9. … Atlanta had a double-digit lead for the final 44:24 of the game. … Prince picked up a technical foul for taunting the Wizards after an alley-oop dunk in the closing minutes. … The Hawks had just 11 turnovers.

 

Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic to play, start vs. Golden State in Game 3

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In 20 games after the Trail Blazers traded for him, Jusuf Nurkic averaged 15.2 points 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Portland was 9.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court and went 14-6, a surge that helped get them into the playoffs. Then a leg fracture had him sidelined for the end of the season and the start of the playoffs.

Until Saturday.

He will play limited minutes, but the Blazers will take it.

Portland is down 0-2 to the Warriors but are coming home to take on a Golden State team that will be without Kevin Durant again (strained calf) and coach Steve Kerr (illness).

Nurkic gives Portland some hope, he certainly helps their defense. We’ll see if that’s enough.