Video: Kevin Durant hits the game-winning three to beat Lakers in Game 4

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As Russell Westbrook led the charge offensively for the Thunder in their Game 4 win over the Lakers — finishing with a brilliant 37 points on 15-of-26 shooting — Kevin Durant seemed pleased to let that happen. But once the Thunder had made it all the way back from a deficit that hung at around 10 points for the majority of the night, Durant was the one to seal it, burying this three-pointer from the top of the arc to send his team back home with a 3-1 series lead, and a chance to close the Lakers out on Monday.

Each team had somewhat of a freak turnover right before this play unfolded. Westbrook slipped and lost the ball, on a floor that seemed slicker than usual all night long. Then, with the Lakers getting their chance to break the 98-all tie, Pau Gasol turned down a one-on-one situation on the baseline in favor of trying a cross-court pass to kick it out for an open three.

Durant intercepted the pass, then dribbled the clock down before pulling up for the three just as soon as his defender gave him enough space.

“I wanted to run the shot clock down and get the last shot,” Durant said, while walking us through that possession. “Standing up there I was just trying to look at the picture of the whole floor, and see where I can get the best shot possible. I had been going to the rim and they had been doing a great job swiping and contesting, so I saw Artest (Metta World Peace) back up just a hair, and I shot it.”

It seems like Durant — much like we’ve seen from Carmelo Anthony in similar situations — is so smooth from three-point distance that he’d almost prefer to get an open look at a shot from there than take his chances plowing into the paint, where there is far more uncertainty in late-game situations.

Even if that’s true, though, Durant knew he’d take some heat if his shot of choice didn’t go down.

“It left my hand, I was thinking, if this doesn’t go in, it’s going to be a terrible shot. They’re going to criticize me a lot. I had confidence in the shot, my teammates had confidence in me, and we just kept fighting. Russell did a great job of keeping us in it all night, and I just tried to do my job by finishing the game.”

Not only did he finish the game, but with the Lakers now trailing 3-1 heading back to Oklahoma City, he may have helped finish the series.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.

Video Breakdown: Rockets launch Eric Gordon from 3-point range against Thunder in Game 4

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The Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 113-109, and now the series heads back to Texas with the Rockets in the lead, 3-1.

Houston and OKC played a weird game, with Nene scoring 28 points off the bench for the Rockets and serious mischief in the final moments. The end of the game included a purposely missed free throw by Steven Adams that allowed Russell Westbrook to grab a quick 3-pointer and a missed call when James Harden shoved Alex Abrines out of the way like an NFL tackle.

While the Rockets didn’t shoot a stellar percentage from 3-point range — just 31.5 percent — they still knocked down 11 buckets from deep. Part of that action was a play run for Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon that included a little semi-Pistol action, and a stagger screen that allowed Gordon to work his way free.

I picked this play to go over this week because it exemplifies just how committed to the 3-point shot the Rockets are. Plus, Gordon ran around three screens just to get this one bucket, which is always fun to see.

Watch the full video breakdown above.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.