Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Serge Ibaka

Tony Parker’s clutch buckets late help Spurs take down the Thunder


This was a game the Thunder could have won, and watching how the last few possessions played out, it’s one the Thunder should have won. But in the end, San Antonio had the execution that Oklahoma City did not, and the Spurs came away with a buzzer-beating 86-84 win over the Thunder to give them their second win in as many nights to open the 2012 season.

This was a close game that went back and forth all night, but it wasn’t a particularly well-played one. The teams combined for 31 turnovers, and the Spurs’ 44.3 percent shooting seemed high compared to the 37.7 percent that OKC posted.

A lot of the Thunder’s problems offensively can be traced directly to Russell Westbrook, whose shot selection was atrocious for most of the night, and yet despite rarely connecting, he kept on firing — 21 times, the most from any player on either team. Westbrook hit on only six of those shots, which came mainly on his patented pull-up jumpers from mid-range, while seemingly not even considering time left on the shot clock or the overall game situation.

Westbrook is a double-edged sword, however, because on nights like this one, he’s typically the only one on the team making a point of being aggressive. The rest of the Thunder looked largely passive for most of the game, playing at a slower overall tempo which played right into the Spurs’ hands.

Oklahoma City debuted its sixth-man replacement for James Harden in this one, and got a decent performance from Kevin Martin, who scored 15 points off the bench, and chipped in five assists in his 32 minutes of action. It’ll take some time for Martin to learn where to go on the court to get the easiest looks, and of course, he’ll need to adjust to playing with his new teammates. But he can definitely score, so as the season progresses, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his offensive numbers surpass even those of Harden’s.

But while Martin is a scorer, Harden is a better overall playmaker. And with that second unit, OKC will need to have someone step into that role to be successful — over time, maybe that’ll be Eric Maynor. But it isn’t likely to be Martin.

On the Spurs’ side of things, San Antonio got a lot of positive contributions from a lot of guys you don’t necessarily expect them from. And isn’t that just like them? Kawhi Leonard did an excellent job defensively on Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan played big on the second night of a back-to-back, and Tony Parker drained the shots that mattered down the stretch for the second straight night. Danny Green hit timely shots from three-point distance, and Gary Neal came in and got buckets efficiently in limited minutes.

This game had wild swings both ways, with the Thunder leading by as many as eight, and the Spurs leading by as many as 10. But it came down to the final few possessions, and the Spurs were supremely prepared to execute while the Thunder couldn’t get out of their own way. Let’s review:

– OKC led by three with 1:02 remaining. They had a chance at converting an alley-oop, but Westbrook should have known he was too close to the rim to convert it, and should have simply caught the ball and come down with it instead of forcing the shot attempt. It was a quick possession for the Thunder when they didn’t need one, and the Spurs immediately responded.

– On the ensuing possession, Boris Diaw found himself under the basket and nearly falling out of bounds along the baseline, but gathered himself enough to kick the ball out to Parker up top, who drained an open three-pointer to tie the game at 84. It was a classic Spurs possession in the sense that once the defense collapsed and things seemed to break down, someone made the heady play to find the open man, who calmly knocked down the shot.

– No problem for the Thunder now, theoretically. Kevin Durant is among the game’s purest scorers, so get the ball into his hands and let him go to work. Except, you have to actually get the ball into his hands. The Thunder failed in this regard, because as Durant flashed to get the ball (somewhat lackadaisically), Leonard was able to head off the pass and get the steal. It wasn’t all on Westbrook for making a poor read on the pass, because Durant should have showed a little harder and sealed his defender. But it was a blown opportunity for the Thunder nevertheless.

– This brings us to the final possession. Watch it again for yourself, but it appears that Westbrook had no intention of guarding anybody during this play — either that, or he got completely lost. Parker creeps along the baseline, then curls out to the wing to receive the pass, while Westbrook casually heads to the middle of the paint for no apparent reason. Big-time shot from Parker to be sure, but you can’t tell me that the Thunder did all they could defensively to prevent that wide-open look.

This one came down to execution; once the season is finished, should these two teams meet again, things will likely end up differently. But at this early stage of the season, with the veteran crew the Spurs have in place, and with one of the best in the game running the show there in Gregg Popovich, the fact that San Antonio was able to get the win the way that they did shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Hawks retire Dikembe Mutombo’s No. 55

Dikembe Mutombo
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ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Hawks retired Dikembe Mutombo’s No. 55 jersey Tuesday night to honor the longtime shot blocker’s Hall of Fame enshrinement.

Mutombo signed as a free agent in 1996 to make Atlanta the second stop on an 18-year career he spent with five other teams.

“I don’t think I ever thought my jersey would be retired,” Mutombo told reporters after his jersey was hung from the arena rafters in a halftime ceremony. “My name will stay forever.”

The 7-foot-2 Mutombo was a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, an eight-time All-Star, and he ranks second on the league’s career blocked shots list and 20th in rebounds.

Through his foundation, Mutombo, 49, built a hospital that has served 140,000 in his native Congo. He twice won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and now works for the league as a global ambassador.

Mutombo was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame two months ago.

Warriors make NBA history as first team to start season 16-0

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The defending champion Golden State Warriors set the record for best start in NBA history at 16-0, as Stephen Curry had 24 points and nine assists in a 111-77 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.

With their coach sidelined, the Warriors surpassed the 15-0 starts by the Washington Capitols of 1948-49 and 1993-94 Houston Rockets.

Confetti streamed down when the final buzzer sounded and Golden State’s players barely celebrated.

Kobe Bryant shot 1 of 14 for just four points, matching the worst-shooting performance of his career in a game where he had at least one basket. The Lakers dropped to 2-12 with the second-worst record in the NBA.

Draymond Green added 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Warriors extended their franchise-record home winning streak to 27 games with coach Steve Kerr watching from behind the scenes while recovering from complications following two back surgeries.

Interim Luke Walton is leading the way, and it might have been a little sweeter to set the record against the Lakers franchise he helped win two titles.

Golden State became the sixth team in NBA history to win 20 consecutive regular-season games, a streak dating to last season. The Suns have the next shot at stopping this incredible start when the Warriors visit Phoenix on Friday night.

Curry only had to play 30 minutes, taking a seat for good with 6.5 seconds remaining in the third to huge cheers from a sellout crowd of 19,596 that was really closer to 20,000 with all the standing-room only tickets sold.

Bryant went 1 for 7 from 3-point range in 25 minutes as Los Angeles lost its fourth in a row and eighth in nine.

He also finished 1 for 14 last season against San Antonio, according to STATS.

Klay Thompson had 11 points but missed his first seven shots and, as has been the case in a handful of these wins, the Warriors took a few minutes to get rolling – and then they were off and running.

Golden State missed five of its first six shots before Curry’s 3-pointer from the left wing at 8:28. The Warriors knocked down five of their first 12 from long range to build a 27-9 lead with 1:41 left in the opening period.


Former Warriors shooting guard Jason Richardson couldn’t believe the fortunate timing: Golden State honored him Tuesday and he got to be at Oracle Arena to see his old team make history. He received a framed jersey from Adonal Foyle in a presentation after the first quarter.

“Even though I didn’t retire a Warrior, you guys make me feel like a Warrior for life,” he told the crowd.

Richardson, part of the 2007 “We Believe” team that reached the second round of the playoffs after ending a 12-year drought, has been a big supporter of Green, who took a similar path from Saginaw, Michigan, to Michigan State to Golden State. Green wears Richardson’s No. 23.

“I think Draymond shocked everybody besides himself,” said Richardson, Golden State’s first-round pick taken fifth overall in the 2001 draft.


Los Angeles coach Byron Scott was part of his share of special teams with the Lakers, too. He recalls when they were winning nearly every night.

“I think once it’s all over, you look back and realize how much fun it was,” Scott said. “One thing Riles (Pat Riley) wouldn’t let us do is live on what we did the last night.”


Lakers: The Lakers were outscored 35-17 in the third and have lost eight of 11 at Oracle. … Chasing a loose ball in the first, Bryant slid right into the courtside area by owner Joe Lacob, who gave him a safe sign. … Nick Young borrowed ex-Warriors guard Gilbert Arenas’ black and gold shoes.

Warriors: Golden State has won six straight at home against the Lakers for its longest streak since seven in a row from 1993-95. … The Warriors have scored 100 or more points in 43 consecutive home games, longest since the Nuggets did so in 47 straight from Feb. 1, 1990-Feb. 23, 1991. … Walton confirmed before the game his car was stolen last week in Oakland and he credited authorities apprehending and charging a suspect. “That’s part of life,” he said. “They did a good job.”


Lakers: At Portland on Saturday.

Warriors: At Phoenix on Friday.

Kristaps Porzingis grew up a Kobe fan. Still is one.


When you hear player comparisons for Knicks rookie, the most common is Dirk Nowitzki — a European big with ridiculous shooting range and potential to embarrass anyone.

So did he grow up idolizing Dirk? Not so much.

Rather, like many of his generation, he grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant, he told Mike Francesa of WFAN.

“My favorite player growing up was Kobe. The Lakers were my team and I still love him.”

There is an entire generation of NBA players — and just fans — who would say the same thing.

In the interview, Porzingis laments his missed shots and turnovers, he thinks he can be a lot better. That is exactly what you want out of a rookie. It’s a huge adjustment playing at the NBA level, the speed of the game and IQ is a leap from Europe (or college). Recognizing the challenge is part of it.

There’s a lot to like in Porzingis. He could be special (we don’t know yet, we see only the potential). But idolizing Kobe — and if you understand the work he put in, the passion for the game — can be a good start.

(Hat tip NBA reddit)

Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton’s car stolen

Luke Walton

If you’re looking for a “when are things going to go wrong for the Warriors” moment, we have one for you. But it may not be what you had hoped for.

Warriors’ interim head coach Luke Walton — the guy on the sidelines for the 15 (soon to be 16) game winning streak — had his car stolen during a crime spree, reports

One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.

Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.

Yikes. That’s serious.

I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.