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Thunder overcome late rally by Clippers to win a physical one in Los Angeles

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The Thunder and the Clippers are likely second round playoff opponents, should neither team be able to overtake the Spurs for the number one overall seed in the Western Conference. If it ends up happening, and if Sunday’s contest at Staples Center was any indication, we’d be in for a battle of epic proportions.

Oklahoma City led by as many as 19 points late in the third, before L.A. staged a furious comeback. Things were tight, physical, and chippy down the stretch, with a flagrant foul by Serge Ibaka on Blake Griffin — and its aftermath — among the deciding factors. In the end, the Thunder hung on for a thrilling 108-104 victory that snapped the Clippers’ four-game winning streak.

It was a sleepy first half for the Clippers, who started off slowly and trailed by as many as 16 points early. Chris Paul opened just 1-of-7 from the field, and the Thunder were getting whatever they wanted offensively.

It took some time, but Paul woke up, and sparked a 15-5 run to end the third by scoring nine points during that span to cut the Thunder lead to single digits.

The Clippers cut the lead to two with just over six minutes remaining, thanks to a 10-0 run that was sparked by a curious substitution from Thunder coach Scott Brooks. He sat Russell Westbrook in favor of Reggie Jackson, and Jackson missed a long three-pointer and committed a turnover to help fuel L.A.’s comeback.

The Thunder had the lead back up to seven, before consecutive corner threes from Matt Barnes had the game back within reach for the Clippers. And that’s when things went off the rails.

Ibaka and Griffin were engaged in a physical battle in the paint for the entire game, and Ibaka crossed the line with the Thunder leading by three and 1:52 remaining. With a downward chopping motion, Ibaka swung and landed a hit to Griffin’s groin with his right arm, resulting in an initial ruling of a flagrant foul one by the officials.

The referees reviewed the play, and the call stood. But the rule book defines what Ibaka did as a “punching foul,” which should come with it an automatic ejection. Ibaka was allowed to stay in the game, and he made two key plays down the stretch that sealed the win for his team.

Initially, the foul call benefited the Clippers, as they scored seven points on a single possession (the three from Barnes, the technical free throw, and another three from Jamal Crawford) to take a one-point lead.

But as Ibaka was allowed to stay in the game, he scored inside on an and-one play where he was fouled by Griffin with under a minute remaining. It was Griffin’s sixth foul, so he was done for the afternoon.

Then, Ibaka blocked a layup attempt from Matt Barnes with seven seconds remaining that would have cut the Thunder lead back down to two.

Big win for the Thunder, and a valiant effort by the Clippers to come back and compete after falling behind by so much so early.

We can only hope that the playoff bracket looks in April the way it does today, so we can see many more games between these two teams as early as the postseason’s second round.

Watch Pistons C Andre Drummond blow a fancy breakaway dunk (VIDEO)

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Andre Drummond had a breakaway on Sunday against the Boston Celtics. Fans in Detroit should have been in for a treat from their franchise center — a former NBA Dunk Contest participant — but instead they got something worth of Shaqtin’ A Fool.

Unfortunately for Drummond, the result of the one man fastbreak was a blown dunk, a ball that went sky high, and a sheepish look from the Pistons center.

Bummer.

Rumor: Andrew Bogut expected to join Cavaliers after 76ers buyout

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The Dallas Mavericks traded Andrew Bogut to the Philadelphia 76ers at the deadline for big man Nerlens Noel. Bogut, 32, was never expected to stay in Philly and he should be bought out soon.

There has been some speculation about what contender Bogut might be looking to join, or which might come calling. Due to CBA rules, Bogut could feasibly re-join the Golden State Warriors. Instead, it appears Bogut is expected to head the other direction and sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Via Twitter:

Bogut would be Cleveland’s second center on the roster alongside Tristan Thompson, who slid over to the 5 full-time this season. The Australian big man would also be the second former Maverick to join the Cavaliers, as PG Deron Williams reportedly intends to sign with Cleveland as well.

Bogut has been less effective in limited minutes this season than he has in years past. While Bogut is still a good passer and rebounder, he has not been as productive on offense than prior seasons. That could largely be due to Dallas’ poor start, or because of nagging injuries. He suffered calf, knee, and hamstring injuries this season with Dallas, and it will still be a gamble for Cleveland to rely upon Bogut for a playoff run.

However, the Cavaliers could simply rest Bogut extensively, integrate him into their system, and have him ready for a second championship push through the Eastern Conference.

We’re still waiting for the move to be made official, but it appears as though LeBron James & Co. are bolstering themselves for the postseason.

Jusuf Nurkic lost two teeth after PJ Tucker smacked him in the face (VIDEO)

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Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic was whistled for a foul on Sunday night while trying to grab a rebound over PJ Tucker. That came as a surprise to Nurkic, who had actually lost two teeth on the play and went to point out that fact to officials.

The play came midway through the fourth quarter, with Tucker underneath the basket and Nurkic standing behind him in the paint. Toronto’s Patrick Patterson missed a long 3-pointer, leading to a battle for the ball down low.

Nurkic was called for a push in the back as the two went up, but Tucker threw his arm and hit Nurkic on the left side of his face. That knocked out two of Nurkic’s teeth:

The Blazers big man recovered his teeth — which were false and part of a dental implant called a bridge — and handed them to Portland head trainer Geoff Clark.

Gross!

But have no fear: just a few hours after the Blazers lost to the Raptors, 112-106, Nurkic had his teeth put back in by a dentist.

Kevin Garnett used Beyonce, singing as part of his NBA conditioning regimen

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Future NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett was known during his playing days for his exceptional conditioning. The athletic power forward was in a full sweat by tip-off, and constantly talking on both offense and defense.

So how did he do it?

According to JJ Redick, Garnett used to sing while running as a method of normalizing talking during a game. The practice was apparently modeled after Beyonce’s ability to dance and sing at the same time.

Via Time.com:

“One time I saw her working out, and she was doing her dances and she was singing while she was doing her dancing,” Garnett said to Redick. “So then I’m thinking to myself, maybe I should run and sing at the same time. So in the offseason, I would go to Malibu and I would go down to the beach, and when I run on the beach I would be like ‘Lalala lalala lalala,’ while I’m running. So then, when I get on the court and I’m getting back on defense and I’m talking on defense, I don’t get tired.”

That’s ingenious, and the kind of clever tactics you’d expect to come from a HOFer like Garnett.