It took a while for Tiago Splitter to find his spot with the Spurs. The former Spanish League player of the year had to learn the NBA style of game and how to play next to Tim Duncan. But coming into this year he put it all together, and now provides the size and presence inside the Spurs have lacked the last few years.
So they are going to miss him against the Lakers on Sunday, and maybe for a number of games after that.
Splitter rolled his ankle early in the fourth quarter Friday in the Spurs Game 3 win over the Lakers. He was on the ground, pounding his fist on the floor in pain, and when he got up had to be helped, limping, directly to the locker room. He later left the building on crutches with an air cast around his leg.
After the game Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it was a sprain but the X-rays were negative. He added Splitter will be out in Game 4 Sunday, later officials said he will likely be out about a week. Expect to see a lot of DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner. (They will not have Boris Diaw back yet, he is expected to start contact work in practice next week.)
“Like we have done all season, we move things around and guys have to be ready to play,” Tim Duncan said after the game. “Matty and DeJaun have to step up and fill that position for us.”
This is the Spurs, no matter who they plug in it seems to work. And work well.
If the Spurs can close out the series Sunday in Game 4 (and smart money says they will after a 31-point Game 3 win) they will have about a week off in which Splitter can get healthy. Television dictates that most of the series start around the same time and the gams six and sevens of series are set for next weekend. So the second round will not start until then.
And by then, the Spurs could have Splitter back.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets played an ugly game down the stretch on Sunday. The Rockets employed a hack-a-Andre Roberson strategy, while the Thunder played sloppy and often poorly with Russell Westbrook out of the game.
The latter was the subject in question when Oklahoman reporter Berry Tramel spoke with Westbrook and Steven Adams at a postgame press conference following the Game 4 loss, 113-109.
Tramel’s question — whether the Rockets got a boost when Westbrook was off the floor — was directed at Adams, but the Thunder MVP candidate couldn’t let it go.
Snapping at Tramel, Westbrook told him not to split them up.
Tramel’s question is legitimate, and one of the overarching themes of this series thus far. Westbrook’s response is pretty far off the mark, but it did tell the story of how he’s feeling going away from Chesapeake Arena down 3-1.
Game 5 is on Tuesday in Houston.
Kevin Love and LeBron James were locked in an epic battle with the Indiana Pacers during the first half of Sunday’s Game 4 playoff matchup. Part of that matchup included yet another long, full court pass between the Cleveland Cavaliers duo.
Love, as you might guess, was the passer and LeBron was again the receiver.
The play came in the final minute of the second quarter, with Love nabbing a rebound from the right block and LeBron jetting down the floor.
Love’s pass was perfectly placed, and Paul George just didn’t have the strength to keep him from getting the and-1.
Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.
Nene made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. He helped the Rockets overcome an off night by James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.
Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza had 14.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Houston.
Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to claim three consecutive playoff triple-doubles.
Steven Adams scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo added 15 for the Thunder.
Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at the break. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter, and the Thunder led 58-54 at intermission. Meanwhile, Harden made just 2 of 9 shots and scored just six points in the first half.
The Thunder opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but Houston closed to 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.
Adams made the first of two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to four. He rebounded his missed second free throw and found Westbrook for a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead to one point. But the Thunder lost track of Nene on the other end, and he converted a three-point play. Gordon’s two free throws with 6.2 seconds made it a four-point game.
Rockets: G Patrick Beverley was fined $25,000 by the NBA for confronting a fan after Game 3. The league announced the fine about two hours before Game 4 tipped off.
Thunder: Westbrook had just one turnover in the first half. … Adams went 6 for 6 from the field in the first half. … Westbrook missed all six of his shots in the third quarter.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.
As if the end of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers Game 4 wasn’t wild enough, the finish to the matchup between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder was just as odd.
The final quarter of Sunday’s game was laden with poor play and heavy fouling, including a ploy by Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni to put Thunder forward Andre Roberson at the line as part of a hacking strategy.
But the final minute was what really caught everyone’s eye, as the Thunder converted a purposely-missed free-throw attempt by Steven Adams into a Russell Westbrook 3-pointer with just 21 seconds left.
The Thunder then broke down on the inbounds play a few seconds later, allowing Nene — who had a great game, scoring 28 points off the bench on 12-of-12 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds — to score an and-1 at the other end of the floor.
Oklahoma City then scored again on a tip.
That’s when it got REAL weird.
Houston inbounded the ball to James Harden, who got away with a gigantic, and frankly hilarious push off on Alex Abrines. OKC nearly stole the ball, but instead were called for a foul.
This game was wild, weird, terrible, and both sides have something to gripe about when it came to fouls.
Houston beat OKC, 113-109, and take a 3-1 lead back to Texas.