Rockets-Thunder Game 4 preview: Kevin Durant to rest more

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With Russell Westbrook out, the Thunder put a huge load Kevin Durant’s back during their Game 3 win. Durant played all but 44 seconds, and his 30 shots were more than twice as many as any teammate.

But Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks plans to give Durant a break – even if one isn’t as necessary as it seems. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:

While Durant’s 47 minutes and change of playing time looks intense on paper, it is perhaps a bit misleading. Durant was on fire in the first quarter, scoring 17 points to help the Thunder build a 20-point lead against the Rockets after the opening period. Additionally, long timeouts due to the national television broadcasts, coupled with the Thunder being strategic with timeout calls, allowed Durant ample opportunities to catch a break.

“In the second and fourth quarter, there’s a lot of real-time rest,” Brooks said. “But if he has an opportunity to get a few more minutes of rest in the first half I’m going to take advantage of that.”

Thanks to their strong regular season, the top-seeded Thunder have an opportunity to give Durant even more rest than just a few minutes. While the fourth-seeded Clippers and fifth-seeded Grizzlies, currently tied 2-2, battle out the remaining games in their series, Oklahoma City could be resting.

But if the Thunder are going to get more rest for Durant by giving him more rest in the first place, his teammates must step up offensively – especially Kevin Martin, who shot 3-for-11 in Game 3. As that game continued, the Rockets better defended Oklahoma City’s Durant-focused offense, and simply repeating the same structure probably won’t work for the Thunder.

They must – in the minutes Durant plays and the minutes he doesn’t – more successfully involve Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher. That’s a tall task, and maybe it will take the Thunder more games to do, but dividends could be large: days, not minutes, of rest for Durant.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.

LeBron James: Reporter warned me about question on Gregg Popovich’s wife before live TV interview

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In her on-court interview with LeBron James following the Cavaliers’ Game 2 win over the Pacers last night, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked him about the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife.

LeBron appeared emotional as he gathered his thoughts.

That prompted some to criticize LaForce for ambushing LeBron on a sensitive subject on live TV. But that’s not what happened.

Uninterrupted:

LeBron:

I’m not on social media right now, but I was made aware through some friends through texts that a question was asked to me postgame, and a lot of people feel I was blindsided. That is absolutely false. Allie LaForce told me that she was going to ask the question and if it was OK.

And once I started talking about it, once we were on air, actually my emotions kind of took over. And that was just my emotions coming straight from my heart about the late Erin Popovich.

It’s unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss. My thoughts, my prayers, once again goes out to the Popovich family, to Gregg, to the Spurs family, to the whole Spurs fan base.

And also guys, please get off Allie LaForce’ back, because she followed the proper protocol and she warned me. So, get off her back, man. She’s very professional, and she does a great job at her work.

Like I said, thoughts and prayers to the heavens above. We all know the man above never makes mistakes, even when we question it. But it’s a sad, tragic time right now for the NBA family, and we’re all praying and hoping for the best.

It would have been surprising if LaForce hadn’t done that. Somewhere between nearly nobody and absolutely nobody in her position is trying to embarrass players.

PBT Extra: If Portland is going to turn series around it starts with Damian Lillard

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This was the year the Trail Blazers were going to break through. They were defending better as a team. There was some depth on offense. And Damian Lillard was playing at a level that will get him on many voters’ MVP ballots.

Instead, they are down 0-2 to Anthony Davis and New Orleans, having dropped both games at home to open the series. Portland is on the verge of being bounced in the first round for the third time in four years.

If Portland is going to turn this series around, it starts with Lillard, something I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. C.J. McCollum needs to get more buckets, Jusuf Nurkic needs to contribute more on both ends, but for Portland it all begins and ends with Lillard and it’s on him to start the turnaround.