Tuesday night NBA grades: Durant gets more points, Hayward will take the win

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wakeboarding in a flooded garage….

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. No Russell Westbrook. No Serge Ibaka. Nights like this Kevin Durant has to go supernova for the Thunder to have a chance and he did — 48 points overall, 11 in the fourth quarter as he tried to drag the Thunder back into the game against the Jazz. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids! What kids? Well, just keep reading…

source:  Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz. Early in this game it felt like Utah couldn’t miss — they shot 71 percent in the first quarter, took comfortable lead and in the third quarter the Jazz led by 24. Still, you knew the Thunder run would come, and behind Durant did in the fourth quarter — and Hayward held it off pretty much singlehandedly. Hawyard scored 17 consecutive points in the fourth quarter to ensure the win. Hayward, wearing Durant’s signature shoe, finished with 37 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. He exploded and the Jazz got their best win of the season.

source:   C.J. Miles, Cleveland Cavaliers. Mark Price never did it. World B. Free never did it. Daniel “Boobie” Gibson never did it. LeBron James never did it (not that you really feared his three when he was in Cleveland). No Cavalier shooter had ever knocked down 10 threes in a game like Miles did against the Sixers Tuesday. He took just 14 threes and finished the game with 34 points. Yes the Sixers defense on him was pathetic (they kept losing him on the arc) but he got open and hit the shots.

source:  Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. Much like Durant above, he had a big game (41 points) trying to lead his team almost singlehandedly to a comeback win — he had 26 points in the fourth quarter. He also had 7 rebounds and 4 assists. It wasn’t enough, but you have to admire the valiant effort.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins/Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings. The Kings are maddeningly inconsistent, but on nights like this you can see how the entire thing could come together and make a pretty good team. Specifically the Rudy Gay/DeMarcus Cousins combo. Cousins scored 35 points and had 13 rebounds, while Gay continues to be efficient since the trade and had 32 points on 16 shots, leading the Kings over the Trail Blazers. Assuming Gay doesn’t opt out this summer (he shouldn’t, his pay cut from the $19.3 million would be brutal) this is what the Kings hope to see a lot of next season.

source:   Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. He gets this grade in part because the man can score — 34 points on 24 shots, 6-of-7 from three where he was fearless on the catch-and-shoot. But we know ‘Melo can score, that’s what he does. Instead ‘Melo gets the “A” because that may be the best defense we’ve seen him play this year, with four steals and a number of other deflections and plays. That you don’t see every day.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.