Kevin Durant, even out injured, sparks Oklahoma City Thunder to sixth straight win

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BOSTON – Kevin Durant rose from his seat on the bench, tugging up the slack on his warm-up pants as he inched forward at nearly action that could lead to an Oklahoma City Thunder basket.

As the Thunder connected on shot after shot, Durant – out with a sore right shoulder that will be re-evaluated Saturday – repeatedly uncoiled to celebrate. While he clapped and hollered, a gaggle of supportive benchmates filed in behind him.

At times, it was if he were trying to recreate this for his active teammates:

In the second half, as the Thunder shot on the opposite end of the court from their bench, Durant relaxed a bit in his seat – he’s still  no Kent Bazemore – but Oklahoma City kept coming anyway in a 101-83 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday.

Serge Ibaka had 21 points and seven rebounds, but Jeremy Lamb was the real bright spot in Oklahoma City’s first-ever game without Durant and Russell Westbrook. Second to his career-high 22, Lamb scored 19 points, 15 of them on 7-of-11 shooting in the first half – when Durant was closest.

“He’s one of the best players in the game, best scorer in the game – for him to cheer for us, it’s huge,” Lamb said. “You always, when you’re on the road, you’ve got to lean on your bench sometimes to get energy. And he definitely was on the bench giving energy.”

As much as Durant’s energy, the Thunder needed stiffer defense, and they had it in the third quarter. Oklahoma City’s defensive rating was 52.8 in that period as it outscored the Celtics 27-13.

“We gave a good effort and played for one another,” said Thabo Sefolosha, who shot 6-for-6. “But that’s a staple of our team. It’s no different if KD and Russ are there or not.”

For many teams riding a five-game win streak that most recently including thrilling wins over the powerful Spurs and Trail Blazers, a potential letdown would seem concerning.

“I’ve never had that problem with our guys,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

Even sidelined, Durant proved that.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.