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.

Shabazz Muhammad awkwardly mentions Collective Bargaining Agreement during halftime interview (video)

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The Timberwolves surprisingly led the Spurs by nine at halftime last night, which takes us to Shabazz Muhammad‘s mid-game interview.

Muhammad:

We’re doing a great job on defense, Wiggs, myself, everybody. It’s a tough team, especially Kawhi and the guys. So, we’re doing a really good job and everybody’s collective – Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Um. What?

To be fair, I can’t even imagine what type of nonsense I’d spew in the midst of a taxing workout or a high-pressure situation – let alone something that qualifies as both.

Unfortunately for Muhammad, Minnesota eventually fell to San Antonio, 100-93. But hopefully, he can laugh at this moment. He should, at least.

hat tip: reddit user cjsplash

Duke’s Jayson Tatum, California’s Ivan Rabb declare for NBA draft

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Wednesday a couple of forwards expected to go in the first round of June’s NBA draft said they plan on making the jump to the NBA.

As expected, Duke’s Jayson Tatum and Cal’s Ivan Rabb made their decisions official.

Duke announced Tatum’s decision.

Tatum is expected to be a top-five pick, DraftExpress.com currently has him as the No. 4 pick. The 6’8″ wing can flat-out score the rock, which is why teams are intrigued, as Rob Dauster of NBC’s College Basketball Talk told us in a recent podcast. However, teams wonder if he can create shots for others and not just himself, and if he’s going to be a good defender at the NBA level. He has the physical tools to do be a good defender, but will he put in the work game in, game out?

Rabb is a 6’10” sophomore who has a great NBA build and athleticism to spare, but at the NBA level everyone is a great athlete. Rabb doesn’t have a great perimeter game and needs to develop one and be a consistent defensive force to be a difference maker (or have a lengthy career) at the NBA level. DraftExpress.com has him going 22nd in this draft, and his stock seems to have fallen over the course of the season.

PBT Extra: What coaches are on hot seat? Alvin Gentry at front of list.

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This season, for the first time in 46 years, no NBA coach will be fired during the season (nobody is getting canned at this point).

However, once the off-season starts, there will be a few changes.

Alvin Gentry in New Orleans and Fred Hoiberg in Chicago are the names most mentioned, but there will be an unexpected firing somewhere around the league. Some GMs are on the hot seat also (Rob Hennigan in Orlando leads that parade).

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

Raptors’ Serge Ibaka, Bulls’ Robin Lopez each suspended one game for thrown punches

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It was obvious this was coming. Get in a shoving match “fight” in the NBA and you get a fine. However, actually throw punches and…

Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Robin Lopez each have been suspended for one game by the NBA “for throwing punches at one another during an altercation,” the league announced. What that works out to is a $120,715 hit for Lopez and a $111,364 ding for Ibaka.

Also, Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire earned a $15,000 fine shoving the Bulls Nikola Mirotic and “acting as other than a peacemaker as part of the same altercation.”

This all came out of what seemed a rather innocuous play. Ibaka and Lopez were battling for rebounding positioning, it went on for a second after the ball went through the hoop, Ibaka caught Lopez with a little chicken wing elbow in the back, Lopez spun, and, boy, that escalated quickly. Lopez’s punch missed, while Ibaka’s caught Lopez in the hair more than the body.

Both men got technicals and were ejected.