Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant

Thunder advance with easy Game 7 win over shorthanded Grizzlies


On a night when news of Kevin Durant winning the league’s MVP award began to spread, he played like it for the second straight contest.

Durant scored a game-high 33 points on just 18 shots, including hitting all five of his attempts from three-point distance while leading his team to a 120-109 Game 7 victory over the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies.

This was the outcome everyone expected, once Zach Randolph was rightfully suspended by the league for a punch he landed to the face of Steven Adams late in Game 6. But Memphis was able to put up perhaps a better fight than was expected over the game’s first 24 minutes.

Memphis changed its starting lineup out of both desperation and necessity, inserting Tony Allen and Mike Miller in order to go small, provide some shooting, and give themselves a fighting chance. The move paid off initially — the Grizzlies put up their highest-scoring quarter of the series in the first with 36 points, and led by as many as 11 early on.

Marc Gasol was brilliant in the opening frame, doing everything possible to set the tone for his team. He posted 13 points, three assists, three steals and a blocked shot in just 9:48 on the floor, while Memphis as a whole finished the period shooting 57.1 percent.

But the Grizzlies’ success was short-lived. OKC had taken a three-point lead by halftime thanks to a 13-point period from Durant, and by the end of the third, the Thunder had torn things apart.

Durant and Russell Westbrook were both masterful in this game, and while there was some extended garbage time late, it’s worth wondering if the Thunder can be stopped when the two are rolling like this. The pair combined for 60 points on 22-of-34 shooting, and Westbrook played perhaps his most complete game of the season, finishing with a triple-double line of 27 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists.

Up next for the Thunder is the winner of the Clippers-Warriors series, with Game 1 of that second round matchup scheduled for Monday night in Oklahoma City.

Thabo Sefolosha’s lawyer: White police officer targeted black Hawks forward

Thabo Sefolosha
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NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer representing a professional basketball player arrested outside a New York City nightclub has told a jury his client was targeted because he’s black.

Attorney Alex Spiro said Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court that a white police officer saw a black man in a hoodie when he confronted the Atlanta Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha on April 8.

Sefolosha was arrested while leaving a Manhattan nightclub following a stabbing. He subsequently suffered a season-ending leg fracture after a confrontation with police.

A prosecutor said in opening statements that Sefolosha called an officer who repeatedly told him and others to leave a “midget.”

Sefolosha pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. The Swiss citizen declined a plea deal from prosecutors.


DeMar DeRozan says he hates talking about free agency, takes pride in Raptors longevity

DeMar DeRozan
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DeMar DeRozan has a $10,050,000 player option for 2016-17. Given the rapidly escalating salary cap, it’s a practical certainty DeRozan will opt out and get a major raise.

But he says he doesn’t want to talk about it.

DeRozan, via Eric Koreen of the National Post:

“I hate that, honestly,” DeRozan said in a one-on-one interview. “I never speak about it. With me, I’ve always been that one player: I’ve been loyal. I’ve been every single thing you can think of here. I think people don’t understand how much pride I take in playing (in Toronto). A lot of times when I do get asked that, it kind of frustrates me.

“Everyday I wake up, I take pride in being the longest Raptor here. People bring up third or whatever in franchise scoring — there is so much stuff like that.”

This sounds awfully similar to LaMarcus Aldridge, who stated his desire last year to become the great Trail Blazer ever and then signed with the Spurs this summer.

Things change, and the impracticality of an extension ensures DeRozan will hit free agency. I believe he’s devoted to the Raptors right now, but his loyalty might change in the next nine months – especially once he sees contract offers from other suitors.

Toronto’s interest in DeRozan might fluctuate, too. He’s a nice player, but the Raptors haven’t won a playoff series with him despite winning the division the last two years. Depending how this season goes, Masai Ujiri might want to rework the roster significantly next summer, and letting DeRozan walk could create major cap space.

I believe DeRozan wants to return to the Raptors, and I believe they want to keep him. But so much can change between now and when both sides must make that call.