Three Things We Learned Tuesday: Kevin Durant injury clouds Warriors season

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The NBA world — and potentially the race to the Finals — changed in an instant Tuesday night with one injury. But if you were busy celebrating Bill Paxton’s best work as the director and star of a music video about fish heads, we understand, here are the big takeaways from the night.

1) Kevin Durant injury leaves cloud over Warriors season (but Wizards will take the win).
Here are the numbers that matter most as we await the MRI results and the news of just how severe Kevin Durant’s knee injury is:

The NBA playoffs start in six weeks, the Western Conference Finals in two-and-a-half months, the Finals in three months.

The Golden State Warriors went from “can anyone beat this team” to vulnerable in the space of this one play, when Washington’s Marcin Gortat threw Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia to the floor to get a rebound and Pachulia fell right into Durant’s knee, leading to a hyperextension.

The MRI results are expected Wednesday at some point, but the Warriors are bracing for the worst having already set up plans to sign Matt Barnes to fill in on the wing.

While the Warriors tried to focus on the game despite not having their best player this season, the Wizards were playing with some real desperation — and that got them a much-needed win, their first since the All-Star break. John Wall dished out a career-high 19 assists, Otto Porter and Markief Morris hit key shots down the stretch, Stephen Curry is now 2-of-20 from three his last two games, all of which led to a dramatic Wizards win in Washington.

2) Triple-doubles tonight: Russell Westbrook (of course) and Nikola Jokic (the guy is a stud). The Thunder and Nuggets are both teams in need of wins as they focus on the playoffs — the Thunder to climb up the West seedings, the Nuggets to hang on to the eighth seed — and on Tuesday night both got massive games from their stars to get key wins.

Russell Westbrook put together his 30th triple-double of the season, scoring 43 points and hitting some clutch shots late, and did it against one of the best defenses in the league leading the Thunder to a win over the Jazz.

Denver leaned on their big man and franchise cornerstone Nikola Jokic, who led the team to a road win in Chicago with 19 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists. Combine that with a Portland loss (see below) and Denver moves to 1.5 games ahead of the Blazers (and one better in the loss column).



3) Pistons knock off Blazers in overtime in the best game of the night.
Detroit entered Tuesday night as the eighth seed in the East. Barely. Portland entered as the ninth seed in the West. Barely, just half a game back of Denver. Both teams are desperate for wins to make the postseason, and desperation can lead to exciting basketball.

Damian Lillard forced overtime with a driving lay-up, but the night ultimately belonged to Marcus Morris, who had a career-high 37 points and was feeling it. Detroit got the win thanks to him.

Steve Kerr “uncertain” if he will coach in NBA Finals

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The Warriors have gone 12-0 through the playoffs, the first team to sweep the first three rounds of the playoffs since the NBA went to a best-of-7 in all three rounds (a couple Lakers teams did it when the first round was best-of-5).

That doesn’t mean they haven’t missed Steve Kerr as coach, but they haven’t needed him. Yet. Mike Brown has done the job quite well.

Will Kerr be back for the NBA Finals? He told Marc Spears of ESPN he doesn’t know.

Kerr had back surgeries two summers ago, and that caused him to miss the start of the 2015-16 season (Luke Walton ran the show). Kerr coached through pain caused by a slow leak of spinal fluid until nausea and pain became too much at the start of this postseason. Kerr has had a new procedure — one that is apparently promising, one that we hope works to end the leak — but he’s understandably cautious about jumping back in.

That said, the next round, against the Cavaliers (barring the most improbable comeback in NBA history), is when the Warriors will need Kerr’s creative mind and solutions to the challenges Cleveland presents.

He’s also got more than a week to decide since the Finals don’t start until June 1.

Manu Ginobili receives standing ovation upon exiting what may be his final game

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Manu Ginobili is a four-time NBA champion, a two-time All-NBA player,  two-time All-Star, and a Sixth Man of the Year.

He’s also the most popular Spur of his generation — walk around San Antonio, even at the peak of the Spurs runs, and you saw more Ginobili jerseys than Duncan or Parker or Robinson or anyone else. Ginobili is beloved.

When he was taken out near the end of Game 4, maybe his final game as a Spur, the fans erupted into a standing ovation (joined by Stephen Curry, who stepped away from the free throw line to let the moment happen).

Ginobili hinted during the season this would be his last, but has said repeatedly during the playoffs he didn’t know what he would do during the season. He looked like he had game left in the tank during the Western Conference Finals (he had 15 points in Game 4 and was one of the Spurs best players in the series). The question is, at age 40 next season, will he want to go through all the work it takes to get physically ready for the next season.

Warriors take control early, hold off Spurs to sweep series, advance to NBA Finals

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This series was decided early in the second half of Game 1, when Kawhi Leonard’s ankle rolled. He never got back on the court in the next three games, the Spurs were +21 when he was on in that first game and -85 the rest of the way. Without his defense on one end and shot creation on the other the Spurs could not match up.

The Spurs didn’t play like it was over Monday night — while the Warriors would hit threes and go on runs, the Spurs would answer back never let them completely pull away. They got buckets from Kyle Anderson (20 points off the bench) and 15 from Manu Ginobili in what may have been his final NBA game (he got the start, and the crowd erupted when he was taken out near the end).

It wasn’t enough. The Golden State Warriors were the better team — maybe even if Leonard had played — and they were in control of this game the entire way, getting 36 points from Stephen Curry and 29 from Kevin Durant.

The Warriors went on to win 125-110 and sweep the Spurs 4-0. Golden State swept through the West undefeated at 12-0, and they will take on the winner of the East (we all know it will be Cleveland). The Finals don’t begin until June 1.

This is the Warriors third straight trip to the Finals.

“Our chemistry is getting better and better,” Durant said after the game. “We’re going to need it even more in the next series, whoever we play, we’re just looking forward to it. I’m glad we got this done.”

There was a lot of respect between the teams after the series, particularly for Ginobili.

“Somebody I grew up watching, amazing competitor, even more fun playing against him,” Durant said after the game. “I got nothing but love and respect for him, plus he wear my shoes every year so that’s a plus. He was phenomenal this series.”

There also was a feeling among fans that we were robbed of a good series by the injury to Leonard (and the cheap play by Zaza Pachulia that caused it). Without Leonard (and Tony Parker) the Spurs struggled to create shots and generate consistent offense against a stout Warriors defense.

It was evident at the start of Game 4. San Antonio opened game 3-of-16 shooting, but the bigger issue is they went 1-of-8 in the paint against a Warriors team that started small (Patrick McCaw instead of JaVale McGee). Meanwhile, the Spurs were 7-of-7 in the paint to start the game. That is why the Warriors raced out to a quick 12 point lead midway through the first quarter.

The game hung around the 10-point era until an 11-0 Warriors run midway through the second quarter. The Spurs kept fighting, they had 13 more shots than the Warriors in the first half — thanks to 9 Golden State turnovers and 8 San Antonio offensive boards — but the Spurs shot 34.5 percent in the first half, and it wasn’t enough because the Warriors shot 60 percent. The Warriors shot 74 percent (14-of-19) in the second quarter. Because of that it was Warriors 65, Spurs 51 at the half, and Curry and Durant each had 18 for Golden State; Kyle Anderson has 10 points to lead the Spurs.

The second half saw the lead bounce between 10 and 20 most of the time, the Spurs would make a little run and the Warriors would answer with some crisp ball movement and a three. Curry was 5-of-13 from three on the night to lead the way.

Draymond Green added 16 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists for the Warriors.

Now the Warriors get more than a week off to rest and prepare for the Finals.

Kevin Durant blocks Dejounte Murray twice on one shot (VIDEO)

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Kevin Durant was doing it all in the first half — he had 18 points to lead the Warriors (tied with Stephen Curry) and was making plays all over the court.

That includes racing back on this play and blocking Dejounte Murray‘s layup. Twice. On one shot.

The Warriors have led by 20 and been in control through the start of the third quarter. KD was at the heart of that.