Getty

Russell Westbrook grabs another triple-double as Thunder top Raptors

2 Comments

TORONTO (AP) Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds in three quarters for his 34th triple-double of the season as the Oklahoma City Thunder registered their fourth consecutive win with a 123-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night.

The league’s leading scorer moved closer to the NBA’s single-season record for triple-doubles, 41 set by Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 season.

Victor Oladipo added 23 points as the Thunder split the season series with the Raptors, the fourth straight year the teams have done so.

DeMar DeRozan had 22 points for the Raptors, while Serge Ibaka had 10 points against his former team.

The Thunder never trailed, and pushed their lead to a game-high 32 with 5:07 to play in the fourth quarter as Toronto emptied its bench. Though the Raptors closed the gap to 19 with 1:21 to go, Oklahoma City had little trouble in closing out the game from there.

After taking the lead on Steven Adams‘ hook shot 1:09 in, the Thunder surged with 7:17 to play in the first, using a 12-2 run to take a 29-24 lead after 12 minutes.

Having scored just two points in the first quarter, Westbrook had 10 in the second as Oklahoma City increased its edge to 14. DeRozan then had the final four points of the quarter to reduce the deficit to 58-48 at the half.

DeRozan picked up where he left off after the intermission, registering 14 points in the third quarter. However, the Thunder responded through Westbrook and Oladipo, who had 12 and 11 points respectively, as Oklahoma City pushed its advantage to a 97-70 entering the final quarter.

Westbrook secured his triple-double with his 10th rebound with 3:56 to play in the third, and was removed with 1:59 to go, and didn’t play in the fourth quarter.

TIP-INS

Thunder: The victory tied the Thunder’s season high by going 10 games over .500. … Oklahoma City improved to 28-6 this season when Westbrook registers a triple-double, and 61-10 during his career. … Westbrook’s 16 assists beat the Raptors’ team total of 15. … All five of Oklahoma City’s starters registered double-digit points.

Raptors: G Kyle Lowry (right wrist) missed his 11th straight game since the All-Star break, with the team going 6-5 without him during that stretch. … F DeMarre Carroll returned after missing the past two games with a sprained left ankle.

KYLE ON COURSE

Lowry continued his recovery from right wrist surgery this week, returning to New York City for what coach Dwane Casey termed a “regular” two-week check-up.

“It’s on schedule, on time, but still no timetable or anything like that,” he said, “but everything checked out and it’s where it should be right now.”

BILLY’S BLISS

Heading off any rumors, Thunder coach Billy Donovan – a two-time NCAA champion with Florida – said that despite the opening at Indiana University following Thursday’s firing of Tom Crean, he’s more than happy in Oklahoma City.

“I feel bad (for Crean), but I am totally happy here, I love it here,” he said. “I love the guys I work with every day, I love our staff, the organization. So as far as I’m concerned, my commitment is totally here doing the best job I can while I’m here.”

UP NEXT

Thunder: Host Sacramento on Saturday, aiming to improve on their 14-1 record at home against the Kings during the franchise’s time in Oklahoma City.

Raptors: At Detroit on Friday for the first of two visits to the Palace of Auburn Hills this season.

Adding Durant and thinking dynasty, it’s championship or bust for Warriors’ legacy

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Golden State Warriors have been the best team in the NBA for three seasons now. That’s not my opinion, that’s LeBron James‘ — here is what he said after advancing to his seventh straight NBA Finals.

“That’s been the best team in our league the last three years, and they added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year, so that makes it even more difficult.”

Adding Durant did make them more difficult to beat, but it also added to the Warriors’ burden — after a 67-win season and a historic 12-0 sweep into the Finals, the series that their season will be judged on is the one still to be played. They may as well be 0-0 because the second they added Durant it was championship or bust in terms of how they want to be seen.

Win and a pattern of dominance over years starts to come into focus, they will have a couple rings and beaten LeBron — who will go down as one of the all-time greats in his own right — to get them. Lose and this season will be viewed as another failure.

The Warriors want us to look back on them in 10-15 years and see a dynasty. They talked quietly about it last season during their chase for 73 wins — they saw that as a part of their resume as one of the greatest teams of all time. That’s part of the reason for the push last year. They, like LeBron, are chasing the ghosts of greatness at this point, and the Warriors had a Jordan record in their sights.

Regular season marks are nice, but in the NBA the great teams’ legacies are built around championships. Plural. If you’re going to go down as one of the dominant teams of an era — like the Shaq/Kobe Lakers, or Jordan’s Bulls, or the Celtics and Lakers of the ’80s, etc. — there needs to multiple rings on fingers. The Warriors have one, but their historic season unraveled last year when a combination of LeBron’s utter dominance, Draymond Green‘s suspension, Andrew Bogut’s injury (that one was underrated as an issue) all came together to snatch victory from their hands (and help cement LeBron’sa legacy).

The Warriors need the 2017 title for their legacy.

Not just the team, but the legacies of Warriors players will be impacted by this series. Injured or worn down or just in a shooting slump (or, most likely, a combination of the three), Stephen Curry struggled defensively and was outplayed by LeBron last Finals when the Warriors needed him. Curry has been fantastic through these playoffs, but like the team he will be judged as much or more for the games to come than the ones already played. Fair or not.  Can Green keep his head about him when LeBron pushes his buttons? Durant is back on the Finals stage, will he rise to that moment?

The championship or bust mentality is too often the prism through which fans — and media — view sports. It’s unfortunate because it clouds the joy of the game itself, the growth of players, of guys doing the unexpected and rising to heights we did not expect from them. Isaiah Thomas‘ brilliant season in Boston is not diminished because it didn’t end in a ring, to use one easy example. But there are hundreds more like that around the league. Championship or bust blinds people to the little things that can make the game joyous.

However, the Warriors have put themselves in a different place. They are chasing legends. They have the wins and the statistics to make a case, more importantly, they also have a style of play being copied (even by college teams) and is changing how the game is played. That is a hallmark greatness.

Now they need the rings to go with it. They need more than one, but it starts with this year’s title — it is championship or bust for them. Fair or not. If the Warriors want to be mentioned in the pantheon of all-time greats, it will take the 2017 title to be part of it.

Underdog Cavs insist they have plenty of bite for Finals

Leave a comment

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — They are defending champions and decided underdogs.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, however, say they aren’t using any snubs to get ready for the NBA Finals.

Set for a third straight championship matchup against Golden State, the Cavs are ignoring the Las Vegas odds makers and others who don’t think they have a shot at beating Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant & Co.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue doesn’t feel his team needs the underdog label for inspiration, saying being in the NBA Finals is “enough motivation alone.”

Kevin Love was reminded that Warriors forward Draymond Green said earlier this season that he wants to “destroy and annihilate” the Cavs in the Finals. Says Love said: “He wanted us, and he has us starting next Thursday.”

 

Check out Kawhi Leonard’s highlights from this past season (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Russell Westbrook and James Harden were putting up the bigger numbers, they were drawing more attention. And while MVP is a regular season award, nobody has boosted their MVP credentials more in the postseason than Kawhi Leonard.

He had a really impressive regular season, too. Since we’re on a long break between games, enjoy the highlights of Leonard’s season. He may enter next season as the MVP favorite.

Kevin Love on Cavaliers: “I don’t feel like we’re underdogs”

1 Comment

Kevin Love and Las Vegas bookmakers do not see things the same way.

In Vegas, the Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the title — bet $100 on them to win and you get back $41.7 (or less). Cleveland is a heavy underdog.

Love sees a confident team that is the defending NBA champions, as he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“The whole underdog thing is funny to me, because, yeah, at the end of the day we are defending our title,” Love said Saturday after the Cavs’ first practice in preparation for the Warriors since clinching a spot in the Finals. “We’re trying to repeat, which is so hard to do. I think we will use it as fuel, we will use it as motivation, but the idea of playing into it? It’s tough for me to say that is the case. I don’t feel like we’re underdogs. We match up well with them, and I think they’d say the same about us.”

What else was he going to say?

More than any other team in the league, the Cavaliers are built to give Golden State trouble. The Cavaliers can exploit mismatches, be physical on defense, and they have LeBron James, Love and Kyrie Irving. Three NBA stars.

Is that enough against four NBA stars is the question.