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Russell Westbrook grabs 40th triple-double, now just 1 away from tying record

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Desperately needing a victory to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Charlotte Hornets picked up one in a place they’d never won before.

Kemba Walker scored 29 points to help Charlotte overcome Russell Westbrook‘s sixth straight triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-101 on Sunday. It was the Hornets’ first win in Oklahoma City, a place where they’d been 0-8.

Westbrook finished with 40 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. It was Westbrook’s 40th triple-double of the season, putting him one behind Oscar Robertson’s NBA record of 41, set during the 1961-62 season. It was Westbrook’s first career triple-double against Charlotte.

Frank Kaminsky had 18 points and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 16 for Charlotte, which entered the day in 10th place in the East, two games behind Chicago, Indiana and Miami, who were tied for seventh. Charlotte has six games remaining.

“The readiness, one through 10 – every guy that played contributed,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said.

“The starters got off to a great start, which is important against a good team on the road and then the guys off the bench got the cushion there in the fourth quarter, Jeremy Lamb especially, so we got contributions from everybody.”

Walker went 6 of 12 from 3-point range. It was the 14th time this season Walker hit five or more 3-pointers in a game.

Charlotte had 18 steals against Oklahoma City, the most in a regular-season game for the Hornets since Nov. 23, 2012, against Atlanta. The Hornets scored 35 points off 24 Oklahoma City turnovers.

The Hornets “want to play in the playoffs,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said.

“They’re laying it on the line their last five or six games. I like playing against desperate teams, because what it does is it exposes what you have to do to really compete at that extraordinary high level.

“Give Charlotte a lot of credit. They played an exceptional game. They played really, really well all the way around. They had a lot to do with how we played.”

Charlotte seized control with a 13-0 run to open the second half, as the Thunder missed their first seven shots after halftime, allowing the Hornets to build a 72-54 lead.

Westbrook ended Oklahoma City’s scoring drought at the 6:24 mark and the Thunder closed within 12 points twice early in the fourth quarter, but Lamb, a former Thunder guard, scored nine points in a 13-4 run by Charlotte that made it 101-80 with 7:21 left.

“Coach ran a couple of plays for me and (Brian Roberts) just hit me and I was able to knock some shots down,” Lamb said. “That was a big point in the game and I was just happy to be able to knock something down and help the team.”

An 8-0 spurt by Oklahoma City, capped by a layup by Andre Roberson, got the Thunder within 102-91 with 4:37 left but a three-point play by Cody Zeller keyed Charlotte.

Oklahoma City shot out to a 13-6 lead, but the Hornets used a 28-9 run to go up 34-22 early in the second quarter. The Thunder pulled within 39-38, but Charlotte answered with a 16-4 run to build a 55-42 lead before Westbrook almost single-handedly cut the gap to 59-54 by halftime.

TIP-INS:

Hornets: Walker had four steals, moving him past 600 for his career. He’s the fourth Hornets player to reach that number, joining Muggsy Bogues, Gerald Wallace and Dell Curry. … Walker’s 229 3-pointers this season are the second-most in a single season in Charlotte franchise history. Jason Richardson had 243 in 2007-08. … Charlotte, which entered the game averaging the fewest turnovers in the NBA (11.5 per game), had 18 on Sunday. … Lamb scored 13 points against his former team.

Thunder: Taj Gibson returned to the starting lineup after missing Friday’s game against San Antonio due to illness, but scored only four points in 13 minutes. … Westbrook has 77 career triple-doubles – fifth on the NBA’s all-time list, one behind Wilt Chamberlain. … To clinch a season triple-double, Westbrook needs 11 rebounds and 29 assists over the Thunder’s final six games. … Chicago is the only team against which Westbrook hasn’t recorded a triple-double during his career.

15K FOR WESTBROOK

Westbrook passed the 15,000-point career scoring mark during the game, but shook his head when asked about that milestone afterward.

“It’s definitely something that I don’t take for granted, to be able to play this game long enough to do that is a blessing in itself,” he said.

Asked about being one triple-double away from tying Robertson, Westbrook was even more succinct: “We’ve got to win. That’s my thoughts.”

QUOTABLE:

Clifford, on defending Westbrook: “This was one of the best defensive games we’ve played in a while. I know he had 40 and we didn’t make a lot of mistakes on him. He’s just so good. … We didn’t have a lot of dumb fouls. He’s such a great shot maker. He had 40, but I felt our defense on him was good.”

UP NEXT:

Hornets: Will finish a two-game road trip at Washington on Tuesday before a potentially key home game on Wednesday against Miami.

Thunder: Will host Milwaukee on Tuesday to wrap up a three-game homestand.

Spurs advance: San Antonio beats Grizzlies 103-96 in Game 6

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs wanted no part of playing a seventh game against the Grizzlies, not with the Houston Rockets looming in the next round.

Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, and the Spurs advanced to the Western Conference semifinals by beating Memphis 103-96 on Thursday night to take the series 4-2.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich congratulated Memphis on a great year, especially rookie coach David Fizdale.

“I’m seriously thrilled that we were able to get through that first round,” Popovich said. “That’s the good news. The bad news is that now we have to go play Houston.”

The Spurs now have beaten Memphis four of the five playoff series between these teams, and this was San Antonio’s second straight win over the Grizzlies in the first round. But this was the first time all season that the visiting team won.

“It’s huge for us,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “Memphis, you have to give them a lot of credit. They played unbelievable. They’re a great team, and they made it hard on us and so we didn’t want to come back for Game 7. We treated this game as if it was Game 7. We wanted those days off before playing Houston because it’s going to be a fast-paced game against them.”

Parker added 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, while LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 12 rebounds. San Antonio outrebounded Memphis 46-28, with 16 of those offensive boards. That led to 17 second-chance points.

Fizdale said rebounds, points in the paint and who pressured the best impacted each game in the series.

“I kept stressing that to our guys,” Fizdale said. “To their credit, (the Spurs) won it more games than we did. But it definitely wasn’t from a lack of competition on our part. I can sleep at night knowing my guys battled and competed their tails off.”

The Spurs’ semifinal with Houston will start Monday night in San Antonio.

Mike Conley scored 26 points, leading the five Memphis starters in double digits. Marc Gasol added 18.

The Grizzlies fell to 3-10 in elimination games, losing six straight.

This was a taut game with 16 ties and nine lead changes, especially with four ties in the fourth quarter.

The Spurs took control after the Grizzlies went up 88-81 on three free throws from Conley with 6:29 left. Then Leonard scored eight straight for San Antonio, starting a 22-8 run to finish the game.

“The guys were amazing in the fourth quarter,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “Huge plays. Great defense too. So, happy to go back home with a win and win the series.”

Even with Conley and Gasol a combined 2 of 10 in the first quarter, the Grizzlies trailed only 24-22 after Conley knocked down a 3 at the end of the quarter for his first bucket of the game. Conley hit another 3 for the final shot in the second quarter, putting Memphis up 50-45. The team that led at halftime won each of the first five games.

Parker hit his first six shots before finally missing his seventh with 29 seconds left in the first half.

The Grizzlies took their biggest lead at 57-47 on a 3-pointer by James Ennis III. That gave Memphis as many made 3s (9 of 17) as the Spurs had attempted (3 of 9) at that point. Randolph’s layup with 7:19 left matched that 10-point lead at 63-53.

Then the Spurs went on a 13-3 run over a 4-minute span to erase that lead on Aldridge’s three-point play at 67-66. Aldridge finished with nine points in helping the Spurs lead 75-74 at the end of the quarter.

TIP-INS

Spurs: They improved to 36-15 with a chance to clinch a series under Popovich, who took over in the 1996-97 season. … Ginobili converted a four-point play with 1:31 left in the third, putting the Spurs up 73-69. … The Spurs wound up tying the Grizzlies’ reserves with 16 points thanks to Mills.

Grizzlies: The Grizzlies set a franchise record hitting eight 3-pointers in the first half, topping the previous mark of seven in the second half May 1, 2005, against Phoenix. … Conley has 20 or more points in five straight playoff games, the longest such streak in franchise history.

HE SAID IT

Popovich: “I’m thrilled we were able to win because if we played 10 times, we each would probably win five.”

FREE THROW WATCH

Fizdale earned a $30,000 fine from the NBA for his “Take that for data” rant about the free throw discrepancy in Game 2. Well, Leonard was 9 of 10 at the free throw line through three quarters compared to the Grizzlies’ 7 of 8. The Spurs were 18 of 20 through three quarters. The Spurs finished 22 of 25 compared to 20 of 24 for Memphis.

 

Cavaliers celebrate Raptors win over Bucks because they don’t have to practice (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors closed out the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night in Game 6, 92-89. Toronto’s social media team even tried trolling the Bucks about it.

In any case, the Raptors now move on to the second round, despite their best efforts, to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, have been waiting for an opponent after sweeping the Indiana Pacers.

Cavaliers wingman Richard Jefferson — a Snapchat legend, it should be mentioned — took to the social media platform to celebrate playing the Raptors.

Er, or maybe just the fact that the team didn’t have to practice Friday.

Via Twitter:

Cleveland’s biggest test before the Finals might just be the Raptors, and we will get to see them head-to-head in the second round.

Raptors troll Bucks after closing in Game 6 with RapsIn6.com website (VIDEO)

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Despite a disastrous fourth quarter performance, the Toronto Raptors closed the series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. The Raptors came away from Game 6 with a 92-89 victory and a chance to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round.

Meanwhile, the rivalry between the Raptors and the Bucks appears to be alive and well, as the Raptors pushed a video on social media after the game ended that was pointed toward the Bucks.

In it, the Raptors mascot registers a domain name for the team at RapsIn6.com, then proceeds to sip tea in the style of the famous Kermit meme.

In case you are out of the loop, this is a reference to Brandon Jennings saying Milwaukee would beat the Miami Heat in six games back in 2013.

Meanwhile, game ops at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee played the theme song from the children’s TV show “Barney” during Raptors player introductions.

Nothing really happens if you go to RapsIn6.com. There’s nothing on the website save for the video the Raptors posted to social media, which you can watch above.

Toronto has their core together and presumably will for a little while. The Bucks are a growing young team. I’m cool with them duking it out in the postseason for years to come.

Bucks storm back at home, Raptors hang on for 92-89 win, advance to second round

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Nothing can be easy for the Raptors.

They were cruising, up 25 in the third quarter, whipping the ball around on offense, hitting threes, making sharp rotations on defense, and generally overwhelming a Bucks team that did not look ready for the moment.

Then everything changed. The Raptors offense went ice cold, and the ball movement stopped, and the Bucks were getting big plays from Giannis Antetokounmpo and — out of nowhere — Jason Terry. Across the third-and-fourth quarters the Bucks went on a 34-7 run, hitting 5-of-7 from three, one of those a Terry three to put the Bucks up 80-78.

The Raptors then responded like a veteran team, going on a 9-0 run led by DeMar DeRozan, who was the best Toronto player in the series. The Bucks had their chances, but shot 6-of-14 on free throws in the fourth, and Milwaukee started to look tired like the comeback had taken too much out of them. They made the mental mistakes of a young team learning hard lessons.

Toronto hung on for a 92-89 win, and they take the series 4-2.

The Raptors will open their conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Monday night in Cleveland.

The star of the night for Toronto was clearly DeRozan, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting. Beyond that, he was quick with the recognition of double-teams and was moving the ball, plus had a key defensive play late. However, his biggest moment was this dunk.

The Bucks came out with some desperation early. Antetokounmpo had 14 in the first quarter and got his team off to a good start, but the Raptors settled down, got the ball inside, kicked out for threes, and led by 28-24 at the half.

Milwaukee fell into playing a lot of isolation basketball, while the Raptors were moving the ball and finding the mismatches. The result was a 13-point second quarter from the Bucks (who shot just 3-of-17 from outside the paint in the first half and 1-of-9 from three), and a 51-38 Raptors lead at the half. DeRozan had 16 at the break.

The second half saw the Raptors seem to pull away, going up 25 at one point and being in total control.

Then the Bucks made it interesting. It started with a 15-3 run at the end of the third, which carried over to the fourth quarter and soon the lead was in single digits. The key was some ball movement for the Bucks, some made threes, great play from Antetokounmpo.

However, the larger issue was the Raptors just came apart on offense. From the 6 minute mark of the third quarter through the middle of the fourth, the Raptors were 4-of-16 shooting total, 2-of-8 from three, and that was led by DeRozan suddenly going 1-of-6. The Raptors let them back in the game.

What veteran teams know how to do — and what the Bucks are still learning — is how to bounce back from those stretches. Kyle Lowry made some solid plays, DeRozan dunked, the Raptors got some stops, and they found a way to hang on for the win.

DeRozan and Lowry — 13 points — were the only Raptors to finish in double figures.

Antetokounmpo had 34 for the Bucks and carried his team for long stretches. Khris Middleton added 19, and Matthew Dellavedova had a dozen off the bench.