Kevin Durant’s defense shines in elite two-way performance

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Kevin Durant stonewalled a Kevin Love postup, blocked Love’s baby hook with his left hand, snatched the loose ball, tucked it under his arm and turned to read the court.

As he looked ahead, he saw no peers.

Durant turned in a devastating defensive performance – five blocks, three steals and 11 defensive rebounds – in the Warriors’ 132-113 Game 2 win over the Cavaliers in  the NBA Finals on Sunday. The only players to get even three-quarters of those defensive stats in an NBA Finals game since the league instituted a 16-team playoff in 1984:

  • Dwight Howard in 2009 Magic-Lakers Game 2 (four blocks, four steals and 13 defensive rebounds)
  • Tim Duncan in 2003 Spurs-Nets Game 1 (seven blocks, three steals and 17 defensive rebounds)
  • Hakeem Olajuwon in 1986 Rockets-Celtics Game 4 (four blocks, four steals and nine defensive rebounds)

That’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year (Howard), 15-time All-Defensive teamer (Duncan) and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year (Olajuwon).

And Durant.

Durant infamously entered the NBA unable to bench press 185 pounds then built a reputation as a lanky finesse scorer. But through sheer force of will, Durant has developed into one of the NBA’s better defenders. A de facto 7-footer, his length is a huge asset – especially considering his mobility. He can block shots on and off the ball and erase passing lanes. He has gotten strong enough and tough enough to body traditional bigs, and his defensive awareness is off the charts.

“Kevin’s defense was unreal, and it was probably the key to the whole game,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who deployed Durant at center in Game 2.

Engaged like he is in these Finals, Durant rivals Kawhi Leonard and even LeBron James as the best two-way player in the NBA. Remember, Durant was in the thick of the MVP race until he got hurt. The 28-year-old is summoning another gear in the Finals, one the 32-year-old LeBron is struggling to maintain.

Durant’s offensive performance tonight would’ve stood up on its own: 33 points, six assists and two offensive rebounds. He’s just taking it to the Cavs.

After blocking Love, Durant pushed the ball against a retreating Cleveland defense, blew by LeBron and banked in a shot as Love pushed him down. Draymond Green, who enthusiastically celebrated the sequence by flexing on the bench, was asked whether he transferred his flexing power to Durant.

“That was a man play. I don’t really know if I could put this power,” Green said while showing off his bicep then tapping Durant’s, “in these arms, though.”

Don’t let Durant’s frame fool you.

His shoulders can carry plenty of weight.

Kyrie Irving, any regrets about using profanity toward fan? “Hell no.”

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Fans yelling obscenities at NBA players and trying to goad them into a response — always while camera phones are recording — has become a thing. DeMarcus Cousins will be paying $25,000 for responding to a fan cursing at him in Memphis.

Kyrie Irving is likely going to get fined for an incident Friday night after the Celtics knocked off the Sixers in Philadephia. It made the rounds on social media Friday night, with a fan yelling at Irving as he leaves the court “Kyrie, where’s LeBron?” and Irving responding with a crude phrase. Here is the exchange as Irving leaves the court (NOTE: The language is NSFW, if offended don’t watch the video).

Saturday Irving was asked about the incident, and he admitted he should have bit his tongue, but he has no regrets, as reported by A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

“Hell no,” Irving said (when asked if he had regrets). “Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s the social media platform we live on.

Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”

Irving also addressed the bigger issue, something Cousins discussed when talking about his fine. Via Chris Forsberg at ESPN.

“At the end of the day, we’re human. It’s in heat of the moment and frustrations arise, we were at halftime, we were down by 4, in an environment, a season-opener in Philly. Being with a young team like we have here and staying composed, handling that before we go in the locker room and addressing what we have to do in the locker room and going out and handling business and getting the W, that’s really the only thing that matters to me.

“It’s up to the league at this point. But, like I said, I’m going to take full responsibility for what I said. I don’t have any regrets for it.”

Irving is going to get fined. The league has issues with its players cursing at fans. Understandably.

That said, the league may need to step back on consider situations like this. If fans are taunting players, at what point should a player be able to respond to the fan? Should arena security (at the request of the officials, or maybe a player) intervene? Players should not be asked to bite their tongue no matter what is said, and even if a fan paid for a ticket it doesn’t give them the right to cross any line. As more fans seem to go after their 15 minutes of social media fame baiting players, the league may need to reconsider where it draws its lines.

Reports: Pelicans to sign Jameer Nelson with Rondo out

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With Rajon Rondo out 4-6 weeks with a sports hernia, the New Orleans Pelicans were looking for a solid backup point guard.

This week, to make room to sign Richard Jefferson, the Denver Nuggets waived veteran Jameer Nelson.

While other teams such as the Rockets were calling, the Pelicans and Nelson have reached a deal, reports both Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports added this.

Nelson, in his 14th NBA season, became the top free agent on the market and received interest from contenders such as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and several other franchises that hoped to add the respected and accomplished veteran. But for Nelson, the Pelicans represent an opportunity to play significant minutes and provide leadership.

The Pelicans had a full roster of 15 players, they could have waited until next Tuesday and gotten a disabled player exception to add a 16th player, but they decided to go with something more permanent.

Jrue Holiday starts at the point for the Pelicans but with Rondo out — he was supposed to start next to Holiday — there is no depth at the position. The Pelicans can have Nelson step in and get minutes from the first time he steps on the court.

Nelson is still a solid pick-and-roll point guard, but what he brings to the table the Pelicans need more is shooting — he shot 38.8 percent from three last season and is a good spot up player. He can penetrate and make plays off handoffs as well, but it’s his shooting on a team that needs it that will be most valued.

The Pelicans have started the season 0-2 with losses to Memphis and Golden State. They take on the Lakers in Los Angeles Sunday night.

DeMarcus Cousins fined $25,000 for cursing at fan

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Near the end of New Orleans’ season-opening loss in Memphis, DeMarcus Cousins started getting into a war of words with a female Grizzlies fan, an exchange where allegedly “F-bombs” were dropped in both directions.

That’s going to cost Cousins.

Saturday the league announced that the Pelicans’ center has been fined $25,000 for “directing inappropriate language towards a fan.”

Cousins got a technical foul during this exchange, and that has been rescinded.

Cousins has averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds a game through two games this season, but it hasn’t been enough as New Orleans has started the season 0-2.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.