Kurt Helin

Russell Westbrook with circus underhand flip shot off top of the backboard. But it doesn’t count.

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This was the best shot of Saturday night. Too bad it didn’t count.

Russell Westbrook was in transition when he was fouled out at the free throw line. Trying to draw the “in the act” call he threw up a ridiculous underhanded scoop shot that sat on the top of the backboard before dropping through.

The refs were right, that shouldn’t have counted. But damn Daniel, that’s impressive.

LeBron James dunks all over on Lou Amundson, gets technical for taunting after

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That was a vintage LeBron James dunk.

He wanted the Knicks to know about it — specifically Lou Amundson, who could not stop it, so LeBron told him all about it.

That drew LeBron a technical. Not that he cared. LeBron and the Knicks went on to win 107-93, with LeBron dropping a triple-double in Madison Square Garden.

J.R. Smith sued for $2.5 million for incident outside New York night club

<> on January 26, 2016 in Valley View, Ohio.
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J.R. Smith doesn’t play with the Knicks anymore, but an alleged incident in New York could still cost him.

Smith is being sued for an alleged confrontation outside a pizza place in Chelsea last November, according to a report from Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Justin Brown, who was 19 at the time, approached Smith at a pizza shop at about 4 a.m. after Smith had left 1Oak, a well-known club in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Brown claims Smith turned down a request for a photo and then choked and struck him in his head and neck area. Brown is suing for physical injuries and emotional distress.

Smith was asked about the lawsuit following the Cavaliers’ 107-93 win over the New York Knicks on Saturday night.

“No, I ain’t got no comment on that,” Smith said. “It is what it is. So, we’ll just see what happens.”

There is a video of the incident from a security camera, according to the report. Smith was not arrested and, while the New York District Attorney looked into the matter, no charges were filed against Smith.

Smith’s attorney threatened a countersuit, according to the report.

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant lead Thunder past short-handed Spurs

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant dunks in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in Oklahoma City, Saturday, March 26, 2016. Oklahoma City won 111-92. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Associated Press
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Thunder didn’t face the San Antonio Spurs’ biggest stars, but they’ll take the win.

Kevin Durant scored 31 points and Russell Westbrook added 29 to help the Thunder defeat the short-handed Spurs 111-92 on Saturday night.

It wasn’t the late-season showdown that was anticipated when the schedule first came out – the Spurs rested Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

The game also had little effect on the standings. San Antonio is likely to finish second in the Western Conference and the Thunder are virtually locked into third. But the Thunder, who won their seventh straight, said it was important to maintain momentum.

“Another opportunity for us to keep growing and building our habits,” Durant said. “It wasn’t on us that they didn’t play their starters. We just had to continue to play our game and do what we do.”

Enes Kanter had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Serge Ibaka added 15 points and eight rebounds for Oklahoma City.

David West and Jonathon Simmons each scored 17 points for the Spurs, who had won eight of nine. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he thought his team played hard, but didn’t have the talent available to keep up.

“They did what they were supposed to do in the end and they kicked our butt,” Popovich said. “We hung in there really well and did a good job. You learn from everything. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter.”

Westbrook scored 20 points in the first half to help the Thunder take a 48-44 lead into the break.

Data curated by PointAfter

Andre Roberson hit a 3-pointer, then Westbrook rebounded a missed free throw and found Steven Adams running down the middle of the lane for a dunk. Westbrook then set Ibaka up for a dunk to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 69-56.

Westbrook uncorked a powerful one-handed jam to bump Oklahoma City’s lead to 74-59 late in the third quarter. Durant scored nine points in the period to help the Thunder take an 83-63 edge into the fourth.

“I think it was that little spurt in the moment that we didn’t make stops, and they made tough shots, and at the same time, we didn’t score,” Spurs forward Boris Diaw said.

The Spurs didn’t want to make excuses.

“I mean, we are professional, so we are going to give the effort,” West said. “When you are down a few guys like we are in a game like this against a high-caliber opponent, you almost have to be mistake free to give yourself a chance.”

QUOTABLE

Durant on the Spurs’ 7-foot-3, 290-pound rookie center Boban Marjanovic, who had 13 points and six rebounds in his second start: “He can play. I like his game.”

STAT LINES

Aside from Kanter, the Thunder got just two points from their bench. Kyle Singler, Dion Waiters and Cameron Payne all went scoreless and Randy Foye finished with two points.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Committed just two turnovers in the first quarter and finished with 14. … Other than Danny Green, who has started all 71 games he has played this season, San Antonio’s starters entered the night with a combined 13 starts. … Shot just 38.6 percent in the first half. … Dropped to 14-1 on the second game of back-to-backs this season. … Diaw was called for a technical foul in the fourth quarter.

Thunder: Durant scored 20 or more points for the 58th straight game. … The score of Oklahoma’s 80-68 Elite Eight win over Oregon was shown on the big screen in the first quarter and drew a loud cheer. … Singler returned to action after missing three games with lower-back soreness. … Westbrook was called for a technical foul in the third quarter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

Bulls’ playoffs hopes dealt blow with 111-89 loss to Magic

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Chicago Bulls came into Saturday night’s game against Orlando needing to turn things around for their fading playoff chances.

But it was the short-handed Magic, a team long out of the playoff hunt, who seemed to play with the sense of urgency the Bulls needed to have.

Orlando, playing without leading scorers Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo, got points from a collection of role players – including a career-high 18 points and season-high 13 rebounds from Dewayne Dedmon – on the way to an impressive 111-89 win at the Amway Center that sent the Bulls to their third straight loss and put their playoff hopes in serious doubts.

Bulls stars Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler had expressed their frustration with the late-season slide before Saturday night’s game. The Bulls’ display against another non-playoff team did little to calm things as they saw their chances to make up ground for the eighth and final playoff in the Eastern Conference take another blow.

Chicago is two games behind both Indiana and Detroit, which are tied for the last two spots in the conference.

“I sure hope not,” Bulls first-year coach Fred Hoiberg responded when asked if he thinks his team has quit on trying to make a playoff run.

“Obviously, what I’m saying right now, my message isn’t getting across,” he added. “We’re going to sit in a room and hopefully get it figured out tomorrow.”

There is no denying the frustration among the Bulls’ players, who made mistake after mistake against the Magic.

“Obviously, we’re really struggling right now,” forward Mike Dunleavy said. “We look like a team that’s lost in terms of doing the things you need to do. It’s a lot of stuff. We have to find our way. We’ve had success in the past, but it’s going to be tough right now.”

The Bulls, however, insist they have not given up on the season despite what it looks like on the floor.

“I don’t think anybody’s quit,” shooting guard Jimmy Butler said. “We’ve just hit adversity at the wrong time and we’ve got to fix it. It better carry over from in this locker room out to the court. That’s the only way to get this thing fixed.

“Nobody else can play basketball for us.”

Aside from a brief run early in their third quarter, that reduced their 18-point halftime deficit to nine points, the Bulls (36-36) never seemed to play with much urgency. Taj Gibson was consistently strong in the paint, leading the Bulls with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting. But the other key Bulls players were mostly non-factors.

Derrick Rose had an off night with just nine points on 4-of-14 shooting, while committing four turnovers. Butler had a quiet 12 points and Mike Dunleavy added 10 points. Center Pau Gasol, who missed Thursday night’s loss to the New York Knicks with continued swelling in his right knee, scored just seven points on 3-of-6 shooting while being completely outplayed by Dedmon.

The Magic journeyman center looked much more the All-Star center as he dominated the paint. Dedmon, who teammates made a point of getting the ball inside to him early, exceeded his career high in the first half with 16 points to help lead the Magic to a 68-50 halftime lead.

“He was really active,” Magic coach Scott Skiles said. “He was on the boards. He got some opportunities sometimes he might not normally get and was able to finish them.”

Dedmon was far from the only Magic player who stepped up Saturday night. Point guard Elfrid Payton outplayed his much more celebrated counterpart, coming up with a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists against Rose and the Bulls other point guards.

The Magic, which led by as many as 29 points, also received big contributions off the bench from forwards Jason Smith and Andrew Nicholson, who scored 14 points apiece.

“We’ve had a lot of halves, quarters where we’re very energetic, see each other,” said Skiles, whose team improved to 30-43. “We played unselfishly tonight. We did it very well.”

Meanwhile, Hoiberg seemed at a loss for what to do to get things turned around as the season heads into the final stretch.

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “They’re locked in at shootaround. They’re getting after it. They’re paying attention to what we’re doing, then we go out there and get slapped in the face. It just spirals downhill.”

TIP-INS

Magic: C Nikola Vucevic missed his 12th straight game with lingering groin issues. … Ersan Llyasova (shoulder) sat for the second consecutive game.

Bulls: Gasol returned to the lineup, but remained on a minutes restriction.

UP NEXT

Bulls: host Atlanta on Monday night.

Magic: host Brooklyn on Tuesday night.