Kurt Helin

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Kevin Durant’s monster second half earns Thunder win, evens series with Spurs 2-2

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For the first 24 minutes Sunday night, the San Antonio Spurs had bottled up Kevin Durant. He had 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting and the Thunder were struggling.

The second half the Kevin Durant the rest of the NBA fears — and wants to recruit this summer — showed up: 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting for the half, 17 of those points in the fourth quarter when he shot 6-of-6. And some of those were ridiculously contested.

“You gotta give him credit, he was great. He was great,” Gregg Popovich said after the game. “I don’t know how else to say it. He was fantastic.”

Durant’s 41 points on the night — with some big help from Dion Waiters and Steven Adams — helped the Thunder pull away late for a 111-97 Game 4 win. That ties the series at 2-2 and makes it a best-of-three heading back to San Antonio for Game 5 Tuesday night.

Durant was connecting with teammates and connecting with the crowd. He didn’t look like a guy with one foot out the door. We know he will play at least one more game.

He also got some help. This was by far Dion Waiters’ best game of the series scoring 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Steven Adams had 16 points, rolling to the rim after setting pin-down picks for Durant — the Spurs were so focused on the hot KD that Adams got clean looks. Enes Kanter had 11 points off the bench, and his defense wasn’t as bad as normal. Overall, it was the best performance by the Thunder role players we have seen all season, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

“They were more physical, I think it was easy to tell today,” Manu Ginobili said postgame. “They got way more loose balls, offensive rebounds, down the stretch especially. They were way more physical defensively, that’s who they are… it worked for them, we were not comfortable all game.”

Russell Westbrook added 14 points and 15 assists. But it was Durant who starred. In the fourth he was hitting contested shots over Kawhi Leonard, and the Spurs switched picks that too often left David West on Durant and KD either shot over or drove around him. You can expect the Spurs to adjust their defense accordingly.

Tony Parker had 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting, as the Thunder oddly decided to chase him over the top on picks all night. Parker is not a great threat from three but let him get going downhill into the midrange and he will hit shots and find teammates. There was some of that in the first quarter, as Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge were doing their thing and the Spurs defense was clicking. It was a 10-point, 27-17 lead for the Spurs after one and they were executing their game plan.

Then in the second the Thunder got some stops, got out in transition off the misses and put together a 10-0 run that evened the game up again.

The scariest part of the night for the Spurs was when Kanter accidentally rolled up on Leonard’s knee. Leonard stayed in the game, but he was not as effective after that. Part of it likely was the Thunder put Durant on Leonard and KD’s length bothered Leonard.

What the Thunder defense kept the Spurs from doing was moving the ball, or when they did finishing the shot. The Spurs had just 12 assists on the night, as opposed to 19 and 39 in their wins. The Spurs also had 12 turnovers.

Tim Duncan went scoreless for the first time in a playoff game. Danny Green struggled as well for the Spurs.

This series is exactly what we’d expected and hoped for — a close one between two evenly matched teams. It’s been the best series of the second round, easily. And now it’s a best of three.

Steve Kerr calls Stephen Curry “doubtful” for game Monday

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After the Trail Blazers put on an offensive explosion in Game 3 and made this a 2-1 series, it seemed like it was time for Golden State to counter with their own offensive explosion — the return of Stephen Curry.

Except his knee is not quite up to it.

After practice Sunday, here is what Warriors coach Steve Kerr said about Curry’s availability for Game 4 Monday in Portland, via Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

“He looked pretty good, looked about like he did yesterday in terms of movement,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Conditioning is going to be an issue. But, hopefully, he can get more and more work and we’ll see how he comes up tomorrow, in terms of a night of sleep coming off the workout.

“I would just say he’s doubtful for tomorrow. But he’s slowly but surely making progress.”

If we don’t see Curry in Game 4, expect him for sure in Game 5 Wednesday back in Oakland. Even if the Warriors win Game 4 and are up 3-1, they will want Curry to get in a game and shake off some rust against the Blazers, not have to do it in the first game against the Spurs or Thunder (either way a series where the Warriors will need Curry from Game 1).

Expect a much better defensive effort from Golden State in Game 4 Sunday, Curry or no. We will see if that is enough.

Watch LeBron James hit dagger jumper to lift Cavaliers past Hawks

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The Cleveland Cavaliers have earned their week off. With their close-out win to sweep the Atlanta Hawks out of the playoffs (again), the Cavaliers are off until next Sunday at the earliest before the Eastern Conference playoffs start (longer if the Miami/Toronto series goes to a seven games).

LeBron James helped secure that rest with some good defense and then hitting this dagger jumper to seal the Cavs victory. He’s matched up on Paul Millsap in isolation on the right wing, and LeBron just nails the shot over the Hawks’ best defender.

The all but ended the game and the series.

Kevin Love, LeBron James lead Cavs to another sweep, 100-99 over Hawks

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ATLANTA (AP) — Kevin Love scored 27 points, LeBron James hit a huge shot with 39.2 seconds to go and the Cleveland Cavaliers finished off their second straight playoff sweep, beating the Atlanta Hawks 100-99 Sunday to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

The Hawks had one last chance to extend the series after James missed a 3-pointer with the clock winding down. Atlanta got the rebound and put the ball in the hands of Dennis Schroder, who led the team with 21 points.

The speedy point guard drove into the lane but was surrounded by James and Tristan Thompson. Schroder slipped and James tied up the ball, forcing a huge mismatch of a jump ball with 2.8 seconds left. With a 7-inch height advantage, James flicked the ball toward the sideline.

Paul Millsap tried to get off a desperation shot, but it was after the buzzer and didn’t go in anyway.

The Cavaliers, who opened the playoffs with four straight wins over Detroit, made short work of the Hawks as well in a series that mirrored last year’s conference finals.

In that one, the Hawks were the top seed but lost four straight to Cleveland. This time, the Cavaliers were healthy, seeded No. 1 and simply too much for Atlanta down the stretch in three of their four wins. They improved to 12-0 against the Hawks in the postseason.

The Cavaliers will face the winner of the Miami-Toronto series in the conference final. Toronto leads 2-1.

Schroder put the Hawks ahead 97-96 on a drive with 1:31 remaining. But James, after having one shot blocked and missing two tip-ins, got another chance when a video review overturned a call that Cleveland had knocked the ball out of bounds. Off the inbounds pass, Matthew Dellavadova found James streaking into the lane and Millsap was called for goaltending as he went for the block.

Schroder’s next shot was blocked by Thompson, and the Cavaliers isolated James on the wing against Millsap. James stepped back and hit the jumper, pushing Cleveland ahead 100-97. Schroder scored on a drive with 34.4 seconds left and James missed a potential clinching 3. It didn’t matter.

The Cavaliers buckled down at the defensive end and wrapped up the series.

Love carried Cleveland in the early going, hitting one 3-pointer after another as the Hawks continually left him open in the corner. He went cold in the second half but still finished 8 of 15 from beyond the arc, accounting for all but two of his points. He was fouled on one long-range shot, knocking down a free throw for a four-point play, and his only basket that wasn’t a 3 was a jumper with his toe on the line.

James and Kyrie Irving finished with 21 points apiece. Millsap had 19 for the Hawks.

TEAGUE PLAYS

Jeff Teague played for the Hawks after committing a flagrant foul on James in the closing seconds of Game 3.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn’t surprised that the league decided not to upgrade the foul, which could have resulted in a one-game suspension for Teague.

Lue called it just “a little shove out of frustration” that didn’t warrant additional action.

Teague wasn’t much of a factor, scoring just five points. With the game on the line, the Hawks went with Schroder and kept Teague on the bench.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Channing Frye followed up his 27-point effort in Game 3 with eight points. … Three players finished with double-figure rebounds, led by Love with 13. James and Thompson had 10 apiece.

Hawks: Thabo Sefolosha started for the second straight game, leaving Kyle Korver to come off the bench. Sefolosha had 16 points, while Korver managed only two on 1-of-4 shooting, missing both 3-point attempts. … After being outrebounded 55-28 in Game 3, the Hawks actually held a 42-41 edge on the boards. Millsap had nine rebounds, and reserve Kris Humphries chipped in with seven.

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry.

Andrew Bogut explains unselfishness at heart of Golden State Warriors

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“I want to win.”

This summer ever free agent will say his choice is about wanting to win and where he can help a team do that. We know it will be all about the money.

However, for some, it will be about the money and winning. It’s just that winning often comes with conditions, not sacrifices. They selfishly need to win on their terms.

The Golden State Warriors are the defending NBA champions and won 73 games because they are the most unselfish team in the NBA. Yes, that means making the extra pass on the court, but it also means sacrifices off it in terms of roles and, in some cases, money. Andrew Bogut talked about it with Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe and put it perfectly.

“It’s not a secret. We’ve had a lot of guys who have given up roles and bought into different roles on this team and are happy to do it for the greater good of this team and win games,” Bogut said. “That’s rare for younger guys to do that. Younger guys usually don’t buy into that because they want to get their numbers and get their contract up, but this is a strange league. There are a lot of leaders on other teams, you’ll hear them say in the media, ‘I want to win,’ but a lot of times it’s on their terms.”

Has the NBA become more selfish over the past decade? Bogut believes so.

“That’s the problem with the league today. It’s ‘I want to win but I need my 30 shots to win.’ Theoretically, you probably need 10 and need to get other guys going to have a chance to win,” he said. “Not many guys are willing to do that. We have two absolute bona fide scorers in Klay and Steph that are willing to do that. They are willing to give up the open shot, willing to pass, willing to make the right play. That’s the reason why we’re successful. Only a handful can do it. You have to have a strong-minded coach that can reiterate that every day, you have to have a strong GM, strong ownership group that are on the same page.

“If you don’t have that . . . you’re just floating in the middle.”

A lot of teams are trying to play smaller and shoot more threes, trying to replicate what the Warriors do. It’s the unselfishness that will be harder to replicate.