Kurt Helin

Watch Kevin Durant drop career playoff best 41 on Spurs

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Kevin Durant struggled in the first half, with the Spurs defense seeming to have contained him on Sunday.

Second half Durant was as good as we have ever seen him — 29 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter when he shot 6-of-6. While Gregg Popovich would say the Spurs made some defensive mistakes on Durant, he also just hit ridiculous contested shots. He was vintage Kevin Durant.

And with that, the series is tied 2-2 heading back to San Antonio.

Report: Grizzlies start coaching search by reaching out to Frank Vogel

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It looks like the Memphis Grizzlies are going to start their effort to replace their unexpectedly fired coach by talking to an unexpectedly fired coach.

The Grizzlies front office will talk to several candidates to replace David Joerger, starting with reaching out to recently deposed Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Memphis Grizzlies have begun making contact with several head-coaching candidates, as well as the representatives of Frank Vogel, league sources told The Vertical…

Memphis has started reaching out to teams to obtain permission to interview candidates, and league sources told The Vertical that part of the franchise’s working list of coaches includes former Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, San Antonio assistant Ettore Messina, Charlotte Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing, Portland assistant Nate Tibbets and Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale, league sources said.

Vogel will have options, he needs to decide if he wants to jump back in, and if so where. He can afford to wait if he wants. But he also would be a good fit in Memphis, with his defense-first mindset fitting with the grit and grind style of the Grizzlies.

Beyond Vogel, that’s a strong list of potential candidates. My question: Are any of them clear upgrades over Joerger? If a team is going to let a good coach go the front office needs to have an upgrade in the wings. Are any of these guys, including Vogel, really an upgrade?

Joerger is nearing taking over as the coach of the Sacramento Kings.

Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas out for rest of East semifinal series

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MIAMI (AP) — Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas will miss the rest of his team’s Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat with a sprained right ankle.

Valanciunas was injured in the third quarter of Toronto’s win in Game 3.

X-rays did not show any fractures, but the team ruled him out for the rest of the series after more evaluation Sunday.

Valanciunas has averaged 15 points and 12.1 rebounds in these playoffs. He had a double-double in all three games against the Heat.

Toronto outscored Miami by 41 points when Valanciunas was on the floor in the first three games. The Heat have outscored the Raptors by 39 when he hasn’t been on the court.

The announcement came shortly after Miami announced center Hassan Whiteside is day-to-day with a sprained knee ligament.

Reports: Sacramento nearing deal to hire Dave Joerger as coach

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After interviewing virtually every available coach West of the Mississippi River, the Sacramento Kings may be close to getting their man — someone surprisingly jettisoned by a team just east of the Mississippi.

The minute Dave Joerger was let go by the Memphis Grizzlies — reportedly because he asked if he could speak to the Kings about their open coaching job — he leapt to the front of the line in Sacramento. The two sides met on Sunday, and while the first reports were that Sacramento decision maker Vlade Divac wanted to step back and not rush a decision, it sounds like the two sides are very close to a deal.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Sacramento Kings are progressing rapidly in discussions with Dave Joerger, with a Monday meeting that will include owner Vivek Ranadive being the final hurdle to Joerger’s hiring as head coach, league sources told The Vertical….

Joerger will have the autonomy to hire his own assistant coaching staff, and there’s doubt about his commitment to bringing members of his Grizzlies staff with him to the Kings, league sources said. Elston Turner is expected to join him, and another candidate – veteran NBA and college coach Bill Bayno – is likely to join Joerger on the bench as well, sources said.

Bayno has worked individually with Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.

Ranadive should not be an impediment to this deal. As the owner he has every right to meet with his new coach, but hopefully he’s learned to stay out of basketball decision making and leave that to the basketball people.

Marc Stein of ESPN added this.

Don’t be shocked if the last year of that is a team option.

For Joerger, that would be a doubling of the below-market salary he got in Memphis.

The Sacramento job comes with a lot of opportunities — moving into an amazing new building, for one — and challenges. DeMarcus Cousins falls into both categories. Joerger did a great job in Memphis installing a system that took advantage of Marc Gasol‘s traditional talents as a big man, if he can do that in Sacramento and establish a real bond with Cousins it will be a big step in the right direction for a team that hasn’t seen the playoffs in a decade.

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.