Durant, Team USA level Lithuanian challenge, advance to FIBA Finals

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Hey, the good news is that Lithuania was right. Team USA probably isn’t invincible.

Kevin Durant in this tournament, though? Yeah, he’s pretty close to it.

Durant scored 38 points in an 88-74 win over LIthuania, as Team USA advanced to the FIBA World Championship Finals. Durant wound up 14-25 from the floor, despite every attempt made by Lithuania to stop him. They tried man. They tried zone. They tried help. They tried face-guarding. Nothing worked. Durant simply owned them as you would expect from someone who bombed 38 points in FIBA play. We’ve already had several “coming out parties” for Durant. He’s already arrived. But this game will certainly be added to his legacy as a sign of the greatness we all fully predict will come from him.

Meanwhile, Lithuania had almost no opportunity to respond. Their red-hot shooting against Argentina bottomed into nothingness (38% from the field) under a stifling USA defense that will not get the pub it deserves because, well, Durant dropped 38. Lithuania’s star, Linas Kleiza, managed just 4 points on 1-11 shooting, after Andre Iguodala decided to lock down on him and completely shut him off. Lithuania hung without getting blown out of the building, in part thanks to Team USA’s latest bout of poor three point shooting (32% from the arc).

Derrick Rose was benched the entire fourth quarter for USA after an unimpressive showing, forcing shots and looking erratic. There’s talk that his play may have caused Coach K to abandon his faith in Chicago’s dynamic point guard, but that’s probably premature, considering the wide variance in decisions from one game to the next from the Hall of Fame coach.

Today was Lamar Odom’s big game, as the Laker forward finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and a steal. Odom’s been is usual space cadet self against most of the rest of the world, but his productions is still trickling in, and against a smaller Lithuania team, he flourished, bullied, and busted his way through.

USA will play the winner of the other Semifinal today, when Serbia faces host nation Turkey. If you’re looking for the matchup everyone wants, it’s Turkey vs. USA., as Turkey has been downright dominant in this tournament (in their own right), with the Bucks’ Ersan Ilyasova and the Suns’ Hedo Turkoglu both making impact. Serbia is no slouch, though, after downing the arguable favorite in Spain in a (very) minor shocker.

As Durant said he would on Twitter, Durant wrote “9-11-1” in memory of those who were affected by the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. In an era where many are exploiting the tragedy for personal self-aggrandizement, once again it’s Durant showing a more humble, more inspiring way of showcasing the better parts of humanity. The kid is human, and isn’t too good to be true. And he’s not invincible. But today he certainly seemed like it.

Just ask Lithuania.

Ser

PBT Podcast: NBA Draft breakdown with winners, losers, sleepers

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The Phoenix Suns didn’t screw up the No. 1 pick landing DeAndre Ayton, but they also made an interesting — maybe safe — move getting Mikal Bridges in a trade to give them a promising young core.

The Atlanta Hawks got their man in Trae Young, but the Dallas Mavericks did better getting theirs in Luka Doncic with the trade between those two teams.

The Sacramento Kings got their man in Marvin Bagley. Michael Porter Jr. and Robert Williams fell down the draft.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all of it in this latest podcast: Who were the winners and losers, who were the sleepers, and what it means heading into free agency this summer.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Rumor: Tension between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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Chris Paul sacrificed $10,083,055 last season by opting in to facilitate a trade to the Rockets rather than opting out and signing somewhere for a max salary.

He expects to be made whole. And by most accounts, Houston understands the arrangement.

But here’s a rumor otherwise.

Undisputed:

Chris Broussard:

From what I’m told, there is tension now between Houston and Chris Paul. Because there was definitely some type of handshake, wink wink, “we’re going to max you out” last summer. But here’s the thing: Now, they’re not so sure. Houston, with good reason, doesn’t want to do that. But they’ve got an out, because they have new ownership. So, Daryl Morey can go to Chris Paul and be like, “I want to do it, but we’ve got the new owner doesn’t want to give you five years, four years.”

Former Rockets owner Leslie Alexander committed to big expenditures. New owner Tillman Ferttita has talked about his spending limits – for good reason. He sunk so much of his personal wealth into buying the team. He might not be able to afford outrageous luxury-tax bills.

Starters Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza will also become free agents this summer. Houston definitely wants to keep Capela. A large contract for Paul would be prohibitive.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. Already 33, he almost certainly won’t produce enough on the court to justify that amount. Players that age just decline and face greater injury risk.

But the downside of not paying him that much could be losing him. Even playing hardball could offend him given the circumstances that brought him to Houston. The Rockets are contending. A bad contract a few years down the road would be worth it if they win a title, and Paul is instrumental to that push.

This could be a delicate situation, and Morey can probe at least a little if he chooses. Would Paul be understanding of the ownership change? What options will Paul have better than a large, but sub-max, contract from the Rockets? Would Paul take a discount if Houston got his friend LeBron James?

But push too hard, and would Paul bolt to play with LeBron on the Lakers?

There has been too much insistence that Paul re-signing with the Rockets was assured to completely trust Broussard’s report. But it’d also be a mistake to completely ignore the possibility talks have broken down.

Hawks GM: We might have traded up with Bucks if their draft pick didn’t leak first

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Let’s pick up with the No. 16 pick in last night’s NBA draft.

The Suns were on the clock and planning to pick Donte DiVincenzo. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

But then 76ers called Phoenix about trading No. 10 pick Mikel Bridges for the No. 16 pick and a future first-rounder. The teams agreed to the deal (causing this heartbreaking moment), and the Suns picked Zhaire Smith for Philadelphia.

The next three picks:

17. Donte DiVincenzo, Bucks

18. Lonnie Walker, Spurs

19. Kevin Huerter, Hawks

Atlanta general manager Travis Schlenk on 95.7 The Game, via ESPN:

“Last night, for instance, we had the 19th pick, and we’re coming down and we’re actually talking to Milwaukee on the 17th pick, talking about trading up to get a guy we like,” Schlenk said. “There’s were a couple of guys we felt really good about on the 19th pick, obviously Kevin [Huerter] was one of them, and it leaked who Milwaukee was going to take.

“So, all of a sudden, we were able to pull back out of that deal and keep the draft pick instead of packaging picks to move up because we knew that, two guys on the board we felt really good about and only one team in between us, so that was beneficial to us last night.”

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports and Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported the Bucks picking DiVincenzo at 9:18 p.m.:

The pick became official at 9:22 p.m.:

Clearly, Atlanta wanted Huerter or “Mystery Player Not Named Donte DiVincenzo.”* Once they learned Milwaukee would take DiVincenzo at No. 17, the Hawks knew at least one of Huerter or “Mystery Player Not Named Donte DiVincenzo” would be available at No. 19.

*I think there’s a good chance it was Walker, whom San Antonio picked No. 18.

That saved the Hawks an asset(s) and cost the Bucks an asset(s), though perhaps Milwaukee couldn’t have gotten DiVincenzo at No. 19. Maybe the Spurs would’ve selected him at No. 18.

Still, the Bucks didn’t protect their internal plans well enough. Maybe that’s an organizational flaw. But this also could have been a fluky sequence of events. Perhaps, after hearing Phoenix would take DiVincenzo, someone in Milwaukee felt comfortable sharing that the Bucks wanted him. Then, when he surprisingly fell, it was too late. The information was already out there – allowing Atlanta to stand pat.

Danny Ainge unwittingly leaks Celtics’ draft pick on call with Terry Rozier during live show (video)

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Terry Rozier takes solace in how much Danny Ainge believes in him.

But I didn’t appreciate how deep their bond went.

Appearing on Bleacher Report’s live draft show, Rozier was asked to predict the Celtics’ No. 27 pick. So, Rozier called Ainge to ask. Shockingly, Ainge answered – with Boston on the clock. Almost certainly not knowing the call was public and live, Ainge revealed the likely selection:

Good thing the Celtics stuck with Robert Williams. That would have been extremely awkward otherwise.

As is, it was only a little awkward. Williams said today he doesn’t like to be called Bob.