Serge Ibaka doesn’t practice with Thunder Saturday; Kevin Durant says ‘we’re preparing like he’s not playing’

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It was interesting (if not surprising) news that Serge Ibaka, who was initially ruled out of the Western Conference Finals with a calf injury, had his status upgraded to day-to-day on Friday.

But while most of us (the entire Spurs organization included) expect him to play in Sunday’s Game 3, the signs aren’t pointing to that just yet. Ibaka participated in some light workouts out on Saturday, but didn’t practice with the team.

“Just with our coaches,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “It’s all part of the process with him recovering … He didn’t practice with us, he just worked out just with our coaches.”

Kevin Durant similarly isn’t making any guarantees as far as Ibaka being healthy enough to help his team on Sunday.

“I don’t know what his status is,” Durant said. “I’ve heard some stuff, but I don’t know. But we’re preparing like he’s not playing because that’s what he said before we started the series. We’ve all got to dig deep ourselves and figure out what we have to do, and I think guys have done a great job the last few days.”

Some of this could of course involve a certain amount of gamesmanship, because it’s not like the Thunder need Ibaka to practice with them in order for the rest of the team to feel comfortable with his presence. Ibaka started 81 games for Oklahoma City during the regular season, and averaged 32.9 minutes per contest.

Ibaka’s presence would help the Thunder’s interior defense while giving them an additional option on the offensive floor at the same time, but only if he’s healthy enough to truly make a difference.

Despite the way OKC struggled in the two games that Ibaka was sidelined, he doesn’t believe his absence was the reason for those losses — which perhaps is something he felt the need to convey in case he’s forced out of action once again on Sunday.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying my team lost two games because I was out,” Ibaka said. “It’s not true. It’s not true. I believe in my guys. I believe in my teammates, that they can do better, with me or without me. It’s not an excuse because Serge Ibaka was not there.  t’s just that San Antonio the first two games, they played better basketball. We need to give them a lot of credit. Right now our focus, my teammates and I, is about tomorrow’s game, and I’m sure with me or without me they’re going to do a better job.”

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

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The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

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Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.

Marcus Smart on Game 7: ‘It’s not going to be pretty’

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Game 7s are not pretty basketball. Everyone is tight, shots clank off the front of the rim, and players tend to think rather than just react, sucking the flow out of the game. It’s a game for grinders.

Marcus Smart is good with that, and he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN the team is preparing for this style.

“It’s not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can’t go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight. We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied. We got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied. We have to come out ready to fight.”

If Boston is going to win this game, they will do so with the physical, smart, and unrelenting defense that carried them all season. That’s their grit. Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion) the Celtics have one less scorer to worry about, but things do not necessarily get dramatically easier — LeBron James is going to get his buckets, but can the Celtics keep George Hill, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and the rest of the role players from helping out with big nights of their own.

Which one of these teams is better positioned to win a grinding, sloppy game? Who is willing to dive on the floor and give that little extra effort? A case can be made either way, but Sunday night will decide it.

Report: Warriors’ Patrick McCaw cleared, will be available for Game 6

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We haven’t seen Golden State’s Patrick McCaw on an NBA court since March 31, when he was undercut by Sacramento’s Vince Carter and took an ugly, nasty spill.

McCaw is finally cleared by the team doctors and will be active on Saturday night for Game 6 against Houston, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Golden State Warriors are planning to activate swingman Patrick McCaw for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

McCaw, on paper, would help the Warriors — he’s a 6’5″ switchable defender who can provide some offense in transition. That’s especially true if Andre Iguodala is out for Game 6 (his status is a game-time decision). McCaw played about 17 minutes a night for the Warriors during the regular season.

However, the idea of taking a second-year player who has not been on a court in six weeks and throwing him into Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals — a win-or-go-fishing game for Golden State — is risky, at best. Don’t expect him to get on the court unless this is a blowout.