Kevin Durant scores season-high 44 in Thunder’s OT win over Knicks

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NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Durant scored a season-high 44 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New York Knicks 128-122 in overtime on Tuesday night.

Durant hit the tying jumper with 16.2 seconds left in regulation, then scored seven points in overtime to surpass the 43 points he had against Orlando on Oct. 30, a game that went to two overtimes.

One was all the Thunder needed this time, as Durant hit four straight free throws in the final half-minute to finish 16 for 18 from the line.

Russell Westbrook finished with 30 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Thunder, who bounced back from a loss to Brooklyn on Sunday to win for the eighth time in nine games. Oklahoma City never trailed in OT after Westbrook opened the scoring with a basket.

Langston Galloway scored 21 points for the Knicks, who played without injured leading scorer Carmelo Anthony. Derrick Williams added 19 points and 10 rebounds, but the Knicks couldn’t hold on after leading by 11 in the fourth quarter.

Durant helped wipe that lead away, then did it again when the Knicks recovered to go back ahead by four in the final minute of regulation.

Serge Ibaka had 12 points and 17 rebounds for the Thunder, who got a boost with the earlier-than-expected return of starting center Steven Adams from a sprained right elbow that was expected to keep him out for at least two more games. He had nine points and eight boards.

Arron Afflalo scored 17 points for the Knicks but shot 6 for 21, with the potential winner going in and out before the regulation buzzer.

Anthony sat out the Knicks’ third straight loss because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. Lance Thomas returned from a three-game absence with his own sore left knee to replace Anthony in the lineup.

The Knicks took a 91-88 lead through three quarters, then opened the fourth with eight straight points to go up by 11 with 9 1/2 minutes to play. Cameron Payne hit a couple of 3-pointers to steady the Thunder before Durant heated up later in the period.

He made a couple of 3-pointers and a driving dunk past Kristaps Porzingis, but the Knicks seemed to have withstood his rally when Williams’ dunk put them up 113-109 with 59 seconds remaining.

Ibaka scored on an offensive rebound, and Afflalo missed before Durant tied it with a jumper. The Knicks nearly won it, but Afflalo’s turnaround jumper from the corner went in and out just before the buzzer.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Dion Waiters started for the injured Andre Roberson but coach Billy Donovan wouldn’t commit to him remaining the starter during Roberson’s absence, saying the former No. 4 overall pick had developed good chemistry with the second unit. … The Thunder recalled forwards Josh Huestis and Mitch McGary from the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA Development League.

Knicks: Anthony missed his fifth game of the season. The last two were earlier this month because of a sprained right ankle, and coach Derek Fisher thought that may have changed Anthony’s mechanics and caused the discomfort in his left knee. … New York fell to 18-5 when leading after the third quarter

CARMELO CONCERN

Fisher said Anthony was hurting after the Knicks played a double-overtime and an overtime game last week, with Anthony logging 49 and 42 minutes in them. Fisher said he believed the extra work “just kind of caught up to him,” so Anthony was held out of a game after originally being listed as probable. Fisher said the team will continue to treat and evaluate Anthony, saying it could just be a day-to-day injury.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Visit Minnesota on Wednesday

Knicks: Visit Toronto on Thursday.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.

Billy Donovan to choose Bulls’ starting PG during training camp

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Speaking at Chicago’s media day, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said he will choose his starting point guard over the course of training camp. Lonzo Ball was expected to reprise his role as the starter, but he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his troublesome knee and raised some eyebrows at media day when he said he couldn’t run or jump. Simply put, there is no guarantee we even see him at all this season.

Donovan is fortunate that he has a plethora of options though, as Goran Dragic, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White will all battle it out. “We’ll have to see how these guys gel and mesh once training camp starts and we start practicing,” Donovan said. “But I think we have enough back there that we can get the job done from that standpoint.”

Dragic is the most “seasoned option” to use Donovan’s own words and would be the safe pick, but at 36 years old, he doesn’t exactly raise Chicago’s ceiling. Plus, Donovan already hinted at managing his minutes throughout the season.

Alex Caruso is Chicago’s best defender and is going to play a massive role whether he starts or comes off the bench, although the latter seems more likely since he’s not a natural point guard.

Coby White showed improvement as a shooter last season, hitting 38% of his triples. However, it’s no secret that his name has been in the rumor mill and the Bulls hardly mentioned him at media day.

With that said, I think Ayo is the dark horse to start after showing some serious promise during his rookie season. In 40 starts, Ayo put up 10.9 points, 5.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.1 triples and 1.1 steals and was one of the best perimeter defenders on the team. Zach LaVine went out of his way to hype up Dosunmu at media day as well, so you have to love his chances of running away with the job.

Anthony Davis says his goal is to play in all 82 games

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Anthony Davis played 40 games last season, and 36 the season before that. Charles Barkley has nicknamed him “street clothes.”

In a critical season for him and the Lakers, the biggest question with Anthony Davis is not his skill set and if he can be elite, but how much can the Lakers trust him to be on the court? Davis said on media day his goal is to play all 82 games (speaking to Spectrum Sportsnet, the Lakers station in Los Angeles).

A full 82 may be optimistic, but Davis saw last season as a fluke.

“Last season, I had two injuries that you can’t really control. I mean, a guy fell into my knee, landed on the foot,” Davis said earlier at media day. “And the good thing for me is that the doctors after they looked at us, they could have been, like 10 times worse.”

Davis talked about his workout regimen, getting his body both rested and stronger for this long season, knowing more will be asked of him. New coach Darvin Ham wants to run more of the offense through Davis, but all the Lakers’ plans are moot if Davis and LeBron James are not healthy and on the court for at least 65 games this season.

“The focus of my game is being available…” LeBron said Monday. “Availability is the most important thing in his league and to be able to be available on the floor.”

Ham has to walk a line of pushing this team to defend better, show a toughness it lacked last season, and make the playoffs in a deep West while keeping his stars’ minutes under control. In a league all about recovery, the Lakers need to prioritize that, too.

“Just being efficient with how we practice, how we manage shootarounds, how we manage their minutes,” Ham said Monday. “I don’t need ‘Bron or Ad playing playoff minutes in October, November, December.”

It’s the first days of training camp, everyone is feeling good, everyone is rested, and everyone is optimistic. The real tests for the Lakers and Davis start in a few weeks — and just how much will the Lakers’ stars play.

Report: Celtics reach out to former assistant Larranaga about joining Mazzulla’s staff

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The Boston Celtics are reportedly looking for a veteran assistant to put on the bench next to 34-year-old Joe Mazzulla, the man thrust into the head coach’s chair for a title contender in the wake of Ime Udoka’s suspension.

Who better than a guy who spent nine years on the Celtics’ bench? Boston reached out to Jay Larranaga, currently on the Clippers bench, about returning to the East Coast, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Clippers had no turnover on Tyronn Lue’s staff heading into this season. Mazzulla has become a trusted member of the Clippers staff, working a lot with the big me on the roster. However, if the Celtics back up the Brink’s Truck, the Clippers will not stand in his way if he wants to leave. It’s a question of comfort level, lifestyle, and of course money for Larranaga.

The Celtics made Mazzulla their interim head coach after an investigation found a “volume of violations” of team policy by Udoka, who had an improper relationship with a team staff member. So far the Celtics and Udoka have been able to keep the details of what happened under wraps, but league sources described the situation to NBC Sports as “ugly” and “messy,” especially if/when those details do find their way to the public.

For Celtics players, just getting back on the court, practicing Tuesday and focusing on basketball — not the turmoil around the franchise — was a good thing.

“Once we got out on the court, it was just nice to get back out the court and review our defense and to talk about offense and doing what we do,” Al Horford told the Associated Press. “It’s a good thing to just play basketball. That’s what we’re here for. It’s important to just start this thing back up again.”

Getting another coach on the bench will be important for the Celtics as well.