Associated Press

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant lead Thunder past short-handed Spurs

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Thunder didn’t face the San Antonio Spurs’ biggest stars, but they’ll take the win.

Kevin Durant scored 31 points and Russell Westbrook added 29 to help the Thunder defeat the short-handed Spurs 111-92 on Saturday night.

It wasn’t the late-season showdown that was anticipated when the schedule first came out – the Spurs rested Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

The game also had little effect on the standings. San Antonio is likely to finish second in the Western Conference and the Thunder are virtually locked into third. But the Thunder, who won their seventh straight, said it was important to maintain momentum.

“Another opportunity for us to keep growing and building our habits,” Durant said. “It wasn’t on us that they didn’t play their starters. We just had to continue to play our game and do what we do.”

Enes Kanter had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Serge Ibaka added 15 points and eight rebounds for Oklahoma City.

David West and Jonathon Simmons each scored 17 points for the Spurs, who had won eight of nine. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he thought his team played hard, but didn’t have the talent available to keep up.

“They did what they were supposed to do in the end and they kicked our butt,” Popovich said. “We hung in there really well and did a good job. You learn from everything. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter.”

Westbrook scored 20 points in the first half to help the Thunder take a 48-44 lead into the break.

Data curated by PointAfter

Andre Roberson hit a 3-pointer, then Westbrook rebounded a missed free throw and found Steven Adams running down the middle of the lane for a dunk. Westbrook then set Ibaka up for a dunk to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 69-56.

Westbrook uncorked a powerful one-handed jam to bump Oklahoma City’s lead to 74-59 late in the third quarter. Durant scored nine points in the period to help the Thunder take an 83-63 edge into the fourth.

“I think it was that little spurt in the moment that we didn’t make stops, and they made tough shots, and at the same time, we didn’t score,” Spurs forward Boris Diaw said.

The Spurs didn’t want to make excuses.

“I mean, we are professional, so we are going to give the effort,” West said. “When you are down a few guys like we are in a game like this against a high-caliber opponent, you almost have to be mistake free to give yourself a chance.”

QUOTABLE

Durant on the Spurs’ 7-foot-3, 290-pound rookie center Boban Marjanovic, who had 13 points and six rebounds in his second start: “He can play. I like his game.”

STAT LINES

Aside from Kanter, the Thunder got just two points from their bench. Kyle Singler, Dion Waiters and Cameron Payne all went scoreless and Randy Foye finished with two points.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Committed just two turnovers in the first quarter and finished with 14. … Other than Danny Green, who has started all 71 games he has played this season, San Antonio’s starters entered the night with a combined 13 starts. … Shot just 38.6 percent in the first half. … Dropped to 14-1 on the second game of back-to-backs this season. … Diaw was called for a technical foul in the fourth quarter.

Thunder: Durant scored 20 or more points for the 58th straight game. … The score of Oklahoma’s 80-68 Elite Eight win over Oregon was shown on the big screen in the first quarter and drew a loud cheer. … Singler returned to action after missing three games with lower-back soreness. … Westbrook was called for a technical foul in the third quarter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

Report: Doc Rivers accepts deal to become Philadelphia 76ers head coach

Doc Rivers philadelphia
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
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Doc Rivers was not out of a job long.

Considered an elite coach and true leader of men — someone pushed out the door in Los Angeles by a frustrated owner in Steve Ballmer after the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead against the Nuggets — Doc Rivers has accepted a deal to become the new head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. It has since been confirmed by multiple sources.

Joel Embiid welcomed his new coach on Twitter.

This hiring was expected, and it came together fast. Rivers was let go by the Clippers on Monday and by Thursday had agreed to the deal with Philly.

Rivers will sign a five-year contract and will not have any front office responsibilities, according to multiple reports. However, Philadelphia was looking to add more voices underneath GM Elton Brand and Rivers comes out of a collaborative front office situation with a lot of voices having a say. Brand and Rivers instantly clicked, according to reports.

Rivers jumps from one franchise with expectations of contending for a title but having fit and chemistry issues on the roster, to another.

Doc Rivers needs to find an offensive system in Philadelphia where both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can thrive next to each other, along with Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and Al Horford in some capacity. There’s not much spacing or shooting there, which is why Shake Milton was getting a lot of run from former coach Brett Brown late in the season. That said, Harris played his best basketball in Los Angeles under Rivers and if he can find a way to better utilize players it will be a plus for Philly.

Roster tweaks would be coming, but with Rivers the idea will be finding a way to build around the stars they have in Embiid and Simmons. The plan is not to break everything up.

The buzz around the league is that Tyronn Lue will take the Clippers job, which leaves Mike D’Antoni looking at places such as Indiana and New Orleans.

Vince Carter wins NBA Sportsmanship Award

Hawks forward Vince Carter
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Vince Carter’s 22-year NBA career ended amid the chaos of coronavirus, preventing him from getting the deserved fanfare.

But fellow players will send Carter into retirement with the NBA Sportsmanship Award.

NBA release:

NBA players have selected Vince Carter as the recipient of the 2019-20 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the NBA announced today.

Carter, who spent the 2019-20 season with the Atlanta Hawks, announced his retirement from the NBA in June after playing a league-record 22 seasons.  He receives the Joe Dumars Trophy as the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award.  Dumars, a two-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, played 14 NBA seasons and won the inaugural Sportsmanship Award in the 1995-96 season.

Each NBA team nominated one of its players for the NBA Sportsmanship Award, which is designed to honor a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.  From the list of 30 team nominees, a panel of league executives selected one finalist from each of the NBA’s six divisions.  Current NBA players selected the winner from the list of six finalists, with more than 250 players submitting their votes through confidential balloting conducted by the league office.

Full voting (with first-, second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place votes and voting points):

1. Vince Carter (Hawks): 143-70-34-13-4-2-2,520

2. Garrett Temple (Nets): 22-78-63-52-25-26-1,746

3. Steven Adams (Thunder): 34-57-41-52-58-24-1,632

4. Harrison Barnes (Kings): 24-25-75-48-35-59-1,418

5. Langston Galloway (Pistons): 23-22-29-60-79-53-1,244

7. Tyus Jones (Grizzlies): 20-14-24-41-65-102-1,016

What a nice honor for Carter, who gracefully aged from high-profile star to veteran mentor.

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Heat:

This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.

 

Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.