Kevin Durant outduels LeBron James in epic NBA Finals matchup

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LeBron James became the first player to average a triple-double in an NBA Finals. His Cavaliers were 36 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court than off against the Warriors, and he played 42 minutes per game.

Kevin Durant was even better.

The 2017 NBA Finals featured an all-time great individual battle between Durant and LeBron.

LeBron has used this time of year to fortify his argument as best player in the world. He was the best player in four of the previous five, maybe five of the last five, Finals. (He won three Finals MVPs, should’ve beaten Andre Iguodala in 2015 and was a tossup with Kawhi Leonard in 2014.)

But Durant was so good this year, he opened a legitimate debate about whether he’s better than LeBron right now. I honestly don’t know the answer. Durant’s superior supporting cast gave him and advantage, but he used it well enough to stake claim to the best-in-the-world moniker.

These were two superstars at or near the peaks of their power, engaged in intense competition.

Durant (30.4) and LeBron (29.4) posted average Game Scores in the Finals that combine to be far superior to any other Finals opponents in current postseason format.

Here are the top combined average Game Scores for Finals opponents since 1984 (as far back as Basketball-Reference records go):

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Michael Jordan-Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson-Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal-Allen Iverson – Durant-LeBron topped them all.

And Durant topped LeBron within the matchup. Making that even more incredible: This was LeBron’s best Finals average Game Score in the last six years.

Here’s LeBron (wine) vs. his top Finals opponent (blue) by Game Score:

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No Finals opponent fared better against LeBron in that span than Durant in 2012 with the Thunder. In the last few years, LeBron has kept pushing his statistical contributions higher and higher. Yet, Durant still made up all that ground.

LeBron’s Game Score this year probably inflated, because it doesn’t properly account for his for his lackluster defense, especially early in the series. Durant’s defense was awesome.

That’s why Durant won and deserved Finals MVP.

But even with its imperfections, Game Score tells a true story: Durant and LeBron were historically good in the 2017 NBA Finals, and Durant was just a little better.

Larry Nance Jr., Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier exchange shoves after whistle (video)

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Marcus Morris fouled Larry Nance Jr. in Celtics-Cavaliers Game 5 tonight. Nance didn’t like that, got up and shoved Morris. Morris and Terry Rozier didn’t like that, and both shoved Morris.

All three received a technical foul, which seems fair.

Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala questionable for Game 5

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Andre Iguodala missed the Warriors’ Game 4 loss to the Rockets with a leg injury.

It’s not certain he – or Klay Thompson, who played through a knee injury suffered in Game 4 – will be available for Game 5 tomorrow.

NBC Sports Bay Area:

Klay Thompson, who suffered a left knee strain during the first half of Game 4, is listed as questionable, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

Iguodala missed Game 4 with a left lateral leg contusion and is questionable for Game 5.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic:

Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Iguodala:

He’s feeling a little better today, and he’s out on the floor. Not doing a whole lot, but making progress.

Kerr on Thompson:

Klay is moving around really well. I think Klay is going to be fine.

That sounds better than “questionable” for Thompson.

The Warriors need one, maybe both, of those two on the court. Golden State’s depth, especially on the wing, is looking shaky.

In Game 4, Golden State outscored Houston by 20 in the 31 minutes Stephen Curry, Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green played together. In the in the 17 minutes they played without even one of those stars, the Warriors got outscored by 23. Nick Young, who received more playing time when Thompson left the court area due to his injury, looked particularly overwhelmed.

James Harden‘s defense is a huge bellwether in this series. The Warriors spend a lot of focus trying to exploit him, and if that fails, the shot clock gets low before they move into another action. If Thompson is even just slowed, that’d make it easier for Harden to keep up.

Milwaukee releases video of police tasing and arresting Bucks guard Sterling Brown

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Bucks guard Sterling Brown was tased and arrestedbut not charged – over a parking violation in January.

As promised, Milwaukee released video of the incident.

Ashley Luthern of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Brown:

Bucks statement:

The abuse and intimidation that Sterling experienced at the hands of Milwaukee Police was shameful and inexcusable. Sterling has our full support as he shares his story and takes action to provide accountability.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated case. It shouldn’t require an incident involving a professional athlete to draw attention to the fact that vulnerable people in our communities have experienced similar, and even worse, treatment.

We are grateful for the service of many good police officers that courageously protect us, our fans and our city, but racial biases and abuses of power must not be ignored.

There needs to be more accountability.

The Milwaukee Police Department and local officials have acknowledged the challenges they are working to address, and we urge them to enact higher standards and more direct accountability. We all want to be able to trust each and every officer serving to protect us.

Incidents like this remind us of the injustices that persist.  As an organization, we will support Sterling and build on our work with local leaders and organizations to foster safe neighborhoods and better our community.

The video isn’t jarring due to its unfortunate familiarity – particularly compared to the many videos we’ve seen of police brutality around the nation. The scene is far too familiar. Police escalate a situation and enact violence upon someone they encounter, disproportionately minorities.

The most shocking element of this incident is the response – how the police chief acknowledges his offers acted inappropriately and how STRONGLY the Bucks stand behind Brown. That is one sharply worded statement from the team.

Hopefully, this sparks change.

Joel Embiid: Aron Baynes (‘Man bun’) ‘in NBA just to get dunked on’

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During the second round of the NBA playoffs, Heat guard Goran Dragic slighted 76ers rookie Ben Simmons. That came after Philadelphia eliminated Miami in the first round.

The procession of disses continues with 76ers center Joel Embiid mocking Celtics center Aron Baynes during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday. Boston, of course, eliminated Philadelphia in the previous round.

Embiid:

Baynes has gotten dunked on a lot this year – including by Embiid in the playoffs. The two also got into it during their second-round series.

But Baynes has the big edge: He’s still playing.

Though Embiid would like to be in the playoffs, that’s not his only goal. He also wants attention. So, mission accomplished, I guess.