Russell Westbrook, Paul George lead Thunder rout of stumbling Warriors

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Paul George and Russell Westbrook ran Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors right off the floor from the opening tip.

Westbrook had 34 points, nine rebounds and nine assists to get the better of old buddy and teammate Durant, George scored 38 points, and the Oklahoma City Thunder embarrassed the defending champions 125-105 on Tuesday night to snap a four-game losing streak.

Durant scored 33 points but didn’t get as much help from the cold-shooting Splash Brothers of Curry and Klay Thompson, who added 21 and 12 points, respectively. They combined to go 11 of 27 from the floor and 4 for 15 on 3-pointers as the Warriors lost for the third time in four games. They lost their tempers, too – as in five technicals total.

Draymond Green was ejected with 8:13 remaining after a second technical when he argued with the officials.

The sellout crowd went crazy when Durant was called for a foul with 1:35 remaining in the third and replays show that Westbrook had clearly slipped and no contact was made. Warriors owner Joe Lacob tossed his jacket in disgust.

“We were way worse than the officials were,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We got completely outplayed.”

By the 6:32 mark of the fourth quarter and the blowout still in force, fans began leaving the building.

Westbrook shot 13 for 26 and George went 11 of 23 with six 3-pointers.

Carmelo Anthony sprained his right ankle early in the game, but Oklahoma City never slowed down in ending a seven-game skid at Oracle Arena with its first win on the Warriors’ home floor since a 116-97 victory on April 11, 2013.

Westbrook scored 21 points in the first quarter, making nine of his first 10 shots as the Thunder led 42-30. They never trailed.

Golden State had been 11-0 following a loss this season. The Warriors also lost for the first time in seven games when taking on an opponent that had previously beaten them this season, with the Thunder having won 108-91 at OKC on Nov. 22.

This could be a win that turns momentum for Billy Donovan’s Thunder, who had dropped four of five since losing defensive star Andre Roberson to a season-ending ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee.

Durant scored eight straight against his old team during one first-quarter stretch.

Oklahoma City, which allowed 13 3-pointers in losing at home to the Lakers on Sunday, limited the Warriors to 8 for 28 from deep.

“It didn’t feel like us, that’s for sure,” Kerr said. “We’re out of whack right now. We’re just not playing the way we normally do in terms of the ball movement, the pace and the spacing. And our defense has not been good either. It’s been a struggle.”

Green was hit with the Warriors’ third technical of the night at the end of the first half and had to be held back from officials. Meanwhile, Westbrook went down beneath the Thunder basket after crashing into the stanchion.

 

Suns’ GM says there is “overwhelming likelihood” team keeps No. 1 pick

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It takes a rare kind of courage, an extraordinary level of organizational backing, and a special kind of draft to do what Danny Ainge did a year ago trading the No. 1 pick. While a consensus had formed around Markelle Fultz as the best player in the draft, Ainge was a Jayson Tatum guy. Doubts about the top pick are common, but that alone is far from enough to trade that pick away — most GMs don’t have the job security to know if they miss on moving the pick and sliding down they will not be let go. Ainge had that, and he had his confidence in his scouting, so he made the move to trade the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia. (While it looks good now for Ainge, it’s too early to judge how that pick plays out — Fultz has barely played, we don’t know what extra pick the Celtics will get out of this, it takes time to fully judge these kinds of moves.)

This year is different. DeAndre Ayton is more of a clear No. 1, a guy with franchise changing potential. Plus Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough may not be standing on the kind of bedrock that allows for the trade of a No. 1 pick.

Recently McDonough said he’d listen to trade offers for the pick. That’s very different from trading it, as Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic had the GM saying Friday.

Because they should do their due diligence, the Suns will look at Luka Doncic (who does have a relationship with new coach Igor Kokoskov) and Marvin Bagley III, among others. Rumors may leak, spun by agents or other teams. However, at the end of the day, good luck finding anyone around the league who thinks Phoenix will not take Ayton — who attended college in Arizona — to be the inside to Devin Booker‘s outside. It’s the smart play.

Kokoskov and the Suns have a lot of work to do to build a foundation for success with this franchise. However, that almost never starts by trading away the top pick in the draft.

Rumor: Paul George’s agent telling people client will re-sign with Thunder

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That rumor Paul George will leave the Thunder?

How about the exact opposite?

Dean Blevins of News 9:

Allegedly, apparently, Paul George plans to stay with the Thunder. I know. It’s not what people believe. But in separate conversations, I’m told P.G.’s agent has told people associated with the NBA that P.G. believes the injury loss of Andre Roberson was huge and he’s staying. Disclaimer, though: Believing everything that agents allegedly say can be dangerous to your health.

This, by Blevins’ own admission, isn’t the staunchest reporting. Nonetheless, I appreciate him sharing and contextualizing it. We can evaluate it for what it’s worth.

George is known to share his plans – though the previous example was him planning to sign with the Lakers. And he might have really believed it at the time, when he was still with the Pacers.

But throughout the season, George seemingly went out of his way to profess his affection for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder. That only raised expectations in Oklahoma City of George staying, and if he leaves after doing that, he’d be inviting even more backlash. I think he’s smart enough to understand that, which is why I thought he made those especially strong pro-Thunder comments only after deciding he’d likely stay.

On the other hand, even if my assessment was correct, conditions change. The Jazz brutally exposed Oklahoma City’s flaws, and if George re-signs and Anthony opts in, the Thunder will have minimal cap flexibility to upgrade the roster. In fact, they might take a step back with the supporting cast to keep the luxury-tax bill manageable. George could see free agency as his chance to escape that mess.

Roberson was a huge loss, and if George is focused on that, that would bode well for Oklahoma City. Though Roberson was just a role player, he was pivotal to the Thunder’s defense. And his teammates had learned how to play around his offensive shortcomings. Oklahoma City didn’t have any good replacements for him on the roster. Roberson getting healthy is the clearest way for the Thunder to improve next season.

Of course, that’s predicated on George returning, too. Will he?

One last note of caution: People often believe what they want to hear. It’s easy to see someone in Oklahoma City hearing George bemoan the loss of Roberson and elevate that to George planning to re-sign, even George wasn’t going that far.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.