Archive for May 27th, 2012

manu ginobili

It’s a catchphrase likely coming soon to fan T-shirts, Internet memes and the lexicon of the NBA playoffs for the foreseeable future.

”I want some nasty!”

Gregg Popovich didn’t just coin it. He snarled it, and the way his San Antonio Spurs obliged has the Western Conference finals off to a thrilling start.

Manu Ginobili scored 26 points and the Spurs won their 19th in a row - tying the NBA record for longest winning streak kept alive in the playoffs - by rallying in the fourth quarter on the orders of their furious coach to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-98 in Game 1 on Sunday night.

It was a tantalizing near-upset for the young Thunder, who came as close as anybody to beating the Spurs for the first time in 46 days. But a nine-point lead didn’t last after the famously mercurial 63-year-old Popovich - the NBA’s Coach of the Year - huddled his lagging team together in the fourth and told them to ”get nasty.” …

kevin durant

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 27 points. Russell Westbrook had 17, and insisted he was OK after taking a spill that was nasty in its own right - face first, bracing his fall with his hands and sitting under the basket for more than a minute while the entire Thunder bench walked across the court to check on their All-Star point guard…

After being held to just 16 third-quarter points, San Antonio scored 39 in the fourth. Westbrook chalked it up to a defensive breakdown that ”got out of hand” but it still left the Thunder in search of the road win they’ll need to in this series to reach the NBA finals for the first time since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2009…

The Spurs matched the fourth-longest streak in NBA history, and with one more will become just the fourth team to surpass 20. Tim Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Tony Parker shook off a dismal start to finish with 18 points…

On the other end, Oklahoma City’s own Big Three struggled to find its shot early before awakening in the second half. Durant, Westbrook and James Harden at one point through the second quarter were 5 of 21 - a typically ominous stat line for a trio that had been responsible for nearly 70 percent of Oklahoma City’s points through the playoffs so far…

Gary Neal added 12 points and was the only other Spurs player in double figures.

– Reported by Paul J. Weber of the Associated Press

Two classic Ginobili drives in the final 1:57 essentially finished off OKC. The capper, in which he split a pair of defenders before finding the rim, put the Spurs up 96-89 with 1:11 to go.

“That’s Manu’s game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s somebody we depend on to create and make things happen.”

Tony Parker added 18 points, six assists and a season-high eight rebounds, while Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the postseason.

Harder-earned than most, the victory gave the Spurs claim to one of the fourth-longest winning streaks in NBA history.

Heading into the fourth quarter, with the Thunder up nine and rolling, that streak seemed on life support.

OKC already had forced 14 first-half turnovers, undermining any chance the Spurs had of generating offense, and Kevin Durant was heating up on his way to 27 points and 10 boards.

– Reported by Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News

james harden

Prior to James Harden’s back-to-back but too-little-too-late 3-pointers in the final four seconds, the Thunder went just 5-of-14 in the fourth quarter. The reason was a heavy dose of one-on-one offense. The Thunder ran few sets and seemingly spent the first 15 seconds of the shot clock on every trip getting the ball up the court and trying to force feed it to Kevin Durant, who Spurs forward Stephen Jackson crowded in crunch time to prevent clean catches.

“We stopped moving the ball,” Harden said. “In that third quarter, we did a great job of moving the ball and getting their defense to move a little bit by hitting wide open shots and wide open layups. In the fourth quarter, we kind of slowed that down and they got a couple of easy transition buckets.”

To this point, the Thunder had been excellent this postseason at closing games. Oklahoma City came in 4-1 in games decided by three points or less and 5-1 in games decided by six points or less. The Thunder has battled back from seven-point, fourth-quarter deficits twice in these playoffs, as well as two other 13-point, fourth-quarter deficits.

– Reported by Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman

Stephen Jackson happy to be with Spurs

stephen jackson

Games like tonight’s matchup with Oklahoma City are why Jackson said he’s happy to be back in San Antonio.

“To be able to win another championship, to play great basketball and to be in the postseason is something that I love,” Jackson said. “I get up for that. This is an organization that’s always first-class and always has a chance to be in the post season, so I was excited to come back.”

But Jackson said he’s in a different role with this team than in 2003, when he was a starting forward and averaged 12.6 points per game during the playoffs. That evolution gives this playoff run a decidely different feeling than the previous one.

– Reported by Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News

The Orlando Magic have built their playing rotation in recent years mostly through expensive free-agent signings and costly trades. The results have been mixed. Although the Magic are a perennial playoff participant, and even reached the NBA Finals in 2009, the franchise also has accumulated one of the league’s highest player payrolls.

The Magic appear determined to construct their roster more efficiently in the future. In their search for someone to head their basketball operations department, the team seems to be focusing on executives from small- and mid-market franchises that have built top-notch rosters through the draft.

The Magic expect to interview San Antonio Spurs executive Dennis Lindsey and Oklahoma City Thunder executives Troy Weaver and Rob Hennigan to replace Otis Smith, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Lindsey, the Spurs’ vice president/assistant general manager under team president R.C. Buford, is in his fifth season with San Antonio after spending 11 seasons with the Houston Rockets.

– Reported by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel

The Spurs step onto the Western Conference Finals stage Sunday night feeling a little like Dr. Frankenstein.

The Spurs helped create the monster that wants to devour them.

From Sam Presti’s roots in San Antonio to the civic-minded ownership group of both franchises; from the lottery luck of Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant to the international draft success of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Serge Ibaka; from the fiscal responsibility demanded of a small market to a left-handed sixth man magician, the Thunder mirrors the Spurs in so many ways.

But consider the blueprint a partial payment for services rendered. Long before the NBA was anything but a gleam in Oklahoma City’s eye, OKC helped the Spurs become the stately Spurs.

Thunder chairman Clay Bennett sits on the NBA board of governors. The Thunder is not his first NBA rodeo.

– Reported by Berry Tramel of the San Antonio Express-News

luol deng

Chris Spice, performance director for British Basketball, accused the Bulls of pressuring Deng to withdraw from his Olympic commitment because of his wrist injury. Spice’s statement also decried the NBA’s lack of support.

NBA and Bulls officials declined to respond.

“Luol Deng is hugely committed to the British Basketball program and he has maintained this stance despite recent pressure for him not to play after injuring his wrist during the highly-demanding shortened NBA season,” Spice’s statement said. “We admire and support his stance. Luol is a true professional and manages his body extremely well as shown by the high amount of minutes he was able to play for his club after sustaining the injury in January.”

The collective bargaining agreement prohibits the Bulls from preventing Deng to play.

– Reported by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who also is chairman of the NBA Board of Governors, has been watching his league’s playoffs closely.

“I don’t think there’s a clear champion, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

It also means Taylor expects his Wolves to be in the playoffs next season.

“We have the players to do it,” he said. “We were close this season.”

Taylor also said his team is “going to try” the free-agent market.

– Reported by Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press

President and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf said Saturday the team would explore leaving their suburban practice facility for a downtown building, which sources indicated would be near the United Center. Reinsdorf said discussions on the subject have taken place recently with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who supports the project.

“We’re intrigued by the idea,” Reinsdorf said. “We’re happy at the Berto Center, but it’s something we’re going to take a look at for our players. Eliminating their commute could be a good thing.”

Reinsdorf said if the move happens, it wouldn’t be for the 2012-13 season and could take up to two seasons for planning and construction.

– Reported by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune

rajon rondo

Rajon Rondo helped his aging teammates keep their season going Saturday night, finishing with 18 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in Game 7 against the 76ers to lead Boston to an 85-75 victory and into an Eastern Conference finals matchup with the Miami Heat.

The Celtics will open the third round of the NBA playoffs in Miami on Monday night…

Bouncing back from his worst game of the playoffs - and snapping out of a 32-minute slump in which he had just two assists and five points - Rondo scored nine straight Boston points after Paul Pierce fouled out to help the Celtics turn a three-point edge into a double-digit lead…

Rondo had 11 points in the fourth quarter, including his first 3-pointer in five games, made all four of his free throws down the stretch and grabbed his 10th rebound in the final minute - chucking it over his head and into the frontcourt to help the Celtics dribble down the clock…

andre iguodala

Andre Iguodala scored 18 points, and Holiday and Elton Brand had 15 apiece for the 76ers, who eliminated the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round but couldn’t do the same with the Celtics…

Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Boston, and Ray Allen hit a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers after missing his first five attempts…

The Celtics missed their first 14 attempts from 3-point range and made their last three.

– Reported by Jimmy Golen of the Associated Press

The Celtics led by as many as 11 points early in the second half. But the Sixers rallied and had a chance to regain the lead as Andre Iguodala missed two free throws late in the third quarter.

And the Sixers were within a point early in the fourth quarter before Garnett hit a jumper and Allen broke a 1-for-9 slump with a 3-pointer. And, though the Sixers seemed capable of rallying, as they had throughout this series, they never got closer than 3 points again.

“Defensively, it was a beautiful game for us,’’ Rivers said. “We took away the paint, the way we hadn’t before [in Game 6]. We got out to the 3-point line - they made some, but overall it was pretty good.’’

The Sixers regained hope after Pierce’s straight-on banker made it 71-65 with 4:54 remaining. Iguodala made a 3-pointer and Pierce fouled out after being was whistled for a charge against Thaddeus Young.

Then Rondo began taking over.

– Reported by Frank Dell’Apa of the Boston Globe

Ray Allen grunted and groaned his way to only 11 points, and at one point early in the fourth quarter his stats were appallingly bad — as in 1-for-9 from the floor, and 0-for-5 on 3-point attempts.

With 9:51 remaining, the outcome was, as they say, very much in doubt. The Celts were clinging to a 57-54 lead in this historic slopfest of a game, each team performing as if they’d just as soon see the other guys advance to the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.

That’s when Ray Allen, he of the bone spur in his ankle the size of the Lowell Connector, finally hit on a shot — a 3-point shot no less, increasing the Celtics’ lead to 60-54.

It’s not like that one shot put the game away. The Sixers would soon get back to within three points and were still in the fight with less than five minutes to go. But the very idea that Allen could make a shot — on that bum leg — was surely an encouraging sign.

– Reported by Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald

Whatever was planned worked better as the Sixers were able to forge ahead by 20-19 late in the quarter despite shooting 6 for 20 and committing three turnovers. They also seemed to be in a good spot as Rondo was strapped to the bench with a pair of fouls.

The Sixers, though, found no better success at the offensive end in the second quarter, missing 13 of their 18 shots and giving the ball away five more times. The turnovers gave the Celtics run-outs, and uncharacteristically the Sixers were outscored on fastbreak points by 13-2 in the first half.

The Sixers made a big comeback in the third quarter until Iguodala missed those two free throws.

Iguodala scored 18 points, while Elton Brand and Holiday each scored 15 for the Sixers.

And now the offseason, which is sure to be a busy one, begins for Philadelphia.

– Reported by Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News

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