NEWS OF THE MORNING
Durant takes blame for Game 2 rout | Barkley hopes LeBron lands back in Cleveland | Report: Jazz to interview Gentry | Cavs already getting calls for No. 1 pick | Ibaka confirms he’s out for West finals
No. 1: Durant blames self for OKC’s Game 2 defeat — In a 35-point loss, it’s awful hard to pick out one player or one moment that led to such a landslide defeat. However, Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant was more than willing to shoulder the load for the loss, writes our Jeff Caplan, as Durant pin-pointed a sequence late in the second quarter that helped the San Antonio Spurs pick up momentum right before halftime. (Oh, and if you missed it somehow, the Spurs’ victory marked the 111th playoff win that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have been a part of, which set a new league record.)
The Thunder had to feel pretty good. Relatively speaking. No, they hadn’t shot it well and the offense remained a combination of two overburdened superstars and haphazard execution.But they had also stemmed another early San Antonio paint party and were getting enough hustle and grit from role players off the bench to survive Kevin Durant sitting out the first 5:42 of the second quarter, darn near a vacation for Mr. Inexhaustible during this postseason.
As the MVP checked back into the game between Tim Duncan free throws, the first tying it 36-36 and the second giving the Spurs back the lead, 37-36, the Thunder did have to like what was happening. They were hanging in, defending well enough that the Spurs, shooting under 40 percent, had to earn their looks.
Coming out of a timeout with 2:37 left in the half, San Antonio went up 47-42. Then the hurricane hit with a devastating wallop. First a Danny Green 3-pointer followed by a Boris Diaw reverse layup and then another quick-trigger Green 3 as Durant lunged, helplessly out of position to contest.
Suddenly it was 55-44 — an 8-2 explosion in 81 seconds.
Durant and Westbrook exchanged words heading to the bench for a timeout — leaders getting on one another, Westbrook explained, “what leaders do” — although it’s doubtful either could hear what the other had said.
The ascending roars inside AT&T Center reverberated off every seat in the house until the place felt as if it was going to blast off. For the Thunder it must have felt like the roof had caved in on them, leaving them stumbling through choking clouds of rubble. At least that’s how they played on the Spurs’ next possession.
First Diaw grabbed Ginobili’s missed layup. Then Ginobili snuck inside of Durant and rebounded Tony Parker‘s errant 3. Ginobili dribbled freely all the way out beyond the arc as if taking it back behind an imaginary line on his driveway, lined up a 27-footer and buried it with 33 seconds left in the half.
It was 58-44, a 22-8 burst being the precursor to a second consecutive blowout, 112-77.
“You can’t go from down 5 to 14, not in two minutes,” Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said.
“I messed the game up at the end of the second quarter,” Durant said. “I got hit on the screen and Danny Green got open for a 3. I overhelped and he got another 3, and then Ginobili hit the 3. All those plays was on me … We shouldn’t have been down that much at halftime, but I made three bonehead plays.”
No. 2: Barkley hopes LeBron heads back to Cavs — How the offseason will play out is anyone’s guess, but two things we know right now are the following: Miami Heat (and former Cleveland Cavaliers) star LeBron James can opt out of his deal this summer … and the Cleveland Cavaliers have the No. 1 pick in the 2014 Draft. There has been talk all season that the Heat’s ability — or inability — to three-peat this season as champs might lead to James leaving Miami and heading back to his first NBA home. The Cavs’ Draft perch seems to be greasing those wheels anew and one person who’d like to see LeBron head back to Ohio is TNT analyst Charles Barkley. of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more on Barkley, who made his comments during an ESPN Radio interview:
In the wake of the Cleveland Cavaliers yet again winning the NBA Draft lottery, the piling on has begun when it comes to speculation regarding Miami Heat forward LeBron James, who can become a free agent in the offseason.
That brought TNT analyst Charles Barkley up to bat during ESPN Radio’s SVP & Russillo show Wednesday.
“I’ve always thought he was going to go back to Cleveland,” Barkley said. “Nobody dislikes LeBron. I think LeBron made a huge mistake with that ‘Decision’ crap. He’s come back and since admitted that. That’s the only thing people hold against LeBron.
“He’s a great player, a great person. I hope he goes back to Cleveland. Those fans in Miami are not real fans, those fans in Cleveland are real fans. I’ve always hoped he would go back to Cleveland. That would be a great way to finish his career.”
No. 3: Report: Cavs, Jazz among teams pursuing Gentry — The Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers both parted ways with their coaches — Tyrone Corbin and Mike Brown, respectively — at season’s end. As both teams continue their search for a new coach, the same man may be near the top of both of their lists. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears, ex-Phoenix Suns, L.A. Clippers, Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat coach Alvin Gentry will interview with the Jazz soon and may do likewise with the Cavs, too:
Los Angeles Clippers associate head coach Alvin Gentry is expected to soon interview for the Utah Jazz’s head-coaching vacancy, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday to see predraft workouts. The Jazz have already interviewed Chicago Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin, but have been deliberate in their process to hire a new head coach.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have also contacted the Clippers about Gentry for their head-coaching vacancy, but an interview has not been set up, a source said. Gentry has ties to new Cavaliers general manager David Griffin when both worked for the Phoenix Suns.
Gentry is also receiving strong interest from the Golden State Warriors to be the associate head coach under new coach Steve Kerr. Gentry worked under Kerr when both were in Phoenix.
The Sacramento Kings have also contacted Gentry about their assistant coach position, a source said. Kings head coach Michael Malone never filled the position vacated by his father Brendan a week before last season.
No. 4: Cavs GM already getting calls for No. 1 pick – If you didn’t get a chance to watch it yet, be sure to check out GameTime’s interview with Cavs GM David Griffin after his team won the 2014 NBA Draft lottery on Wednesday night. He obviously doesn’t tip his hand as to whom Cleveland will take with the No. 1 choice, but it’s a good look into what may come next for him and the team. Among those options could be trading the No. 1 pick, of course, and according to ESPN.com, Griffin is already getting plenty of offers to do so:
David Griffin’s phone started buzzing immediately after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night.
And the calls weren’t all to offer congratulations.
The Cavaliers’ general manager says teams throughout the league already were contacting him about potential trades for the No. 1 pick, something he’ll think long and hard about leading into the June 26 draft.
“I actually got calls right afterward, while I was standing there doing media,” Griffin said Wednesday during an interview on ESPN Cleveland’s “The Really Big Show.” “Teams were already reaching out and texting, so I think it will be an active period of time.”
Griffin will be in charge this time and will have to choose between the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker. Sources told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that the 7-foot Embiid is the early front-runner for the top pick as long as his back is OK.
Then again, Griffin could trade the pick if he thinks it would serve the team best.
“I’ve said many times that I’d trade me if it made us better,” he told “The Really Big Show.”
“We’re going to be open-minded to whatever it is that advances our cause the furthest.”
No. 5: Ibaka confirms he’s out for West finals — Before Game 1 of the West finals, the San Antonio Spurs had their doubts that Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka would be out the entire series. After Game 1, rumors began to percolate that Ibaka might try to come back before the end of the series. But the man himself removed all doubt about his status for the series with a post on his blog yesterday, which you can read below:
As you all know, I suffered an injury in the sixth game of the Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Clippers. This means I am not able to play in the Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. It’s a difficult moment because this is the most important time of the year. All the work done during the summer and preparation during the season is focused on being ready and at your best when the Playoffs arrive, so it’s obviously disappointing not to be able to help my team on the court. But injuries are part of the game and the only way to go through this is to stay positive and try to be healthy as soon as possible.
All players and coaching staff feel the Thunder is a family, and I have no doubt my ‘family member’ will put in a great effort in this difficult series. We are all the Thunder and we take pride in staying together against adversity. I will watch and cheer for them as their brother and their fan. Also, a lot of people have shown me support the last few days and I feel very fortunate to have such amazing fans. Thank you!
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Sixers are open to trading picks in the Draft — of which they have many — but won’t do so to short circuit their rebuild plan … Ex-Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy met with the team to discuss their coaching vacancy … How could your favorite NBA team swing a deal for Kevin Love? … Rockets forward Francisco Garcia plans to opt out of his deal … Hawks expect Al Horford to be back in time for training camp … Charles Barkley wouldn’t be shocked to see LeBron James return to Cleveland … Ex-NBA center Shawn Bradley opened up to ESPN about what it’s like to be “posterized” so often during a career … Heat president Pat Riley has filed for a ‘3-peat’ trademark …
ICYMI of the Night: What’s the best part from this sequence early in Game 2 last night — the block, the no-look pass or the touch pass to Tim Duncan? …