VIDEO: Highlights from Wednesday’s games
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Durant: Thunder ‘fooling ourselves’ about being great team — The Oklahoma City Thunder have the fourth-best winning percentage in the NBA and are steamrolling their way to another Northwest Division title. Yet, something is lacking with this crew — especially when the stakes are raised and they play a top-level opponent. Last night, OKC blew a 17-point lead en route to a 103-98 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and afterward, Thunder star Kevin Durant did not mince words about what he thinks of his team. Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com has more:
There’s an identity crisis in Oklahoma City.
“We want to be a great team, we’re fooling ourselves,” Kevin Durant, arms resting on his thighs and looking at the ground after his team blew a 22-point lead and lost to the Clippers Wednesday. “If we want to be a great team the way we’re playing, we’re fooling ourselves. We want to win a bunch of games in the regular season, that’s cool, but we’re fooling ourselves with the way we’re playing.”
There was a lot of soul searching after the game as the Thunder kept the locker room closed after the game for longer than normal; and then their stars took their time to gather themselves before addressing the media. It’s to be expected in what is the latest in the line of “worst loss of the season” games for the Thunder.
“What kind of team do we want to be?” Thunder coach Billy Donovan asked. “Because to (win) is going to require a level of sacrifice from every player. I think this is something where you see in the first half what a team like this is capable of, and then can you sustain it? Can you keep playing that way? They do it for long stretches, but then we have these lapses.”
The Thunder have lost five-of-seven since the All-Star break, including a couple of heartbreaking come-from-ahead losses. Don’t sell this to Durant as a wake-up call for the team.
“We’ve already lost too many games we’re supposed to win. We can’t just keep talking about wake-up calls,” said Durant, who had 30 points on 27 shots in the game. “We’ve got 20 games left or whatever it is. We can’t have no wake-up calls at the end of the season. We’re supposed to had those. We’ve got to be locked in from the beginning, from shootaround.”
“I’ve said this before, the best thing for this team is adversity,” Donovan said. “We need adversity. It doesn’t need to be easy, in my opinion…. Now here is an adverse situation, what do we do with this in terms of going forward? When we get leads like this, can we sustain playing the right way on offense and defense?”
VIDEO: Clippers storm back to overtake Thunder
After missing 20 games last season and undergoing offseason surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left ankle, Taj Gibson set a goal to play all 82 games this season.
That goal ended Wednesday night when Gibson sat with the right hamstring injury that knocked him out early from Tuesday’s loss in Miami. Gibson, who twice has played all 82 games, had been the only Bull not to miss action this season.
Team physician Brian Cole, in Orlando for a medical conference, examined Gibson during Wednesday’s game and determined Gibson is day-to-day with a mild strain.
“I don’t think I should be out long,” Gibson said before the Magic beat the Bulls 102-89. “I was scared at first because it never had happened to me before.”
Gibson said he had been dealing with soreness for a month.
Coach Fred Hoiberg talked to Jimmy Butler after his third straight day of workouts in Chicago and said the two-time All-Star is on track to practice Friday. Barring a setback, he’s expected to return Saturday or Monday from the left knee injury he suffered on Feb. 5
“He had a great workout (Wednesday),” Hoiberg said. “It’s still too early to tell if he’ll play Saturday but he’s definitely making progress.”
No. 3: Troublesome shoulder bothering Bryant — The Kobe Bryant retirement tour has — hard to believe — just 20 games left. Bryant is in the midst of one of his worst seasons stats-wise, but he often suits up if for no other reason than for fans to see him one last time, perhaps. He left last night’s farewell visit in Denver with soreness in his right shoulder — the same shoulder that caused him to miss much of the past few seasons. ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes has more on Kobe’s injury and how it will affect him going forward:
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant played just 11 minutes in Wednesday’s 117-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets before leaving with a sore right shoulder, the same injury that had sidelined him in the Lakers’ previous two games and has bothered him all season.
Bryant scored five points on 1-of-2 shooting from the field to go along with two rebounds and an assist in his final game against the Nuggets, but the shoulder remains an issue.
“It’s really, really achy,” Bryant said after the game. “[I’ve] got a little bit of clicking in it and things like that. Just try to stay on top of it right now.”
“It’s the same as it’s always been,” Bryant said of managing his shoulder. “A lot of patience and trying to stay with it and try to stay on top of it. Not really much you can do.”
Asked if he would consider shutting himself down for a brief period to heal the shoulder, Bryant said, “I can’t do that. There’s like [20 games] left in the season. As much as I can get out there and play, I’ll get out there and play. At Staples [Center], I’m going to have to start ramping it up a little bit and getting out there and playing. It’s almost a wrap.
“At the same time, I don’t want to do something towards the end and have the shoulder pop out again, and then I’m on the surgery table again or something like that. I don’t want that to happen. So we’ve just got to be smart, but I’ll still appreciate the time that I have left.”
No. 4: Gentry says Pelicans’ playoff hopes are over — After last night’s loss to the Houston Rockets, the New Orleans Pelicans are 23-36, six games out of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference (which Houston holds). With 23 games left in their season, the Pelicans still have time to make a push for the playoffs — but it won’t be easy and there’s little room for error. To Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, though, the chase is done for and he said as much after last night’s loss, writes John Reid of The Times-Picayune:
New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry spoke for just 44 seconds after Wednesday night’s 100-95 loss to the Houston Rockets, enough time to say that his struggling team’s longshot playoff hopes are done.
”We come out here after every game and we talk about that we’re still in the playoff race, ‘No we’re not, Ok,”’ Gentry told reporters after the game.
”What we are is a team that when we have an opportunity to do something, we didn’t get it done. So that is the bottom line.”
But the loss dropped New Orleans’ record to 23-36, which is just one loss away from matching last season’s entire total when they fared 45-37 and made the postseason for the first time since 2011.
”We turned the ball over and didn’t give ourselves a chance to get back on defense and get some stops,” Pelicans guard Norris Cole said. ”You can’t have turnovers like that, and we have to give our defense a chance to get set. Houston made more plays down the stretch than we did.”
The Pelicans turned the ball over 23 times, five came in the fourth quarter. New Orleans has lost two straight and they face the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday at the Smoothie King Center.
”We’re up six points and we turn the ball over three-straight times, you can’t do that and win on the road,” Gentry said. ”It’s that simple.”
VIDEO: Norris Cole talks after New Orleans’ loss to Houston
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