NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Duncan still getting it done for Spurs — Kobe Bryant isn’t the only NBA silver fox still getting it done. Tim Duncan’s got a few tricks left his bag, too. His triple-double helped lift the Spurs in a huge road win against Memphis on Friday. Did someone say old man River Walk … ? The Spurs aren’t going anywhere as long as Duncan can still do things like this. Dan McCarney of the Express News puts it all in context:
The Spurs overcame several shaky moments and the loss of Tony Parker to a mild hamstring strain to outlast Memphis at FedEx Forum behind Tim Duncan’s triple double.
Duncan had his first triple-double since 2010 and fourth overall — eighth including playoffs — with 14 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. He is the second-oldest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, trailing only Karl Malone’s at 40 with the Lakers in 2003.
The Spurs (14-5) never trailed as they took a big early lead and then repeatedly held Memphis (15-4) off down the stretch. They did so in large part to a season-high 14 3-pointers, which helped the Spurs manage an early turnover spate and, of course, Parker’s departure.
Parker left in the second half after scoring 14 points. His availability for Saturday’s home game against Minnesota was not immediately known.
Cory Joseph picked up the slack with 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, while Manu Ginobili had one of his best games of the season with 17 points, six rebounds, seven assists and five 3-pointers. Danny Green added 16.
It was Memphis’ first home loss since February of last season, a span of 22 games. The Spurs have now won 15 of the past 17 meetings, including the postseason, since Memphis’ upset in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.
No. 2: Cavaliers overcome all obstacles to win sixth straight — Nothing was going to keep the Cleveland Cavaliers from a sixth straight win. Not the Toronto Raptors, rush hour traffic in Toronto, a star-studded crew in town for a tribute to Nelson Mandela or any other obstacles standing in the way of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the hottest team in the Eastern Conference … right now. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group explains:
Kyrie Irving said legs were a little tired. James Jones said there was some fatigue.
The Cavaliers went to the buzzer with the New York Knicks the night before, escaping with a road win. The Toronto Raptors were waiting at home for the Cavaliers, having not played since Wednesday.
Cleveland experienced complications getting out of New York and arriving in Toronto in a timely fashion. The team landed on Canadian soil at approximately 3:30 a.m. It took another 45 minutes to an hour for them to make it to their hotel.
On back-to-backs, there are no shootaround sessions, but there was a pregame team walk-through centered on how to stop the Raptors, the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Most of the players said securing an eight-hour sleep day was virtually impossible. The Raptors looked to be in good shape.
“It’s only tough if you make excuses about it,” the Cavs’ LeBron James said.
No. 3: Thunder playoff chase is on with full cast — Even if takes Russell Westbrook doing the heavy lifting by his lonesome for a few more games, the Thunder’s playoff chase is on. And that means every win counts, even the ones over a bad 1-18 Philadelphia team, each and every win matters. Kevin Durant struggled in his second game back but Westbrook took matters into his own hands and led the way, with a huge boost from the bench, to help the Thunder get a must-win in their effort to climb the charts. Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman has more:
Against the Sixers, Durant looked rusty and the Thunder played extremely sloppy. But overall, OKC brought the required energy. It played with a desperate attitude at the right times. And against hapless Philly, that was about all that was necessary for a 103-91 victory, improving the Thunder to 6-13 on the season and dropping the Sixers to 1-18.
“Today was the first win,” Durant said, as if confident it could be the start of a needed hot streak.
OKC, though, got it despite Durant’s lowest scoring output since April 2009.
After dropping in a three on the game’s first possession, the four-time scoring champ went ice cold. He made only three of his 11 shots in 29 underwhelming minutes, looking sluggish on defense and committing a pair of strange turnovers. He was out of rhythm and, following suit, his team looked a bit out of sync.
But the Thunder got another strong effort from its improving bench and an energy boost from the energizer bunny.
With the Sixers threatening the Thunder’s lead throughout the second half, Russell Westbrook shouldered the load. Sensing the struggles of his superstar running mate, Westbrook made it a point to take over offensively.
In the third quarter alone, Westbrook scored 11 of his game-high 27 points – putting his head down and getting to the rim on numerous occasions. He had 14 free throws in the game and 10 in the second half.
“Just trying to attack, man,” Westbrook said.
His mid-game attitude change seemed to coincide with a back-and-forth trash-talking battle with second-year Sixers guard Michael Carter-Williams. The two chirped at each other in a similar way during a game in OKC last season. Then Westbrook went on to drop a triple-double in an easy win.
Carter-Williams came at Westbrook again on Friday. And the results weren’t much better.
“That just added a little bit more fuel to the fire,” Durant warned. “Young dudes in this league tend to bark a lot. I think (Russ) put him in his place, let him know who the best point guard in the league is.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Magic Johnson agrees with LeBron, it’s time for pro athletes to speak up … … Kobe swears he wasn’t recruiting Rajon Rondo, they were just talking hoops … John Starks, yes John Starks, says it’s time for better execution for the Knicks …
ICYMI of the Night: The old man gets his revenge in Smitty’s Top 5 Plays Under The Rim. Andre Miller in the house, as they used to say back in his day …