OKC sends Kobe, Lakers home for the summer

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OKC sends Kobe, Lakers home for the summer

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- With the Oklahoma City Thunder just starting to come to life, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant didn't need to take a break. They will have enough time to rest as they get ready for a second straight trip to the Western Conference finals. Westbrook scored 28 points, Durant added 25 points and 10 rebounds, and the two All-Stars skipped their usual rest periods to power the Thunder ahead in the second half for a 106-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the West semifinals on Monday night. "We know that's the most important time of the game, especially in a tight game," Durant said. "I think that we kept our composure throughout the fourth, and our poise and we made plays." Kobe Bryant scored 42 points for the Lakers and took the briefest of rest -- less than 2 minutes -- in the second half. It didn't even take that long for the game, and their season, to slip away. After getting eliminated by Los Angeles in 2010 and Dallas in 2011 before both of those teams went on to win it all, the Thunder knocked both out on their way to the West finals for the second straight year. The only other time the franchise made consecutive conference finals was from 1978-80, including Seattle's only NBA title in 1979. Once there, they'll face the top-seeded Spurs, the only team other than the Lakers or Mavs to win the West in the past 13 years and currently riding an 18-game winning streak. The series starts Sunday night in San Antonio. After Westbrook's pair of three-point plays fueled a 14-3 burst that put Oklahoma City ahead to stay late in the third quarter, Durant hit two 3-pointers as the Thunder scored the first 10 points of the fourth to push their lead to 93-77. Bryant was waiting to check in when Durant connected on his second 3-pointer, just 89 seconds into the fourth quarter. But by the time he got in, there was little he could do -- despite the 13th 40-point game of his playoff career. "That what we do. That's our rotations and that's the right rotation to make," Bryant said. "You have to trust that unit coming in there to hold the fort down." Lakers coach Mike Brown said he trusted that unit -- including starters Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum -- after it had turned a five-point deficit into a lead to start the second quarter. "I've got to be able to rest Kobe a few minutes here and there, and we didn't do a good job of handling it at that point in the game," Brown said, adding that he didn't keep Bryant out as long as he had planned. Westbrook went running to the scorer's table and pumped his fist in the air after his first energizing three-point play, when he was able to flip the ball in after Ramon Sessions fouled him on the fast break. "I just tried to throw it to the rim and luckily it went in. That kind of sparked us, and everybody else kept it going from there," Westbrook said. Westbrook converted another after banking in a jumper from the left side despite Sessions slapping him on the arm to make it 82-76 with 1:29 left in the third quarter. Durant extended the lead with a 3-pointer in the opening minute of the fourth and then hit another 32 seconds later -- just after Bryant had stepped to the scorer's table to check in after a brief rest. Bryant described it as "tough, to say the least." After blowing a fourth-quarter lead in Game 4, Bryant had called out forward Pau Gasol to be more aggressive -- much as he had with Gasol and Bynum before the Lakers faced elimination in Game 7 of the first round against Denver. Gasol came through with a monster game -- 23 points, 17 rebounds and six assists -- and Steve Blake scored a playoff career-best 19 points to save the Lakers that time. Bryant didn't get nearly as much help against the Thunder. Gasol took 14 shots, his most of the series, but made only five to finish with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Metta World Peace scored 11 and Bynum 10. James Harden added 17 points as Oklahoma City's bench outscored the Lakers' 35-5. The Thunder also had a 30-6 edge in fast-break scoring. The Lakers were outrebounded 51-35 and had only three offensive rebounds, two from Gasol and none from Bynum. "We're asking our bigs to do a lot but I know for sure we could have gotten more scoring from those two guys in the offensive rebounding category ... and we could have gotten more from our bench," Brown said. The Thunder got five of their first eight baskets on dunks and controlled the boards early on, grabbing 16 of the game's first 22 rebounds while keeping Los Angeles off the offensive glass for the first 11 minutes. Bryant had to create all of the offense, scoring 15 of the Lakers' first 19 points and getting all six of his baskets without the benefit of an assist. When others started chipping in, the Lakers went on a 16-7 run to go up 35-32 following Bynum's three-point play. Oklahoma City scored the next eight points, including Harden's fast-break dunk, before Bryant got past him for a pair of dunks of his own -- the first a driving, two-handed reverse jam and the second a two-handed alley-oop slam over Harden. But Bryant and World Peace both drew technical fouls as the Lakers lost their cool with 31.9 seconds left before halftime when World Peace was called for a flagrant foul against Thabo Sefolosha on a fast break. World Peace used his right hand to strip the ball from Sefolosha as he went up to the basket but then shoved him out of bounds with his left hand. Sefolosha hit both free throws and Durant capitalized on both shots from the technicals World Peace and Bryant got for arguing the flagrant call to put the Thunder 54-51 ahead at halftime despite shooting less than 40 percent. Notes: The Lakers had baskets just after the buzzer at the end of the second and third quarters that both got reviewed on instant replay. ... Westbrook got a technical foul for cursing at an official after a no-call midway through the first quarter. ... The Thunder's Nick Collison needed stitches to close a cut on the back of his head that he sustained during Game 4. ... Los Angeles is 10-3 when Bryant scores 40 points in the playoffs, losing both times he did it this season.

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Brooks addresses Wizards' effort following Wall's comments

Brooks addresses Wizards' effort following Wall's comments

Two days after his star point guard John Wall questioned the effort of his teammates on defense following a disappointing loss against the Orlando Magic, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks spoke at length about where his team stands at the moment and his efforts to right the ship. The 7-13 Wizards continue to complain about defense following games they feel they should have won, so how do they change that now that they have reached the quarter-mark of the season?

Brooks, as he has for much of this season, directed the blame towards himself.

"We aren't satisfied being 7-13. We feel like we gave a few games away and a couple of games probably didn't go our way," he said. "I'm disappointed where we are and I'm disappointed in myself in not being able to figure out how we can get better and play better and play consistently better."

On the subject of Wall and players speaking to and about their teammates, Brooks said that behind the scenes there have been no disagreements that he would classify as unusual or corrosive.

"I can tell you this that it hasn't happened. We're still together and trying to figure out ways to get consistent play and win games. The good thing about my job is that we have a bunch of good guys on the team. There's not one guy that comes to the court that I wish wasn't here. I think every coach has been in situations like that where you're not happy to be around certain players. But we don't have that here, we've got guys that work and guys that will continue to work. They are high-character guys," Brooks said. 

Brooks believes that in general honest communication is a positive thing, as long as the intentions generate from the right place.

"It's with all good teams. I've seen guys have conversations or guys have conversations with guys during games. If you don't do that, you don't care. It's important. All the great teams that have been in the history of this league have had guys that communicate during timeouts," Brooks explained. "Sometimes it's heated. Sometimes it's very heated and you have to be able to manage that. I call it coaching. We watch film and it's not about calling anybody out. It's facts, it's about how can we get better?"

The central premise of Wall's comments involved effort. He said, among other things: "to still be talking about playing hard, that's something that you should be able to do after just waking up."

Brooks has been harping similar messages involving focus on the defensive end. But he says it's not as simple as just telling players to try harder.

"It's the daily habits of doing it every day and it's pretty simple, but sometimes it takes longer than you want. I think right now, in my eyes, it's taking longer than I would like. But we're going to keep working, we're going to keep talking about it, we're going to keep watching it in the film sessions and we're going to keep practicing it on the court," Brooks said.

Brooks continued to say that the Wizards have the personnel to be better on the defensive end. They have two capable guards in Wall and Bradley Beal and others who provide value in rebounding and protecting the rim. They just haven't been able to put it all together and that is the frustrating part.

[RELATED: Film study: Wizards' defense on hiatus]

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Capitals call up Aaron Ness from Hershey

Capitals call up Aaron Ness from Hershey

The Washington Capitals have recalled defenseman Aaron Ness prior to the team's trip to Buffalo.

Ness, who has been played 17 games with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League this season, has scored the most goals among defensemen on the team (3) and is third in points (9).

The 2008 NHL second round draft pick, has played in 37 NHL games with both the New York Islanders and the Capitals. Last season, the 26-year old played in eight games for Washington and recorded two assists. 

Ness joins the team after Matt Niskanen's upper body injury, which has him missing the team's Sabres matchup on Friday.

MORE CAPS: Caps not pleased after overtime win vs. Boston