Spurs lose for the first time in, well, forever


Spurs lose for the first time in, well, forever

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The streak is over. The series may only be beginning. Kevin Durant scored 22 points, Thabo Sefolosha set playoff career-bests with 19 points and six steals, and the Oklahoma City Thunder snapped San Antonio's 20-game winning streak by beating the Spurs 102-82 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night. Oklahoma City closed its series deficit to 2-1 and will host Game 4 on Saturday night. "We never thought these guys had an advantage over us even though we had lost a few," Durant said. "It was just good that we took it to 2-1. We didn't want to go down 0-3." Sefolosha threw a wrench in the Spurs' well-oiled offense at the start, getting four steals in the first 3 minutes. The Spurs ended up committing a postseason-worst 21 turnovers and scoring their least points all season. San Antonio had been averaging 109.4 points during its month-and-a-half winning streak and had been held to double digits only twice. "We just played a good basketball game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We played with a lot of force, we played with good energy, but we played defensive-minded basketball. "That's who we are. That's how we win." Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson led the Spurs with 16 points apiece. Tim Duncan had 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting, taking 11 of San Antonio's first 25 shots as the offense went through the All-Star center instead of Parker. "They played like it was a closeout game, both offensively and defensively," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They were very active, physical, they moved the ball well on offense. They did all those things better than we did. They beat us good." The Spurs, who already set an NBA record for the longest winning streak carried over from the regular season into the playoffs, were trying to match the league mark for most wins to start the postseason. The Lakers won 11 straight to start the 1989 and 2001 playoffs, getting swept in the NBA finals the first time and winning it all the second. The Spurs hadn't lost since April 11 against the Lakers at home. "We are a prideful team. It's no fun being down 0-2. It's no fun," Brooks said. "But we weren't looking at the game thinking, Oh my gosh, we have a chance to be down 0-3.' We were looking at the game that we have a chance to be 1-2 after this game, and I give our guys a lot of credit. They believe in each other and they always play hard for each other." Parker and Duncan didn't play in the final 15 minutes, and Popovich pulled the plug after a series of three straight turnovers allowed the deficit to reach 23 points early in the fourth quarter. Sefolosha had a right-handed dunk off a lob pass from Russell Westbrook, who followed with his own two-handed jam on an alley-oop pass and Sefolosha followed with a reverse layup on another turnover-fueled fast-break chance to push the lead to 86-63 with 9:48 left. The Thunder put together another 9-0 run coinciding with Manu Ginobili coming out of the game, and featuring Serge Ibaka sticking his tongue out after nailing a jumper from the top of the key. Brooks soon followed suit and pulled his own front-line players with the game well in hand. "You're not going to beat this team by playing one-effort basketball," Brooks said. "You're going to have to have two, three, four, even five. And they make you do that because they pass the ball so well, they spread the floor so well." Popovich said the Thunder played harder and smarter than the Spurs. "They did definitely play with a lot more energy, a lot more passion than us tonight," said Parker, who committed five turnovers. The Spurs wiped out a 24-point deficit in Game 3 against the Clippers in Los Angeles in the last round, but they weren't recovering in this one. San Antonio managed only 24 points in the paint after averaging 46 through the first two games of the series and 47.8 through the playoffs. Oklahoma City already held a 28-8 scoring edge in the paint while taking a 54-41 halftime lead and it never got better for San Antonio, which couldn't get any closer than 11 points in the second half. "We wanted to bounce back after two losses like that. We had to play better and we did that tonight," Sefolosha said. "We played with energy, we played with passion in front of our home crowd. They did a great job giving us a lift." The Thunder scored the game's first eight points, feeding off Sefolosha's steals, but San Antonio recovered in time to take the lead with more than 5 minutes left in the opening period. Oklahoma City took the lead early in the second quarter and there was no looking back. Sefolosha set up Ibaka's two-handed dunk and hit a 3-pointer during a 13-1 run, with San Antonio's only point coming on a free throw by Ginobili after Durant was called for a technical foul while arguing a call from the bench. Oklahoma City's lead ballooned to 15 when Kendrick Perkins grabbed Westbrook's airball and dunked it with two hands. Notes: Duncan did have five blocks to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA playoff record of 476 by one. ... Rapper Lil Wayne tweeted before the game that he planned to attend but "was denied by the team to be in their arena." Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney said the rapper's representatives demanded front-row seats but none were available. "We'd love to have him at a game, but like anyone else, he needs a ticket," Mahoney said. ... Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin presented TNT analyst and former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley with a pair of boots, a steak and an order of lamb fries -- a dish that leaves out the otherwise undesirable part of the anatomy out of its name -- during the pregame show.

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Evaluating what Wizards need from reserves to succeed in 2016-17

Evaluating what Wizards need from reserves to succeed in 2016-17

The new season begins for the Wizards on Thursdsay at the Atlanta Hawks (CSN, 6:30 p.m.). While coach Scott Brooks hasn't made his starters official, the likely five are John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. 

But what about the rest? Without a balanced bench, it won't matter how good those starters are if the Wizards are going to turn last year's .500 record into their third playoff berth in four seasons. No official declaration has been made by Brooks about how he'll use his reserves, but based on recent comments and how he used players to end the preseason, these are the primary candidates (Note: Ian Mahinmi isn't listed because he's out with left knee surgery.)

PG Trey Burke: The assumption is that he’ll be Wall’s primary backup, and given his three years NBA experience, that seems to be the short-term plan. But Burke will be pushed. He averages 12.1 points which is good for a backup, but that’s hardly the only thing that matters. 1.) Ball pressure to set up the defense. Brooks is putting a lot of responsibility on all of his backcourt players to be more engaged. Burke didn't do that consistently in the preseason. Allowing the other team to walk the ball up and get into their offensive sets is a sure way to spend more time on the bench under Brooks. 2.) Running half-court offense more efficiently. In the preseason, Burke was indecisive with the ball and the Wizards were disjointed when the pace slowed. They couldn’t get into their offense and took low-percentage shots late in the shot clock.   

PG Tomas Satoransky: With four years under his belt as a pro in Europe, he’s not a typical rookie. At 6-7, he’s significantly bigger than Burke and has more of the edge that Brooks likes to see on defense. He has the chance to overtake Burke as the primary backup for Wall or give Brooks the option of a three-guard lineup. 1.) Develop a jumper. The Wizards realize he needs time but the easiest thing to improve is a stroke. If he puts in the work, it’ll come. Defenders will go under on pick-and-rolls when Satoransky has the ball and play the passing lanes. He can pick a team a part with his vision. 2.) Use length to slow down the ball. The downside of no Wall last season was Ramon Sessions was the fill-in, and he was a defensive liability. Satoransky has better size and there shouldn't be a major drop off whenever he comes in, especially against second-tier players for the opposing team.  

SG Marcus Thornton: His primary job will be shooting and scoring. Is he Beal's primary backup or will he be used in spot minutes when the Wizards require an offensive spark? Some nights, Thornton can score in bunches. 1.) An instant-offense option, Thornton is more of a scorer than a pure shooter. Some nights he has it and he can score in bunches. Other times he doesn’t. 2.) Efficient shooting. Thornton has been in the low 30s from three-point range since shooting about 42 percent from there during a 39-game stretch with the Celtics a few years ago. 3.) Movement. Thornton will have better results and higher-percentage shots if he doesn't stand and wait for the ball to shoot.

SF Kelly Oubre: He pushed Porter for the starting job but is still a year away from having a real shot at being a starter. The effort already is there. He just needs to polish. When he was drafted, the projection from president Ernie Grunfeld was two to three years. 1.) Control. Whenever Oubre gets into trouble, he’s too hyper. On offense, he will try to force the ball to the basket when the driving lane has been closed off and will result in a turnover or an awkward-looking blocked attempt. He has to realize there’s nothing wrong with being calm, kicking the ball back out and resetting. Defensively, he gambles a lot. There’s nothing wrong with containment. Every play doesn’t have to result in a steal. 2.) Diversify his game off the bounce. Oubre has to come up with counter moves to get to the rim. He can't go in straight lines, exclusively to his preferred left hand to dunk on everybody at will. 

PF/C Andrew Nicholson: At $26 million, he might prove to be a bargain acquisition considering the deals that were handed out this summer. Nicholson could end up like a lot of other players who step on the floor with Wall, who have their three-point accuracy skyrocket. He can play on the low block and doesn't shy from contact. 1.) Stretch four. He shot a career-high 36 percent from three-point range last season. His stroke looks better. When Nicholson was brought in, the question about whether he could be a legitimate three-point shooting, power forward was the first thing that came to mind. He only attempted 114 with the Magic. 2.) Spread five. The knee injury to Mahinmi means Brooks has to use Nicholson behind Gortat, too, and though he's just 6-foot-9, his 250-pound frame can handle it. When they go really small with Nicholson here, they can look like the Hawks did the last few years with Pero Antic and Al Horford spreading from the five spot. It can pose major matchup problems.

PF/C Jason Smith: Despite his jolly disposition, Smith can get nasty down low which is a quality the Wizards could use inside. How much he plays when Mahinmi comes back isn't clear. Though Smith isn't a three-point shooter, he has a solid face-up game that can draw his man from the rim. 1.) Focus on mid-range. Smith took his share of threes in the preseason, but that's still out of his comfort zone. He only attempted 16 threes in 76 appearances with the Magic. 2.) Hustle hard. The most surprising aspect of Smith's game is his ability to recover on defense and his help to close out runs at the rim. That kind of effort forces Brooks to find minutes for you.  

RELATED: Southeast Division Preview - Can the Wizards break the division title drought?

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Redskins injury report: Status on Norman, Reed unknown

Redskins injury report: Status on Norman, Reed unknown

At least 51 Redskins will be making the trip to London on Thursday night, including some who are pretty banged up. And there is hope that the other two will be able to make it across the pond.

“We're taking everybody, which is a good thing,” said coach Jay Gruden. “If something happens on Friday or Saturday, we can make adjustments if needed.”

He later clarified the statuses of tight end Jordan Reed and cornerback Josh Norman. Both of them are in the NFL’s concussion protocol, at least partially.

“I’m not too sure about this — Thursday they are going to the independent doctor and if they’re cleared they’ll go on the trip,” said Gruden. “If not, if we’re still having some pain and setbacks, at that point we’ll make that decision to probably leave them back.”

In other words, stay tuned on those two key players.

Two players were out of practice on Wednesday. Reserve linebacker Terrance Garvin was out with a hip injury, and starting running back Matt Jones missed with a knee problem.

The injury was as much a surprise to Gruden as it was to reporters when they saw that Jones was not participating in practice.

“He just came in, I guess, today, had some soreness laterally,” said Gruden. “Had some pain cutting, has to problem running straight ahead so we kept him out today.”

Limited in practice were wide receivers Jamison Crowder (groin) and DeSean Jackson (hamstring/shoulder); guard Brandon Scherff (shoulder), offensive tackle Trent Williams (knee), Reed, Norman, offensive lineman Spencer Long (chest), cornerback Bashaud Breeland (ankle) and tight end Vernon Davis (groin).

With six offensive starters limited and Jones out, Gruden had to alter practice somewhat.

“We had to do kind of a slower tempo on the offensive side of the ball because of the amount of injuries we had,” said Gruden.

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