Westbrook's heroics can't save Oklahoma City

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Westbrook's heroics can't save Oklahoma City

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Oklahoma City was more than OK at the start. At the end, not so much. The Thunder got an epic performance from Russell Westbrook. They ran out to a huge early lead. They watched LeBron James get carried off the court in the fourth quarter, and took the lead shortly after he departed. Somehow, it still wasn't enough in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Even after getting 43 points from Westbrook, 28 more from Kevin Durant and staking itself to a 17-point lead by the time the first quarter was over, Oklahoma City is now officially on the brink. James finished with 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers each scored 25 points and the Miami Heat beat the Thunder 104-98 in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven title series. "I can guarantee this," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We have fight in us." Game 5 is in Miami on Thursday night, where James and the Heat can capture the NBA title that they were assembled to get two years ago. History says the Thunder are now in deep, deep trouble. No team in NBA history has rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the finals. No team has even forced a Game 7 in the title series when faced with that scenario. Westbrook took 32 shots, as many as James and Chris Bosh tried combined. He made 20 -- half of Oklahoma City's field goals on the night -- and finished with seven rebounds and five assists as well. For a guard who struggled many times against Miami, it was a breakout night that the Thunder desperately needed. "I thought Russell was terrific tonight," Brooks said. "The guy played relentless. He was aggressive. He kept us in this game and he gave us a chance to win." Said Heat forward Shane Battier: "The kid brought it. He's taken a lot of heat in this series, but he's not the reason why the game turned out the way it did tonight." There was one huge blip in Westbrook's night, and it was a play that helped the Heat seal the outcome. After a jump ball with 17.3 seconds remaining, Westbrook fouled Chalmers even though the Thunder would have gotten the ball back because there were less than 5 seconds on the shot clock. Chalmers made both free throws, the lead was five, and Heat fans in the sold-out building knew their team was moments from a 3-1 series lead. After hearing the whistle, Westbrook took a look at the scoreboard and held out his hand, a look of disbelief across his face. "Just a miscommunication on my part," Westbrook said. "Nothing I can do about it now." Durant's mother grabbed her son by both arms as he walked off the floor, hugging him and then using her right hand to turn his face back toward her, trying her best to console the scoring champion. It was a night when the Thunder ran out to a 33-16 lead to buck a trend of slow starts, where Durant and Westbrook were scoring at will, and where Durant threw the Heat an early curve ball by opening the game guarding Chalmers, the Heat point guard. Perhaps he should have stayed on Chalmers, given how good he was in the second half. For the final 16-plus minutes, the Thunder were reduced to playing 2-on-5 basketball. Serge Ibaka made a jumper with 4:46 left in the third quarter, cutting Miami's lead to 68-66. After that, it was either all Westbrook or all Durant, all the time. "We just have to stay together," center Kendrick Perkins said. "It's not over." Sure, the stars were superb, again, just not superb enough to take down Miami. After that Ibaka jumper, no other Thunder player besides the team's two superstars scored a point. "It's not disappointing. It's just, it happens that way," Brooks said. "Russell had a great game. We were going. We were going with him. He was making terrific plays at the basket. He was attacking, he was getting into the teeth of their defense and made basketball plays." Sixth Man of the Year James Harden struggled yet again, shooting 2 for 10 for the second straight game, though he did finish with 10 rebounds. Nick Collison scored six points, but the other three Oklahoma City starters -- Ibaka, Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha -- combined for a mere 13 on 6-for-16 shooting. "We're going to stay aggressive, keep trying to find guys," Westbrook said. "Guys are going to stay confident." Westbrook was amazing. Durant was great. Everyone else was nearly nonexistent, at least offensively. And if the Thunder don't figure out a way to do something no NBA team has ever done throughout the rest of this series, James will finally get that ring he's spent nine seasons chasing. "We're going to keep fighting," Durant said. "Frustrating to lose like that. But we're going to keep fighting, man. That's how we've been since I got here."

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Andrew Shaw suspended for boarding Capitals prospect Connor Hobbs

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USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Shaw suspended for boarding Capitals prospect Connor Hobbs

Montreal’s Andrew Shaw has been suspended three preseason games for boarding Washington’s Connor Hobbs on Tuesday night.

On the play, Shaw delivered a hard body check to Hobbs’ back, driving the Capitals prospect face-first into the end boards. It appeared that Shaw was angry about being slew-footed by Jay Beagle earlier on the same shift.

In the explanation video from NHL Department of Player Safety, director Patrick Burke said it was a dangerous hit that never should have been made.

RELATED: Was that the Capitals' opening night roster?

“It is important to note that Hobbs is never eligible to be checked by Shaw on this play,” Burke said. “From the moment Shaw arrives at the faceoff dot, he sees nothing but Hobbs' numbers. Hobbs makes no sudden movement just prior to contact that turns this hit from a legal hit into an illegal one.”

Burke added: “The onus is on Shaw to make sure he can deliver this hit in a legal fashion, minimize the force or avoid this hit completely. Instead, he hits forcefully through Hobbs from behind, driving him dangerously into the glass.”

Burke also noted the fact that Hobbs escaped injury and Shaw’s one previous suspension as factors in his ruling.

Shaw was assessed a total of 30 minutes in penalties (five for boarding, five for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct and a 10-minute game misconduct) for the hit and ensuing fight with Nathan Walker, who immediately confronted the noted agitator. 

Capitals associate coach Todd Reirden said before the suspension was handed down that it was exactly the type of hit the NHL is trying to eliminate.

“It’s a dangerous, dangerous play,” Reirden said. “Obviously, they are trying to take that type of stuff out of the game. The league will deal with it accordingly. Luckily, Connor seems to be fine and everything checked out so he was able to return to the game. Which is really good because he’s a real high prospect for us here moving forward.”

MORE CAPITALS: Samsonov to stay in KHL until 2018

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Duke Ihenacho: Obviously I want to be playing but it's the coach's decision

Duke Ihenacho: Obviously I want to be playing but it's the coach's decision

When Duke Ihenacho landed on the Redskins inactive report Week 1 against Pittsburgh, many around the league were surprised. That surprise waned as the season progressed. Weeks 2 and 3 Ihenacho was active, yet hardly played. 

Now injuries to DeAngelo Hall and Bashaud Breeland are forcing the Redskins to shake up their secondary, though it remains unclear if that means more defensive snaps for Ihenacho. Asked if Hall's torn ACL means Ihenacho will hit the field more on defense, Redskins coach Jay Gruden sounded non-commital.

"Could be," the coach said. "We're gonna dress four safeties most likely and they'll all probably get an opportunity."

MORE REDSKINS: NO HEALTH CONCERNS FOR DAVID BRUTON

The Redskins will start Will Blackmon and David Bruton at free and strong safety, leaving Ihenacho third on the depth chart and Deshazor Everett fourth. This week in practice, Ihenacho said his workload has increased, albeit slightly.

"I'm getting a little bit more reps at practice," Ihenacho said. "I'm really backing up both the guys. I know both positions."

For the bulk of his career, Ihenacho has dealt with injuries. In five seasons, he only has 15 starts, though his lone healthy season came in Denver in 2013. That Broncos team made it to the Super Bowl with Ihenacho at strong safety, and the five-year veteran out of San Jose State produced. In 14 starts that year, he logged 67 tackles to go with nine passes defensed and three forced fumbles.

Ihenacho has not stayed healthy in his two seasons in Washington, but he is healthy now. Asked why he isn't seeing the field more, the safety was unsure.

"Obviously I want to be out there but I'm not a coach so I just kinda got to deal with the cards that are dealt," he said. "Obviously I want to be out there, I'd like to be out there, I feel I should have been out there."

While Hall was healthy, the Redskins began to substitute Blackmon in for Bruton on longer third downs against the Giants, a nod to Blackmon's coverage skills. With Hall injured, that substitution pattern did not continue. Some fans and media have questioned if there is an issue or injury causing Ihenacho to stay on the bench.

"None of that. I haven't had any off the field issues, haven't had any injury issues. I know the defense, it's not a matter of me not knowing the playbook or anything like that. It's not a matter of me being inexperienced. It's not a matter of the coaches not trusting me."

Like any player, it's natural for Ihenacho to want to be on the field, but he understands what his role is for now.

"I feel like this is a situation where [the coaches] got guys they want to play. That's just what it is. Sometimes it's just as simple as that. They got other guys they just want to give shots to, and that's cool. Obviously I want to be out there but that's part of being a professional, understanding that and just waiting for your time."

Despite not seeing much action on defense, Ihenacho made his presence felt in the win against the Giants. On a long Jamison Crowder punt return, Ihenacho laid out two New York defenders with one block.

"The opportunity presented itself," he said. "I looped back around and I saw Crowder break a lot of tackles and make a couple guys miss. He brought it back around and my eyes kind of lit up when I hit the first guy and then at the last second I see the second guy and I just threw my body into him and it kinda just worked out."

When the team watched the game film, Ihenacho said the whole room had the same reaction to his block.

"It's like 'oooooooooh.' It was cool."