Durant, Thunder left to wonder what went wrong

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Durant, Thunder left to wonder what went wrong

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- A week ago, they were leading the NBA Finals. And now, the Oklahoma City Thunder are heading home for the summer to ruminate over lessons doled out by the Miami Heat. Favorites coming into the series, the Thunder fell in Game 5 of the finals Thursday night, as Miami finished off its run to a championship by beating the Thunder 121-106. Oklahoma City's 11-point win in Game 1 is long forgotten and irrelevant now, considering that for the first time in more than three years, the Thunder have lost four straight games. At the absolute worst time, on the absolute biggest stage, no less. "When you play against the best, you learn," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. Kevin Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook finished with 19 points for the Thunder, though Westbrook's night -- one game removed from a 20-for-32 performance from the field -- came on a night where he shot 4 for 20. They came out with 4:44 left, the outcome long decided, the Heat fans going delirious. "We made it to the finals, which was cool for us, but we didn't want to just make it there," Durant said. "Unfortunately we lost, so it's tough. It's tough, man. That's the only way I can explain it. But as a whole, I'm proud of the guys on how we fought all season." James Harden scored 19 points and Derek Fisher added 11 for the Thunder. Down 10 at the half, the Thunder cut the deficit in half by the time the third quarter was a minute old. It was the last gasp of the season -- Miami put the game, and the title, away with a 34-13 burst that pushed the lead to 93-67 on a three-point play by Dwyane Wade with 1:23 left in that pivotal quarter. Mike Miller connected on his sixth 3-pointer of the night, and Miami's 13th, on the first possession of the fourth quarter. Miller would soon add another, for good measure. From that point, the clock wasn't ticking down time left in the game. It was ticking down the time left in Oklahoma City's season. "We know what this feeling feels like," Westbrook said. "We'll remember this feeling, and that will push everybody in the summer, just try to keep everybody going and keep everybody's heads up." The Thunder came in saying they had to have that proverbial Game 7 -- win or else -- mentality. Apparently, they chose else. "You hate to go home and not win the whole thing. ... We lost to a team that played better than us in four of the five games," Brooks said. Even though it was a five-point game after one quarter, a 10-point game at the half and still a two-possession game early in the third quarter, the Thunder simply did not have enough answers for the barrage that came from Miami. Forget Miami's Big Three of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. It was more like a Big Six for the Heat on this night. Two years of work, and a year of frustration after falling to Dallas in the title round a year ago, came pouring out of the Heat. By the time the third quarter was over, Miami had six players in double figures. Oklahoma City? Just two. And that was largely the downfall of Oklahoma City in this series. Durant was consistently great. Westbrook had more good moments than bad, by far. But the third option simply wasn't there, or at least, wasn't there often enough. "The best two teams were in the finals," James said. This Thunder team is built to contend for this title for a long time to come. Durant and Westbrook are already exceptional, and likely nowhere near their prime. Harden was the best sixth man in the league all season, though he struggled big-time in this series. Serge Ibaka is one of the best defenders in the league. The general manager, Sam Presti, is extremely well thought of in just about every league circle. And Oklahoma City has proven itself to be a city that loves its team. More good things for the franchise are certain. But a title -- that wasn't happening, not yet anyway, not against a Heat team that spent a year preparing for this stage. Now, it's Oklahoma City's turn to take a finals loss and use it as motivation. "You get here because you're good. You get here because you're committed to each other," Brooks said. "We definitely have room to improve. That's what the summers are for." Durant spent part of this past summer working out with James in the finals MVP's hometown of Akron, Ohio. He vowed to work even harder this time around. "I'm going to find the positives and the negatives," Durant said. "It was tough losing the finals. We got to the finals, had a tough road to get here. But we've just got to move past it, I guess, man. It's going to hurt for a little bit. We've got to move past it."

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Stadium Series game proves Penguins — the birds — really hate fireworks

Stadium Series game proves Penguins — the birds — really hate fireworks

While the Capitals were inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, trying to get Alex Ovechkin a shot on net, the Penguins and Flyers — two of the Capitals' Metropolitan Division rivals — we're making their final preparations for their Stadium Series game at Heinz Field on Saturday night.

And while the players were applying eye black and getting ready to adjust to the elements, the real festivities were already underway.

With Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown serving as the pregame hype man, the Pengiuins brough out real pengiuins for one final "awwwwwww" moment before the action begun. 

Penguins are cute, clumsy and as we're about to find out, just as terrified of fireworks as humans.

Fireworks scaring penguins at the Stadium Series game

The Penguins — the team — beat the Flyers 4-2, behind Sindey Crosby's 34th goal of the season. It was the Penguins' first home stadium game since the 2011 Winter Classic, in which the Capitals beat the Penguins 3-1.

RELATED: UPDATED NHL POWER RANKINGS

 

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Morning tip: If Scott Brooks has any magic left in his touch with Wizards, now is the time

Morning tip: If Scott Brooks has any magic left in his touch with Wizards, now is the time

After a 34-21 start, it's hardly tiime to pull any fire alarms when it comes to the Wizards. But concern? That's legitimate after their second uneven, lackluster performance since the All-Star break.

Like the Philadelphia 76ers, the Utah Jazz ran circles around this defense. The Wizards were confused, not protecting the rim, allowing open three-point shots, etc.

Basically, they were playing 180 degrees opposite of the Jazz who held them below 100 points for the first time in 24 games. 

So what has gone wrong all of a sudden? Is one of the NBA's hottest teams no more?

-- The assertive, aggressive defense that was there during an 18-3 stretch has dissipated. They're botching coverages and rotations similar to what took place during a 2-8 start. They've lost that edge. John Wall, their best player, was absent on defense vs. the Sixers and it usually gets contagious. 

--Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris aren't pulling their weight. Porter is 6 of 18 shooting, including 1-for-7 from three; Gortat is 6-for-19; and Morris is 9-for-21, 11 fouls, a disqualification and ejection. But defensively they've all been worse. The best starting five in the East is no more.

--Jason Smith has played a total of four minutes in two games. Coach Scott Brooks has to find his most effective bench player for most of the season some minutes. The energy level that has been lacking tends to pick up by his mere presence on the floor.

--Kelly Oubre's calling card has been defense, and he has been absent on both ends. His eight minutes were his fewest since Nov. 26 (also the last time he didn't crack double-digit minutes played), when he was yanked from a game vs. the San Antonio Spurs because of his lack of focus. 

--Trey Burke is back to the player he was when the season began; unable to run the offense, not confident in his play and now behind Tomas Satoransky in the pecking order. Burke only played five minutes, half of what he played vs. Philadelphia. 

--Wall has 15 turnovers in the last two games.

--Brooks has to make some tough decisions with his rotations and if it requires benching key players or drastically cutting their minutes this might be the time to do it. In the past, it's in moments like these when the train begins to go off the tracks. He has to be ahead of the curve. 

[RELATED: Wizards complain of lack of free throws after loss to Jazz]