Westbrook's heroics can't save Oklahoma City

797286.jpg

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."

Quick Links

Redskins Playbook: Pair of rookies could start season on NFI list

Redskins Playbook: Pair of rookies could start season on NFI list

With the excitement of training camp ramping up for Redskins fans, there are a number of players that the move to Richmond brings less energy. Veteran safety DeAngelo Hall is reported to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, which isn't a surprise, as well as linebacker Houston Bates.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

Other players are likely to also land on the PUP to start camp, including a pair of rookies: 

  1. Rookie CB Fabian Moreau - The third round pick out of UCLA suffered a torn pectoral muscle at his UCLA Pro Day. Moreau has been spotted at Redskins Park working out but it seems unlikely his injury will be ready for full contact by late July.
  2. Rookie S Montae Nicholson - A similar scenario for the fourth round safety from Michigan State, who had surgery for a torn labrum earlier this year. Asked about both Nicholson and Moreau, Washington coach Jay Gruden provided no certain timeline.

"It will be a while," Gruden said in May. "I’m hoping maybe training camp, maybe later. It might be the regular season. We don’t know yet."

Technically, since they are rookies that sustained injuries before they joined the organization, Moreau and Nicholson will land on the non-football injury list. The functionality of that list works the same as the PUP during training camp. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

 

Quick Links

Timeline to create Wizards' G-League team and practice facility becoming more clear

usatsi_8426358.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Timeline to create Wizards' G-League team and practice facility becoming more clear

The Wizards' G-League team will not play it's first game until the fall of 2018, but its creation process is well underway and later this year should be kicked into another gear.

For now, it's all about constructing the team's arena in Ward 8 of Southeast Washington. The G-League team will ultimately practice and play their games there and so will the WNBA's Mystics. The Wizards will use it as their practice facility.

It's a multipurpose project and, as majority owner Ted Leonsis explained, they have broken ground but have lots of work to do.

"The big issue is will the building be ready. We stood up Kettler [Capitals Iceplex], we did our deal in Hershey, we built the team all during the lockout. That really worked. The goal was to get the Wizards practice facility and arena built in Ward 8," he said. "They've broken ground. You should drive by there one day. There's a hole in the ground and they're building. My goal is to just have the thing stood up and have people go 'wow.' The community can feel great about itself. Maybe we can get some restaurants around there or a little shopping so that that area really fast starts to resemble [Chinatown]."

[RELATED: John Wall's new contract makes Wizards' future clear]

Leonsis said he expects information about the new G-League team's name and branding will be released this fall. He mentioned three months, which would mean October.

Soon after that we could learn of staff additions. The G-League team will have a whole new staff from the front office to coaching to public relations. 

Team president Ernie Grunfeld expects some people to be added by the start of 2018.

"We're gonna have to put some additions on sometime this year just to get people ready so they know our system and they're in place so it's not going to be a shock to their system of what we're trying to do," he said. 

[RELATED: Wall and Wizards' union is a display of commitment rarely seen]

The Wizards will have two players on two-way contracts this season in Michael Young and Devin Robinson. They will spend the majority of their time in the G-League with the allowance of 45 days maximum at the NBA level. Grunfeld said the Wizards expect to use multiple G-League teams this season until they have their own. Last season they used several such as the Delaware 87ers and Northern Arizona Suns.

The G-League coaching staff will essentially be an extension of Wizards head coach Scott Brooks' group and he expects to work closely with the G-League team once it is fully assembled.

"I'm going to be able to go there quite a bit on off-days or off-nights. If they have a game, I can go there and vice versa, they can come here." he said. 

"It's another commitment from our ownership group. It's important to develop your own players. It's going to be nice to be in our own city so that we can integrate the G-League staff and the players with us. I had a situation in my other job, with the other team I was with, and you utilize it."

[RELATED: NBA reacts to John Wall's new contract]