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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Markieff Morris' injury puts Wizards in bind early in playoff series vs. Celtics

Markieff Morris' injury puts Wizards in bind early in playoff series vs. Celtics

BOSTON – Just as Markieff Morris appeared to right himself after a bad stretch of basketball because of foul trouble in the first round, his availability for Game 2 vs. the Boston Celtics is in question after he came down on Al Horford’s foot and injured his troublesome left foot Sunday.

Morris, who first injured the foot and ankle in a game Nov. 19, has had problems with it on and off this season.

“I honestly thought it was broke,” he said after playing just 11 minutes in a 123-11l loss. “They got the swelling to go down a whole lot. It almost was the size of a softball.”

Morris didn’t return after halftime. He was held out a couple of games by the medical staff to help him recover in season.

“That’s my injury,” he said. “This was by far the worst one.”

[RELATED: Morris suffers gnarly-looking turned ankle in Game 1]

Morris only shot 2-for-7 from the field and had five points, but like the first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks no matter what his numbers show the Wizards are a better team with him on the floor.

Because Boston plays small a lot and Horford is an undersized center, Morris can match him away from the rim or under it. He called for the ball and cleared out so he could go vs. Horford and drained the jumper.

When Morris came down, however, he crashed hard. He remained sprawled across the floor for several minutes before walking it off and taking and making the foul shot for 45-42 lead.

The Wizards got out to a 16-0 start and could’ve had an easy victory to steal home-court advantage but now they’re faced with possibly trying to get the split with Morris not at full-speed.

“It was definitely tough especially when I felt like I could’ve been out there,” Morris said of watching the rest of the game from the locker room during treatment. “We live to fight another day. … It was only one game. We plan on it going seven.”

[RELATED: PHOTO: Celtics' Thomas lost front tooth in 1st quarter vs. Wizards]

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Barry Trotz puts option of dressing seven defensemen on the table

Barry Trotz puts option of dressing seven defensemen on the table

Karl Alzner has been out of the lineup since Game 2 of the Capitals’ first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Just who he will replace in the lineup when he is ready to return, however, has become a topic of debate as Nate Schmidt has played well in his place and the Caps need his speed against a quick Pittsburgh Penguins team.

RELATED: Trotz says Shattenkirk's play is 'mooring' Caps' third pair

It has been speculated recently that perhaps head coach Barry Trotz could elect to dress seven defensemen. That sounds like a drastic option, but it is one Trotz has experience with having utilized it at times as head coach of the Nashville Predators.

“I've done it before and done it very successfully,” Trotz said on Friday. “... I found in my previous life that I didn't have as many offensive weapons that gave me an opportunity to put an offensive weapon in there a little bit more often in a regular rotation.”

Dressing seven defensemen would mean only 11 forwards, but Trotz seems to only be utilizing that many anyway. Paul Carey skated only 5:40 in Game 2. He was playing in place of Brett Connolly who played 6:07, 5:34, 6:12 and 4:26 in his last four games.

Alzner is considered day-to-day and there’s no timetable for when he may be able to return. If he were able to play in Game 3 or 4, however, given that the Caps are facing a series deficit and seem to be in need of some sort of spark, perhaps shifting the lineup to seven defensemen could be just what the doctor ordered.

“I'm fine with the seven D,” Trotz said. “If we have to go there, we'll go there. As a coach, you have to mix and match a little bit. I don't have any problem with that.”

MORE CAPITALS: Barry Trotz commits to Braden Holtby for Game 3