Warriors

With Warriors next, Thunder blow 22-point lead to Clippers

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With Warriors next, Thunder blow 22-point lead to Clippers

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- The Oklahoma City Thunder took the court hours after the death of part-owner Aubrey McClendon and squandered a 22-point lead in a 103-98 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.

Chris Paul had 21 points and 13 assists for Los Angeles and DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 18 rebounds. The Clippers ended the game with a stunning 26-5 run after trailing by 16 points with 7:30 left. The Thunder had only one field goal during that stretch, a 17-foot jumper by Durant.

It was the largest comeback win of the season for the Clippers, who reached the 40-win mark for the fifth year in a row and ninth time since the club relocated from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984.

[POOLE: Kerr not sure if Curry, Iguodala will play vs Thunder]

Kevin Durant scored 30 points and Russell Westbrook had 24 points and 12 assists for Oklahoma City in the first of three meetings this month between the teams with the second and fourth-best records in the Western Conference.

McClendon, 56, was killed slamming his sport utility vehicle into a concrete bridge embankment in Oklahoma City shortly after 9 a.m. local time.

The incident occurred one day after he was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly conspiring to rig bids to buy oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma while he was still CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp.

In a statement released Tuesday after the indictment, McClendon denied violating antitrust laws and said he would "fight to prove my innocence and to clear my name."

It was the second deadly crash connected to the Thunder organization in three weeks. On Feb. 10, Ingrid Williams, the 44-year-old wife of assistant coach Monty Williams, was killed in a head-on collision just outside of Oklahoma City when an oncoming car crossed the center line and struck her SUV.

Oklahoma City built a 58-38 halftime lead with 16 points by Durant and a 24-8 run that included 3-pointers by reserves Kyle Singler, Randy Foye and Dion Waiters.

Forward Jeff Green, who played his first three NBA seasons for the Seattle-Oklahoma City franchise after joining them in a draft-day trade with Boston in 2007, played 17 scoreless minutes in his sixth game since joining the Clippers in a deal with Memphis on Feb. 18.

Green started in place of Luc Mbah a Moute, who has a laceration on his lower left eyelid that required stitches. Reserve guard Austin Rivers played for the first since Feb. 3, had six points in 19 minutes after missing 10 games with a fractured left hand.

J.J. Redick made four of his first six shots for the Clippers before leaving with 4:21 left in the first quarter because of a bruised lower back. By the time he returned with 7:48 left in the half, their seven-point deficit had increased to 44-28.

TIP-INS:

Thunder: Durant had 11 points in the first quarter, including a four-point play when he was fouled by Green at the top of the arc. ... The Southwest Division-leading Thunder were coming off a 6-5 February, after going 13-3 in January and 12-3 in December.

Clippers: TV play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler will be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Thursday. He is in his 37th season at the mike, the third-longest tenure of any current NBA team broadcaster. ... Coach Doc Rivers didn't have a timeline on Mbah a Moute's return, but acknowleged he would miss at least a couple of games. "It's a terrible spot," Rivers said. "He had to get stitches in the worst spot you can possible get them. The lucky part is it wasn't a scratched retina or cornea or anything like that. I know he said he saw two of me today when we were talking. And I wouldn't want to see two of me."

UP NEXT:

Thunder: At Golden State on Thursday.

Clippers: Host Atlanta on Saturday.

Kyrie Irving frustrated with questions about friendly Kevin Durant video

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USATSI

Kyrie Irving frustrated with questions about friendly Kevin Durant video

In a season where the Warriors have a chance to cement themselves as one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history, what could happen this summer is stealing headlines.

Especially if you're Kevin Durant Durant. 

Even when the Warriors star forward won his second NBA All-Star Game MVP, all anyone could talk about over the weekend was a video that surfaced of Durant and Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving. Here's the gist of the clip: two superstar friends are laughing and having a conversation with each other. Simple, right?

Oh, and both players could be free agents this summer and join up as teammates.

Irving was asked about the video Wednesday and a frustrating exchange ensued between point guard and reporter. 

From the social media uproar, Irving goes on to say, "This is the stuff that doesn't make the league fun." Here's the full transcript and video of his responses. 

Durant has had his own issues with the media. He went silent for nine days before unleashing a tirade during a Warriors postgame press conference.

[RELATED: Warriors 'have no idea' what Kevin Durant will do in free agency]

The good news for both players is this -- basketball is back. All-Star break is over and games can again be the focus when talking about both of these players. 

Well, maybe.

Five issues Warriors must confront to clear path to another championship

Five issues Warriors must confront to clear path to another championship

OAKLAND -- The Warriors reconvened Wednesday, settling in for a sprint they hope ends with triumph in June. Knowing what lies ahead and recognizing the clearest path to that goal, they scrimmaged for maybe the fourth time since preseason.

There are five issues that, if not solved, could derail hopes for a third consecutive championship and one last Warriors parade through the streets of Oakland.

Here are those issues, in order of importance:

1) STAYING HEALTHY

This is easily the most essential component, though much of its fate is more dependent on luck than any other factor.

This is about more than keeping the five 2018 All-Stars -- DeMarcus Cousins, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson -- upright and productive. That’s the obvious.

[RELATED: Kerr explains how rehabbing Cousins was 'pain in the a**']

But it can’t stop there. The Warriors come out of the break with six games in nine days. They have five back-to-back sets over the final seven weeks, including three over the final 18 days.

“Our health will be the No. 1 priority, over everything, entering the playoffs,” coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “If we need to rest guys, we’ll rest ‘em.”

To get Playoff Andre (Iguodala) and Peak Draymond, for example, it’s imperative to manage minutes.

2) COPING AMID THE NOISE

The Warriors pride themselves on their positive culture, citing their work/fun balance as a primary aspect of their success. That will be tested like never before.

Durant’s impending free agency already has been a source of agitation for some, and it has not always been kept in the locker room. It was at the crux of the very public squabble between Durant and Green in November.

It could get worse. On top of teammates already teasing KD about joining the Knicks, we now have All-Star Weekend chatter and video of Celtics free agent Kyrie Irving (also speculated as a future Knick) and Durant having one-on-one conversations.

[RELATED: Dubs reportedly 'have no idea' what KD will do this summer]

This is not going away. How the Warriors navigate this will take plenty of skill. One more wrong move could threaten their goal.

3) DEFENDING WITH A VENGEANCE

The Warriors were a top-10 defense four years running -- until last season. They finished 11th in defensive rating, but dialed it up in the postseason to finish No. 1.

With 25 regular-season games remaining, they are 15th. That won’t be good enough. Can they crank it up before the postseason? Can they find it in the postseason? They are acutely aware of the matter and believe believe they know how to fix it.

“Our communication on the defensive end could get better,” Green said. “Everything on defense for us over the course of the last three, four or five years, it’s been second nature because we’ve been playing together. You can call a switch and the other guy will just know to switch.

[RELATED: Outsider Observations: Dubs face questions down backstretch]

“We’ve added so many pieces this year that it’s not second nature. You have to communicate a bit more. We weren’t necessarily great at that, so we’ve got to improve upon that.”

4) SECOND-UNIT COHESION

Kerr has spent four months tinkering and adjusting with his rotations. He’s not done, either. As long as there are matchups to consider and inconsistencies impacting decisions, this could be fluid.

The important thing here is to find a group that won’t open the second and fourth quarters surrendering much of, if not all of, the cushions built by the starters.

That means, for the most part, finding offense when Curry and Durant are resting. It has been an issue for much of this season, and it often forces the Warriors to win the game two or three times before it’s officially won.

[RELATED: Report: Warriors have mused about making run at Giannis]

That means getting offense from Thompson and Cousins and also a third party. Could be Iguodala. Could be Jonas Jerebko or Alfonzo McKinnie. Could be the player who fills the open roster spot (assuming one is signed). Has to be somebody.

5) TAKING BACK ORACLE

The Warriors in Kerr’s first two seasons were practically invincible at home, going 39-2 each year before dropping to a superb 36-6 in 2016-17.

They lost that touch last season, posting 29-12 records both home and away.

The Warriors are 22-7 at home this season, the last at Oracle Arena. With 14 dates remaining, anything less than 12-2 could imperil chances of getting the No. 1 overall seed. It won’t be simple -- unless they master the four aforementioned factors.