Spurs lose for the first time in, well, forever


Spurs lose for the first time in, well, forever

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The streak is over. The series may only be beginning. Kevin Durant scored 22 points, Thabo Sefolosha set playoff career-bests with 19 points and six steals, and the Oklahoma City Thunder snapped San Antonio's 20-game winning streak by beating the Spurs 102-82 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night. Oklahoma City closed its series deficit to 2-1 and will host Game 4 on Saturday night. "We never thought these guys had an advantage over us even though we had lost a few," Durant said. "It was just good that we took it to 2-1. We didn't want to go down 0-3." Sefolosha threw a wrench in the Spurs' well-oiled offense at the start, getting four steals in the first 3 minutes. The Spurs ended up committing a postseason-worst 21 turnovers and scoring their least points all season. San Antonio had been averaging 109.4 points during its month-and-a-half winning streak and had been held to double digits only twice. "We just played a good basketball game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We played with a lot of force, we played with good energy, but we played defensive-minded basketball. "That's who we are. That's how we win." Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson led the Spurs with 16 points apiece. Tim Duncan had 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting, taking 11 of San Antonio's first 25 shots as the offense went through the All-Star center instead of Parker. "They played like it was a closeout game, both offensively and defensively," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They were very active, physical, they moved the ball well on offense. They did all those things better than we did. They beat us good." The Spurs, who already set an NBA record for the longest winning streak carried over from the regular season into the playoffs, were trying to match the league mark for most wins to start the postseason. The Lakers won 11 straight to start the 1989 and 2001 playoffs, getting swept in the NBA finals the first time and winning it all the second. The Spurs hadn't lost since April 11 against the Lakers at home. "We are a prideful team. It's no fun being down 0-2. It's no fun," Brooks said. "But we weren't looking at the game thinking, Oh my gosh, we have a chance to be down 0-3.' We were looking at the game that we have a chance to be 1-2 after this game, and I give our guys a lot of credit. They believe in each other and they always play hard for each other." Parker and Duncan didn't play in the final 15 minutes, and Popovich pulled the plug after a series of three straight turnovers allowed the deficit to reach 23 points early in the fourth quarter. Sefolosha had a right-handed dunk off a lob pass from Russell Westbrook, who followed with his own two-handed jam on an alley-oop pass and Sefolosha followed with a reverse layup on another turnover-fueled fast-break chance to push the lead to 86-63 with 9:48 left. The Thunder put together another 9-0 run coinciding with Manu Ginobili coming out of the game, and featuring Serge Ibaka sticking his tongue out after nailing a jumper from the top of the key. Brooks soon followed suit and pulled his own front-line players with the game well in hand. "You're not going to beat this team by playing one-effort basketball," Brooks said. "You're going to have to have two, three, four, even five. And they make you do that because they pass the ball so well, they spread the floor so well." Popovich said the Thunder played harder and smarter than the Spurs. "They did definitely play with a lot more energy, a lot more passion than us tonight," said Parker, who committed five turnovers. The Spurs wiped out a 24-point deficit in Game 3 against the Clippers in Los Angeles in the last round, but they weren't recovering in this one. San Antonio managed only 24 points in the paint after averaging 46 through the first two games of the series and 47.8 through the playoffs. Oklahoma City already held a 28-8 scoring edge in the paint while taking a 54-41 halftime lead and it never got better for San Antonio, which couldn't get any closer than 11 points in the second half. "We wanted to bounce back after two losses like that. We had to play better and we did that tonight," Sefolosha said. "We played with energy, we played with passion in front of our home crowd. They did a great job giving us a lift." The Thunder scored the game's first eight points, feeding off Sefolosha's steals, but San Antonio recovered in time to take the lead with more than 5 minutes left in the opening period. Oklahoma City took the lead early in the second quarter and there was no looking back. Sefolosha set up Ibaka's two-handed dunk and hit a 3-pointer during a 13-1 run, with San Antonio's only point coming on a free throw by Ginobili after Durant was called for a technical foul while arguing a call from the bench. Oklahoma City's lead ballooned to 15 when Kendrick Perkins grabbed Westbrook's airball and dunked it with two hands. Notes: Duncan did have five blocks to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA playoff record of 476 by one. ... Rapper Lil Wayne tweeted before the game that he planned to attend but "was denied by the team to be in their arena." Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney said the rapper's representatives demanded front-row seats but none were available. "We'd love to have him at a game, but like anyone else, he needs a ticket," Mahoney said. ... Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin presented TNT analyst and former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley with a pair of boots, a steak and an order of lamb fries -- a dish that leaves out the otherwise undesirable part of the anatomy out of its name -- during the pregame show.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Hawks snap 8-game losing streak


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Hawks snap 8-game losing streak

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Patrick Sharp and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss snapping the 8-game losing streak, the Hawks no longer being able to rely on skill alone to win games, and what line combinations the guys would like to see on the ice.

2:00 The fourth line being the key to the Hawks win over the Penguins

4:00 Hawks giving up goals in the final minute of the first 2 periods

5:50 Hawks needing to outwork their opponents

6:55 Hawks looking more organized on the ice

7:30 Value of Marcus Kruger on the 4th line

9:45 The need to stick with lines for a few games for players to develop chemistry

13:00 Do the guys like the current lines?

15:00 Strome finding new life with his new team

18:45 What Brendan Perlini needs to do to be effective with the Hawks

23:00 What should the Hawks ask Santa for Christmas?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


Four takeaways: Blackhawks finally score first, snap eight-game skid


Four takeaways: Blackhawks finally score first, snap eight-game skid

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center on Wednesday to snap an eight-game losing streak:

1. First-period demons exercised?

The Blackhawks have been talking and talking about starting on time for the last several weeks now, and the more they talked about it the more they thought about it too much and it eventually crept into their psyches. But they finally put those to rest. Well, at least for one night.

For the first time since Nov. 18 — a span of 11 games and 24 days — the Blackhawks scored the first goal. And even better, they built upon it by scoring the second one, too, just 2:36 later to go up 2-0 in the first period.

It had been a long time coming and the Blackhawks finally had a chance to play with a lead after doing so for only 41 seconds of their previous 662:32 minutes over the last 11 games.

"It’s been a while since we’ve scored first in a game," said Andreas Martinsen, who was credited with the first goal and registered his first multi-point game of his NHL career. "We’ve been talking a lot about having good starts, and we finally got one. And then we just kept going."

2. Staying with it

When you're on an eight-game losing streak, snapping out of it will never be easy. The Blackhawks found that out the hard way.

After taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Penguins responded by scoring three of the next four goals — all of which were by Bryan Rust, who recorded his second career NHL hat trick — to even it up at 3-3 through 40 minutes of play. It tested the Blackhawks' character and mental toughness. 

And it showed, as the Blackhawks answered back by scoring three unanswered in the third period, albeit two of which were empty-netters, to seal the deal for their first win in 18 days.

“It’s a relief," Jonathan Toews said. "It’s definitely just a good feeling for guys. We’ve got something to celebrate. We’ve got something to enjoy. We were reminded with an exciting reason to come to the rink in a few days and come out with the same effort. It’s something we’ve got to be aware of and build off of in the next one.”

3. Contributions across the board

The Blackhawks got contributions up and down the lineup, from their forwards to defensemen to goaltender.

Marcus Kruger, Martinsen, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook each recorded a goal and an assist. Toews had a goal and two assists to crack the 700-point mark for his NHL career. Patrick Kane extended his point streak to five games with an assist. Duncan Keith added one, too. Alex DeBrincat lit the lamp for the second straight night. And Corey Crawford finished with a season-high 40 saves on 43 shots for a save percentage of .930.

It was a well-rounded effort, one that makes it feel even better for the guys in the locker room when celebrating a true team victory.

"It’s always huge to pot a few," Toews said. "As an individual, it always helps your confidence. To see [Martinsen] and [Kruger] around the net and [DeBrincat] scoring the way he did, even if it’s on kind of a broken play or whatever you want to call that, it’s good for our power play. We’ll take those when we can. It’s good for our team. We’ve got to use that confidence now. We’re putting all that in the rearview mirror and let this snowball in the right direction now.”

4. Carl Dahlstrom's noticeable season debut

The Blackhawks made a series of roster moves prior to Wednesday's game, which was highlighted by the call-up of top forward prospect Dylan Sikura. But it was Dahlstrom who made a strong first impression on the back end.

The 23-year-old defenseman registered a primary assist, four shot attempts (three on goal), a plus-2 rating and one hit in 22:34 of ice time, which ranked third on the Blackhawks. Jeremy Colliton leaned on him heavily and clearly wasn't afraid to do so.

"He was good," Colliton said. "Very under control, he skates so well, such a big body, he can handle a lot of minutes. But I thought he was clean with the puck and he was able to get stops in D zone. Very good effort from him."