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Nets drop Thunder 110-93 as Durant ejected

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Nets drop Thunder 110-93 as Durant ejected

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Joe Johnson scored a season-high 33 points, Deron Williams added 19 points and 13 assists, and the Brooklyn Nets snapped Oklahoma City's 12-game home winning streak by beating the Thunder 110-93 Wednesday night in a game featuring the first ejection of Kevin Durant's career.

The Nets squandered a 23-point lead and allowed Oklahoma City to tie it at 85 before ripping off a 23-8 run to seize control right back. Durant was ejected near the end of the surge, arguing with Danny Crawford after the referee had already issued a technical foul against Kendrick Perkins.

Durant scored 27 points and Russell Westbrook had 26 points and 10 assists for Oklahoma City, which lost for only the third time at home this season.

Durant, the three-time scoring champion, had never before been ejected in his six NBA seasons but got tossed after Brooklyn rallied largely from the foul line. The Nets made 11 free throws in a span of just over 5 minutes, pulling away after Oklahoma City had finally fought all the way back.

Brook Lopez added 25 points as Brooklyn ended a seven-game losing streak in the series and got a win for interim coach P.J. Carlesimo against the team that fired him back in 2008.

The Thunder clamped down after trailing by 16 at halftime, rallying to pull within 71-68 when Westbrook finished off a 12-3 burst with a jumper from the left elbow with 3:47 left in the third quarter. Lopez powered his way in for a two-handed slam to stem the tide for Brooklyn, but Oklahoma City kept coming.

Durant and Kevin Martin connected on consecutive 3-pointers to finally even it up at 85 with 7:11 to play, only for Johnson to answer with a runner at the other end to put the Nets right back ahead and start the clinching run.

The Nets managed to get Carlesimo a rare win in Oklahoma City - something that proved difficult during his brief stretch on the Thunder sidelines.

Carlesimo was the coach when Oklahoma City got its franchise, leading the SuperSonics for their final season in Seattle and then going 1-12 in charge of the Thunder. He was fired and replaced - then on an interim basis - by Scott Brooks, who has overseen the team's rise into a championship contender.

Back when Carlesimo was in charge, Durant was starting his second year in the NBA and Westbrook was a rookie who had yet to break into the starting lineup. Now, they're both established All-Stars.

``For it to come together as quickly as it has, I think people believed that this was going to be a good team, with the nucleus they had and even starting out, the pieces,'' Carlesimo said beforehand. ``Russell, of course, was a huge addition the first year here and ever since then, there's been good moves and they've tweaked it.''

Carlesimo also singled out the additions of Thabo Sefolosha and Perkins - both after he was fired - as key steps in the franchise's rise.

``It's a team I feel closer to than a lot of other teams. Hopefully, we helped KD and Nick (Collison) a little bit and Russell a tiny bit that first year, but I think it's safe to say they've gone on and overcome whatever coaching they got from me,'' Carlesimo said, drawing laughs.

At the start, it looked like Carlesimo's new squad would run away with it against the Thunder, who started the day with the league's best record.

Johnson and Lopez combined to go 9 for 9 from the field to propel the Nets to a quick 27-11 lead, and Brooklyn tried to keep the hammer down by re-inserting Williams after they had committed three turnovers in a span of five possessions without him to start the second quarter.

Upon returning, Williams immediately set up Keith Bogans for a 3-pointer, then used a behind-the-back, bounce pass for an assist on Kris Humphries' jumper before nailing a 3-pointer of his own to push the lead out to 45-24. Brooklyn led by as much as 23 twice - including at 55-32 after Johnson drilled a 3-pointer off a touch pass from Gerald Wallace - before Westbrook and Serge Ibaka teamed up to score nine straight points to breathe some life into Oklahoma City.

Notes: Carlesimo's only win with the Thunder - after the SuperSonics had relocated from Seattle - came at home on Nov. 2, 2008, against Minnesota. ... The Thunder's largest previous deficit of the season was 16 in a loss at home against Memphis. ... Oklahoma City got a delay of game warning for failing to get onto the court in time for tip-off, as part of the NBA's emphasis on allowing teams 90 seconds between the end of introductions and the tip-off. ... Nets reserve Jerry Stackhouse sat out with a sore right hamstring.

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Ravens fans celebrate new energy injected by Lamar Jackson-run offense

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USA Today Sports

Ravens fans celebrate new energy injected by Lamar Jackson-run offense

Lamar Jackson is the most popular man in Baltimore. 

In his second season with the Ravens, it’s impossible to *not* see his name everywhere you look. His number eight jersey is quickly becoming as synonymous with the Ravens as Cal Ripken Jr.’s was with the Orioles.

Jackson has taken the NFL by storm in 2019, forcing himself into the MVP debate.

Longtime fan Rick Gibson said the Jackson era has a different feel than the previous Joe Flacco-led team.

“It’s fun coming to games,” he said before Sunday's matchup against the Texans. "A lot better than it has been in the past, so it’s more exciting.”

With the flip of a switch -- or rather, the draft pick of a quarterback -- fan enthusiasm is all of a sudden at an all-time high.

And it starts (and ends) with number eight.

“It’s incredible,” said Ravens fan Jonathan Greene. “Most excited for a Ravens team, and I’ve been a fan for years. It’s awesome. He has elevated this team.”

The words fans use to describe Jackson’s game are all similar. Phenomenal. Awesome. Incredible. Spectacular. Magic.

Jackson’s stats this season speak for themselves: 2,036 passing yards and 15 touchdowns against just five interceptions. A 65.9 completion percentage. 702 rushing yards -- 11th-most in the NFL -- and six touchdowns. And of course, a 7-2 record.

Even those who would discount Jackson’s performance as beating up on weak competition are forced to recognize his brilliance. Against the winless Bengals, for example, Next Gen Stats estimated an average quarterback should have a completion percentage of 57.7%, based on how covered his receivers were, how much pressure he was under, and more. 

His actual percentage? 88.2%, or 30.5% higher than what was expected. It was the best difference for *any* quarterback in *any* game in 2019.

Fans are excited for the future as well. Not just for the Ravens but for young football fans across the city.

“He’s only 22 years old,” another fan, John Ford, said. “I think he appeals to the younger generation coming up through the high school and college ranks, because they can relate to him...I think he’s a role model for a lot of young kids coming up. And you watch him on the sidelines, he does some great things, but he takes it in stride. So he’s not celebrating too much, he knows what he’s got to do. That’s a unique thing for a young man, only 22 years old, at this level.”

The near future looks more daunting than in the long term. The Ravens enter Week 11 on a five-game winning streak, hoping to win six straight for the first time since 2000. 

They are beginning a tough slate of four straight against playoff contenders, but with Jackson leading an unstoppable offense, three or four wins doesn’t seem far-fetched. Regardless of what happens, Jackson has emphatically won over the city of Baltimore and the NFL writ large.

One longtime Ravens fan, Stan Nasiatka, put it best when asked about Jackson.

“That’s all we’re talking about," he said. "It’s everywhere.”

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Mr. Consistency Justin Tucker misses first field goal of the season

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Mr. Consistency Justin Tucker misses first field goal of the season

Justin Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL. That much hasn’t changed.

Now that we’re on the same page, it’s time to admit something. He hasn’t looked totally himself as of late. While most of his kicks have still found their way between the uprights, many have looked closer than they should.

That trend culminated with his first miss Sunday against the Texans. Tucker’s attempt on the Ravens’ first drive of the game -- from 43 yards out -- bounced off the right upright.

The miss snapped a streak of 22 consecutive made field goals for Tucker, who is the NFL’s all-time leader in field goal percentage. He is the only kicker in NFL history to convert more than 90% of his field goal attempts.

It’s too soon to be concerned about Tucker going forward. For now, just pick your jaws up off the floor and go back to feeling confident in the Ravens’ most consistent player the next time he jogs out onto the field.

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