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Spurs lose for the first time in, well, forever

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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.

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Jay Gruden's job is on the hot seat, and he knows it

Jay Gruden's job is on the hot seat, and he knows it

The Redskins lost their fourth straight game on Sunday, this time in embarrassing fashion. Washington head coach Jay Gruden can feel the pressure mounting. 

"My job is in jeopardy every week," Gruden said after the 40-16 defeat. 

Forgive the head coach a bit of hyperbole, but not much. NFL coaches age in dog years. Every game is a referendum on their ability, and that takes a toll.

For Gruden, it hasn't been an easy season. What started well has since fallen apart, and things swung dramatically when Alex Smith broke his leg last month. His team took an even bigger hit when Colt McCoy also broke his leg last week

Not everything swung on the health of the quarterbacks though.

The Redskins defense started the season strong but has been bad for the last six weeks. Penalties are also a tremendous problem for the Burgundy and Gold. 

"For the most part, I don’t have an explanation right now as far as what the breakdowns were, who they were and why they were," he said.

It doesn't seem fair to blame everything on Gruden, but that's also the nature of the NFL. 

In some ways, it seems Gruden's modest success in Washington might also be his downfall. Jay Gruden's teams won at least seven games the last three years. No Redskins coach in the last 20 years can say the same thing. Gruden was the first, and only, coach to get a contract extension under owner Daniel Snyder. That shows some level of continued competency. Gruden has maneuvered with a stable roster capable of sustained mediocrity, largely without drama.

But there also hasn't been any real success.

The team won the NFC East in 2015, but got quickly dispatched in the playoffs. Gruden's squad lost a win-and-in Week 17 game to the Giants in 2016 to miss the playoffs. In 2017, injuries buried the Redskins' chance at playoff success. In 2018, a new rash of injuries did the same thing. 

The ugly losses don't help. There have been embarrassing defeats that lead some in the 'Skins fanbase to scream for coaching changes. The first half of the Giants game might be a new low point for a franchise that all too often is forced to wonder about new low points. 

Gruden knows the current situation. He understands it. 

He was clearly upset after the Giants game, frustrated by the injuries and his defense's play. Next week in Jacksonville, the team will start their fourth quarterback of the season. That's almost unprecedented in the NFL. 

"What did work? There was nothing that worked so nothing worked. Everything did not work," the coach said.

The nature of the NFL beast means the spotlight lands on the head coach, for better or worse. Gruden, now in his fifth season, knows that, and knows what that means after an awful loss. 

"It’s tough to deal with. It really is. It’s unfortunate. Our guys continue to compete. That product we put on the field today was not a reflection of the guys work during the week and at practice. However, it did look bad. It’s a reflection of all of us."

While the reflection might be of the whole team, Gruden is in the center. 

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Three things to watch for Wizards at Pacers, including if John Wall and Victor Oladipo will play

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Three things to watch for Wizards at Pacers, including if John Wall and Victor Oladipo will play

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and the Washington Wizards take on Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovic and the Indiana Pacers. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Wall play?

As John Wall continues to deal with a variety of issues, including a left heel injury, he may miss Monday's matchup with the Pacers. Wall was absent for Sunday's practice one day after scoring only one point in a blowout loss to the Cavaliers.

If Wall's heel does not improve much, it may make more sense to rest him. Just two games ago they were able to win without him against the Atlanta Hawks. Austin Rivers and Tomas Satoransky in the starting lineup may be a better option than a hobbled version of Wall.

Oladipo also hurt

Wall isn't the only star guard who could miss this game. The Pacers have been without Victor Oladipo since Nov. 17 due to a knee injury. He has missed their last 10 games.

The Pacers have actually played quite well without Oladipo, who earned All-NBA honors last season. They are 6-4 since he went down and have won three straight. He is considered day-to-day.

Oladipo, 26, is having another big year with 21.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Tyreke Evans has started in his place alongside point guard Darren Collison.

Pacers are great on defense

The Wizards had major trouble scoring on Saturday night and that was against the Cavs, arguably the worst defensive team in the NBA. In the Pacers, they will meet possibly the best defense in the league.

Anchored by Myles Turner in the middle, the Pacers are allowing the fewest points (101.5) of any team in the NBA this season and their defensive rating (103.7) ranks third. They force the fourth-most turnovers per game (15.7) and hold teams to the fifth-lowest field goal percentage (44.1).

The Wizards will have to work to get good looks on the offensive end, as Indiana will not make it easy on them.

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