Maryland Terps

Thunder rally to stun Kobe, Lakers

765578.jpg

Thunder rally to stun Kobe, Lakers

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Even down late, the Oklahoma City Thunder are showing that they are never out. Kevin Durant scored 22 points and rattled in the go-ahead basket on a baseline runner with 18 seconds left, and the Thunder scored the final nine points to rally for a 77-75 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday night. Oklahoma City trailed by seven with 2 minutes left before surging back with a series of defensive stops by its stars to claw back from that deficit in the closing stages of a game for the second time this postseason. The Thunder were also seven down with 2 minutes left in Game 1 against defending NBA champion Dallas in the first round. "They won't quit. That's not in their DNA," coach Scott Brooks said. "They're not wired that way and if they were, they wouldn't be here. We're not going to win every game but we're going to fight to the last second of the game and we did that tonight. "If we would have gotten down on ourselves with 2 minutes to go, we would have lost by 12 and we would go to L.A. 1-1." Instead, Oklahoma City takes a 2-0 lead into Game 3 on Friday night at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum scored 20 points apiece for the Lakers, who came up empty on their last six possessions after Bynum's hook shot made it 75-68 with 2:09 remaining. After struggling throughout the second half and missing 20 of their first 27 shots, the Thunder suddenly came alive after Brooks called timeout following Bynum's basket that gave Los Angeles its largest lead of the game. James Harden drove for a layup before Durant used his height advantage to reach up and tip away a pass from Bryant, who he was guarding. Durant ran out for a right-handed dunk at the other end before Russell Westbrook forced another turnover by aggressively challenging an outlet pass to Bryant along the sideline. Harden made the next stop, blocking Bryant's jumper on the next Lakers possession and getting a layup in transition off it to cut the deficit to one in the final minute. Bryant couldn't connect again, this time on a 3-pointer, to give the Thunder the ball back with the chance to take the lead and Durant was able to make it happen. "I wish it was my magical words. All I told the guys was, We're down 7. You don't have to play perfect basketball but we better come pretty close,'" Brooks said. Steve Blake missed an open 3-pointer from the right side with about 5 seconds left after Metta World Peace couldn't get the ball to Bryant on the inbounds play. Brown said he thought Bryant was open on the back side of the play, but World Peace apparently didn't see him -- agreeing that Bryant was supposed to be the first option. "Blake was wide open. We didn't have any timeouts left and he got a clean look, a really good look," World Peace said. "He can knock that down." Durant was then fouled with 0.3 seconds left and made his first try before missing the second on purpose -- failing to hit the backboard or rim for a violation. The Lakers got a desperation try but World Peace's long pass for Bynum was intercepted by Harden. "What they did the last few minutes there, they just made gambles," Bryant said. "They just jumped in the passing lanes. It's something that we're not accustomed to seeing. It's just flat-out risks defensively." Historically, the loss makes a huge difference. Los Angeles is 29-12 when splitting the first two games of a seven-game series and has lost 17 of 19 when falling into a 2-0 hole. The Lakers' last comeback was in the 2004 West semifinals against San Antonio. The Thunder have won all nine of their series after leading 2-0, dating back to the franchise's days in Seattle. "It's not good. I don't think anybody's happy in there (in the locker room)," coach Mike Brown said. "We felt like we let one slip away." Bryant was right at the heart of the meltdown, missing two shots and having a hand in two turnovers in the final 2 minutes. The first turnover came when Durant used his nearly 7-foot frame and impressive wingspan to come up with an energizing steal and fast-break chance. "He used his length on Kobe. Coming up with that steal was huge," Brown said. "That's what great players are supposed to do. They're supposed to take on the challenge at the end of the game and he did. "He won the game for them, basically." Westbrook added 15 points for Oklahoma City, which matched its lowest scoring total of the season but still gutted out the win. The Thunder had ripped apart the Lakers' defense with their pick-and-roll attack in Game 1, scoring 119 points in a 29-point blowout. "We dominated defensively," Bynum said. "We stopped them, made them play through their bigs and turn the ball over. In the last 2 minutes, we gave the game away." In a game that was nip-and-tuck throughout, the Lakers started inching away early in the fourth quarter while Westbrook was on the bench. Bryant drilled a jumper from the left wing and Blake followed with a 3-pointer before World Peace hit one of two free throws for a 69-63 advantage with 7:27 remaining -- the Lakers' largest lead to that point. Westbrook returned then but only provided the briefest of sparks for the struggling Oklahoma City offense, and Bynum's second straight basket -- on a left-handed hook shot at the left block -- made it 75-68 with 2:09 to play. Until that point, Oklahoma City had more turnovers (eight) than made baskets (seven) in the second half after committing an uncharacteristically low four turnovers in Game 1. Notes: The NBA on Wednesday fined Devin Ebanks 25,000 for actions related to his Game 1 ejection and Bynum 15,000 for failing to speak to reporters Tuesday. Bynum, who has had recent disciplinary issues within the team, talked at the Lakers' morning shootaround Wednesday and called it a make up for skipping the previous day. "I think he's learning. Is he going to be a perfect citizen the rest of his career? I don't know," Brown said. "He's bound to make mistakes. I think everybody makes mistakes." ... World Peace has said he supported Brooks to become Sacramento's coach back in 2007, when Brooks had been an assistant under Eric Musselman. "Little does he know, if I would have got the job, I was going to ask for him to be traded," Brooks joked. He then called World Peace, or Ron Artest at the time, the third-best two-way player at the time behind Bryant and Kevin Garnett. ... Harden caught World Peace with an inadvertent elbow to the face in the first quarter.

Quick Links

Investigation finds Maryland culpable in death of player

jordan-terps-death-usat.jpg
USA Today

Investigation finds Maryland culpable in death of player

TOWSON, Md. -- An independent investigation into the death of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair has determined that trainers on the scene did not follow proper procedures after he collapsed on the field.

McNair was hospitalized on May 29 after a team workout and died June 13. The family attorney said the cause of death was heatstroke.

Dr. Rod Walters, a former college athletic trainer and sports medicine consultant who led the investigation launched by the school following McNair's death, said Friday "there was a failure to identify symptoms and aggressively treat it."

Maryland athletic director Damon Evans acknowledged last month that "mistakes were made" by the training staff in the treatment of McNair, a 19-year-old sophomore offensive lineman.

Terrapins head coach DJ Durkin is on administrative leave while an unrelated external investigation into the culture of the football program is being conducted.

MORE TERPS NEWS:

Quick Links

Wizards' 2018-19 storyline No. 3: Where do the Wizards fit in the new-look East?

Wizards' 2018-19 storyline No. 3: Where do the Wizards fit in the new-look East?

With Wizards training camp set to begin next week, we at NBC Sports Washington are counting down the five biggest storylines for the team as they start a new season. Today, at No. 3, a look at the remodeled Eastern Conference and where the Wizards fit… 

The transformation of the NBA's Eastern Conference this summer was not unlike the end and beginning of a new era in presidential politics. LeBron James, who reigned over the conference for nearly a decade, is gone. His eight-year term of Finals appearances out of the East is complete. Now a wide range of candidates are lining up to be the next power-players and it's a crowded field.

Seizing the empty throne

James' departure has had a massive effect on teams in the East, whether they ran into his Cavs or Heat in the playoffs repeatedly over the years or were affected by his presence indirectly. James going West paves the way for a new East representative in the NBA Finals and that allows everyone to dream a little bigger.

Though the Wizards never faced James in the playoffs during his streak of eight straight NBA Finals appearances, Washington players themselves have remarked about the opportunity created in wake of James leaving. They, along with the Celtics, Sixers, Raptors and other perennial playoff teams in the East, are gunning to pick up where James and Cleveland left off.

That arms race included significant changes for the Wizards this summer. They shook up their starting lineup by trading Marcin Gortat and signing Dwight Howard to a two-year contract. They brought in veterans like Austin Rivers and Jeff Green to shore up depth on their bench. They also kept their draft picks for the first time since 2015, using the first round selection to take Troy Brown, Jr. of Oregon.

Though questions remain about how it will all be put together, the Wizards appear to have improved themselves year-over-year. As long as John Wall is healthier than he was last season when he missed 41 games, it's logical to expect them to be back in the mix as contenders in the East. Exactly how high they are capable of going, however, is a big question entering this season.

Continuous growth

That's because despite James leaving, the East has grown deeper at the top in recent years. The Celtics have made the Eastern Conference Finals in two straight seasons and last year finished one win away from the NBA Finals. They did that without Gordon Hayward, who was lost for the season on opening night, and Kyrie Irving, who missed the playoffs due to injury.

The Celtics were good enough to win 55 games last season and without their two of their best and most accomplished players. If they are healthy and guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to develop, the Celtics deserve their status as favorites in the East.

The Raptors disappointed in the playoffs this past spring by getting swept by James and the Cavs in the second round. But they still won 59 games during the regular season and should be able to maintain their success with Kawhi Leonard now in DeMar DeRozan's place.

Toronto will ultimately be judged by what they do in the playoffs and they have plenty to prove, but no one should underestimate their ability to take care of business during the regular season. The Raptors have won at least 48 games in each of the past five years and 50 or more in the last three.

The Sixers had by any measure a dreadful offseason, first with the firing of their general manager and then with a fruitless free agent period, followed by an injury to first round pick Zhaire Smith. But Philadelphia didn't really have to add much to their roster to remain in the East's elite.

The Sixers already won 52 games last season and boast two of the best young players in the NBA in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. If they, along with Markelle Fultz, can stay healthy and continue developing, the Sixers will only rise from here.

Most would probably put the Wizards in that next tier, after the trio of Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia at the top, in terms of expected playoff seeding. But they should enter the season hopeful they can supplant one of those teams because they have the talent to do so.

By any means

One problem is that history shows the Wizards have struggled to make that leap. To get there, they would probably have to win 50 games or more and they haven't done that since the 1978-79 season. They also haven't been higher than a four-seed in the playoffs since that year.

The Wizards have been the No. 4 seed as recently as 2016-17, and that comes with the nice bonus of home court advantage in the first round. But to go higher than four, they will need to demonstrate a level of consistency not seen for their franchise in almost 40 years.

Before the Wizards set their sights on the top teams in the East, they will need to separate themselves from the others who are in a similar position. Just like the Wizards, teams like the Pacers, the Bucks and Heat have dreams of a breakout year.

The Wizards definitely have the roster talent to finish ahead of that pack. Washington has two All-Stars, something those teams can't boast. But all three of those teams had better records than the Wizards did last season and Indiana and Milwaukee have All-NBA players. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in particular, is good enough to change the landscape in the East on his own, if he makes the MVP leap many have been waiting for.

In order for the Wizards to emerge from the middle of the conference and become Finals contenders, health will of course be key. They will also need to get re-establish a homecourt advantage and find a way to capitalize against lesser teams. Last season, the Wizards had the fewest home wins and victories against below-.500 opponents of any playoff team.

With James out of the picture, the Eastern Conference appears more open than it has been in years. The Wizards eye an opportunity for themselves, but they aren't alone.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: