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Thunder rally to stun Kobe, Lakers

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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.

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

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USA Today Sports

Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.

Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:

"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."

All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.

Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.

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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

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USA Today Sports

Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.

GOING DOWN?

Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.

NO HOMERS

Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.

UP NEXT

Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.