From Comcast SportsNetOAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Jose Valverde sat at his locker in disbelief, head down and elbows on his knees. His Tigers teammates ate in stunned silence.Valverde, Detroit's demonstrative closer who saved all 49 of his chances last year, blew the save with his team on the cusp of a second straight trip to the AL championship series and the Oakland Athletics rallied once more to force a Game 5 in their AL division series with a 4-3 win Wednesday night."We all have his back," catcher Gerald Laird said of Valverde. "There's not one guy we blame on this team."Coco Crisp lined a game-ending single to right field with two outs in the ninth as the A's found one more furious rally to stay alive for another day.Valverde called it the toughest moment yet in his stellar career. The 34-year-old pitcher is wrapping up his three-year contract with the Tigers.After Josh Reddick hit a leadoff single and Josh Donaldson doubled, Valverde surrendered a game-tying two-run double to Seth Smith and later Crisp's big hit."I threw all my pitches," Valverde said. "You've got to give credit to the guys over there. You make one mistake, that's it. There's nothing I can do. It's over."Al Alburquerque patted him on the behind. Justin Verlander, who will pitch the deciding game Thursday night, offered his support of Valverde along with most everyone else in the room."It's extremely hard to hit a baseball," catcher Alex Avila said. "So, the credit's always going to go to the hitters. It has to. He did have a good fastball. That inning they just took advantage of the one or two mistakes Valverde made. He's been here for a while. We know what he's capable of. You've got to forget about, like I'm sure he does. He's got a closer's mentality. He's been doing it for a long time."Valverde has long been manager Jim Leyland's reliable ninth-inning man -- and he so hopes to get the ball again Thursday night. Valverde earned his fourth postseason save in Saturday's 3-1 Game 1 win, then missed a chance to become the franchise's postseason saves leader. He currently shares that distinction with Willie Hernandez and Todd Jones.Leyland found himself defending Valverde a day earlier, saying it would be tough for the hard-throwing right-hander not to go downhill after his remarkable run in 2011."He's our guy, and that's just the way it is," Leyland said afterward. "Certainly I feel comfortable with Jose coming in in that situation. Tonight he just didn't get the job done."Valverde finished sixth in the American League with 35 saves this season, but still leads the AL with 110 saves since the beginning of 2010."When we lose a game like this and I need three outs for my team to clinch, it hurts," Valverde said. "This is the toughest moment in my whole career. I had everything. These guys hit it. There's nothing I can do."Now, the Tigers will turn the ball over to their ace and Game 1 winner to lead them in Game 5. Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP, struck out 11 batters in the series opener at Comerica Park."Valverde's been great for us. Those things happen," Verlander said. "Obviously you don't want them to happen on a night like tonight. It did."
In case you have been living under a rock ... last year, the Warriors became the first team in NBA history to lose in the Finals after taking a 3-1 series lead.
After sweeping the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, Klay Thompson was asked how much he thought about returning to the Finals for a shot at redemption.
“Every day,” Klay told Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. “I always thought about it. We were so close last year … a game away. I would be lying to you if I didn’t think about it all the time."
The NBA has never seen the same two teams meet in the Finals three years in a row. But if the Cavs win Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Boston on Thursday night, history will be made.
During the regular season, Klay averaged 22.3 points per game, while shooting just under 47 percent overall and over 41 percent from deep.
Through 12 playoff games, the three-time All-Star is averaging just 14.4 points, and is shooting around 38 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc.
He is just happy that his season didn't end in the month of May.
“I’m a competitive guy. I’ve thought about it all the time. I think that’s what fueled a lot of us to stay consistent this year, is to get back to playing in June," Klay added.
Over 62 regular season games this season, Kevin Durant averaged 25.1 points while shooting just under 54 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from deep.
In 72 games with the Thunder in 2015-16, Durant averaged 28.2 points per game and shot 50.5 percent from the field and just under 39 percent from 3-point territory.
Durant recently sat down with The Vertical's Michael Lee, who asked him the following question:
Lee: "I know we talked earlier and you said this move wasn’t about a ring chase, it was more about how you want to play basketball for your career. How do you feel it has played out for your game, in terms of maybe shots coming easier? Because it seems like you’re getting your points, but it’s not as much of a grind. Am I right in saying that?"
Durant: "Uh, yeah. Obviously, when you’ve got a better, when you’ve got a deeper team, you’ve got guys that can handle the ball, you’ve got shooters, you’ve got guys that can finish at the rim, it just opens it up for everybody. I think we just work well together.
"I scored a lot of points before I came here. I did a lot. This is not the first time I shot 50 percent from the field. It’s not the first year I averaged 25 points a game. And I’m not doing it because I’m here with these guys. I’ve done it before.
"It’s just the fact that when I get my shots – and it’s not as much as I got before – but I’m in position to be efficient. I may get in transition a lot more than I did before. I may get it in space more, so I’m allowed to catch and make a decision whether I want to shoot or drive. Simple stuff like that, that’s the difference.
"But I had some great years before I got here. It’s just a different way I’m getting my points now. It’s not much of a grind. But it’s still a challenge."
Last year, 38 percent of Durant's shots came after zero dribbles, 26.9 percent were "open," 9.6 percent were "wide open," his usage rate was 30.5 percent and he averaged 5.1 transition points per game.
This year, 46.1 percent of his shots came after zero dribbles, 27 percent were considered "open," 10.9 percent were "wide open," his usage rate was 27.6 percent and he averaged 6.5 transition points per game.
He was a quick learner.
"We’ve got smart players. My IQ has grown since I’ve gotten to the league and I realize how important all the moving parts are for the team," Durant explained. "It was an adjustment as far as me being a new guy and having a certain way of playing, talking about the team and adding me in there.
"I’m just figuring how to move without the ball, play in space. But for the most part, it wasn’t that difficult as far as the basketball side, it was just the small details that had to get done."