Kevin Durant and the Thunder are NBA Finals-bound

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Kevin Durant and the Thunder are NBA Finals-bound

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- After years of nagging Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks not to take him out of games, Kevin Durant finally got his wish. And now, he's one big step closer to making his basketball dreams come true. Durant had 34 points and 14 rebounds while playing all of regulation for the first time all season, and the Thunder claimed a spot in the NBA finals by beating the San Antonio Spurs 107-99 on Wednesday night. Russell Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who trailed Game 6 of the Western Conference finals by 18 in the first half and erased a 15-point halftime deficit before pulling ahead to stay in the fourth. "It's an amazing moment for him to play like this in this moment, in this setting, and I wasn't going to take him out," Brooks said. "I was not going to take him out. I don't care how many times he looked at me fatigued. He has enough, and I think all of our guys have enough to play. You just have to fight through it." Durant grabbed the final rebound, dribbled the ball across halfcourt and raised his right fist to celebrate with a sold-out crowd wearing free white T-shirts. The franchise will play for the NBA title for the first time since 1996, before relocating from Seattle. Even before the final buzzer, Durant indulged by hugging his mother and brother seated courtside after a foul was called with 14 seconds remaining. "I never want to take those moments for granted," Durant said. "I know it's just one step closer to our dreams, but it felt good." Tony Parker had 29 points and 12 assists for San Antonio, but only eight of the points and two assists came in the second half. The Thunder outscored the Spurs 59-36 after falling behind 63-48 at halftime and getting a challenge from Brooks that he said had "nothing to do" with committing eight turnovers against only six assists while allowing San Antonio to shoot 9 for 15 on 3-pointers. "It just had everything to do with who we are as men, who we are as a team, the type of spirit that we want to show every time down the court," Brooks said. "It was all about that, about body language, about being a family. I thought our guys did that the first possession of that second half and they did not look back." Tim Duncan chipped in 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Stephen Jackson scored 23 as San Antonio lost its fourth straight after becoming only the fourth team in NBA history to win 20 games in a row. In the process, the Spurs pushed past Oklahoma City for the best record in the league and home-court advantage in the playoffs. But the Thunder took that back by winning Game 5 in San Antonio on Monday night. "There's not much to complain about," San Antonio's Manu Ginobili said. "We had a great run. We just couldn't beat these guys." The Thunder, only three years removed from a 3-29 start that had them on pace for the worst record in NBA history, went through the only three West teams to reach the finals since 1998 -- Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio -- to earn their shot at the title. Game 1 of the NBA finals will be Tuesday night in Oklahoma City against either Boston or Miami. The Celtics lead that series 3-2 and can earn a trip to the finals with a win at home in Game 6 on Thursday night. The Thunder took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter, getting nine of their first 13 points on free throws as the fouls started to pile up for San Antonio -- six on the defensive end and three on the offensive end in the first 7 minutes. Even Durant drew what he thought was his first charge of the season, stepping in front of Ginobili. Derek Fisher and James Harden hit 3-pointers in a three-possession span to increase the lead to 99-93 with 3:13 remaining. Jackson, who had made his previous six 3-pointers, and Parker both missed 3s that would have gotten the Spurs within 103-102 in the final minute. The Spurs put up quite a fight, at least for the first half. Parker, who had been largely bottled up ever since the Thunder put 6-foot-7 defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha on him in Game 3, had a hand in the Spurs' first 12 baskets, making seven on his own and assisting on the other five. Kawhi Leonard and Jackson followed his three-point play by nailing back-to-back 3-pointers for a 34-16 advantage in the final 2 minutes of the first quarter. "I told the coaches that I could go all night, I could go 48, and I didn't think they would let me do it," Durant said. "But they kept me in and I just tried to give my team a spark." The Thunder stormed back with an 11-2 run to start the third quarter and eventually pulled ahead after Durant's 3-pointer from the top of the key made it 79-77 with 1:41 left in the period. San Antonio missed nine of 11 3-pointers in the second half. "The third quarter, it was like playing in mud," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "So, that was our downfall as much as anything." Notes: Popovich, whose request for his team to play nasty led to T-shirts being made in San Antonio, said at the morning shootaround that his team needed to play "with a little bit of ugly." Not nasty? "I was trying to stay away from that word," he said. ... San Antonio had a 29-28 edge in the second quarter after getting outscored 138-106 in the period in the first five games -- dropping more than six points per game. ... Greg Willard was initially scheduled to be one of the three officials but pulled out due to illness. Rodney Mott replaced him, alongside Joe Crawford and Bill Kennedy.

Manaea dazzles, A's offense comes on late to beat Yankees

Manaea dazzles, A's offense comes on late to beat Yankees

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka struck out a career-high 13 to rebound from the worst stretch of his major league career but wound up a hard-luck loser when reliever Tyler Clippard's wild pickoff throw sparked a go-ahead, two-run eighth inning in the Oakland Athletics' 4-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Sean Manaea (3-3), starting because Kendall Graveman was scratched with a sore pitching shoulder, matched Tanaka and allowed four hits in seven innings with six strikeouts and a walk. Ryan Madson pitched a perfect eighth and New York loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Santiago Casilla before Didi Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly and pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez popped out.

Tanaka (5-4) left with the game scoreless after allowing Adam Rosales' one-out single in the eighth, and Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis followed with run-scoring hits off Clippard. Stephen Vogt added a two-run homer in the ninth against Jonathan Holder.

With Aroldis Chapman sidelined by left shoulder inflammation and Dellin Betances moved from setup man to temporary closer, the Yankees' bullpen has stumbled of late.

Squaring his shoulders more than in recent starts, Tanaka allowed five hits, walked none and threw 76 of 111 pitches for strikes. He got 25 swings and misses - his most in the majors - and the usually undemonstrative 28-year-old tipped his cap to applauding fans while he walked to the dugout.

Tanaka was booed loudly in his previous home start, when he was chased by Houston after allowing three homers and eight runs in 1 2/3 innings. And he had been pounded for 14 runs over 4 2/3 innings in his previous two outings.

His return to form not surprisingly took place with Austin Romine behind the plate. Tanaka has a 2.21 ERA when pitching to Romine and a 12.27 ERA to Gary Sanchez, New York's No. 1 catcher.

Tanaka struck out eight of first 11 batters and nine of his opening 15. He fanned Mark Canha in a 10-pitch at-bat leading off the eighth, then was replaced after Rosales' hit to center.

Clippard threw past first baseman Chris Carter for an error that allowed Rosales to reach third, and Rajai Davis hit a two-hopper to third baseman Chase Headley, who threw to the plate in time for Romine to tag Rosales, who slid headfirst.

Matt Joyce, who had struck out his first three times up, drew a walk and Lowie singled to right as Rajai Davis came home and Joyce took third. Khris Davis grounded to Gregorius, who stopped the ball with a slide deep in the hole, and Davis just beat the shortstop's throw.

FLEET WEEK

The crowd of 39,044 included many sailors in their naval whites.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Athletics: Graveman and RHP Jesse Hahn are likely both headed to the DL with ailing shoulders. ... 1B Yonder Alonso missed his second straight start because of a sore right wrist, an injury sustained when hit by a pitch from Miami's Jarlin Garcia on Tuesday.

Yankees: A day after CF Jacoby Ellsbury went on the seven-day concussion DL, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was hard to predict when he will return . The medical staff was determining what Ellsbury can do. "It won't be much for a few days," he said. ... Chapman is to play catch Saturday, his first baseball activity since May 12.

UP NEXT

LHP CC Sabathia (4-2) pitches Saturday for the Yankees after winning consecutive starts for the first time since June 10 and 16 last year. RHP Jharel Cotton, 3-4 with a 5.68 ERA before he was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on May 11, will be recalled to start for Oakland. We was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in a pair of minor league starts.

Draymond fully appreciates 'witnessing greatness' of Warriors-Cavs trilogy

Draymond fully appreciates 'witnessing greatness' of Warriors-Cavs trilogy

OAKLAND -- The hoops historian Draymond Green has a message for those with short memories and cynical outlooks.

The NBA is never better than when The Finals have legendary potential, as is the case with the Warriors and Cavaliers, who next week become the first teams to meet three consecutive seasons to determine a champion.

“It’s a great thing for the league, contrary to popular belief,” Green said Friday after Warriors practice.

Warriors-Cavs Part III is, in fact, a fantastic boon for the league. Interest will peak. Ratings will soar. Storylines will cascade down every mountain, knoll and molehill.

“Right now, you’re witnessing greatness -- two great teams, great players,” Green said. “That’s what it is. It probably won’t be appreciated until it’s over. Say we meet again next year? It still won’t be appreciated -- until we don’t meet again and you realize what you had.”

What fans have is history made, with more in the making.

The Warriors enter The Finals after an unprecedented 12-0 start to the playoffs, becoming the first team to complete three four-game sweeps in a single postseason.

Another sweep, and it’s not inconceivable, would make these Warriors the first team in NBA history with a perfect postseason -- give them the distinction of having the best postseason in American sports history.

The Cavaliers enter The Finals after a 12-1 start and, moreover, with the reheated debate over whether LeBron James has a body of work that equals or surpasses that of Michael Jordan. James is one game removed from surpassing Jordan to become No. 1 on the all-time list for playoff scoring and will make his seventh consecutive appearance in The Finals, something Jordan never did.

Though a Cleveland victory would bolster any argument in James’ favor, a Cleveland loss might be enough to close the case in Jordan’s favor insofar as his Bulls reached six NBA Finals and won them all.

Warriors-Cavaliers has the potential to go beyond what most believe to be the most epic of postseason rivals, that being the Magic Johnson and the Lakers versus Larry Bird and the Celtics. They met only three times (1984, ’85 and ’87) but the NBA went a full 10 seasons with one team or the other in The Finals.

Being a student of the game, Green quite likely knows that -- as well as having a complete understanding of the possibilities ahead.

Even if he suspects others may not.

“But you usually don’t appreciate something until you don’t have it any more,” he said. “Maybe there’s just a lack of appreciation for greatness. When you look at the situation, most people have never reached greatness. So, maybe there’s just not an understanding of what you’re watching.

“I appreciate it. I’m happy we’ve been able to steam-roll people, and I love the fact that they’ve been able to steam-roll people. I just love great things. And I think right now we’ve found two great teams.”