Turned up another notch, Warriors-OKC rivalry isn't going away anytime soon

Turned up another notch, Warriors-OKC rivalry isn't going away anytime soon

Having beaten the Clippers into relative harmlessness, the Warriors have moved on to a new antagonist. It’s abundantly clear that team is the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The animosity generated during the 2016 Western Conference Finals was cranked up to outright bitterness when Kevin Durant left OKC last July to join the Warriors. Eight months later, the blood of competitive warfare runs rampant through the veins of both rosters.

The latest came Monday night, late in the second quarter of a 111-95 Warriors victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

While the players were positioning for a jump ball between Warriors forward Andre Iguodala and Thunder forward Taj Gibson, Stephen Curry’s attempt to step in front of OKC guard Semaj Christon was met with a push from Christon. Curry pushed back, after which Thunder guard Russell Westbrook stepped in front of Christon and gave Curry a shove.

“I was just trying to get in between Russ and (Christon),” Curry told reporters in Oklahoma City. “And I felt him push me. I kind of let that first one go, then as I kept going there was another little push. And at that point, I just wanted to hold my position.”

Westbrook, naturally, saw things differently.

“Curry tried to get into it with Semaj, tried to push him,” he said. “And I stepped right between, and that’s it. Once I see something going down with my teammates, I’m hopping in.”

As words were exchanged, Curry confronted Westbrook and within seconds, a scrum had formed near the OKC bench. There were no punches, but Draymond Green went after Westbrook and Christon in an effort to shoo them away.

With Gibson standing in the middle of it all, playing peacemaker with his arms around Curry, coaches and security personnel from both teams stepped onto the court to separate the players.

Order was restored, in part because Zaza Pachulia whisked Curry away from the crowd while referee Eric Lewis turned away Westbrook.

Double technical fouls were assessed, first to Curry and Christon and then to Green and Westbrook.

“Nothing surprises me at this point, when it comes to anything like that,” Green said of being hit with the technical foul. “I actually knew it was going to happen. I didn’t do any thing. But I knew it. If I’m anywhere in the area, it’s expected.”

Play resumed with the jump ball with 5.3 seconds left in the half. As the ball was tapped toward the Thunder bench, it was gathered by Klay Thompson, who flung it to Curry, who grabbed it and, without dribbling, launched and drained a 30-footer as the buzzer sounded.

To punctuate the theatrics, Curry broke into a full sprint toward the locker room the instant the ball went through the net to give the Warriors a 59-39 lead at the half.

“That was dope,” Green said. “A heads-up play by Klay, to get the pass out to Steph, and a great shot.”

There were other moments when things turned testy, suggesting that these teams are competing beyond the game.

They are. It’s about last May, when OKC took a 3-1 series lead and the Warriors came back to win in seven. It’s about last July, when Durant made his seismic move. It’s about Pachulia’s iron screen on Westbrook earlier this season that prompted the OKC guard vow revenge.

It’s also about the natural rivalry between point guards Curry and Westbrook, something Westbrook inflamed as recently as last week. That’s not going away any time soon.

Neither is the Warriors-Thunder beef, which very easily to live as long as Durant is wearing either jersey.

 

Spurs beat Grizz, advance to face Rockets in Western Conference semis

Spurs beat Grizz, advance to face Rockets in Western Conference semis

BOX SCORE

MEMPHIS, Tenn -- Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, and the San Antonio Spurs advanced to the Western Conference semifinals by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 103-96 Thursday night to take the series 4-2.

The Spurs now have beaten Memphis four of the five playoff series between these teams, and this was San Antonio's second straight win over the Grizzlies in the first round.

Tony Parker added 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, while LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Patty Mills had 10 points off the bench for the Spurs. San Antonio outrebounded Memphis 46-28, with 16 of those offensive boards. That led to 17 second-chance points.

Their semifinal with Houston will start Monday night in San Antonio.

Mike Conley scored 26 points, leading the five Memphis starters in double digits. Marc Gasol added 18, Zach Randolph 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Vince Carter had 12 points.

The Grizzlies fell to 3-10 in elimination games, losing six straight.

This was a taut game with 16 ties and nine lead changes, especially with four ties in the fourth quarter.

The Spurs took control after the Grizzlies went up 88-81 on three free throws from Conley with 6:29 left. Then Leonard scored eight straight for San Antonio, starting a 22-8 run to finish the game.

Even with Conley and Gasol a combined 2 of 10 in the first quarter, the Grizzlies trailed only 24-22 after Conley knocked down a 3 at the end of the quarter for his first bucket of the game. Conley hit another 3 for the final shot in the second quarter, putting Memphis up 50-45. The team that led at halftime won each of the first five games.

Parker hit his first six shots before finally missing his seventh with 29 seconds left in the first half.

The Grizzlies took their biggest lead at 57-47 on a 3-pointer by James Ennis III. That gave Memphis as many made 3s (9 of 17) as the Spurs had attempted (3 of 9) at that point. Randolph's layup with 7:19 left matched that 10-point lead at 63-53.

Then the Spurs went on a 13-3 run over a 4-minute span to erase that lead on Aldridge's three-point play at 67-66. Aldridge finished with nine points in helping the Spurs lead 75-74 at the end of the quarter.

TIP-INS

Spurs: They improved to 36-15 with a chance to clinch a series under coach Gregg Popovich, who took over in the 1996-97 season. ... Manu Ginobili converted a four-point play with 1:31 left in the third, putting the Spurs up 73-69. ... The Spurs wound up tying the Grizzlies' reserves with 16 points thanks to Mills.

Grizzlies: The Grizzlies set a franchise record hitting eight 3-pointers in the first half, topping the previous mark of seven in the second half May 1, 2005, against Phoenix. ... Conley has 20 or more points in five straight playoff games, the longest such streak in franchise history.

FREE THROW WATCH

Memphis coach David Fizdale earned a $30,000 fine from the NBA for his "Take that for data" rant about the free throw discrepancy in Game 2. Well, Leonard was 9 of 10 at the free throw line through three quarters compared to the Grizzlies' 7 of 8. The Spurs were 18 of 20 through three quarters. The Spurs finished 22 of 25 compared to 20 of 24 for Memphis.

Warriors GM Myers 'very, very confident' Kerr will return to coaching

Warriors GM Myers 'very, very confident' Kerr will return to coaching

Steve Kerr did not coach in Game 3 or Game 4 against the Blazers and is out indefinitely.

On Thursday, Warriors GM Bob Myers spoke with Jim Rome about Kerr's situation.

“What he’s going through right now is not a product of stress, it’s not a product of coaching, it’s more a physical issue that will be solved," Myers started. "When it will be solved, no one can say. But it is solvable, it’s fixable and like I said, he’s going to coach, but right now he just can’t.

"There’s some things that need to be corrected. But I think he’ll get back. I’m very very confident he will be back coaching, I just can’t say when.”

Kerr was not at practice on Wednesday and is consulting with specialists at Stanford this week.

Kerr is finishing up Year 3 of the five-year deal he signed back in May 2014.

"I think this guy is going to coach for a long time, because he thoroughly enjoys it," Myers said. "He really loves the game, and he is a great teacher. And you’ve had him on, I’m sure you’ve met him and talked to him. It’s one thing to know the game, but he has the ability to communicate it and our players clearly respond.

"So I can see that’s why a question you’d ask I totally get it and other people have asked but no I think he’s going to be in this game for a long time, we just have to get him back healthy now.”

The Warriors' next practice and media availability is on Friday.

The next series against the Jazz or Clippers will start on either Sunday or Tuesday.