Was this an NBA Finals preview?

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Was this an NBA Finals preview?

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- With his All-Star point guard on the bench with three early fouls, two-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant took it upon himself to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder rolling. After he did, even the mighty Miami Heat never could recover. Durant had 28 points, nine rebounds and tied his season-high with eight assists, Kendrick Perkins added a season-best 16 points and the Thunder opened a difficult stretch in their schedule by beating Miami 103-87 on Sunday night. The two title contenders opened the day tied for the second-best record in the NBA, three games behind the Chicago Bulls in the race for the top overall seed in the playoffs. West-leading Oklahoma City edged ahead into second, with the rematch 10 days away in Miami. "I think it was a good test for us," said Perkins, who has set new season scoring highs in two straight games. "We came out and did what we needed to do and protected home court. ... Now, we've got to move on. I don't think we should ride a rollercoaster over this one win." Oklahoma City had a season-high 13 steals and forced Miami into 21 turnovers that led to 28 Thunder points. Miami's big three -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- combined for 15 of the giveaways. "We will own this one," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They jumped us. Everybody saw it. They had us on our heels and they were the aggressors." Wade led Miami with 22 points but also committed a season-worst six turnovers. Bosh had 18 points and five turnovers, and James ended up with 17 points, seven assists and four turnovers. "Some of it was attack turnovers and some of it was careless turnovers," James said. "We started the game with a turnover. From there on, we turned the ball over." Oklahoma City took the lead for good in the first 4 minutes of the second quarter, then built on it after All-Star Russell Westbrook picked up his third foul with 7 minutes left before halftime. Durant played a bigger role in orchestrating the offense, hitting a layup in transition and a foul line jumper but also setting up Perkins' two-handed slam and James Harden's fast-break layup during a 12-2 burst for the Thunder. Harden's layup bumped the lead up to 55-42 with 2:01 to go before halftime. "KD was just phenomenal. I think he took the matchup well with LeBron, he did his job and he almost had a triple-double tonight," Perkins said. "That's what we need out of him every night." The Heat made a brief 8-0 comeback spurt, fueled by back-to-back turnovers by Harden, and pulled to 91-83 after Shane Battier's second straight 3-pointer with 7:14 remaining. Perkins put an end to that rally by getting open for two-handed slams on consecutive possessions, and Durant nailed a 3 with 3:20 remaining to push Oklahoma City's lead back out to 100-85. Spoelstra then pulled James, Wade and Bosh with 96 seconds left facing a 16-point deficit. "They beat us in all facets of the game -- from the beginning to the end," James said. Serge Ibaka and Harden each scored 19 for Oklahoma City and Westbrook finished with 13 points, one game after going for a career-high 45 in a double-overtime win against Minnesota on Friday night. The Thunder will travel to face the Los Angeles Lakers and host Chicago next Sunday in their tough 11-day stretch. Oklahoma City shot 67 percent in the first half and never let Miami -- the league's second-best defense, allowing opponents to shoot only 38 percent -- piece together enough stops to mount a rally. Ibaka had a two-handed slam, Durant followed with a right-handed jam off of Westbrook's alley-oop and the lead stretched to 68-53 following Ibaka's putback with 7:04 left in the third quarter. Wade hit a pair of 3-pointers but couldn't spark a Heat comeback. Even when he finished the third quarter by hitting a buzzer-beater from four steps beyond midcourt, it didn't give Miami any momentum. Wade sat out the first three minutes of the final period, then didn't attempt a shot after checking back in. "I'd rather not comment on that," he said. When asked whether he wanted the ball in his hands, he said, "I don't want to talk about the offense." Before the game, Spoelstra called Miami's stretch of three straight road games -- and five of six -- an opportunity to take a step forward. "We've been disappointed in our play on the road in general since the All-Star break," Spoelstra said. Instead, the Heat continued a rough patch with five losses in their last seven road games. During a 14-game home winning streak spanning the past two months, Miami is only 10-7 on the road. "Our most important thing right now is to find a next level of basketball. We don't necessarily even know if we have another level or two but we want to keep on pushing to get to that point and find a better consistency than we've had the last three weeks," Spoelstra said beforehand. "When we're playing on the top of our game, we feel we can win anywhere. But we're not quite there yet." NOTES: The Heat are tied for the franchise's best start after 47 games at 35-12. ... The game included four of the NBA's top six scorers -- Durant, James, Westbrook and Wade. ... Miami's season-worst turnover total is 22. ... Harden had a career-worst seven turnovers, two more than he'd ever had before.

Warriors stay ready, strike gold amid the 2017 NBA Draft scramble

Warriors stay ready, strike gold amid the 2017 NBA Draft scramble

OAKLAND -- Considering their status as reigning champs without a pick, members of the Warriors personnel department could have turned out the lights and left team headquarters to watch the NBA Draft from a nearby tavern.

They instead stayed in business mode Thursday night, observing the draft-night chaos up close, waiting for the right moment and the right player.

And for the second consecutive year, the Warriors paid a team for its 38th overall draft pick, sending a reported $3.5 million to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the rights to Oregon big man Jordan Bell, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

“Everybody we talked to had a lot of good things to say about him,” president/general manager Bob Myers said. “He’s one of the few guys we looked at and really wanted to see if we could get. I actually was not optimistic we would be able to get him. But somehow it came to fruition.”

Myers added that the Warriors, along with many mock drafts, projected Bell as a first-round pick.

Bell led the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage (63.6) while shooting almost exclusively in the paint. The 6-foot-9 center/forward was sixth among Pac-12 rebounders at 8.8 per game and 13th in steals at 1.3 per game.

The Long Beach Poly High product possesses a wingspan a fraction shy of 7-feet and bears, by some accounts, a resemblance to Draymond Green inasmuch as he is a defense-first player with a deep reservoir of energy.

It’s a comparison that Bell, asked about it, embraces.

“Draymond, because people always say I’m undersized,” Bell told Basketball Insiders last month. “He’s one of those players you can’t really say what position he is, but he’s a force on defense.”

Moreover, Myers cited Green as one of the players best suited to mentor Bell.

“Draymond is a good one,” the GM said. “He’s not afraid to tell players what he thinks. He’s going to be a good teacher.”

Bell in three seasons became the Ducks’ all-time leader in blocks. He blocked eight shots in a Midwest Regional win over Kansas that sent Oregon to the Final Four. He became during the NCAA Tournament the first player since Hakeem Olajuwon (in 1985) to snag at least 12 rebounds in five consecutive tournament games.

“Defending is one of my best attributes,” Bell told Basketball Insiders. “Being able to switch 1-through-5. Play small ball. Blocking shots. Timing. Decision-making on offense.”

These are the characteristics that prompted the Warriors to put a red-letter “B” next to Bell’s name on their draft board -- even though his offensive skills are unrefined.

“We love his ability to defend,” Myers said. “He could probably defend most positions, and in the NBA that’s huge. To be able to switch pick-and-rolls, rebound, block shots, finish, there are a lot of boxes he checks.

“ . . . We just like the way he plays basketball. We’ll find a place for him.”

The Warriors also are closing in on a deal for one of Bell’s Oregon teammates. Forward Chris Boucher is expected to sign a two-way contract with the team.

“That’s something we’re trying to move toward,” Myers said of Boucher, who is rehabilitating an ACL surgery.

“But we like players that win. We like players that can play. I don’t care what school they are or what their background is, or what position. Winners. That’s what we’re trying to do, is win. If we end up getting that done, that’s another player that was on a very good team.”

Kings finish 2017 NBA Draft with night that can turn franchise around

Kings finish 2017 NBA Draft with night that can turn franchise around

SACRAMENTO -- The Kings had a big draft night. The kind of night that might turn a franchise around. They entered the evening with three picks, including two in the top 10. With their first selection, they filled the franchise’s biggest need when they drafted De’Aaron Fox and then they went to work.
 
Vlade Divac and his team of front office execs jumped on an early trade, dealing the No. 10 overall selection to the Portland Trail Blazers for No. 15 and No. 20. North Carolina’s Justin Jackson was too appealing to pass on, and like Fox, he fit a major position of need. 
 
Sacramento came back with the 20th selection, taking one of the biggest risk/reward picks in the draft. Duke’s Harry Giles is playing on rebuilt knees, but before that, he was one of the top prospects in all of basketball. If he can stay healthy, the Kings may have drafted the biggest steal of the night. 
 
They topped off the evening with the selection of Wooden and Naismith Award winner Frank Mason III with the 34th overall pick. The Kings entered the night without a single point guard and they ended it with two very exciting options. 
 
“I’m very excited about the talent that we brought here tonight,” Divac said. “They’re going to just be an addition to what we’re trying to build here in the second half of the season.”
 
The Kings turned down overtures to move up to draft Fox. The 19-year-old speedster will step in and immediately compete for the starting point guard spot and he’s very excited to be a King.
 
“It’s just the vibe that I got when I was out there,” Fox told local Sacramento media via phone. “I felt like they really wanted me.” 
 
John Calipari is known for his bevy of All-Star bigs throughout the league, but he’s also produced a long line of big-time guards. Sacramento is hoping that Fox can live up to the billing of other former Calipari guards like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall. According to Divac, the Kings were so high on Fox, they would have taken him higher. 
 
“Screaming,” Divac said about the reaction in the room to Fox falling in their lap. “It was a guy that we all loved and in some way, if we had the number 1 pick, he would’ve been our guy.”
 
“De’Aaron is our future,” Divac added.
 
Without a perfect fit at 10, Divac made an adjustment on the fly to add more assets. The decision to trade 10 for 15 and 20 was very similar to the last season when the Kings dealt the eighth overall pick for No. 13, 28 and the draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic. By splitting the pick in two, the Kings were able to land two talented pieces that mesh with the current roster build.
 
Jackson and Fox know each other well. The duo played AAU ball together and Fox says he considers Jackson an older brother.  He is friends with Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere from their Kentucky connection.
 
“I feel like we can grow together,” Fox said of the Kings’ young core. “Of course, it’s going to take some time, but every franchise takes time.”
 
Fox is the jewel of the night and Jackson will compete for time at the wing, but Giles is the wildcard. The 19-year-old big can play the four and the five and has elite potential. 
 
“I’m so excited he was there for us at the 20,” Divac said. “That kind of talent you can’t pass.”
 
The Kings have done their homework on Giles. The type of knee injury that he sustained is similar to former NBA players Danny Manning, Amaré Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin. Manning and Martin each played 15 years in the league and Stoudemire lasted 14 seasons before retiring in 2016. After meeting him in person in Sacramento and working him out, they are very confident that he will be able to overcome his injuries and have a successful career in the NBA. 
 
Mason III will remind Kings fans of Isaiah Thomas, another undersized point guard that fell to the second round. The Kansas star posted 20.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Jayhawks last season. He’s a hard-nosed leader that can jump out of the gym and will instantly become a fan favorite in Sacramento. 
 
It’s a huge haul. Sacramento added two points guards, a wing and a big from some of the best basketball schools in the country. More than that, they added high character winners to a changing culture. 
 
For the first time in a while, the Sacramento Kings have accumulated assets. They have hit the ground running in their attempted rebuild and for one night, they are the talk of the NBA.