Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

May 3, 2013

NBA PLAYOFFS: Thunder up 3-2 entering Game 6 with Rockets

HOUSTON — Kevin Durant has scored 74 points combined in Oklahoma City's past two games against the Houston Rockets.

The problem is that his teammates haven't stepped up to take some pressure off the superstar, and the Rockets have won both of those games.

Houston has cut the Thunder's lead to 3-2 in the series, and is looking to become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 0-3 series deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series.

They'll likely continue to send two or three defenders at Durant and dare other players to beat them in Game 6 Friday night in Houston.

Though it hasn't happened in the past two games, Thunder coach Scott Brooks is confident Durant will get more scoring help on Friday.

"We're getting open shots,'' Brooks said. "If we can get those same open shots, I feel very confident our guys are going to step up and hit those shots. Those are the same shots that they've made their entire careers.''

Rockets coach Kevin McHale raved about Durant and said they'll continue to try different looks to slow him down, even if it means leaving other capable scorers unguarded.

"When you double team a guy at the top of the key where he has the ball a lot, someone's going to be open,'' he said. "You've just got to take the temperature of what's happening and how hot you think Durant is ... and you've just got to sometimes live with it.''

While Oklahoma City is without All-Star Russell Westbrook for the rest of the season, the Rockets are dealing with several health issues as well. Point guard Jeremy Lin has missed the past two games with a bruised chest muscle. His status for Friday's game is still up in the air, but McHale said he was feeling better Thursday.

Carlos Delfino's status is also questionable after not playing in the second half because of a sore left foot. The Rockets also said on Thursday that star James Harden had been diagnosed with strep throat, but was expected to play on Friday.

He bounced back from a tough performance in Game 4 to score 31 points on Wednesday to lead Houston to the 107-100 win.

McHale was impressed with Harden's work on Wednesday, especially considering he was struggling with his illness and lacked his normal energy.

"Every day is not perfect,'' McHale said. "Being in that situation and having some tough games, it bothers you and you're bound and determined to come back the next night and play better.''

The Rockets were also helped in Game 5 by the Thunder's decision to intentionally foul 7-foot center Omer Asik for an almost two-minute span in the fourth quarter. The career 54 percent shooter made 8 of 12 free throws to push the lead to 101-92 before Oklahoma City gave up on that plan.

Brooks said they did it because the team wasn't playing good defense and he hoped to change the rhythm of the game.

"I thought that would give us a chance,'' Brooks said. "Unfortunately, he stepped up. Give him credit ... something I go back on, we have to play better defense. We don't want to get into that if we don't have to. We would rather play the way we want to play, solid defense for 48 minutes.''

McHale called Asik's free throw shooting a big part of the Rockets win, and said that he'd got some tutoring in the area from former Houston assistant coach and general manager Carroll Dawson.

"He practices them all the time,'' McHale said. "He's been doing a great job. Earlier in the fall, Carroll Dawson really worked with him on changing his technique a little bit. He's been working on it and working on it and he's getting more confident.''

Some Houston players were irked at Durant for saying "hack-a-whatever-his-name-is'' when referring to the tactic on Asik.

"He knew his name,'' Chandler Parsons said. "The guy has had two double doubles in a row. He's one of the best centers in the NBA. He knows his name. If he didn't know, he does for sure now.''

Brooks wasn't as concerned about his tactic on Asik not working as he was about why his team keeps struggling on defense in the third quarter. Houston scored 38 points in the third quarter of Game 4 and 37 points on Wednesday night.

"I know that's not who we are because it hasn't been who we are for a lot of years,'' Brooks said.

The Rockets insist that they're just having fun and that all the pressure is on top-seeded Oklahoma City, because as the eight-seed they weren't expected to win.

"In our minds still nobody's giving us a shot,'' Parsons said. "But it doesn't really matter, it matters what we believe in that locker room and that we believe in ourselves. We're fully confident that we're going to win tomorrow night and we're going to take the series.''

Since most of these young Rockets don't have much playoff experience, they've been leaning on the vast experience of McHale, who won three titles in the 1980s with the Celtics. He doesn't discuss Houston's chance to make history with this young team, he just asks his players to focus on the next game.

"Anything could happen, that's the beautiful thing about basketball,'' he said. "That's why you go play. What happened in the past doesn't make any difference. We had great effort last night and we just need great effort again.''

Of course, the Thunder, who reached the NBA Finals last season, aren't lacking in confidence either.

Oklahoma City's players weren't available on Thursday, but Kendrick Perkins made it clear that he believes the Thunder are in control of the series with a tweet that included a link to his Boston Celtics championship ring.

"You think we stressed out right now,'' he asked on Twitter. "Y'all crazy we got heart over here in OKC.''

Then he tweeted again.

"If the playoffs was meant to be easy then everybody could win a ring,'' he tweeted. "We up 3-2 and we not looking back. Great position to be in.''

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DSC_0111web.jpg ‘Team behind the Team’

    For the second-straight year, the Claremore Zebra student training staff will be represented in the Oklahoma Coaches All-State games held in Tulsa.
    Meranda Golbek and Sarah Szcinski, a pair of 2014 Claremore High School graduates, earned All-State honors for their athletic training careers and will join two other student trainers from Jenks and Stillwater High School on the East squad.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • FISHFRYweb.jpg Claremore QB Club holds Fish Fry Aug. 2

    The Claremore Zebra Quarterback Club will hold its annual Fish Fry fundraiser on Aug. 2 at the Claremore High School cafeteria.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • MLB: Rangers struggle in 9-3 loss to A's

    A rough month didn't get any better for Texas on Sunday night, even though the game-time temperature of 100 degrees would have seemed to be in the Rangers' favor against Oakland.

    However, they trailed 5-0 in the second inning en route to a 9-3 loss to the Athletics. Texas has lost 15 of its last 18 and dropped to 4-19 in July.

    July 28, 2014

  • Lost Red Sox title ring returned by Yankees fan

    A lost Red Sox World Series ring is back on the finger of its owner, thanks to a nifty pickup by an ardent New York Yankees fan.

    Manhattan restaurant owner Luigi Militello could hardly believe it when he found the shiny 2013 championship ring on a restroom sink at his Luke's Bar and Grill on Thursday night.

    July 28, 2014

  • MLB: First-place Dodgers complete sweep of Giants

    Manager Don Mattingly hardly considers a late-July sweep in San Francisco a turning point to put his Dodgers in the driver's seat atop the NL West.

    Yet coming off consecutive series losses at St. Louis and Pittsburgh, Los Angeles needed some sort of spark as August approaches. The Dodgers found it in the ballpark of their biggest rival, and left the Bay Area in first place following an emphatic three-game swing.

    Carl Crawford hit an RBI triple to back Hyun-Jin Ryu's third straight victory, and division-leading Los Angeles beat the Giants 4-3 Sunday night to establish some momentum behind their pitching and offense.

    July 28, 2014

  • NBA: Lakers set on hiring Byron Scott for new coach

    The Los Angeles Lakers have waited nearly three months to hire a new coach, and they're apparently making Byron Scott wait a few more days.

    Scott said this weekend that he has been hired by the Lakers, but the club insisted Sunday that no deal has been reached.

    July 28, 2014

  • NASCAR: Jeff Gordon claims fifth Brickyard 400 title

    With a tinge of gray hair at his temples, his hat on backward and his two young children by his side, Jeff Gordon celebrated as if he was 23 years old again.

    Gordon won a NASCAR-record fifth Brickyard 400 on Sunday, eight days before his 43rd birthday and on the weekend Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first Brickyard victory.

    July 28, 2014

  • MLB: Thomas, Torre highlight HOF class

    Frank Thomas choked back tears, Joe Torre apologized for leaving people out of his speech and Tony La Russa said he felt uneasy.

    Being enshrined in the Hall of Fame can have those effects, even on the greats.

    Thomas, pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and managers Bobby Cox, Torre and La Russa were inducted into the baseball shrine Sunday, and all paid special tribute to their families before an adoring crowd of nearly 50,000.

    July 28, 2014

  • Blackmon a 'big deal' for the wrong reasons

    The sports world is littered with gifted athletes whose self-destructive tendencies derailed what should have been promising careers. Ex-Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon appears to be on that well-worn path with his latest arrest.

    July 27, 2014

  • BASEBALL: Three Rivers Bandits notch 8th-straight win

    The Three Rivers Bandits seem to be getting hot when they need to be, heading into next week’s state tournament.

    The Bartlesville Indians were victims of the heat as the Bandits swept a doubleheader from them, 2-0 and then 9-2, on Saturday at Connors State College for their eighth straight win.

    July 27, 2014