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.

Hagg Bag: Breaking down storylines from Bruins camp

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Hagg Bag: Breaking down storylines from Bruins camp

The Bruins are now just about halfway through training camp and the World Cup of Hockey participants are finally on their way back to Boston to rejoin their NHL organization. 

Things are beginning to get back to a sense of normalcy for the Black and Gold after moving into a new practice facility and integrating some new faces into the mix at several different levels of the Original Six organization. 

So, with all of this going on and only a couple of weeks until the start of the regular season, it seemed like an appropriate time for a new training camp edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag.

As always these are real questions from real fans via emails to my jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com email account, tweets to my Twitter account with the #HaggBag hash tag and messages to my CSN Facebook page. Now, on to the bag:

 

Hey Joe

Not sure if you’re doing a HaggBag anytime soon, but here goes anyway.

I am all for the rebuild when a team is past its prime, but the World Cup just showed us we have two of the best players in the world. Add Krejci and Backes to that, and the Bruins can and should still compete in the playoffs. That is why it is so frustrating that we are returning the same AWFUL defense we had last year. You haven’t agreed there have been right shot defenseman moved in the last year or two that have been available. And now, a potential top pair defenseman in Trouba is available.

We need to go out, overpay if necessary and secure this guy. It should help us this year and in the future. This guy is a top-4 D right now.

There shouldn’t be ANY prospects off the table, including Charlie McAvoy, despite how excited I am about him. It’s not hurting you long term because Trouba is 22. I am sick of waiting for some team to hand us a player. We need to go out and get one.

--John D

JH: You picked the perfect time to send a missive to the Hagg Bag, John. I agree that Jacob Trouba might be the perfect bridge D-man to make the Bruins competitive now, and get them to a point two to three years from now when the young D-men prospects are ready to carry the team. But scouts are very mixed about how good he’s ever going to get, and some feel that he doesn’t make decisions on the ice quickly enough to really be a No. 1 defenseman, or even a top flight, top pairing guy.

That’s somebody that I’m willing to acquire if the price is right, but not somebody I’m willing to sell the entire Black and Gold farm for. There is no way I’m trading Charlie McAvoy under any circumstances. He could be a Drew Doughty Lite defenseman for the Bruins a couple of years down the road, and could potentially solve their No. 1 D-man problems from within. He is the future, and the Bruins aren’t going to mortgage the future for a player in Trouba that’s not going to make them a Cup contender.

Sorry, but a six-game tournament at the World Cup doesn’t convince me that the Bruins are only one player away from suddenly being capable of going on a long playoff run, regardless of how well Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand played. They’ve got some excellent high end forwards, they’ve got a No. 1 goaltender that should be motivated for a rebound year and they’ve got a blue line group that needs a lot of help. If the Bruins can trade Joe Morrow or Jakub Zboril along with a forward (it would have to be Ryan Spooner at this point) and a first round pick for Trouba they should do it, but the cost in trade assets and in contract terms after that might be too prohibitive at this point.

If I were keeping an eye on trades, I’d keep watching an Anaheim team that needs to shed some salary cap before they sign some of their restricted free agents. That might very well be where the D-man comes from that the B’s are seeking out right now.

Joe,

Jacob Trouba requested a trade out of Winny, perfect chance for Sweeney to redeem himself after one full season and offseason not being able to get ANY help on D. This is his chance, but I'm not holding my breath, give them what they want and get this kid!!!!

--Christopher Foley (Message from Facebook)

JH: There’s another vote for Trouba if Don Sweeney is reading this today.

 
I hope tuukka is ready to try and earn his money with the d men on the bruins

--Matthew Wilson (@mattframingham)

JH: I hope you’re right because I think the goalies for the Bruins are going to have to be really, really, really good based on the defense playing in front of them.

 

Haggs:

I know Zachary Senyshyn will miss most of camp, but is returning to juniors the only option the B's have with him? Could he play in Providence instead?

--Mike Ierardi (Message from Facebook)

JH: As we have seen, Zach Senyshyn was able to come back and be a part of camp and even picked up an assist in Friday night’s overtime preseason win over the Red Wings. But I still think the 19-year-old will end up not making the NHL roster and will end up back in junior hockey with the Soo Greyhounds.

So here’s the breakdown: Senyshyn based on his age cannot play in the AHL for the balance of this upcoming season. That’s the same situation that Jakub Zboril and Jesse Gabrielle are in as well as younger players. All three of them will need to return to junior hockey if they don’t make the NHL. Brandon Carlo and Jake DeBrusk can both play for Providence this season based on their age and experience, so they will be a part of the B’s organization where or not they crack the NHL roster next month.

 

Is the Bruins PTO signing of Ehrhoff a sign they are not in on Trouba?

--John Hersey (@Neely82010)

JH: I think it’s a sign they want to get a free look at a defenseman that was still a top-four guy just a couple of years ago. I’m thinking Claude Julien must have liked the way he was playing during the World Cup of Hockey and it’s a no-brainer for Ehrhoff given the B’s back end situation and the openings that might be there for the right performer. Certainly the Bruins are going to utilize every outlet to try and improve their defense, and this is just another one of those avenues to purse.

Joe,

I see a legitimate shot of three rookies that could and probably should make the team Czarnik, Heinen, and Carlo.

I'm not in any rush for Carlo as more ice time in Providence will probably go a long way for his development. If the Bruins move Spooner to the left wing to play with Krejci and Pastrnak, what do you think of a 3rd and 4th lines looking like this: Beleskey-Moore- Hayes Heinen -Czarnik-Nash with Acciari as the team’s extra forward.

Thanks, Stu (Message from Facebook)

JH: I don’t think a Spooner-Krejci-Pastrnak line would make it very long with Julien simply based on the defensive responsibilities. There’s not enough heaviness and nobody on that line that will be winning any battles along the boards, and that’s just a statement of fact.

I do agree that Heinen and Carlo are probably the lead prospect-type players that could win NHL roster spots, and both are off to very good starts in training camp. Heinen has two goals in two games, and Carlo has played 20 minutes in both of his preseason games with very little damage taking place during his shifts.

Czarnik is interesting because he just keeps making plays, and his versatility could end up helping him crack the final roster. But I don’t think Dominic Moore is somebody I really want as a third line center because there’s just not enough offense on a forward line that needs to be able to provide secondary scoring behind the top two lines. Here’s my final roster based on what we know right now:

Marchand-Bergeron-Heinen

Hayes-Krejci-Pastrnak

Beleskey-Spooner-Backes

Czarnik-Moore/Acciari-Nash

 
Chara-C. Miller

Krug-K. Miller

Liles-McQuaid

Morrow

Rask

Khudobin

 

Hey Joe,

What do you think about the Bruins trading for someone like right-handed D man David Savard? Columbus is looking to shed some salary and with other young defenseman coming up (Werenski, Harrington, Heatherington, etc.) they could be looking to trade a D-man. With this trade, the Bruins could then look to expose K. Miller and/or McQuaid in the expansion draft or deal one for a late pick. Let me know what you think!

Cheers, Adam

JH: I suppose it’s a possibility, Adam, but I think Brandon Carlo could make that kind of a deal a moot point if he keeps playing at his current level in training camp. If that happens then either Kevan Miller or Adam McQuaid could eventually become expendable, but I think it immediately makes Joe Morrow a player who’s roster spot might in jeopardy. That’s not even counting Christian Ehrhoff, who could easily become the seventh defenseman on the roster if he shows more than he did in Los Angeles or Chicago last season.

If it’s a trade for a defenseman, my senses tell me that it’s going to be a bigger name than David Savard that the Bruins are chasing after. But who knows? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nothing will surprise me with the Bruins anymore after some of the stuff that I’ve seen go down over the past couple of years.

 

Backes, Pastrnak make their Bruins preseason debut tonight in Philly

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Backes, Pastrnak make their Bruins preseason debut tonight in Philly

The Bruins have announced their lineup for Saturday night’s preseason road game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center and it will include the exhibition schedule debuts of World Cup players David Backes and David Pastrnak.

Both forwards have been skating with the training camp group since Wednesday and will ramp things up after taking a couple of days to recharge following the tournament in Toronto.

Those two veterans, one of the older and one of the extremely younger variety, will mix in with the B’s group that’s been in camp for the past 10 days working out together and gaining chemistry on forward lines working together for two practice sessions each day at Warrior Ice Arena.

A number of B’s players will be back in the lineup on Saturday night after skating in Friday night’s 2-1 overtime win against the Red Wings including: Colby Cave, Seth Griffith, Danton Heinen, Joe Morrow and Riley Nash. 

Here’s the full Black and Gold lineup against the Broad Street Bullies with Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre getting the call in Philly with one of them most likely to get the entire game between the pipes a la Anton Khudobin in Detroit on Friday night: Backes, Chris Casto, Colby Cave, Tommy Cross, Austin Czarnik, Jake DeBrusk, Jesse Gabrielle, Seth Griffith, Jimmy Hayes, Danton Heinen, Zane McIntyre, Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, Peter Mueller, Riley Nash, Rob O’Gara, David Pastrnak, Tyler Randell, Malcolm Subban and Jakub Zboril.