Sullinger continues to impress with first double-double

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Sullinger continues to impress with first double-double

BOSTON -- Jared Sullinger knew his role from being the centerpiece of the Ohio State University basketball team would change once he entered the NBA.

From the moment the Boston Celtics drafted him with the 21st pick this summer, he emphasized the importance of rebounding and chipping in wherever the team needed help. Ten games into his first season, he is practicing what he preached.

On Saturday, the rookie recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds off the bench during the Celtics 107-89 win over the Toronto Raptors. Rebounding came first, scoring was secondary. He grabbed three boards in his first three minutes on the court

"Sully does small things like rebound the ball, the way he gets guys open," said Kevin Garnett. "Small things that you're probably looking for stat-wise, when you're playing with him and you're his teammate, his dives, his rolls, getting JT (Jason Terry) open looks, little small things that aren't going to show up on your yellow pad, the small things which he does makes us better. In order for us to be better and in this process in getting better, everybody has to do those things.

"So you know what? On your yellow pad he's not that big of a deal, tonight obviously for your yellow pad he did a great job, but overall Sully's doing small things along with Chris (Wilcox) and all the other guys that are making us come out of this funk that we were in."

Sullinger played over 26 minutes on Saturday, an increase of from the eight he played against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. Head coach Doc Rivers had outlined the consequences of giving up offensive rebounds and Sullinger had to oblige. Rivers sensed unhappiness from the 20-year-old forward, but appreciated that he put it out of his mind two days later.

"He wasn't happy about not playing against Brooklyn," said Rivers. "And I just told all the guys, 'Guys got offensive rebounds on you, you're coming out.' And he was the first. I thought he really did a great job overall (against the Raptors). They got a couple but I thought he was aggressive. He just knows how to play. He's a calming effect at times when you put him in, and I don't think I've ever said that about a rookie. It's nice to have that."

Said Sullinger, "I just had to channel my energy towards the next game, understand that even though I don't play a lot, there's still a lot of things I can do to help the basketball team. I wasn't upset that I didn't play a lot, I was just upset that we lost. That's my main priority, to win."

Sullinger's first double-double is a glimpse into his potential. Since coming into the league, he has working on improving his consistency, shooting abilities, lateral quickness, and conditioning. He has always understood his role on the veteran team, and he is making an impact by embracing it.

"What I came here to do is just to rebound," he said. "Then everything else just falls into place."

Kevin Durant's future a mystery as OKC collapses

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Kevin Durant's future a mystery as OKC collapses

OAKLAND, Calif. - As Stephen Curry dribbled out the clock in a raucous Oracle Arena, Kevin Durant could only stand and watch.

The Golden State Warriors are heading back to the NBA Finals, while Durant's future in Oklahoma City is much less certain.

Two nights after blowing an opportunity to close out the defending champion Warriors at home, the Thunder got sent home for the summer when they lost Game 7 of the Western Conference finals 96-88 on Monday night.

Instead of becoming known as the team that knocked off the Warriors after their record-setting 73-win regular season, the Thunder will be remembered for a playoff collapse. They became just the 10th NBA team to lose a playoff series after taking a 3-1 lead and now head into an uncertain offseason with Durant eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

If he does leave the only franchise he has played for in his nine-year career, he will do it having failed to deliver the championship to Oklahoma City. The closest the Thunder have gotten in Durant's tenure was when they lost the NBA Finals in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012.

They then lost in the second round the next season, in the conference finals in 2014 to San Antonio before missing the playoffs entirely because of an injury to Durant last year.

But under first-year coach Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City earned the third seed in the top-heavy Western Conference this season and then upset 67-win San Antonio in the second round. The Thunder followed that by winning three of the first four games against the Warriors, with a pair of lopsided wins at home.

But after losing Game 5 on the road, the Thunder blew an opportunity to eliminate the Warriors at home on Saturday night. Oklahoma City led by seven points with less than five minutes remaining but made only one basket and committed six turnovers down the stretch of a 108-101 loss that could haunt the franchise for years.

The Thunder responded on the road in Game 7 by taking a 13-point lead in the second quarter. But once Curry and Klay Thompson started hitting Oklahoma City with a flurry of 3-pointers, the Thunder had no answer. The Splash Brothers combined for 13 3-pointers as Golden State outscored Oklahoma City by 30 points from behind the line.

Oklahoma City's stars were no match. Russell Westbrook missed 14 of 21 from the field and shot just 36.8 percent in the three potential clinchers. Durant finished with 27 points but took only 10 shots in the first three quarters.

Durant did score seven straight points to cut an 11-point deficit to four with 1:40 remaining. But Serge Ibaka then fouled Curry on a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down, allowing Golden State to build the lead back to seven.

Durant then missed two shots and could only stare blankly when Curry ended Oklahoma City's season with a 3-pointer with 26.8 seconds left. Now the Thunder can only hope it doesn't end Durant's tenure in Oklahoma City as well.