Thunder rally to stun Kobe, Lakers

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Thunder rally to stun Kobe, Lakers

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Even down late, the Oklahoma City Thunder are showing that they are never out. Kevin Durant scored 22 points and rattled in the go-ahead basket on a baseline runner with 18 seconds left, and the Thunder scored the final nine points to rally for a 77-75 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday night. Oklahoma City trailed by seven with 2 minutes left before surging back with a series of defensive stops by its stars to claw back from that deficit in the closing stages of a game for the second time this postseason. The Thunder were also seven down with 2 minutes left in Game 1 against defending NBA champion Dallas in the first round. "They won't quit. That's not in their DNA," coach Scott Brooks said. "They're not wired that way and if they were, they wouldn't be here. We're not going to win every game but we're going to fight to the last second of the game and we did that tonight. "If we would have gotten down on ourselves with 2 minutes to go, we would have lost by 12 and we would go to L.A. 1-1." Instead, Oklahoma City takes a 2-0 lead into Game 3 on Friday night at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum scored 20 points apiece for the Lakers, who came up empty on their last six possessions after Bynum's hook shot made it 75-68 with 2:09 remaining. After struggling throughout the second half and missing 20 of their first 27 shots, the Thunder suddenly came alive after Brooks called timeout following Bynum's basket that gave Los Angeles its largest lead of the game. James Harden drove for a layup before Durant used his height advantage to reach up and tip away a pass from Bryant, who he was guarding. Durant ran out for a right-handed dunk at the other end before Russell Westbrook forced another turnover by aggressively challenging an outlet pass to Bryant along the sideline. Harden made the next stop, blocking Bryant's jumper on the next Lakers possession and getting a layup in transition off it to cut the deficit to one in the final minute. Bryant couldn't connect again, this time on a 3-pointer, to give the Thunder the ball back with the chance to take the lead and Durant was able to make it happen. "I wish it was my magical words. All I told the guys was, We're down 7. You don't have to play perfect basketball but we better come pretty close,'" Brooks said. Steve Blake missed an open 3-pointer from the right side with about 5 seconds left after Metta World Peace couldn't get the ball to Bryant on the inbounds play. Brown said he thought Bryant was open on the back side of the play, but World Peace apparently didn't see him -- agreeing that Bryant was supposed to be the first option. "Blake was wide open. We didn't have any timeouts left and he got a clean look, a really good look," World Peace said. "He can knock that down." Durant was then fouled with 0.3 seconds left and made his first try before missing the second on purpose -- failing to hit the backboard or rim for a violation. The Lakers got a desperation try but World Peace's long pass for Bynum was intercepted by Harden. "What they did the last few minutes there, they just made gambles," Bryant said. "They just jumped in the passing lanes. It's something that we're not accustomed to seeing. It's just flat-out risks defensively." Historically, the loss makes a huge difference. Los Angeles is 29-12 when splitting the first two games of a seven-game series and has lost 17 of 19 when falling into a 2-0 hole. The Lakers' last comeback was in the 2004 West semifinals against San Antonio. The Thunder have won all nine of their series after leading 2-0, dating back to the franchise's days in Seattle. "It's not good. I don't think anybody's happy in there (in the locker room)," coach Mike Brown said. "We felt like we let one slip away." Bryant was right at the heart of the meltdown, missing two shots and having a hand in two turnovers in the final 2 minutes. The first turnover came when Durant used his nearly 7-foot frame and impressive wingspan to come up with an energizing steal and fast-break chance. "He used his length on Kobe. Coming up with that steal was huge," Brown said. "That's what great players are supposed to do. They're supposed to take on the challenge at the end of the game and he did. "He won the game for them, basically." Westbrook added 15 points for Oklahoma City, which matched its lowest scoring total of the season but still gutted out the win. The Thunder had ripped apart the Lakers' defense with their pick-and-roll attack in Game 1, scoring 119 points in a 29-point blowout. "We dominated defensively," Bynum said. "We stopped them, made them play through their bigs and turn the ball over. In the last 2 minutes, we gave the game away." In a game that was nip-and-tuck throughout, the Lakers started inching away early in the fourth quarter while Westbrook was on the bench. Bryant drilled a jumper from the left wing and Blake followed with a 3-pointer before World Peace hit one of two free throws for a 69-63 advantage with 7:27 remaining -- the Lakers' largest lead to that point. Westbrook returned then but only provided the briefest of sparks for the struggling Oklahoma City offense, and Bynum's second straight basket -- on a left-handed hook shot at the left block -- made it 75-68 with 2:09 to play. Until that point, Oklahoma City had more turnovers (eight) than made baskets (seven) in the second half after committing an uncharacteristically low four turnovers in Game 1. Notes: The NBA on Wednesday fined Devin Ebanks 25,000 for actions related to his Game 1 ejection and Bynum 15,000 for failing to speak to reporters Tuesday. Bynum, who has had recent disciplinary issues within the team, talked at the Lakers' morning shootaround Wednesday and called it a make up for skipping the previous day. "I think he's learning. Is he going to be a perfect citizen the rest of his career? I don't know," Brown said. "He's bound to make mistakes. I think everybody makes mistakes." ... World Peace has said he supported Brooks to become Sacramento's coach back in 2007, when Brooks had been an assistant under Eric Musselman. "Little does he know, if I would have got the job, I was going to ask for him to be traded," Brooks joked. He then called World Peace, or Ron Artest at the time, the third-best two-way player at the time behind Bryant and Kevin Garnett. ... Harden caught World Peace with an inadvertent elbow to the face in the first quarter.

CSN's Buckets List: Some weak(s) to remember

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CSN's Buckets List: Some weak(s) to remember

Each Monday through the Final Four, our own Robbie Buckets -- known in some circles as Rob Snyder, associate producer at CSN -- will take a look at the world of college basketball: Games to watch each week, players who might be on the Celtics' radar come draft time, what's going on locally . . . and, of course, power rankings (which will eventually morph into bracketology). Enjoy!

The shakeups continue! UCLA's defensive deficiencies gor the best of the Bruins at home against a newly minted Arizona lineup. West Virginia had a brutal week. Meanwhile, injury issues are piling up around the country: Creighton lost star point guard Maurice Watson for the season with a torn ACL, Indiana lost NBA prospect OG Anunoby for the season with a knee injury, and Oregon lost Dillon Brooks for the near future with a lower leg injury. The Top 15 has never looked so fragile. So let's look at each team's weaknesses this week, shall we?

1. Villanova (19-1) - The Wildcats have two major issues that could keep them from winning back-to-back titles for the first time since Florida did it in 2006-07:  1) They don't have an offensive post presence, and, more importantly, 2) they play seven-deep and are clearly getting tired at times during games.

2. Kansas (18-1) - It's no secret the Jayhawks' depth in the frontcourt is (gulp) underwhelming.  When Landen Lucas goes to the bench, Kansas' defense goes into the toilet. 

3. Gonzaga (19-0) - Hard to find a weakness with an undefeated team, but here's the problem: The 'Zags face extremely weak competition, and will continue to do so until March. Their lack of a big test for two-plus months will hurt.

4. Kentucky (17-2) - As athletic and offensively solid as Kentucky is, this is one of the worst defensive units that John Calipari has had. The 'Cats also play very uptempo, and will sure be tested in a half-court atmosphere come March.

5. Baylor (18-1) - The Bears continue to impress, but their guard play and consistency shooting the ball from deep could haunt them in March. They need guard play in the tourney.

6. Oregon (18-2) - Health. How long will Dillon Brooks be out?  His injury early in the season hurt them, and it will certainly hurt again. He's their best player. No question.

7. Florida State (18-2) - Crazy that the 'Noles are in this position and not playing close to the defensive efficiency they're used to playing. That, combined with the fact that they're playing a crazy high pace, is going to make March games feel a lot tougher.

8. Arizona (18-2) - The Wildcats are riding high after upsetting UCLA in Westwood and getting Alonzo Trier back on the same night. Chemistry is now what 'Zona will need to develop.  

9. UCLA (19-2) - The Bruins are super-talented. However, they sport the kiss-of-death weakness: High tempo combined with horrific defensive efficiency.

10. North Carolina (18-3) - UNC is like UCLA. Super-talented but with the habit of playing down to bad competition and also going through defensive lapses.

11. Creighton (18-2) - The Bluejays issue used to be defensive efficiency., which has been a problem all year. Now, however, it's the fact that Maurice Watson is done for the year. Killer injury.

12. Butler (17-3) - The Bulldogs are a solid team all around, but lately they haven't shown up at all in the first half of games and have struggled to get easy baskets. They may have peaked too early.

13. Notre Dame (17-3) - ND has very few issues and is a really solid squad.  However, defense is a problem for the Irish at times, as they rank fairly low in defensive efficiency, and their very good offense has stalled in the half-court at times.

14. West Virginia (15-4) - The Mountaineers are boom or bust on defense. Their press forces the most turnovers in the country by far, but when their press is broken, they give up a ton of points. They are also incredibly high-tempo and frantic, which leads to a high-turnover offense as well.

15. Virginia (15-3) - The 'Cavs are very good on defense, but they lack a true go-to scorer and go through waves where it seems like scoring is incredibly difficult.

LOCAL FLAVOR

Rhode Island (12-6) - The Rams hold steady with a nice win over Duquesne, but what I said last week holds true: Win the conference tournament, or else . . . 

Providence (13-8) - Nice road win over Georgetown followed by a loss at Villanova which is nothing to worry about. However, the Friars still need at least two signature wins, and those opportunities are passing them by.

WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK

  • Tuesday, January 24 -- Kansas at West Virginia; Virginia at Notre Dame
  • Thursday, January 26 -- Xavier at Cincinnati
  • Saturday, January 28 -- Kansas at Kentucky
  • Sunday, January 29 -- Virginia at Villanova

POTENTIAL FUTURE CELTICS TO WATCH

Malik Monk - This kid is a bonafide scorer.  He is averaging 21.7 points in under 30 minutes per game and he's doing it in a variety of ways.  He can get to the rim, but he also shoots a lot of 3's and a lot of mid-range jumpers. Sounds like a recipe for a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer, right?  But get this: Monk is shooting 50.7 percemt from the field and 41.4 from 3-pt range. That's pretty nuts considering his shot selection.

Lauri Markkanen - This kid is about to skyrocket up draft boards.  He will absolutely pass Jonathan Isaac and will be the top big man in the 2017 draft.  He's got some Kevin Love to his game with more size.  The 7-footer is averaging 17 and 7, while shooting a crazy 52.4/50.0/83.5 split.  Stud.

Follow me on Twitter @RobbieBuckets for college hoops musings and off-the-cuff sports takes.

Alarm-puller: ‘I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan’

Alarm-puller: ‘I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan’

Intentionally or otherwise, the guy who allegedly pulled the fire alarm at the Steelers’ hotel Sunday morning may have also provided the average Bud Light-loving Bostonian a new motto. 

“I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan,” Dennis Harrison told police after he was arrested, according to the Boston Globe.  

Citing the State Police report, the Globe wrote Monday that Harrison was talked into pulling the alarm while at a party in Revere, with a friend driving the 25-year-old to the Boston Hilton Logan Airport hotel Sunday morning. 

Harrison reportedly walked up to the second floor and pulled the fire alarm before returning to the car, but his friend and the keys were gone. He was then picked up by police while walking away from the hotel. 

According to the Globe, Harrison pleaded not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and setting off a false fire alarm Monday and was released on personal recognizance.