NBA Wrap: Thunder cruise past Lakers

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NBA Wrap: Thunder cruise past Lakers

LOS ANGELES -- Kevin Durant scored 42 points, Russell Westbrook had 27 points and 10 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder easily sent the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers to their sixth straight loss, 116-101 Friday night.
Kevin Martin scored 15 points and hit three 3-pointers for the Thunder, who romped to a 27-point lead in the second half of their seventh win in nine games. Oklahoma City (28-8) matched the Clippers for the NBA's best record with a virtuoso game from Durant, who had 38 points midway through the third quarter.
Kobe Bryant scored 28 for the Lakers, on their first six-game skid since March 2007.
Antawn Jamison added 19 points as Los Angeles looked lost and overmatched in its third straight game without starting big men Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol (see full recap).
Celtics drop RocketsBOSTON -- Paul Pierce scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half and Kevin Garnett added 17 points and four blocks as the Boston Celtics nearly blew a 17-point lead before pulling away late in a 103-91 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

The Celtics extended their season-high winning streak to five games, but only after surviving a 12-0 run that pulled the Rockets within two points midway through the fourth quarter.

Rajon Rondo finished with 12 points and eight assists for the Celtics. Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger scored 14 apiece and Sullinger also had 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double.

James Harden scored 24 and Chandler Parsons added 18 for Houston, which fell to 0-2 during a three-game road trip that concludes Saturday in Philadelphia (see full story).

Nets win fifth straight
NEW YORK -- Joe Johnson scored 19 points and MarShon Brooks added 17 points off the bench Friday night, leading the Brooklyn Nets to its fifth straight victory, 99-79 over the struggling Phoenix Suns.

The Nets have won three straight games by 20 or more points for the first time in the team's NBA history.

Deron Williams added 14 points and Andray Blatche chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds as the Nets ended a five game home losing streak against Phoenix.

Jared Dudley led the Suns with 18 points and Shannon Brown had 15 off the bench as Phoenix lost its fifth straight and for the 11th time in 12 games.

Bulls top Knicks for third time
NEW YORK -- Luol Deng scored a season-high 33 points in the Chicago Bulls' third victory over New York this season, a 108-101 win Friday that sent the Knicks to their season-high third straight loss.

Topping the 29 points he scored here last month, Deng shot 13 of 18 from the field and also led the defensive effort that contained Carmelo Anthony in the decisive first half of his return from a one-game suspension.

Carlos Boozer added 17 points for the Bulls, whose offense won't be at full strength until Derrick Rose is back from knee surgery, yet they still shot 57 percent.

Anthony ended up with 39 points for the Knicks, who were roughed up again a night after losing in Indiana.

Without starting point guard Raymond Felton and key big men Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace, they lack the depth or sharpness on either end they had during their fast start to the season.

Rose is practicing and nearing his return after tearing up his knee in the opener of last season's playoffs. The Bulls have managed to stay among the top teams in the East without him, and three times have outclassed a Knicks team that has been in or near the conference lead all season (see full story).

Harris leads Hawks over Jazz
ATLANTA -- Devin Harris scored a season-high 24 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from a second-half deficit of 15 points to beat the Utah Jazz 103-95 on Friday night.

Randy Foye had 25 points to lead Utah, which had won four of five but was denied its first back-to-back road wins of the season. Al Jefferson had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Paul Milsap had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Jazz.

The Hawks, who trailed 75-60 in the third quarter, played from behind before taking their first lead of the second half on consecutive baskets by Al Horford. The second basket by Horford, set up by Josh Smith's pass, gave Atlanta a 94-92 lead with 2:44 remaining.

Jefferson answered with a tying basket before Ivan Johnson scored on a fast break to give the lead back to Atlanta (see full story).

Pistons hand Boylan his first loss
MILWAUKEE -- Greg Monroe had 26 points and 11 rebounds, Brandon Knight scored 20 points, and the Detroit Pistons beat Milwaukee, 103-87, on Friday night, handing Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan his first loss.

Detroit led 74-60 going into the fourth quarter and squashed any hope of a Bucks comeback when Monroe scored on a hook shot, layup and dunk and Knight added a 3 as the lead grew to 83-62 with 9:57 to play.

Rodney Stuckey's 3 gave the Pistons another 21-point lead with 2:48 to go and the Bucks didn't get closer than 14 again.

Brandon Jennings and Beno Udrih had 15 points for Milwaukee.

On Monday, the Bucks and coach Scott Skiles mutually decided to part ways. Boylan, a longtime NBA assistant, who had been with Skiles in Phoenix and Chicago, took over and won his first game in charge Tuesday when the Bucks beat Phoenix 108-99. Then, after trailing by 15, Milwaukee rallied to win 104-96 at Chicago on Wednesday (see full story).

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Warriors complete comeback, oust Thunder in Game 7

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The Associated Press

Warriors complete comeback, oust Thunder in Game 7

OAKLAND – They beat the odds, clobbering them into submission.

Facing a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors rallied to take three successive games over Oklahoma City, finishing the epic comeback with a 96-88 victory in Game 7 Monday night before a delirious sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

Stephen Curry scored 36 points and Klay Thompson fired in 21, as the Warriors become the 10th team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA playoffs – and the first to do so in the West finals.

Draymond Green added 11 points and also had a team-high nine rebounds, as the Warriors battled the bigger Thunder nearly even on the glass, 47-46.

Curry splashed 32 3-pointers in the series, the most ever for a player in a seven-game playoff series.

Ratcheting up the defense, the Warriors overcome a 42-point first half, their lowest total at home all season. They trailed by as much as 13 before storming back.

Kevin Durant scored 27 points to lead the Thunder. Russell Westbrook added 19.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

When his team needed him most, Curry was at his MVP best.

Curry’s line: 36 points (13-of-24 shooting from the field, 7-of-12 from beyond the arc), eight assists and five rebounds. He played 40 minutes and finished plus-18 for the game.

TURNING POINT

After OKC took a 54-48 lead on a Durant fadeaway with 8:15 left in the third quarter, the Warriors responded with a 23-4 run to go up 71-58 on an Anderson Varejao floater with 58.3 seconds left in the quarter.

Six different Warriors scored during the run, lead by Curry with six points. They held the Thunder to 2-of-11 shooting, with three turnovers, during the run.

The Warriors outscored the Thunder 29-12 for the quarter.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors on Thursday play host to Cleveland in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Tipoff is scheduled for 6pm.

P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

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P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

Thirty-five years is more than enough time to get a sense of who a person is and how they do their job. That is how long Brett Brown has known P.J. Carlesimo, which made it easy for the Sixers' head coach to have interest in adding him to the staff. 

With Mike D’Antoni leaving to coach the Rockets, the Sixers had a vacancy at the associate head coach position. On Sunday, though, Carlesimo decided not to join the Sixers’ staff and remain a television analyst.

“He was a natural fit for me,” Brown said Monday following a pre-draft workout. “For family reasons, he just couldn’t do it. We talked a lot and it was an emotional thing from P.J.’s perspective. 

“P.J. is a very close friend of mine and he made that decision for family reasons and I understand it. The phone call really didn’t surprise me knowing what I know of him and how he views his family, having to travel across the country the whole time.”

Like D’Antoni, Carlesimo has a lengthy résumé on the NBA sidelines. He was a head coach for parts of nine seasons and worked five as an assistant coach. Brown called working with D’Antoni “a real learning experience,” and an ideal candidate would have similar experience to help both the staff and the young roster.

“That role will be filled with maybe that type of flavor,” Brown said. “I know this, we are still in a complete development mode. We still have a bunch of 20-year-olds, guys that could be with us for a long time, but they’re not old, that we have to make sure that the city and me, we remember that. We still need people and teachers that can teach and coach and establish relationships. 

“So you tick boxes on relationships, teaching, development, those still rule the day. If you can do that with some veteran wisdom and some type of experiences like Mike’s, say, or P.J. had, well then you’re really knocking it out of the park.”

Coaching vacancies are coveted at this level. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, a revamped front office, and a 125,000-square foot training facility under construction, the Sixers have enhanced the appeal of the role. 

"My phone is very active, as you can imagine," Brown said. "I think it’s a highly attractive position. … Like our draft picks, I too spend a lot of time studying who will be the best fit for me and our program."

NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

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NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 210

School: Kentucky

It's tough for a Kentucky star freshman to fly under the radar, but that's exactly what Murray did last season. While Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine dominated the spotlight, Murray was quietly as good as anyone in the country for the second half of the season.

In Kentucky's final 14 games, Murray averaged just under 24 points and shot better than 46 percent from three-point range. For the season, he averaged an even 20 points and connected on 41 percent of his three-point attempts. He also chipped in an impressive 5.2 rebounds. 

Kentucky lost some games early and fell toward the bottom of the Top 25 rankings. But Murray continued to produce and played his best basketball down the stretch, lifting the Wildcats to 27 wins and SEC regular season and tournament titles. 

As good as he was during his only college season, Murray projects to be an even better pro. He's the best guard prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft. 

Strengths
Shooting the ball. He has the best shooting stroke of any prospect in this year's draft. Murray's form on his jump shot is textbook with the results to match. He's able to get his shot off quickly and has range well beyond the NBA three-point line. Murray's outside shot is his greatest asset. Shooters are always in high demand and have never been more valuable in the NBA. The defending champion Warriors offer all the proof you need of that.

However Murray isn't a one-dimensional player. He can get to the basket off the dribble and is a terrific finisher around the basket. He also developed a polished mid-range game during his time at Kentucky. Murray also plays hard — a characteristic that NBA executives monitor closely. He rarely takes a possession off and competes hard on the glass for a perimeter player, as evidenced by his five rebounds per game last season.

Weaknesses
Murray doesn't have a defined position on the NBA level. He's not a true point guard and isn't quite big enough to be considered a prototypical shooting guard. While NBA talent evaluators are concerned by this, I don't necessarily view it as a weakness. Murray projects as a combo guard, capable of playing point guard but also comfortable away from the ball. He's similar to the Trail Blazers' C.J. McCollum in that regard.

Murray isn't an elite-level athlete and by no means is he a great defender. He'll struggle to stay in front of the more dynamic perimeter players in the NBA. But he has a very good work ethic and should be able to improve defensively.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Extremely well. The 76ers need shooters. That need will only become exaggerated if and when they draft Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick. With Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, the Sixers have a significantly frontcourt-heavy nucleus. They need quality guards to balance out their lineup.

The much-discussed hypothetical trade that would send Okafor to the Celtics for the No. 3 pick makes a ton of sense for the 76ers. They could clear out space in their frontcourt rotation as well as acquire Murray with that third pick. Murray would flourish playing alongside Simmons, knocking down the open jump shots that Simmons creates.    

NBA comparison
I see a mix of Bradley Beal and Eric Gordon in Murray's game. Beal and Gordon have similar builds to Murray and both entered the NBA as exceptional shooters. All three are natural scorers who have no problem getting their own shot on the NBA level.

Draft projection
Murray will be a high-end lottery pick. He could go as high as No. 3 to the Celtics and shouldn't fall any lower than No. 6 to the Pelicans.