By John Harris |@JHBasketball
OKC win 4th straight to dump Spurs and advance to Finals:
The seemingly impossible happened. The Oklahoma City Thunder won their 4th straight game against the San Antonio Spurs to move on to their first ever NBA Finals. The Spurs came into Game 3 of this series on a 20-game winning streak and it looked all but certain they would be favourites to complete another championship run. The Thunder flipped the script behind huge performances from Durant, Westbrook and Harden when it mattered most.
The Spurs knew they had to fight for their lives in this one, pulling away to an 18pt lead behind a cluster of three-pointers and the incredible speed of Tony Parker. The Frenchman poured-in 29pts, blowing past the OKC defense with his quick-step and some breathtaking spin moves in traffic. He also added 12 dimes (to only 1 turnover) and was the spark behind much of San Antonio’s early good work. Stephen Jackson also provided some fuel for the Spurs, knocking down 6 of 7 from downtown on his way to 23pts off the bench.
Durant was the story (as always) for Oklahoma City. He played the entire game (!!) and racked up 34pts (and 14 boards) as he went to work in the second half to power the Thunder home in front of their raucous fans. Westbrook added 25 and had a rim-rattling jam in the 1st quarter to invigorate the crowd. If ever there was a game of two halves, this was it. The Spurs dominated the first half and looked like forcing a Game 7, the Thunder roared back in the second as San Antonio wilted. Mid-way through the 4th Durant stepped in to take a charge from Manu Ginobili, who dished to Jackson (who swished the three) as the foul was called. No basket. It was a massive momentum boost for the Thunder and they never looked back as San Antonio will be left ruing what might have been.
“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. 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.”
- Scott Brooks
Anderson out, Stiemsma in for USA Select scrimmage team:
USA Basketball have announced a couple of last-minute changes to the USA Select squad. The team — that usually comprises some of the best young and developing players around the league — trains against Team USA in their preparations for international tournaments. This year they will compete against the Senior squad in Las Vegas from July 6th – 11th as the US prepares to fly over to the UK for the London Olympics.
Orlando Magic three-point specialist (and NBA Most Improved Player) Ryan Anderson has been removed from the team, while Boston Celtics rookie center Greg Stiemsma has been added. The full USA Select team is:
Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Jeremy Lin (Knicks), Klay Thompson (Warriors), John Wall (Wizards), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), DeJuan Blair (Spurs), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Greg Stiemsma (Celtics), Derrick Favors (Jazz), Lance Thomas (Hornets), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Paul George (Pacers) and Taj Gibson (Bulls).
UK Coach Calipari back with Dominican Republic this Summer:
University of Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari has announced that he will be returning to his role as coach of the Dominican Republic national team. Calipari will be attempting to help the team qualify for the Summer Olympics when they travel to Venezuela to compete in the final qualifying tournament in early July.
The team has several active NBA players in Detroit Piston Charlie Villanueva, Atlanta Hawks star Al Horford and Francisco Garcia of the Sacramento Kings. The players will practise at the University of Kentucky’s facility, making the task slightly easier for Calipari who is juggling his national team commitments with conducting Kentucky summer workouts and attending the NBA draft. Kentucky products Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are both expected to be top 5 picks in late June.
As per new NCAA rules, Calipari is able to workout new Wildcat recruits for 2 hours per week and despite this being seen as a positive step by many, Coach Cal is apprehensive about how much effect the new rule will have:
“Think about what I’m saying: two one-hour workouts a week. Let me say this, it’s better than no workouts all summer. I’m more concerned about them getting in great condition, physically getting stronger. We’ll put in the dribble-drive [offense], but the reality of it is the way you get better is every day you’re working at it, then a day off and you come back every day. This is, like, sprinkled in. It will help some, but it’s not going to have the impact everybody thinks.”
- John Calipari
Who would the Thunder rather see in the NBA Finals? Anyone missing who you’d expect to see on the USA Select squad? Will the Dominican Republic have enough to qualify for London? Let us know below!
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