📺WATCH: Russell Westbrook Taunts Damian Lillard With The Rock A Baby After A Thoroughly Filthy Rejection

Russell Westbrook’s violent block of Damian Lillard’s layup was so darn beautiful

Andy Nesbitt | USA TODAY SPORTS

The fun in this Portland vs. Oklahoma series has been watching star point guards Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook going at it the first few games.

Lillard was a force in the first two games, leading the Trail Blazers to two straight wins at home.

They continued their battle Friday night in Oklahoma City and Westbrook got the last laugh as the Thunder held off the Trail Blazers, 120-108, to get their first win of the series.

And the most memorable play from the game came on the defensive end for Westbrook, when he chased down Lillard and blocked his layup from behind in such a beautiful way early in the third quarter.

Check this thing out:

My. Goodness.

Here, watch it again. Westbrook never quits:

Can’t wait for Game 4 on Sunday night.

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Pascal Siakam after career playoff night leading Raptors’ Game 3 win: My ‘confidence’ is growing

Pascal Siakam’s career playoff night helps Raptors hold off Magic in Game 3

Ben Rohrbach | Yahoo Sports

With Kawhi Leonard struggling and the Orlando Magic threatening in Game 3, Most Improved Player favorite Pascal Siakam saved the Toronto Raptors from falling behind in the first round and facing more questions about ghosts of playoff past.

When Nikola Vucevic’s 3-pointer gave the Magic their first lead of the game midway through the third quarter, Siakam answered with a triple of his own. Orlando retook the lead for a fleeting moment, but Siakam scored or assisted on nine straight points during a 16-0 run that buried the offense-challenged Magic in too big a hole.

By the end of that run, Siakam had already surpassed his previous career playoff high of 24 points, which he set in Toronto’s disappointing Game 1 loss to Orlando. The 25-year-old Cameroonian totaled 30 points, adding 11 rebounds and four assists in a 98-93 win that gave the two-seeded Raptors a 2-1 edge in the series.

“It’s playoff time,” Siakam told ESPN’s Jorge Sedano afterwards. “It’s time to go.”

The Magic had no answer for Siakam, a 6-foot-9 stretch forward with the athleticism and skill to bounce around the halfcourt and score at every level. He made 13 of his 20 field-goal attempts, converting three of his four 3-point tries.

He was Toronto’s representative on our list of seven co-stars who could swing the 2019 NBA title, and he has shown no fear in his first playoffs as a central figure.

Siakam scored all of 66 points as a reserve on the Raptors team that were swept out of the second round by Cleveland Cavaliers season. He has 73 through three games of this series, and Toronto has needed all of them to ward off another playoff scare.

“I put in a lot of work,” added Siakam, who went from seminary student with limited basketball experience to NBA prospect at a Basketball Without Borders camp in 2012. “I’m just happy I’m here and a lot of African kids can look up to me and know that it’s possible. That’s why I’m here, and Most Improved Player will show that.”

Leonard, the All-NBA forward whose arrival transformed Toronto into perennial pretender to legitimate contender, could not buy a basket in Orlando on Friday. He was suffering from an illness and finished 5-for-19 from the field in 37 minutes. So, when the Magic sliced the deficit to four with two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, it was Siakam who found his way to the hoop for his 29th and 30th points.

Siakam became the first Raptors player to exceed 30 points and 10 rebounds in the playoffs since Chris Bosh in 2008. His improvement from frisky bench player to borderline All-Star has had as much, if not more, to do with Toronto reestablishing their legitimacy as a title contender. Now, if only the rest of the Raptors could help hold off the Magic — a game opponent but a .500 one nonetheless — in Round 1.

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Durant, Green double-technical rescinded

ESPN

The NBA has rescinded technical fouls called against the Warriors‘ Kevin Durant and the Clippers‘ JaMychal Green during Thursday’s Game 3, the league announced Friday.

Both players appeared surprised by the third-quarter call, since they were just exchanging a few words when the double-technical was given.

Durant said after the game that he hoped the technical gets rescinded.

“Me and JaMychal Green, we were conversing about the play that happened before, just like you and I,” Durant said. “Somebody came out of nowhere and tech’d us both. How would you feel? That was pretty quick. Hopefully they rescind that one because I don’t want somebody to think somebody is in my head, that’s why I got that tech. I just want to get that out of the way because I don’t want to jeopardize my team in the future.”

With the technical rescinded, Durant is now five away from an automatic one-game suspension.

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NBA rescinds Kevin Durant’s technical foul from Warriors-Clippers Game 3

Drew Shiller | NBC SPORTS

Well, it didn’t take long for Kevin Durant to have his wish granted.

The technical foul that he received during the Warriors’ Game 3 win over the Clippers has been rescinded, the NBA announced Friday morning.

From the moment referee Jason Phillips blew the whistle, it was widely speculated that the league office would come to this decision.

It was an egregious tech.

“We were conversing about the play before, and then someone came out of nowhere and tech’d us both,” Durant explained to the media after the game. “Hopefully it gets rescinded.”

Durant officially has been assessed two technicals in the playoffs, and would receive a one-game suspension if he gets a seventh.

Also, KD had a decent game Thursday night:

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HOOP HANGOUT • NBA PLAYOFFS • GAMEDAY POST • April 19th 2019

Thunder beat Trail Blazers to cut series deficit to 2-1

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook had 33 points and 11 assists and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-108 on Friday night to cut their series deficit to 2-1.

Paul George added 22 points, Jerami Grant had 18 and Dennis Schroder 17 for the Thunder. They will host Game 4 on Sunday night.

Damian Lillard scored 32 points, but he had just three in the fourth quarter after scoring 25 in the third. C.J. McCollum had 21 and Enes Kanter added 19.

Oklahoma City closed the second quarter on a 10-1 run to take a 49-39 lead. Lillard was held to four points on 2 -or-6 shooting and the Trail Blazers shot 37.5% in the half.

George hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw in the opening minutes of the second half to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 55-43. Westbrook backed down Lillard, hit a bank shot and was fouled. Westbrook brought out his “rock the baby” celebration, then made the free throw to put Oklahoma City up by 15.

Lillard scored 23 points the rest of the quarter to help cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 86-82 at the end of the period. McCollum hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 89 early in the fourth. Oklahoma City regained control, with Westbrook’s jumper with just over two minutes remaining putting the Thunder up 10.

CELTICS 104, PACERS 96

INDIANAPOLIS — Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Kyrie Irvingadded 19 to help Boston beat Indiana for a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.

The Celtics can close out the Eastern Conference series Sunday in Indianapolis.

Irving also had 10 assists and five rebounds.

Tyreke Evans matched his career playoff high with 19 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic had 15, not enough to prevent Indiana from losing its sixth straight to Boston in the regular season and playoff.

Indiana desperately needed a win to avoid facing its second sweep in three years, but Boston started fast and closed it with a 10-4 spurt late in the fourth quarter. And once again, Boston’s defense turned the game by allowing just 12 points in the third quarter.

RAPTORS 98, MAGIC 93

ORLANDO, Fla. — Pascal Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and Toronto held off Orlando to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference series.

Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting. Leonard had 10 rebounds, Danny Green had 13 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assist.

Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.

Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left gave Toronto its biggest lead at 86-69. The Magic came flying back, and Ross’ 3-pointer with 41 seconds left got Orlando to 96-93. Leonard was short with a jumper on the next possession — but the Magic couldn’t control the rebound, and were doomed shortly afterward. Leonard made a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game again.

L.A. native Jordan Bell honors Nipsey Hussle with shoes & speaks of his profound influence: “I was like ‘damn, I’m not buying no jewelry, I’m buying a house.'”

See previous related stories here and here.

Jordan Bell honors Nipsey Hussle before Warriors’ Game 3 vs. Clippers

Dalton Johnson | NBC SPORTS

The death of fallen rapper Nipsey Hussle, a Los Angeles icon, hit Warriors center Jordan Bell hard. 

“I thought it was fake at first,” Bell, who was born in L.A. and went to high school in Long Beach, told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Logan Murdock on March 31, the day of Hussle’s death. “I started seeing more and more, so I went on Twitter and starting looking for verified accounts tweeting about it.

“You saw pictures of him shot in the head and all that s—. I don’t know, it just f—ed me up. And finding out he died right before the game was tough, really tough.”

As the Warriors’ first-round playoffs series heads to L.A., Bell is honoring Hussle with a pair of customized shoes for Game 3 against the Clippers. 

Hussle was shot in an L.A. strip mall outside of his own clothing store about 45 minutes before the Warriors’ 137-90 win over the Hornets.

Many Warriors looked at Hussle as inspiration, someone who was setting an example to uplift undervalued and impoverished neighborhoods. 

“He was setting examples with his actions. He was showing kids how to get money and keep money,” Bell said. “I was like ‘damn, I’m not buying no jewelry, I’m buying a house.'”

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KD reacts to critics who say he needs to step it up & shoot more: ‘You know who I am’… But do we?

Rachel Nichols, Brian Windhorst and Scottie Pippen react to Kevin Durant’s “You know who I am” interview in response to his battle with Patrick Beverley in the Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers first-round series in the 2019 NBA playoffs. They then (3:20) react to KD’s interview and Steve Kerr’s interview, in which they seemed to disagree on how many shots Durant should take.

Kevin Durant breaks down ‘David and Goliath’ matchup with Patrick Beverley

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

The Golden State Warriors began their opening playoff series against the Clippers as a historically lopsided betting favorite to advance, but the Warriors surrendered a 31-point lead at home in Game 2 in a stunning collapse. The series shifts to the Staples Center for Game 3 on Thursday, and there’s plenty of evidence that the Clippers’ strategy to try to irritate Kevin Durant is working.

Durant has been primarily guarded by Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, who, despite giving up more than eight inches in height to the former league MVP, has done a fantastic job. Durant has yet to complete a game in the series on the floor, after being ejected following a confrontation with Beverley in Game 1, and fouling out in Game 2.

When asked about the Clippers’ strategy on Wednesday, Durant gave an insightful breakdown of LA’s gameplan, and called Beverley a “pitbull.”

“In this series it’s kind of weird because when the guy is that small, you know, you’ve got the advantage, but the refs see… we hear David and Goliath a lot growing up, so that story is pretty much prominent in people’s minds. So when you put that out there on the court against me, then the refs [are] going to give him a little bit more. So when he runs up on me like a pitbull, grabbing me, holding me, I don’t mind it. That’s how he makes his money. That’s how he feeds his family. But if I throw something back, then let us play. You get what I’m saying? I got four, five offensive fouls like that. I’m just trying to figure out each possession how I can be more effective without getting offensive fouls.”

Durant claimed that he could score on Beverley every possession if left in a one-on-one situation, but said that he plans to focus on sharing the ball and keeping his teammates involved.

“They’re playing a gimmick defense which has been working. Locking everything on the perimeter, guys not even looking at the 3-point line, they’re just forcing guys inside the 3-point line. For us, when I get the ball in my spots, I’ve got a pest, Patrick Beverley, who is up underneath me, who I could definitely shoot over the top and score every time if it’s a one-on-one situation, but we’ve got a guy that’s dropping and helping and then we’ve got another guy that’s just sitting on me, waiting for me to dribble the basketball.

If I put the basketball on the floor, I can probably make 43 percent of my shots if I shoot them like that, but that’s not really going to do nothing for us – the outcome of the game, because we’ve got a nice flow. Everybody touching the rock, everybody shooting and scoring. I’m not going to get in the way of the game because I want to have a little back-and-forth with Patrick Beverley. I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am.”

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‘Missing’ poster in Brooklyn targets Simmons

Ian Begley | ESPN

A “missing” poster mocking Sixers star Ben Simmons‘ jump shot was taped on a street sign outside of the Barclays Center ahead of Game 3 of the Brooklyn Nets‘ series against Philadelphia.

The poster jokingly offered a $26,620,450 reward for the retrieval of Simmons’ shot — the amount of the point guard’s rookie contract.

The dig at Simmons, who went 21-for-93 on attempts between 10 and 24 feet in the regular season, comes in the wake of his triple double (18 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) in Philadelphia‘s Game 2 win.

After Wednesday’s practice, Nets veteran Jared Dudleydescribed Simmons’ effectiveness in half-court offense as ‘average,’ which is a product, in part, of his lack of threatening defenses with a jump shot.

“I think that Ben Simmons is a great player in transition. Once you slow him up in the half court, I think he’s average,” said Dudley, who will likely defend Simmons at times in Game 3.

“He’s a player that, when he picks up speed, he’s a load. So, you’ve got to have two guys with him. For him, it’s taking away his easy baskets. If you’re in a bad way, foul him and make him make free throws. If he’s 4-for-4, keep fouling him. The odds tell you what his percentages are for free throws. Someone like that, you’ve got to stop him in transition.”

When Dudley’s assessment was relayed to Simmons on Thursday morning, he replied, “It’s coming from Jared Dudley; c’mon.”

The teams’ series is tied 1-1 entering Thursday’s Game 3.

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HOOP HANGOUT • NBA PLAYOFFS • GAMEDAY POST • April 18th 2019

KD takes over with 38 points in Game 3 blowout

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — He’s Kevin Durant, and the Los Angeles Clippers got reminded of it.

Durant scored 38 points, Stephen Curry added 21 playing with five fouls, and the Golden State Warriors dominated from the opening tip to win 132-105 Thursday night and take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

“He came out super-aggressive, in kill mode,” teammate Draymond Green said of Durant. “That was all the difference for us. We took control of th8e game right there in the first quarter and never lost control of it.”

The Warriors began the game on a 22-9 tear and went on to shoot 73% from the floor in the first, taking the crowd out of it early

The game came easy for Durant, who came into the contest confident that he could take over when needed. After a verbal back-and-forth with Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, which resulted in a Game 1 ejection for both players after being issued a double technical, Durant chafed at the notion that Beverley and the Clippers were getting into his head following the Warriors’ 31-point second-half meltdown in Game 2.

“I’m not gonna get in the way of the game because I wanna have a little back-and-forth with Patrick Beverley,” Durant said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am. Y’all know who I am.”

See related story here

Durant let his game do all the talking Thursday as he repeatedly drove by Clippers defenders while knocking down shots from all over the floor. Durant finished 14-for-23 from the field, which is notable because Warriors coach Steve Kerr was hopeful that Durant would be more aggressive after taking just eight shots in the Game 2 loss.

With his first basket of the game, Durant passed Magic Johnson to move into 14th place on the league’s all-time postseason scoring list. Durant, who now has 3,738 postseason points, is just 17 points behind Hakeem Olajuwon for 13th on the list. Durant’s 38 points also tie a league record for most points in a playoff game when playing 30 minutes or less, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Durant joins San Antonio Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge as the only two players to accomplish that feat.

“He’s a two-time Finals MVP and coming off a poor performance,” Kerr said. “That’s what happens.”

“They dissected us,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “You kind of felt they were going to come in and throw a punch, and we just didn’t respond.”

The Clippers’ only starter in double figures was rookie Ivica Zubac, who finished with 18 points after playing most of the fourth. Patrick Beverley, a defensive pest guarding Durant in Game 2, was limited to six points, four fouls, one rebound and no assists in 18 minutes.

Lou Williams had 16 points, and Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green added 15 each off the bench.

Los Angeles never led and failed to put together any kind of sustained run.

“We just got our (rear) kicked,” Williams said. “That’s it.”

SPURS 118, NUGGETS 108

SAN ANTONIO — Derrick White had a career-high 36 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Denver Nuggets 118-108 on Thursday night, withstanding a first-half lapse to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round series.

Nikola Jokic had 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Denver.

Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio, where the Spurs are 3-0 against the Nuggets this season.

White attacked Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray from the opening tip after being on the receiving end of Murray’s career outing Tuesday night. Murray had only six points, a game after scoring 21 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to help Denver overcome a 19-point deficit to even the series.

White set his career high after being fouled by Paul Millsap on a driving layup that bounced off the side of the rim, hit the backboard and fell in to give the Spurs a 99-89 lead with 8:52 remaining. White added five rebounds, five assists and three steals while shooting 12 for 17. The point guard matched his overall career high with 26 points in the first half.

DeMar DeRozan took over after that, scoring 21 of his 25 points in the second half. LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Rudy Gay had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Malik Beasley added 20 points for Denver.

76ERS 131, NETS 115

NEW YORK — Ben Simmons scored a career playoff-high 31 points, Tobias Harris added 29 points and 16 rebounds and Philadelphia shook off the absence of Joel Embiid to take a 2-1 series lead over Brooklyn.

Without their All-Star man in the middle, the 76ers relied on Simmons slashing to the basket, and Harris and JJ Redick shooting from the perimeter.

Simmons was 11 for 13 from the field, repeatedly getting to the rim even with the Nets sagging well off him in hopes he would shoot a jumper. He added nine assists and eventually quieted a crowd that loudly booed him every time he touched the ball early. Harris had his playoff highs in both points and rebounds, and was 6 for 6 from 3-point range. Redick was 5 of 9 behind the arc and finished with 26 points.

Embiid warmed up before the game but the 76ers announced shortly before the start that the All-Star center wouldn’t be available because of a sore left knee. Greg Monroe started in his place and had nine points and 13 rebounds.

D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert each scored 26 points for the Nets. They have dropped the last two games after surprising the No. 3 seed in the opener in Philadelphia.