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Thunder, Warriors stay alive in West Pacers rally to extend series against Hawks

MEMPHIS, May 2, (Agencies): Kevin Durant shook off criticism to score 36 points on Thursday as the Oklahoma City Thunder extended their NBA season with an emphatic 104-84 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. The Thunder, facing elimination in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series, thumped the Grizzlies to level the set at three games apiece. The decisive game seven will be on Saturday in Oklahoma City, where The Oklahoman newspaper Thursday ran a headline dubbing Durant “Mr Unreliable” in the wake of some sub-par scoring performances in this series. Readers were so irked that the newspaper apologized, saying the headline “missed the mark”.

It may have hit home with Durant, who said before the game he needed to be more aggressive. Durant, the NBA regular-season scoring champion and front-runner for Most Valuable Player honors, did just that, scoring 14 points in the first quarter alone as the Thunder seized control of the contest. They led 56-41 at halftime and kept the Grizzlies on their heels throughout the second half. Their decisive win was the first game in the series not to go to overtime. Durant also pulled down 10 rebounds and made 14 of his 15 free throw attempts. Russell Westbrook added 25 points for Oklahoma City, whose last first-round playoff exit was in 2010.

Warriors 100, Clippers 99
Power forward Draymond Green capped a 14-point, 14-rebound effort by sinking two free throws with 1:19 to go as the Golden State Warriors held off a late Los Angeles Clippers flurry to tie up their Western Conference first-round series at 3-3. The Warriors reached their first deciding Game Seven in 37 years by leading throughout the fourth quarter, but never by more than eight points. Clippers backup shooting guard Jamal Crawford led a late comeback with a three-pointer, and small forward Matt Barnes hit a driving hoop as Los Angeles got to within 96-94 with 1:47 to play. Green then outworked Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan for an offensive rebound and was fouled. He made both shots to double the Warriors’ margin to four.

Pacers 95, Hawks 88
In Atlanta, the Indiana Pacers rallied from a five-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Atlanta 95-88 on Thursday and stay alive in the NBA playoffs. The Pacers, the top seeds in the Eastern Conference, knotted the best-of-seven first-round series at three games apiece, giving themselves a chance to triumph on their home court in game seven on Saturday. “We had to get this game to get back to our building,” said Pacers forward David West, who scored half of his 24 points in the fourth quarter. West finished with 11 rebounds and six assists. His driving jump shot with 46.5 seconds left broke an 85-85 deadlock and ignited an 8-0 scoring run that let the Pacers seize control of the contest.

“I thought we did a great job just closing the show,” West said. Paul George scored 24 points and pulled down eight rebounds, while Lance Stephenson added 21 points and nine rebounds in the season-saving victory. Nine of George’s points came in the fourth quarter, in which Indiana out-scored Atlanta 31-21. Atlanta received 29 points from Jeff Teague and a monster 16-point, 18-rebound effort out of Paul Millsap. But the Hawks couldn’t find the same success from three-point range that they displayed in Monday’s 107-97 victory.

Results
Results on Thursday from the opening round of the NBA playoffs (all series best-of-seven):
Eastern Conference
at Atlanta
Indiana 95 Atlanta 88
(Series tied 3-3)
Western Conference
at Memphis
Oklahoma City 104 Memphis 84
(Series tied 3-3)
at Oakland
Golden State Warriors 100 Los Angeles Clippers 99
(Series tied 3-3)

Former NBA player Mookie Blaylock was indicted by a grand jury on 14 charges, including first-degree vehicular homicide, stemming from a car crash last year in Atlanta. Blaylock, 47, is accused of causing a May 31, 2013 head-on crash that killed a mother of five and injured her husband. If convicted, the former Atlanta Hawks star could face up to 33 years in prison, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Los Angeles Lakers say they’re in no rush to hire their next head coach. That means the next several weeks are likely to be filled with anonymous speculation, widespread rumors and outright lies about the innumerable candidates to succeed Mike D’Antoni after the Lakers’ worst season in more than 50 years.
After two misfires in the last three years with Mike Brown and D’Antoni, the Lakers will take all the time necessary to get it right in owner Jim Buss’ first coaching hire since the death of his father, Jerry. General manager Mitch Kupchak said there is no timetable for the search, which could extend past the NBA draft lottery on May 20.

Yet the Lakers still have one of the NBA’s most attractive coaching jobs despite their 27-55 season, and the new coach will be in on the ground floor of a thorough franchise rebuild over the next several years for the 16-time champions. D’Antoni resigned when the Lakers were unwilling to commit to him beyond next year.
“It’s one of the premier jobs, if not the premier job in the league,” former Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy said Thursday on his SiriusXM radio show. “Obviously, the history and the amount of championships they’ve won, and the fact is you’re in L.A. They’ve shown a great ability to reload over the years pretty quickly, and obviously they’ve got Kobe Bryant still on their team.”

The Washington Wizards say the NBA has investigated a person who made threats to the team on Twitter after the first-round series win against the Chicago Bulls. Polish center Marcin Gortat said on Thursday after practice there was “one gentleman who really threatened us, actually made some terrorist threats to us.” Gortat said “he was saying there was a bomb on the plane and stuff, that my country’s going to get bombed and all my family’s going to die, just stuff like that.” The tweets came after the Wizards’ Game 2 win in Chicago last week. Wizards spokesman Scott Hall said the matter was turned over to the league. Added Gortat: “Some people already visited him.” The NBA said it doesn’t comment on security matters.

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