Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spurs beats Lakers 121-97


source: The Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO (AP) The San Antonio Spurs' stars made sure Kobe Bryant's return wasn't a triumphant one.

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all scored at least 20 points to help San Antonio beat the Los Angeles Lakers 121-97 on Friday night and remain atop the Western Conference.
Bryant, who had missed the previous seven games with a bruised left shin, scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

The Lakers went 5-2 without the NBA's scoring leader, but with only two games left in the regular season for Los Angeles, Bryant returned as he aims to get into a rhythm before the playoffs begin.

Bryant wore a black sock over his lower left leg, with a padded sleeve protecting the injured area. While the Spurs said after the game that he's not the old Bryant just yet, he's not so sure.

''I'm back now,'' Bryant said. ''It took me a half. The second half, it felt like I was back in a good rhythm. The game just got away from us.''


The Spurs (46-16) won their sixth straight game and remain a half-game ahead of Oklahoma City for the No. 1 seed in the West. The Lakers (40-24) missed a chance to clinch home court in the first round of the playoffs.

These teams could meet in the opening round, and judging by their latest meeting, it would be a mismatch.

San Antonio has given Los Angeles its two worst losses of the season, Friday night and 112-91 on Tuesday. Duncan had 21 points and eight rebounds, Parker had 20 points and 10 assists, and Ginobili added 20 points and seven assists on Friday.
San Antonio broke the game open in the third quarter, when Bryant played his best. The Lakers' star hit 5 of 6 shots in the quarter, directing his teammates on offense and yelling at them to
''D-up'' on defense.

It hardly mattered, though, as he was repeatedly on his heels on defense as the Spurs pushed the ball. San Antonio outscored Los Angeles 35-21 in the quarter.

''They did a great job spacing the floor,'' Bryant said. ''As a result, our defense was always late. It was always playing catch up on possessions. They did a great job shooting the ball. They did a great job on close outs. They played extremely well.''

While Bryant was sidelined, several Lakers increased their scoring, none more than Metta World Peace. World Peace more than doubled his scoring average with Bryant out of the lineup, but he had only 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting against the Spurs.

Andrew Bynum scored 17 points for the Lakers, while Matt Barnes had 14 and Pau Gasol 11.
The Lakers have little time to transition Bryant back into the system before the postseason, but Parker has been around long enough to expect the best from him.

''Yeah, he looked a little bit rusty,'' Parker said. ''It's going to take some time. But I'm not worried about him. He'll be ready when the playoffs start.''
Bryant isn't worried facing the Spurs in the playoffs, despite the recent blowouts.

''Nah, listen. This team, (coach Gregg) Popovich, the experience that they have, the adjustments that they make, it is going to happen every now and then,'' Bryant said. ''But you have to make adjustments. If we're fortunate to see them in the postseason, we'll make our adjustments defensively.''

Kawhi Leonard, a rookie who was drafted largely for his defensive ability, started the game guarding Bryant. Popovich said before the game that it was time for his young players to see

''the real thing.'' Bryant quickly gave Leonard a taste, taking him down low and burying a shot over him while getting fouled. Bryant hit the ensuing free throw, but he didn't score again until he hit a 15-foot jumper with 34 seconds left in the quarter.

''He did well,'' Duncan said of Leonard. ''It's a learning process obviously, and Kobe got him with some vintage stuff and some and-ones. But Kawhi is a quick learner, very long and a very good defender. If we have to see him again, I think the experience is great for him.''

Cavaliers stun playoff-bound Knicks


source: TOM WITHERS | The Associated Press

CLEVELAND (AP) Amare Stoudemire came back. The Knicks went missing.
Stoudemire returned after missing 13 games with a back injury, but playoff-bound New York looked tired after clinching a spot in the postseason and played one of its most uninspired games in weeks, losing 98-90 to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

''There's nothing about tonight's game that I liked,'' Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. ''We just didn't compete. That's unacceptable.''
Stoudemire, who had been sidelined since March 24 with a bulging disk, scored 15 points and didn't show any signs of the injury. But the Knicks came out flat, stayed that way until making a late run and lost to a Cleveland team that won for just the fourth time in 19 games.

''We could have come out with more energy and did a better job out there,'' Stoudemire said.

''We felt complacent, being that we clinched, we felt like we accomplished something. We just got to keep our focus going into the postseason.''

The Knicks dropped to 15-6 under Woodson, who took over when Mike D'Antoni resigned on March 14. New York may have missed a chance to move any higher than the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. As it stands now, the Knicks will face LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in the first round.


''There's no reason to panic right now,'' Stoudemire said. ''We feel like we can do some damage in the postseason.''

Carmelo Anthony added 12 points, but he and Tyson Chandler sat out the entire fourth quarter as Woodson chose to rest some of his starters before a matchup with Atlanta on Sunday.

''There was a 20-point lead at about the 7- or 8-minute mark,'' Woodson said. ''I started to go back (to them) and I just said no. I'm thinking this is seven games in 11 days for us, maybe they are tired, but that's not an excuse. You have to give Cleveland credit.

''They kept playing and didn't quit playing from the beginning to the end.''

Manny Harris had 19 points and a career-high 12 rebounds to lead the Cavs, and rookie Kyrie Irving scored 21 points in his second game back from a shoulder injury.

Samardo Samuels added 15 points for the Cavs, who have won 10 straight at home over the Knicks. New York hasn't won in Cleveland since Nov. 29, 2006.

''I can't explain it whatsoever,'' Cavs coach Byron Scott said of Cleveland's dominance over New York. ''We came out ready and they were kind of not into it.''

Stoudemire was in foul trouble in the first 5 minutes and never got into a groove. Anthony, who has had to carry the scoring load with the team's No. 2 scoring option sidelined, went just 5 of 13 from the field in 29 uninspired minutes. The Knicks didn't wake up until the final minutes when they cut a 19-point deficit to eight on two free throws by Stoudemire with 2:33 left.
New York had a chance to get closer, but Toney Douglas made a silly pass for a turnover and JR Smith then fouled Harris on a 3-point miss. Harris knocked down two free throws and Cleveland's Donald Sloan drove past four Knicks standing like statues for an easy layup to put the Cavs ahead 96-82.

''I've seen this happen over the years,'' Woodson said. ''You clinch a spot. Guys take a sigh of relief and they stop playing.''
Not the Cavs.

They outhustled the listless Knicks to loose balls, and with only the NBA lottery to look forward to, had one of their best home games this season.
Cleveland had a little luck, too.

Leading 74-60, the Cavs were in danger of turning it back over when Harris lost control of the ball. But he ran it down near halfcourt, turned and launched his 42-footer that caromed in off the glass as the horn sounded.

''I knew it had a chance,'' Harris said. ''I tried to aim a little higher and what happened, happened.''

Irving showed some nice flashes in 26 minutes. The presumptive rookie of the year made two driving layups in traffic and dropped all eight free throw attempts. Scott didn't put his young star back on the court in for the fourth and said it's possible he will sit Irving out in one of the final four games.

''He's a difference-maker,'' Scott said. ''When he's on the floor, I think guys feel a little more comfortable and they know he's going to get things done.''

Thunder beats Kings 103-92


source: The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) With Oscar Robertson sitting courtside and soaking up the crowd's adulation in recognition of his Hall of Fame career, it would have been a fitting occasion for Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant to record the first triple-double of his career.

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of his triple-double season in 1961-62 - the only one in NBA history - the ''Big O'' was being recognized by the Sacramento franchise on Friday night. Playing for the Cincinnati Royals, Robertson had an amazing 41 triple-doubles that season.
Durant would be thrilled to just have one.

He came close against the Kings, getting 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Thunder to a 103-92 victory.

''I've been flirting all season with it but I haven't been able to seal the deal yet,'' Durant said. ''Hopefully I will get one before my career is over. Oscar Robertson is a legend, someone I really look up to. It was a joy playing in front of him tonight.''
Known mostly for his scoring early in his career, Durant has evolved into an all-around player and is a strong candidate for MVP this season. He played like one against the Kings. Durant made 9 of 15 shots, including two 3s, hit 9 of 10 free throws, and was the game's leading rebounder.

''We all know that Kevin can score,'' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ''But he has to continue making his teammates better. He definitely did that tonight with seven assists. He's a very unselfish basketball player.''


The Thunder took the lead for good midway through the first quarter and went on to their second consecutive victory and fourth in five games.

Oklahoma City (46-17) remained in contention for the best record in the Western Conference. The Thunder are one-half game behind San Antonio and have three games remaining, including Tuesday against the visiting Kings. The Spurs defeated the Lakers at home on Friday.
James Harden had 20 points and Russell Westbrook scored 18 for the Thunder, who have a 7-5 record in April. Serge Ibaka had 12 points and eight of the Thunder's 11 blocks and Kendrick Perkins had 10 points.

''We had to guard three of the most difficult guys in the league. Those guys - James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant - can score,'' Kings coach Keith Smart said. ''Then of course you throw the big guys in there and you can see why they're one of the best teams in the NBA.''
DeMarcus Cousins had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Kings, who have lost nine of 10. Tyreke Evans scored 16 points, Jason Thompson added 13, Isaiah Thomas 12 and Jimmer Fredette 11 for the Kings (20-43), who are tied with New Orleans for the worst record in the Western Conference.
The Kings had their problems offensively against the aggressive Thunder, who tend to gamble with a shot-blocker like Ibaka and the tenacious Perkins backing them up. Sacramento shot 41 percent and was the 12th team in 15 games that Oklahoma City held under 100 points.

''They play good team defense and obviously with Ibaka and Perkins down low it's a tough matchup for anybody,'' Fredette said. ''Then they have some great scorers and move the ball so well.''
The Kings trimmed the Thunder's 15-point lead to eight with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, aided by Fredette's six points. But the Thunder kept their composure down the stretch to maintain the lead and preserve the victory.

''We made them miss shots in the second half and I thought we rebounded better in the second half,'' Brooks said. ''We did a great job of moving the ball. Everybody had shots, everybody had looks, and Kevin was solid.''

At halftime, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson talked about opening the line of communications with the Kings owners regarding plans for a tentative new downtown arena that fell apart last week. Johnson, who has been very critical of the owners' decision, met with the Maloofs in Las Vegas on Friday and will talk sometime again next week.

''I understand a little bit of where George's (Maloof) perspective was,'' Johnson said. ''Not that I fully agree with it, but I fully understand his perspective. It (today) was a solid step forward.''

It's been another difficult season for the Kings both on and off the court. Besides the arena plan seemingly derailed, Sacramento has experienced its sixth straight losing season.
Durant made all three shots in the third quarter, including two 3s, and had eight points to help the Thunder lead 81-70 after three.

After Thomas' 3-pointer pulled the Kings within three points, the Thunder ran off eight straight points. Westbrook banked in a jumper and then knifed through the defense for a layup. Two free throws by Harden put the Thunder up 75-64 at the 4:39 mark.
Sacramento played the game without leading scorer Marcus Thornton, who suffered a left quad contusion in Wednesday's game against San Antonio.

Notes: Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists in 1961-62. ... Thomas was given the annual Oscar Robertson Triple-Double award, which signifies excellence both on and off the court. . Trailing by seven points in the game's first 5 minutes, the Thunder outscored the Kings 22-6 the remainder of the period to take a 32-23 lead into the second. ... Angered over some non-calls following a flurry of blocked shots by the Thunder late in the second quarter, Smart got a technical foul. . Kings veteran John Salmons missed his 14th straight game with sore hip and appears unlikely to return this season.

Doc: Dwight Howard will recover fully


source: ESPN.com

The team doctor for the Orlando Magic said he believes Dwight Howard will recover fully after undergoing back surgery on Friday, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Dr. Craig Mintzer told the newspaper that Howard is doing well after the surgery and should recover in about four months without complications.

"He shouldn't have restrictions whatsoever. He should come back fully. There shouldn't be an issue there. Really, it's just a matter of time," Mintzer told the Sentinel.

Howard has been complaining of back problems since early March, but it wasn't until Los Angeles-based spine surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins examined him last week that the herniated disk was discovered.

Howard received an epidural to alleviate the pain at that time, and the plan was that he'd rest and rehabilitate his back for 10-14 days before deciding if he could return to play or if further treatment might be necessary. But his back has worsened and both Watkins and the Magic's medical staff determined surgery was necessary.

Mintzer said Howard was disappointed at the news, but not surprised at the medical staff's decision, according to the Sentinel.


"He was as unhappy as you'd expect, but he knew what could happen. He wasn't surprised. He knew what could happen," Mintzer told the newspaper.

The back issues have forced Howard to miss eight games this season, one more than he missed in his first seven seasons combined.

Howard will miss the rest of the Magic's season, as well as this summer's London Olympics.

Meanwhile, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy doubted Hedo Turkoglu's ability to return for the playoffs.

"I think it's going to be very tough," he told the Sentinel.

Turkoglu had surgery on April 7 to repair cheekbone fractures. The minimum time Turkoglu could be out is three weeks, but Van Gundy told the Sentinel that trainer Keon Weise told him Turkoglu's fractures are normally a "6- to 8-week injury."

Turkoglu was inadvertently hit in the face April 5 by the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony's elbow.

Lakers' Bynum likely won't play for U.S. team


source: Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

SAN ANTONIO -- The season-ending back surgery the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard underwent on Friday means USA Basketball will be without its presumed starting center this summer at the London Olympics. It won't be Andrew Bynum to the rescue in Superman's absence, either.

"Probably not," Bynum said after the Lakers' 121-97 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday when asked if he had any intentions of trying out for the national team. "I got to take care of my legs in the offseason."

When asked if USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo had reached out to Bynum to gauge his interest in joining the player pool that will participate in a July training camp in Las Vegas to choose the final 12-man roster, the 24-year-old replied, "Not yet."

Bynum said he planned to travel overseas for treatment during the summer. He has already undergone multiple knee surgeries in the past and used part of All-Star weekend this year to receive a Synvisc and cortisone injection to maintain the health of his right knee.

"I got some things planned for my knees," Bynum said.


When Bynum was asked if he wanted to rest his body in the offseason, he said, "I need it; I don't want it. I got to do some therapy that I'm going overseas to do, so that will be tough."

USA Basketball likely will turn to the New York Knicks' Tyson Chandler to play center and will also give consideration to Minnesota's Kevin Love and Miami's Chris Bosh to play the position at times.