OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder guard Russell Westbrook went on a rant defending his teammates after Sunday’s 113-109 loss to the Houston Rockets.
A recurring theme throughout the series has been Oklahoma City’s tendency to lose leads when Westbrook sits in the second half. It happened again Sunday – the Thunder were outscored 13-4 in a stretch that lasted from late in the third quarter to early in the fourth. The lapse turned a 75-68 lead into an 81-79 deficit.
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Thunder center Steven Adams was asked about the issue, and Westbrook interrupted.
”Hold on Steven,” Westbrook said. ”I don’t want nobody to try and split us up. We’re all one team. If I go to the bench and Steven’s on the floor and I’m off the floor, we’re in this together. Don’t split us up. Don’t try and split us up. Don’t try to make us go against each other or make it Russell and the rest of the guys. Russell against Houston. I don’t want to hear that. We’re in this together. We play as a team. That’s all that matters.”
When pressed on the matter, Westbrook became more agitated, repeatedly saying ”Next question.”
”Say `Russell, the team hasn’t played well,”’ he said. ”Don’t say, `when Russell goes out the team doesn’t play well.’ That doesn’t matter. We’re in this together.”
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Ailing Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr says he won’t be on the sidelines for Game 4 on Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers because of symptoms stemming from back surgery.
Kerr stayed behind at the team hotel for Saturday night’s Game 3 at Portland’s Moda Center. Assistant Mike Brown took over and the Warriors overcame a 17-point first-half deficit to win 119-113 and go up 3-0 in the first-round series.
Golden State can sweep with a victory Monday night.
The reigning NBA coach of the year still experiences lingering symptoms from complications following two back surgeries after the franchise’s run to the 2015 championship. He missed the first 43 games last season dealing with symptoms such as headaches, nausea and an aching neck.
LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Los Angeles Kings have promoted associated head coach John Stevens to become their next head coach.
Kings spokesman Mike Altieri said the team will introduce Stevens at a news conference Monday.
Stevens replaces Darryl Sutter after serving as an assistant to two Kings head coaches over the past eight seasons, which included the franchise’s only two Stanley Cup championship runs. Los Angeles has won just one playoff game in three years since its last title in 2014.
Stevens was the Kings’ interim head coach for four games early in the 2011-12 season after Terry Murray was fired and before the hiring of Sutter, who became the winningest coach in Kings history and the only coach to lead them to a title.
The Kings fired Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi nearly two weeks ago in a remarkable housecleaning after the regular season ended without a playoff berth. But owner Phil Anschutz’s organization subsequently promoted the two most likely internal candidates to replace them, preferring stability with Stevens and longtime assistant general manager Rob Blake over an extensive franchise overhaul.
MONACO (AP) – Rafael Nadal easily beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-3 in an all-Spanish final on Sunday to win the Monte Carlo Masters for the 10th time and clinch the 70th title of his career.
It was Nadal’s first title of the season, having lost his previous three finals – two of those to Roger Federer.
Nadal faced little opposition on his way to becoming the first player to win 10 tournaments at the same venue in the Open era, and the first to reach 50 on clay. He was previously level on clay titles with Argentine Guillermo Vilas.
The only final Nadal has lost at Monte Carlo was to Novak Djokovic in 2013.
LONDON (AP) – Ilie Nastase, the captain of Romania’s Fed Cup team, has been provisionally suspended from the competition for abusing players and the umpire during the playoff match against Britain.
The International Tennis Federation, which organizes the Fed Cup, said Sunday that Nastase ”may not participate in the Fed Cup in any capacity with immediate effect.”
The 70-year-old Nastase was heard hurling expletives at British player Johanna Konta, Britain captain Anne Keothavong and the umpire during Konta’s match against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea on Saturday. Nastase was sent off the court by referee Andreas Egli and, after taking a seat in the stands, was then sent back to the locker room.
BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) – NASCAR postponed the Monster Energy Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway because of heavy rain Sunday. The race was pushed until Monday at 1 p.m.
Weather has been a problem all weekend at Bristol, where Friday qualifications were washed out. On Saturday, the Xfinity Series race had a lengthy stoppage for rain.
Cup points leader Kyle Larson will start on the pole next to Chase Elliott.
Bristol officials this year applied a VHT resin to the track surface that is intended to enhance grip. But the nonstop rain has washed away most of the tire rubber accumulated through three practice sessions.
It’s unclear if both the preferred bottom lane and top line will work on Monday. If only one lane works, it could turn into a throwback Bristol race in which bumping is the only way to pass a car.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – Josef Newgarden kept Team Penske on top at Barber Motorsports Park with his second Alabama win in three years.
The new Penske driver didn’t allow Scott Dixon an opening over the final stretch to give Chevrolet its first win of the season Sunday in the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Newgarden was overshadowed by his own teammates coming into the race. Pole sitter Will Power, Helio Castroneves and defending champion Simon Pagenaud were the top three qualifiers after small Honda teams won the first two races. Pagenaud was third and Castroneves fourth.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Kevin Chappell made an 8-foot putt on the final hole to win the Valero Texas Open by one stroke on Sunday.
Chappell had a 4-under 68 in the final round to finish at 12 under for the tournament, edging Brooks Koepka at TPC San Antonio to earn his first PGA Tour victory in his 180th career start.
Koepka, a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team last year, was looking for his second PGA Tour win. He had the best round of the day at 7-under 65. Before Chappell came down the 18th hole, Koepka had birdied the hole with a 3-foot putt to tie him.
Second-round co-leader Tony Finau got in a position to tie Koepka when he birdied four of five holes on the back nine. But his par-bogey finish left him to settle for a final-round 69 and a third-place tie with Kevin Tway (69) at 9-under.
Australian Aaron Baddeley fired 68 to finish fourth at 8 under.
USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus, who led a federation that brought home 156 Olympic medals during his 20 years at the helm, died Sunday. He was 67.
USA Swimming said Wielgus died in Colorado Springs, Colorado, of complications from colon cancer. The cancer was first diagnosed in 2006 and Wielgus underwent regular chemotherapy while leading USA Swimming to record growth. He was due to retire in August.
He had announced his planned retirement in early January on the same day he learned he’d been approved to use a new cancer drug that’s in clinical trial.
”Chuck fought a long and hard battle with amazing grace and optimism, and will be missed,” U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said.
Wielgus was the longest-tenured leader among U.S. Olympic organizations. The 156 medals represent about one-third of America’s overall total from the last five Olympics.