Durant at PF the difference down the stretch

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Durant at PF the difference down the stretch

Scott Brooks said Thursday night was the most hes used a lineup with Kevin Durant at power forward this season. Based on the results, hes likely to increase how often he uses it the rest of the year.

Durant, who was held in check for his standards most of the night, scored eight of his 24 points in the final three and a half minutes while playing power forward in the Thunders 97-91 victory over the Bulls.

Durant, on the court with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Martin, Thabo Sefolosha and center Serge Ibaka, broke an 85-all tie with an impressive fadeaway jump shot over Luol Deng.

Rip Hamilton would answer with a shot clock-beating jumper on his own on the other end, but the scorer-turned-power forward Durant was just getting started.

The two-time reigning scoring champion added a floater off the right baseline and a second fadeaway off a screen that extended Thunder leads in the final two minutes. He then sealed the game with two free throw makes and 13 seconds left, putting the Thunder up 95-91.

Durant said before Thursdays game that he is open to playing power forward in a smaller lineup, similar to what Miamis LeBron James and New Yorks Carmelo Anthony have done this season. He said he understands in an ever-changing NBA, that set positions are out, and versatility is in.

I think I can handle the ball, I think I can pass and I can rebound and initiate the offense. But whatever coach wants me to do.

Down the stretch, Scott Brooks needed his All-Star to score.

I thought tonight he was more aggressive as the game went on, and there are some nights its gonna be like that, Brooks said. But 19 shots is where I like him to be up there, and also continue to play-make.

Durant continued to show why hes becoming a complete playmaker, as opposed to seasons past when he was known solely as a scorer. He finished with three steals and three blocks defensively, and while he only had one assist tonight he is still averaging a career-best 4.8 per game.

The Bulls countered Durants move to power forward by sticking with Deng, who had held Durant in check most of the night. That meant Joakim Noah guarding Ibaka and a mismatch with Taj Gibson on Sefolosha, who assisted Durants final basket.

It is a tough matchup for a lot of teams and we definitely do use that throughout the game and some moment in a game that we throw it out there, Brooks said before the game, and Kevin likes it because teams have to make a tough decision.

The decision was to stay small against Durant, whose aggressiveness late proved too much for Deng and the Bulls. Deng did limit Durant to 16 points on 8-of-15 shooting before the final stretch run, which proved Durants pregame prediction of having his hands full with Deng true.

But Brooks explained that the last three minutes are what makes Durant who he is.

Thats what stars can do. They can have an average game and then the last 4-5 minutes, they can win the game, and I thought thats what he did tonight, Brooks said. Thats what makes him a special player and its well-deserved. The guy is one of the hardest workers Ive ever been around, hes an amazing teammate, hes a selfish guy and hes only 24 and hes only gonna get better.

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

CSN's Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd preview the Blackhawks' three upcoming games in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Blackhawks have three home games before the NHL All-Star break, which takes place in Los Angeles.

The Blackhawks have dates between the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Winnipeg Jets. All three opponents are out of the playoff picture, sand Steve Konroyd is looking for the Blackhawks to step up in a certain part of their game: scoring.

See what Boyle and Konroyd had to say in the video above.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.