Durant at PF the difference down the stretch


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.

Illini announce athletics hall of fame with Dick Butkus as first member


Illini announce athletics hall of fame with Dick Butkus as first member

Illinois announced Thursday the establishment of a university athletics hall of fame, and who better than Dick Butkus to be the first inductee?

According to the announcement, Illinois has discussed creating an athletics hall of fame to honor past student-athletes for years, but this is the first time it's been acted upon — not necessarily a surprise now that Josh Whitman, a former Illinois football player, is now in charge of the department.

"The University of Illinois has an incredible and storied history in athletics," Whitman said in the announcement. "Legendary names in sports history are found throughout the Illini record books, and we are excited to honor them in our new Hall of Fame. Since the athletic program's inception in 1890, some of the world's greatest athletes have competed in the orange and blue. Ultimately, as we begin to populate the Hall of Fame, our collection of recognized greats will compare favorably with that of any institution in the nation."

Butkus, of course, is the obvious choice to be the first announced member of the hall of fame's inaugural class.

Regarded by many as the best linebacker and defensive football player ever, Butkus spent three seasons in Champaign, twice a unanimous All-American selection. Playing both center and linebacker at Illinois, he finished in the top six in Heisman Trophy voting in 1963 and 1964, a shocking accomplishment for someone playing a position other than quarterback, running back or receiver.

Butkus made 374 tackles in three seasons and is one of just two players — the other being Red Grange — to have his number retired at Illinois. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (thanks to his remarkable career with the Bears), and the annual award for the best linebacker in college football is named after Butkus.

"The University of Illinois has played an extremely important role in my life," Butkus said in the announcement. "I have many life-long relationships that began at the U of I and have always been proud to call myself a Fighting Illini. To be recognized in the inaugural class of the Athletics Hall of Fame is a terrific feeling. I'm very proud of what my teams and I accomplished, including the 1963 Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl victory. Thank you for this honor."

The Illini will announce the entire inaugural class in February, with induction coming next September.

Gustav Forsling out, Corey Crawford starting vs. Devils

Gustav Forsling out, Corey Crawford starting vs. Devils

Gustav Forsling will not travel and Corey Crawford will start when the Blackhawks face the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Forsling, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury sustained against the Calgary Flames on Monday night, did not practice on Thursday. Coach Joel Quenneville is still hopeful that the defenseman can play Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Blackhawks were switching lines again, putting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together on the top line. Marian Hossa took Kane’s place on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov and Tyler Motte moved to the third line.

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“Yeah, I guess change can be good in this sense. We can probably produce a little bit more offense and have the puck a little bit more throughout the game,” Kane said. “I’ve played with Jonny a bunch before. Obviously, not as much lately. But I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a fun way to play hockey. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the game, and probably in my mind the easiest player to play with. It’ll be fun to get back out there with him and try to create something, try to produce and have some fun with it.”

Meanwhile, forward Andrew Desjardins (lower body) continues to improve. Quenneville said Desjardins could be skating in the next day or so.