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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Stories by Larry Brown:

Paul George irritates Blazers with dunk at buzzer in Game 3

Paul George

Paul George added an extra element of intrigue to the Portland Trail Blazers-Oklahoma City Thunder playoff series with a gratuitous act at the end of the contest.

As the seconds were ticking down on the clock with the Thunder up 120-108 in Game 3 on Friday night, George styled with a fancy reverse dunk:

The dunk was waved off for coming after the buzzer, but that didn’t stop tensions from rising. Players met at halfcourt and discussed matters, with some Portland players, like Evan Turner, apparently irritated.

George was asked about the dunk after the game and didn’t answer, saying “next question.” Damian Lillard said he “couldn’t care less” about the dunk, suggesting that the Thunder felt they needed it to pump themselves up.

Lillard was wise not to say anything and give the Thunder or media bulletin-board material, but you better believe he and the Blazers will come out with some fire in Game 4 after that and the other taunts they took.

Russell Westbrook got technical for taunting Moe Harkless

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook had a game on Friday night and made sure to let all his opponents know it.

Westbrook scored 33 points in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 120-108 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. He taunted Damian Lillard with a couple of “rock the baby” celebrations. He also got into it with Moe Harkless in the final minute of the game.

Westbrook was yelling at the Portland forward repeatedly, calling him trash.

Westbrook was called for a technical foul for his treatment of Harkless. About 20 seconds later, Harkless was called for a tech himself. He then got ejected after tossing his headband.

The amount of friction between these teams is off the charts. Whether it’s Westbrook and Lillard going at it or other players, the drama surrounding Thunder-Blazers games is high. We can’t wait for Game 4 on Sunday.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder taunt Damian Lillard with ‘rock the baby’

The trash talk between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers is on another level.

Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard have a rivalry that’s been ongoing, something Lillard acknowledged before their first round playoff series began. The first two games in Portland gave Lillard a chance to flex on the Thunder, and he did so winning both games to take a 2-0 series lead. Playing in front of his home fans on Friday night, Westbrook got one back on his side, and he added to matters with some trash talk.

After making a shot in the third quarter, Westbrook did the “rock the baby” celebration that some of his teammates joined in on.

Russ did it a second time late in the contest:

The trash talk didn’t end there. Dennis Schroder mocked Lillard by pointing to his wrist for the “Dame Time” gesture.

So what is the rock the baby celebration? Westbrook explained earlier this season.

“Yeah, you got little kids, you got little babies, put ‘em to sleep,” Westbrook said via ESPN. “That’s what happens. Little guards, you gotta rock ‘em.”

Westbrook scored 33 points and racked up 11 assists. More importantly, he shot 11/22 from the field and 4/6 on threes — areas where he has taken heavy criticism. OKC won the game 120-108 and will have a chance to tie the series in Game 4 on Sunday.

Yankees reliever has funny comment about quirky uniform matchup

Adam Ottavino Terrence Gore

Adam Ottavino and Terrance Gore combined to make uniform history on Friday night.

When Ottavino and Gore faced off against each other in the top of the seventh inning of Friday’s New York Yankees-Kansas City Royals game, it marked the first matchup in MLB history between two players wearing jersey number zero.

Ottavino was asked about the quirk after the game and gave a funny comment, saying it was “two guys with a stupid number.”

Gore has worn number zero for his entire time with the Royals, which spanned two stints (2014-2017, 2019). He wore No. 1 with the Cubs last season. Ottavino has worn four numbers during his career, with zero being his uniform of choice since 2013, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

As for the matchup, score a win for Ottavino, who struck out Gore and was credited with his third hold of the season in the Yankees’ 6-2 win.

Miami Marlins have already fired their hitting coach

Miami Marlins

The struggling Miami Marlins have already made a change to their coaching staff.

The team announced on Friday that they have fired hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo and promoted Jeff Livesey to the interim role.

The news ironically came out after the Marlins beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 on Friday for their fifth win of the season.

Miami making the change is not surprising. They are last in the league in runs scored and have a .607 team OPS, which ranks among the worst in the league. Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill explained the move, saying simply that they were an easy offense to face and weren’t making adjustments.

Changing hitting coaches might help the team, but what would really help is not trading away MVPs like Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton and All-Stars JT Realmuto and Marcell Ozuna.

Fernando Tatis Jr in excellent company after latest home run

Fernando Tatis Jr

Fernando Tatis Jr has joined some excellent company following his latest home run.

Tatis homered in the bottom of the third inning of Friday’s San Diego Padres-Cincinnati Reds game to tie things at one. The home run was the sixth of the season for Tatis, who is a rookie.

The 20-year-old shortstop now has six home runs in his first 20 career games. That puts him towards the top of a list for most home runs in the first 20 career games by a player under age 21.

Devers is in his third MLB season and has dropped off significantly since his hot start, though he has shown some promise. Swoboda had a nine-year career but never made an All-Star team. However, the two other players on the list — Cepeda and Robinson — are Hall of Famers.

We’re guessing Tatis, who has been widely viewed as one of the top prospects in baseball, will end up with a career closer to Cepeda and Robinson than Devers and Swoboda.

Batting .300 with a .973 OPS this season, Tatis is off to a great start.

Watch: Terry Stotts gets technical foul after getting heated on sideline

Terry Stotts

Terry Stotts was called for a technical foul after getting heated in the second quarter of Friday’s Game 3 of the first round playoff series between his Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Stotts was upset that Enes Kanter had been called for a foul on a Russell Westbrook drive to the basket with 12.4 seconds left in the half. The Portland coach was steamed and had to be restrained by his assistants:

The technical foul call on Stotts gave the Thunder a free throw that Paul George made. Russell Westbrook also made both of his free throws on the shooting foul, allowing OKC to extend their lead to 49-39 at the half.

Portland was called for 15 fouls in the first half, which explains Stotts’ frustration.

Kyle Lowry credited with sealing Game 3 win on this great rebound

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry may not have had a standout game on the stat sheet Friday, but his effort on a rebound late in the game sealed the Toronto Raptors’ 98-93 win over the Orlando Magic in Game 3 of their first round playoff series.

The Raptors were up 96-93 with about 20 seconds left when Kawhi Leonard took an outside jumper and missed off the front of the rim. The ball bounced out towards the 3-point line, and Lowry got a hold of it. Leonard ended up being fouled and made both free throws, leaving the Magic without enough time to overcome the 5-point margin.

Getting the rebound and maintaining possession helped seal the win for the Raptors because Orlando would have had a shot at tying the game on a three if they got the rebound. Marc Gasol, who had 9 points in 26 minutes, made sure to emphasize after the win how big of a play that was by Lowry.

Lowry was dogged by us and others for failing to score in a Game 1 loss. He shot much better in the Game 2 win and teamed with Pascal Siakam to key the Game 3 victory. Lowry had 12 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds, while Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds.