Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant responded to the Lil Wayne controversy after the Grammy winner rapper was denied a late request for tickets to Game 3 at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday night.
Wayne took to Twitter to criticize Thunder officials and cheer on the San Antonio Spurs, then later said in an interview he feels unwelcome in Oklahoma City for what he viewed as racism.
“Of course, when someone tells Lil Wayne, ‘No,' that he can't come in, ‘We're sold out,' you feel a certain way. Unfortunately, it had to go down like that,” Durant told The Associated Press on Saturday. “We'd have loved to have him here in Oklahoma City. We'd have welcomed him with open arms. Hopefully, we get past that and next time he can come and enjoy a game.
“It was just a misunderstanding. We were sold out of tickets, I heard, and we didn't come through. He knows a few of us on the team and he knows it's nothing like that. We offered him tickets to tonight, but he had to do something. He's a superstar in his own right ... so he can't just pick up and go to a game.”
Wayne said one of his managers has advised him not to return to Chesapeake Arena for sports events or concerts, but Wayne said, “I never say never.”
Durant and teammate James Harden offered Wayne tickets to Game 4, but the rapper refused.
“He had something to do,” Durant said, “but I'm sure if his schedule was free, he would have came tonight. We're still inviting him to games — maybe not this year. Next year or whatever.”
Harden scoffed when asked if he ever felt unwelcome in OKC because he is black. “Not even close,” Harden said.
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka shot 11 for 11 from the field and 4 for 4 from the free-throw line to finish with a career-high 26 points in Game 4.
Ibaka finished one field goal short of tying the NBA record for highest shooting percentage in a playoff game, set by Larry McNeill of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings on April 13, 1975.
Unlike Ibaka, however, McNeill was not perfect in his game.
In a 102-95 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of an opening-round series, McNeill went 12 for 12 from the field, 4 for 5 from the free-throw line and finished with a career-high 28 points. Interestingly, he also fouled out of the game.
There are similarities between McNeill and Ibaka.
The 6-foot-9 McNeill was a second-round pick (25th overall) of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in the 1973 NBA Draft. He died at age 53 in 2004.
The 6-foot-9 Ibaka was a first-round pick (24th overall) in the 2008 NBA Draft.
McNeill's career scoring average was 8.5, the exact same as Ibaka's career average through three seasons.
The Thunder had 27 assists in Game 4, which tied a season high.
OKC finished last in the NBA in assists during the regular season at 18.5 per game and that's exactly what the Thunder is averaging this postseason.
“We have to keep moving the basketball,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We've done a great job all playoffs of not turning the ball over, which was a problem of ours during the regular season, but we somehow have done a good job with that. But just moving the basketball, everybody's touching it, everybody's participating in the offense. You're not just a one-sided offensive team. We're moving the ball to the second side and coming back to the strong side. That's what we have to do.”
San Antonio ranked fourth in the regular season in assists at 23.2 and leads all teams in the postseason at 23.1. However, the Spurs actually trail OKC in the Western Conference Finals in total assists 87-84 (21.8-21.0).
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has the most assists with 27 in the series, followed by Durant and Tony Parker with 22. James Harden has 15 and Manu Ginobili 12.
The Thunder is 30-5 (. 857) this season when it finishes with more assists than its opponent, including 8-0 in the playoffs.
The Thunder shot 56.4 percent from the field Saturday and the Spurs shot 50.0 percent.
San Antonio became only the seventh team to shoot 50 percent or better against the Thunder all season. The Spurs shot 55.1 percent in Game 2.
OKC is 21-0 this season when shooting 50 percent or better while opponents are 4-3.
The Thunder outrebounded San Antonio 41-31 and improved to 14-1 this season when outrebounding an opponent by 10 or more, the lone exception being a 96-95 loss at Houston on Feb. 15. The Spurs' 31 boards were a season-low. … Game 4 was only the third time Westbrook (seven points) failed to score in double-digits this season, the others being four points at Memphis in the third game of the year (0 for 13 from the field) and nine points in a loss at the L.A. Clippers late in the season (4 for 16). On Saturday, Westbrook was 2 for 10 from the field and 1 for 4 from the free-throw line. … OKC is 18-4 after a loss this season. … Counting postseason, OKC now has 63 consecutive sellouts at home.
San Antonio players received an earful from coach Gregg Popovich at halftime of Game 4, when they trailed 55-43.
“I don't think Gregg Popovich should have to come in this locker room and scream and kick to get guys to go in and play hard,” Spurs forward Stephen Jackson said after the loss. “This is the Western Conference finals. I know a million people who want to be in our shoes. For him to have to come in here and scream at guys to play hard … I am shocked. Everybody should be ready to play. … We've got to show more emotion and more passion to want to win this thing.”
Ginobili said Popovich's message was nothing unusual.
“It's something that happens all the time,” Ginobili said. “I'm not sure it was about playing hard. We were not sharp. It was very similar to what happened in Game 3. We had a way better second half, actually very good. That's my gut feeling.”
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Shown on TNT with 57.3 seconds left in Game 4: “WHERE'S THAT NASTY?”
The sign was in response to the well-documented pep talk from Popovich in Game 1 when he told his team: “I want some nasty,” a catchphrase that has since popped up on T-shirts around San Antonio and on placards throughout the AT&T Center.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS RATINGS UP
Through Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, TNT is on pace to deliver its second highest-rated and second most-viewed playoffs ever.
Ratings for the Thunder-Spurs series are up 7 percent in ratings (4.6 vs. 4.3); 6 percent among households (5,250,000 vs. 4,935,000) and 4 percent among viewers (7,193,000 vs. 6,922,000) compared with the 2011 Western Conference finals on ESPN (Thunder-Mavericks).
For Game 4, Oklahoma City was the top-rated local market with a 28.5 rating and San Antonio was second with 22.2.
The Spurs' Stephen Jackson on OKC tying the series at 2: “Those kids are playing hard. They want it. I think we've got to get back to being that way.”
BY JOHN ROHDE AND MEL BRACHT