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For the Oklahoma City Thunder Mackensie Alexander Jersey , clinching night was reminiscent of their season.

 

Really bad start.

Really good finish.

Paul George scored 27 points, Russell Westbrook got his 25th triple-double of the season and the Thunder ran wild in the fourth quarter on the way to wrapping up a Western Conference playoff berth with a 115-93 win over the Miami Heat on Monday night.

”Half the league gets a chance to play in the postseason,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. ”You don’t want to take things for granted. They should feel good about creating an opportunity to play after the regular season’s over, but the thing I said to them after the game was we want to continue to play well, we want to continue to build, we want to continue to get better.”

That’s what Oklahoma City did all season. They started 8-12, are 39-22 since and got road wins over Houston and Miami in a three-day span to clinch the berth.

”We’re headed in the right direction,” said George, who walked off a winner in Miami for the third time in 21 appearances. ”This is what we wanted. We wanted to come out of this road trip 2-0 and we did that.”

Westbrook finished with 23 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists for the Thunder, who missed their first 10 shots and were down by 18 in the opening minutes before outscoring the Heat 39-12 in the fourth.

It was the third-worst scoring margin for any quarter in Heat history, and the worst ever in a game at Miami.

The Heat were called for 10 fouls in the fourth against three for the Thunder, and Oklahoma City shot 15 free throws in the final quarter – one more than Miami shot in the entire game.

”We had a lot of good things going Gareon Conley Jersey , and then I think it was a combination of them marching to the free-throw line and us not executing on the other end,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Jerami Grant scored 17 points and Carmelo Anthony added 11 for Oklahoma City, which made 14 3-pointers. Anthony will be playing in postseason games for the first time since 2013, after four consecutive futile seasons with the Knicks.

”Feels good to be back in the postseason and the mindset of not looking forward to another vacation,” Anthony said.

Josh Richardson scored 18 points and Hassan Whiteside added 16 for the Heat, who fell one spot to No. 7 in the East for now. Miami’s playoff seed won’t be decided until the season finales Wednesday.

Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson each scored 12 for Miami, and James Johnson added 11.

”We haven’t done things the easy way,” Heat guard Wayne Ellington said. ”I guess we like the challenge.”

TIP-INS

Thunder: Westbrook needs 16 rebounds in the Thunder finale Wednesday to average a triple-double for the second straight season. He’s also the second player with 2,000 points and 800 assists in back-to-back years. The other is Oscar Robertson, who did it five times. … Alex Abrines was held out of the second half with concussion symptoms.

Heat: Miami outscored Oklahoma City 58-32 in the paint. … The Heat shot 5 for 22 from 3-point range. … James Johnson got poked in the eye and Richardson banged a knee late, but both suggested after the game that they’ll be fine.

QUOTABLE

”We know we can beat anybody when we’re playing our best,” Westbrook said postgame.

WADE HONORED

Heat guard Dwyane Wade was presented with the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for March, recognizing his response to the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Charles Woodson Jersey , Florida. Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union donated $200,000 toward getting students to the ”March for Our Lives” event in Washington last month. ”I came back to this city at a time when I was needed, when my voice was needed,” Wade said.

TITLE WINNERS

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sat midcourt with Heat CEO Nick Arison, his former manager with the Blue Devils. Coach K was one of three accomplished college coaches at the game; Rick Pitino was also there, near Donovan – who played guard on Providence’s 1987 Final Four team (coached by Pitino), and a two-time NCAA title winner at Florida before going to Oklahoma City.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Host Memphis on Wednesday.

Heat: Host Toronto on Wednesday.

The New York Knicks are preaching patience but looking for progress.

Jeff Hornacek got caught in the middle.

The Knicks fired their coach early Thursday, shortly after finishing a 29-53 season. They lost more than 50 games and missed the playoffs both seasons under Hornacek.

”We looked out and we have a plan for what this team should look like over the next three years or so,” Knicks President Steve Mills said. ”We just thought this was an opportunity where we thought it was the right time to make a change.”

Mills and general manager Scott Perry said they didn’t see enough improvement on the court and enough communication and accountability off it. They informed Hornacek of their decision at the airport after flying home from a season-ending victory in Cleveland.

”We know the roster is not complete, we understand our roster as well as anybody,” Perry said at a news conference at the team’s training facility. ”But again, just in terms of consistency and then a trend I would say toward consistency, Steve and I thought we fell a little bit short in that area.”

Associate head coach Kurt Rambis also was fired.

Hornacek went 60-104 and had a year left on his contract. He became the first coaching change after the NBA regular season finished Tyrell Williams Jersey , with Frank Vogel in Orlando following soon afterward.

The ouster sends the Knicks in search of their 11th coach since Jeff Van Gundy resigned in the 2001-02 season.

Mills said he and Perry were evaluating Hornacek and the Knicks this season on 10-game intervals and saw progress in some areas but not in others. They met with Hornacek a couple of weeks ago to discuss where things stood, so Mills said he didn’t think the decision was a complete shock to the coach.

”Jeff is a positive person and I think he was hopeful that there would be another opportunity, but he’s a pro,” Mills said. ”He’s a good man and he took it well.”

Mills continued to say the Knicks are rebuilding, with Perry saying there would be no quick fixes. Still, they apparently expected more this season, which started well but quickly fell apart after injuries to Tim Hardaway Jr. and later the season-ending loss of All-Star Kristaps Porzingis.

”I can’t wrap my thoughts about what management thinks,” Hardaway said. ”All I know is that Jeff was great to the guys, and he was a player’s coach.”

Perry said the Knicks were looking for a skilled communicator and effective leader who connects well with today’s players and has a strong defensive mindset. He said there is no timetable to find that person.

Hornacek was hired in 2016 by Phil Jackson and lasted just one more season after Jackson and the team parted ways last summer.

”Jeff is a good guy,” forward Michael Beasley said after Wednesday’s victory. ”He played the hand he was dealt. It’s difficult to do anything because all you’re thinking about is not to mess up.”

The Knicks have won only one postseason series since 2002 and didn’t get close to competing in one under Hornacek, running their streak to five straight 50-loss debacles.

Hornacek, previously a head coach for three years in Phoenix, was surprised when he became Jackson’s choice Gabe Jackson Jersey , since they had little relationship other than facing off in the NBA Finals when Hornacek played for Utah and Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls.

Jackson said Hornacek would be allowed to run whatever offense he wanted and not be required to implement the triangle Jackson used as a coach. But he shifted gears during Hornacek’s first season, and the team returned to the triangle with poor results.

Hornacek opened up the offense after Jackson’s departure, and the Knicks started 16-13. But they tailed off toward the middle of the season and then collapsed after Porzingis tore a knee ligament on Feb. 6.

Hornacek tried to preach patience late in the season as the losses piled up with a young roster that defended dismally.

He said he was prepared for the chaos that comes with the Knicks job and he experienced plenty – from Jackson’s feud with Carmelo Anthony, who was eventually traded in September, to his own clash during this season with Joakim Noah, who then remained on the roster but never returned to the team.

With Anthony, Noah and Derrick Rose all gone, the Knicks lacked the veteran roster this season they had when Hornacek was hired with playoff expectations.

Hornacek is 161-216 and has never reached the postseason as an NBA coach.

Rambis, a former assistant under Jackson, originally came to New York to work under Derek Fisher and served as interim head coach for half a season after Fisher was fired.

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