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Mike D’Antoni tells Houston Rockets he won’t return as coach

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni has informed the franchise that he’s becoming a coaching free agent and won’t return to the Rockets next campaign, D’Antoni told ESPN on Sunday.

“It’s with tremendous sadness and gratitude that my wife Laurel and I announce that our incredible journey in Houston has ended for now and that we’ll be moving to a new chapter,” D’Antoni told ESPN in a statement.

D’Antoni, whose contract expired with the end of Houston’s season in the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday, turned down extension offers prior to the season. He will be considered among a group of candidates for the Philadelphia 76ers coaching opening, sources tell ESPN.

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D’Antoni was 217-102 in his four campaigns as Rockets coach, advancing once to the Western Conference finals and three times to the conference semifinals.

D’Antoni, a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, led the Rockets to the highest winning percentage in the Western Conference over the last four years (.682), trailing only the Toronto Raptors (.695) in the entire league.

Only the Golden State Warriors (46), Boston Celtics (33), and Raptors (31) have more playoff triumphs than the Rockets (28) in D’Antoni’s four-year run in Houston.

The Athletic reported Sunday morning D’Antoni had not “completely ruled out the possibility of a return.” None of these answers or reports were definitive and the reports all season were that D’Antoni wasn’t likely to stay in Houston.

For the Rockets, it will be difficult to find a replacement that is on par with the impact that Mike D’Antoni provides. He has been key in James Harden emerging as a superstar and that’s why the former MVP expressed he wanted D’Antoni to be brought back.

It’s early in the process but the Rockets have been linked to Jeff Van Gundy as a potential candidate. He has been in the broadcast booth for years as he last coached in the NBA in 2007 when he was in Houston. There should be plenty of other candidates to enter the mix, too.

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Lakers run past Rockets for 3-1 West semifinals lead

Anthony Davis was the biggest player on the floor, and the Houston Rockets had no answers.

Davis had 29 points and 12 rebounds, LeBron James concluded one assist shy of a triple-double and the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Rockets 110-100 on Thursday night to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

James had 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who outrebounded the Rockets 52-26. Alex Caruso scored 16 points and Rajon Rondo had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers, who held on after frittering away most of a big second-half lead.

“Turnovers,” Davis stated. “We had too many turnovers.”

That was one of the few complaints the Lakers could make after Game 4. Russell Westbrook had 25 points and James Harden had 21 for the Rockets, who got 19 from Eric Gordon and 14 from Austin Rivers.

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The Lakers were up by 23 midway through the fourth, well on their way to a blowout victory.

That’s when Houston’s offense woke up.

Westbrook made a corner 3 with 3:01 left, Harden got a steal and a pair of free throws on the next possession, and the Rockets put together a 18-2 run to get within 103-96. The Lakers turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions during that stretch, unable to get anything going.

Smartly, though, on the biggest possession of the night as the clock ticked inside the two-minute mark, they went to Davis. Gordon, who stands about half-a-foot shorter than Davis, had no opportunity as the Laker All-Star scored in the lane to push the lead back out to nine and buy the Lakers a bit of breathing room.

Caruso’s 3-pointer off a pass from James with 34.6 seconds left made it 108-100, and the Lakers escaped.

The Lakers won Game 3 by holding Houston to 38 points in the second half — and set themselves up to win Game 4 by clamping down again, this time in the first half. It was 57-41 Lakers at the break, meaning Houston had scored 79 points in its last 48 minutes of basketball.

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