NBA Playoffs: Thunder to taste playoff experience, do the Lakers have too much of it?

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durant.jpgThe Lakers and the Thunder are a lot alike in some ways. Think about it this way:

Dominant superstar? Check. Second offensive option who is a borderline All-Star? Check. Long, lanky versatile forward? Check. Guys who can come in off the bench and change the game? Check.

But off the court these franchises are totally different. Night and day. The Los Angeles Lakers have 15 NBA championship banners hanging at one end of Staples Center. They won the title last year. Their coach has a ring for every finger. On both hands. They ooze experience to the point of boredom with everything before the playoffs (which could cost them).

The Oklahoma City Thunder are so excited to have made the playoffs the franchise is throwing a parade before the first game. A parade before the ball is thrown up in one playoff game.

All that gets to the real question at the heart of this series: Does the Lakers experience overcome their banged up bodies and sloppy play coming in? Can Oklahoma City have fun and not flinch under a new level of pressure? The stats will tell you this one is very close. But as Portland learned last year, the playoffs are a different kind and level of basketball. Does Oklahoma City have to learn how to win at this level, or can they walk out Sunday and say, “why not now?”

Of course, there are some fun matchups, starting with the ones at the top of the marquee.

There is Kevin Durant, the NBA’s newest superstar, a 6’10” guy with point guard skills, who can hit the three or drive he lane. Stopping him (or guys like him) is why the Lakers got Ron Artest, everyone’s favorite physical defender, blonde (today) and loose cannon. Artest will try to be physical with Durant, and if the refs allow him to be like Phil Jackson he wants he stands a chance of making Durant less efficient.

On the other end, Kobe Bryant is going to face Thabo Sefolosha, who has had success in this matchup — in the team’s last meeting that he held Kobe to 11 points and Kobe actually admitted Sefolosha bothered him. The Thunder are a good defensive team, too, and Sefolosha will get help.

The two key matchups, however, will be elsewhere. UCLA alumni Russell
Westbrook returns to LA to piss off his former fans. We all know the
Lakers have struggled to stop quick point guards for a couple seasons,
and there are few quicker than Westbrook. Here’s a little stat to tell
you how important Westbrook is — when the Thunder blew out the Lakers
last month, Westbrook was 10 of 13 shooting; but in the Lakers three
wins in this series this season, he shot 39 percent.

Derek Fisher is going to need help — and that’s where a healthy Andrew
Bynum comes a key. Westbrook is great in finishing at the rim, but if
Bynum can force him to shoot before that, well, Westbrook takes some of
the ugliest 8-foot shots in the NBA.

The Lakers advantage is Pau Gasol, who has beasted lately  — shooting 65
percent and scoring 26 points per game in the Lakers last five (before
the Clipper game Wednesday). The 7’0″ Gasol will be guarded by the 6’9″
Jeff Green, who is a quality player but cannot bother Gasol when he gets
the ball. The Lakers all to often inexplicably go away from Gasol, if
they do it here they play into the Thunder’s hands.

There is James Harden sparking the Thunder off the bench, versus the
Lamar Odom spark. There is Green trying to pull the Laker bigs away from
the basket. There are a lot of Xs and Os to watch.

Still, the question is how much does experience matter? The Lakers do
not tighten up under pressure; they tend to thrive in it. They don’t
always win but they seem to revel in it. They have won a title because
of it. Look at what Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak told Mike Trudell of in their series preview:

“At the end of the day, we’re not talking about an inexperienced roster
or coaching staff, he said. “This team, based on what they’ve
accomplished and not just recently deserves the chance to go into the
playoffs and make any adjustments that they feel necessary. We all know
that no matter what happened 10 days ago or three weeks ago, everybody
will be evaluated based on how the season ends.”

The Thunder run their sets but often seem of short-arm shots in the last
five minutes of a game. When the defensive pressure steps up, they seem
to get tight, and with Harden on the bench (in favor of Thabo’s
defense) they rely heavily on Durant to do everything. With more on the
line then their core has ever faced, how will the Thunder execute?
Carefree, like a team with nothing to lose? Or do they get tight?

Much of the nation, pretty tired of Kobe and the Lakers, will be pulling
for the upstarts. Oklahoma City will have America’s hearts. If they can
keep their heads, they have the talent to hang.

But would you really bet against the Lakers here? Neither would I.

Dwyane Wade crossover drops Knicks’ Langston Galloway (VIDEO)

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This was not the Knicks’ night. Miami has been the second best team in the East and they looked it with a comfortable win over New York, 97-78.

And it was also turn back the clock night for Dwyane Wade.

Above he drops Langston Galloway with the crossover. Below he gets out in transition and throws it down like its 2006. He finished with 17 points and looked pretty spry on the night.

Watch Stephen Curry score 41 points; Warriors pour in 3s to go 17-0

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PHOENIX (AP) — The Golden State Warriors rained 3s in the desert and pushed their NBA-record start to 17-0.

Stephen Curry scored 41 points in three quarters and the Warriors made a franchise-record 22 3-pointers (in 38 attempts) during their highest-scoring game of the season, a 135-116 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Golden State fell one shy of the NBA record for 3s set by Orlando on March 9, 2009, and matched by Houston, against the Warriors, on Feb. 5, 2013. The offensive deluge came three days after Golden State set the league record at 16-0 by beating the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We have an edge,” Curry said. “We love the feeling of winning and our confidence is high right now. That’s the only thing that motivates us.”

The 3-point record could well have fallen had Curry not sat out the fourth quarter. The reigning NBA MVP made a season-high nine of his 16 tries from long range in his 14th career 40-point game, five this season.

Draymond Green had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in his third career triple-double, two this season.

The Warriors set another NBA mark by making 15 3-pointers (in 20 attempts) in the first half. Leandro Barbosa added 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 5 for 5 on 3s.

“Yeah, they’re a tough team to guard,” Phoenix’s Markieff Morris said. “They shoot 3s like layups.”

T.J. Warren scored a career-high 28 points for the Suns in their third straight loss and fourth in five games.

Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe added 21 points apiece for Phoenix. Klay Thompson scored 15 for the Warriors.

“I know we shoot a lot of 3s,” Golden State interim coach Luke Walton said. “They start blending together after a while. But that’s the type of game it turned into. We would like to still get the ball inside and move it side to side.”

Golden State jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first quarter and the Suns never got it to single digits again. Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek lamented a lack of defense.

“A team like that, who is undefeated world champs, you’ve got to make things tough for them,” Hornacek said. “We didn’t do that. Their shots were pretty much wide open.”

Hornacek admired the ball movement of the Warriors.

“You see several times when there is a missed shot,” he said, “they get an offensive rebound, that ball is not in the offensive rebounder’s hands more than a half a second and then they find Curry somewhere.”

In the first half, Curry went 7 of 9 on 3s and scored 27 points. Golden State had a 75-57 lead at the break after matching its highest-scoring half in a so-far perfect season.

Curry and the rest of the Warriors came out firing, scoring the game’s first eight points, capped by the first of Curry’s flurry of 3s. The Warriors kept hitting from long range and the last of Curry’s five first-quarter 3s put Golden State up 39-19. The Warriors led 44-27 after their highest-scoring first quarter since March 25, 2011.


Seven players made at least one 3-pointer for the Warriors. In the first half, Golden State shot 66 percent overall but was even better from 3-point range at 75 percent. The Warriors made 15 of 20 3s in the first half.


The Suns lost starting center Tyson Chandler, Phoenix’s major offseason signee, with a strained right hamstring in the first quarter. Golden State starting forward Harrison Barnes left in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle. X-rays were negative, Walton said, but it wasn’t known how long Barnes might be out.



Pelican’s Anthony Davis forced to leave game, has bruised knee


It looked a lot worse than it turned out to be.

Late in the third quarter of Friday night’s Clippers win over the Pelicans, Los Angeles’ Josh Smith blocked a shot at the rim that came out to the top of the key to Chris Paul, and he started to race up court in transition with Anthony Davis next to him. At that point, CP3 veered into Davis to draw the contact and get the foul, but in the process injured Davis. Watch the replay in the video above, CP3 initiates the contact.

Watching Davis try to leave the floor was scary. It looked bad.

Fortunately, it turned out just to be a bruise.

Davis did not return, but he shouldn’t miss much time with a bruise.

As for the play, there has been plenty of Twitter talk about if it was dirty. I wouldn’t say that, I do not think there was any intent to injure.

I would say the play was reckless, the kind of thing more likely to lead to injury. What’s more, that should be called an offensive foul every time — CP3 initiates that contact. He veers into Davis to get the call, and that’s an offensive foul.

Fortunately for all of us, the ultimate result was nothing serious.

Watch James Harden score 50 as Rockets beat winless 76ers 116-114


HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden had 50 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and the Houston Rockets beat the winless Philadelphia 76ers 116-114 on Friday night.

Harden was 14 for 28 from the field and 16 for 20 at the line in his third career game with 50 or more points. He is averaging 36.2 points in his last five games.

Philadelphia moved one loss away from matching the New Jersey Nets’ NBA-worst mark of 18 losses to open a season. The Sixers have dropped 27 in a row dating to last season for the longest losing streak in major U.S. professional sports history, passing the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976 to ’77. The previous record was also matched by the 76ers in 2013-14.

Robert Covington had 28 points for Philadelphia, which made a franchise-record 16 3-pointers in 35 attempts. One day removed from a Boston nightclub altercation, rookie Jahlil Okafor had 11 points and six rebounds.

Facing an 11-point deficit to start the fourth quarter, the 76ers opened the period on a 24-8 run to take a five-point lead.

Down by two with less than 3 seconds remaining, Covington intentionally missed a free throw that was rebounded by Dwight Howard to secure the Houston win.

Harden led the Rockets to one of their best shooting performances of the season, helping Houston win for just the second time in its last nine games.

The Rockets shot 52 percent from the field, including an 11-for-20 night from beyond the arc. Howard added 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Philadelphia scored 100 points for the first time in nearly three weeks and just the fourth time all season. Isaiah Canaan had 23 points, and Jerami Grant scored 18.


76ers:C Nerlens Noel was a late scratch with right knee soreness. … SG Nik Stauskas returned from a one-game absence after suffering a knee contusion in Monday’s loss to Minnesota. … Canaan got his fifth start of the season over regular starter T.J. McConnell.

Rockets: Houston improved to 68-68 all-time against Philadelphia. … The Rockets had a season-high 35 third-quarter points. . PG Patrick Beverley received a technical foul in the second quarter after throwing an elbow near the face of Phil Pressey.