Game of the night: Russell Westbrook apparently really likes triple overtime

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There was no Kevin Durant, no Devin Harris. Their knees would not allow it. That is why a lot of people did not notice that the Thunder and Nets were hooking up Wednesday night — but it turned out to be the best game you didn’t watch.

It had triple overtime. It had brilliant plays and stupefying mistakes. It had ridiculous shots. And in the end, it hand the best player on the floor — Russell Westbrook — taking over in the third overtime and winning it for the Thunder 123-120.

Lets start with how we even got to the first overtime.

Anthony Morrow is an elite shooter in this league who often gets overlooked (people thought his stats were the result of the Don Nelson “system” with the Warriors, but Morrow was one of the few efficient scorers on that team last season).

The Thunder are not overlooking him now — with less than a second on the clock a leaning three to send the game to overtime. Some might call it lucky, but is it lucky when Kobe or Manu hit shots like that? Morrow can knock those down. The Nets are figuring out they have something specil

He hit another three and a rainbow-arching 15 footer over his defender in overtime on his way to 25 for the game. It looked again like this one was the Nets, up six it halfway through it. Then with less than a minute in overtime the Nets kept giving Russell Westbrook good look 15 footers. He got hot, something the Thunder would regret. Meanwhile Jordan Farmar drove and kicked to — Brook Lopez 21 feet out. Hard to believe that your center taking a long two was really what Avery Johnson wanted, but it’s what he got.

Second overtime starts like the first, with the Nets ahead and looking like they should have this one. The Thunder fouled, Morrow kept knocking down shots. So it was time for the Thunder’s last second desperation three to tie and the Nets will win… so long as nobody fouls the shooter. We’re looking at you, Stephen Graham. He fouls Jeff Green in the act, and Green (who finished with 37) drained them.

Jordan Farmar got the inbound and tried to go coast to coast and win I t right there. With the Lakers, he was a guy known for hitting tough shots at the end of the first three quarters (you think he got to take them at the end of the fourth with Kobe on the team?). Not this time. Missed. And we have a third overtime.

Earlier in the night Westbrook had trouble finishing in the paint early but once he got going from the midrange he was hitting shots from anywhere he wanted. Like another 15 footer over Kris Humphries. Two trips later down the court Westbrook missed but followed his shot (just like your coach used to tell you to do) and got in unmarked, got the board and the put back). He was taking over.

Then with a chance to close it out, he nearly broke Travis Outlaw’s ankles with a crossover, drove down into Brook Lopez, scored the bucket and got the and-one. Westbrook (who finished with 38 points) scored all 13 of the Thunder points in that final overtime and got his team the win.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins. But without Durant, in a game they should have lost a few times over, you take it and don’t look back. Call it gutty if you want. The Thunder are finding ways to win, not unlike what happened last year, and if they really are putting it together the rest of the West should be worried.

What exactly was on the table for Bulls in Jimmy Butler trade?

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It’s been the cry since the Bulls’ front office traded Jimmy Butler for Zach LaVine (coming off an ACL surgery), Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen):

Why didn’t the Bulls get more?

I’m in the camp they didn’t get enough, starting with the question why did they give Minnesota the No. 16 pick in the deal? Even if the Bulls keep that pick, it doesn’t feel like they got enough for an All-NBA player, a top-flight wing defender who can also get buckets with the ball in his hands. The Bulls could have been patient and waited out a better offer, one of this quality would always have been on the table.

However, the deals for Butler may not have been as rich as fans assume. Here is part of what ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote breaking down the trade.

It’s not as if Chicago didn’t canvas the league, either. The Bulls talked to Phoenix about a package centered around Eric Bledsoe and the No. 4 pick, but nothing came close, according to league sources. (Those talks may have been linked at one point to Cleveland’s pursuit of Butler, which apparently fizzled Thursday as Dan Gilbert, the Cavs’ owner, tried to hire a new president of basketball operations on the freaking day of the draft.)

They poked around with Denver, but the Nuggets drew a line at Jamal Murray, sources say. Those teams had to weigh the possibility of Butler bolting in 2019, which cooled the market a bit, sources say.

Boston has danced around Butler for almost a year now, and would not include the No. 3 pick in any package for him as the draft approached, sources say. Other reports suggest they refused to offer next year’s Nets pick, or the Lakers-Kings pick they snagged from Philly in the Markelle Fultz deal.

Boston’s Danny Ainge wanted a deal, a bit of a discount, and the Bulls were not going to give it. Those pick requests are reasonable for a Top 15 player, but Ainge knows he can be patient and the Celtics will still win more than 50 games next season and be a contender in a couple of years. Ainge knows he has a real shot at Gordon Hayward as a free agent this summer. He knows it’s not Butler or bust, so he didn’t go all in. He can afford to be patient right now, but eventually he will have to make a move.

The lack of a better market for Butler speaks to a couple of things. Phoenix, Denver, and other teams are correct to worry about overpaying for a player that could leave in a couple of years. Maybe they can win him over with their culture, maybe a team like Denver becomes very dangerous with Butler in the mix with Nikola Jokic, but is that enough. This is also where the looming shadow of Golden State, the Mount Everest looming over all things in the West, comes into play — how much do teams want to pay to try to contend right now?

Still, the Bulls could have done better. At least know a direction is set, the Bulls are rebuilding. Can Gar/Pax pull that off is another question entirely.

Klay Thompson goes up for 360 dunk in exhibition… and he’s not a dunker (VIDEO)

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Klay Thompson has an amazing skill set — one of the best pure shooters in the league, he can put the ball on the floor and create, and he’s a very good perimeter defender.

He’s not a dunker. Oh, he can dunk, but he’s not the guy you’re inviting to the Dunk Contest.

Case in point, this video out of China where Thompson was part of an exhibition and tried to show off his dunking skills.

Thompson’s shoe sponsor is China-based Anta, which explains why he’s there playing some exhibition ball. In case you missed it, Thompson had a Finals shoe released.

Those are about as good as the 360 dunk.

Sixers will talk contract extension for Joel Embiid this summer, want to lock him up

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Could Joel Embiid be Philadelphia’s Stephen Curry?

No, I don’t mean taking 30-foot bombs that demoralize opponents (although, no doubt Embiid is game for trying it). I mean in having a contract extension off his rookie deal for less than the max, a value contract that allows the Sixers the cap room to secure a title contender around him.

After three seasons in the NBA, Joel Embiid is eligible for a contract extension this summer (one that would be negotiated now but not kick in until the 2018-19 season). Teams lock up their stars at this point, and Embiid is that — he was dominant in the 31 games he played. But it’s 31 games in three seasons, how much do the Sixers want to pay here?

Sixers owner Joshua Harris said extending Embiid is a priority for the team this summer, speaking at a press conference, via the Courier Times.

“Look, I’d just say we want Joel to be on the team for a long time,” Harris said. “We want us all to grow old together. That’s the way I would put it.”

A max contract for Embiid would be five years at about $130 million, an average annual salary of $26 million. Because of his injury history, would he be willing to sign five years at $100 million, maybe with an opt-out after four? That extra cap space may not sound like a lot, it’s not a Curry-level savings, but it would help the Sixers’ team building.

If the two sides can’t reach a deal by Oct. 31 (the deadline), Embiid will play out this season then be a restricted free agent next season. If he stays healthy, he will get a max deal from another team that the Sixers would just match (the Sixers and Embiid could also reach a deal).

The Sixers are not about to let Embiid go, they have their young core they believe they can contend with in a few years. Plus he is a fan favorite. The only question left is cost.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.