It seems easy, right? You win three games, you’ve proven you’re the better team, you’ve shown you can win on their floor, you’ve totally and completely demoralized them and all you have to do is do it once more and the series is through. But it never is, as the Oklahoma City Thunder found out Monday night as the Nuggets held the line, particularly the 3-point line, and got a win to make the series 3-1 headed back to OKC.
Sure, the Thunder are likely to finish the thing off in Game 5. But like the Spurs trying to fend off the Grizzlies, one win and the series is 3-2, and then the series comes back to Denver with a chance to knot it up.
Then again, once more the Thunder had a chance to close out the game, and this time couldn’t overcome their own mistakes. Russell Westbrook wanted to win this game. He was desperate to win this game. So much so that he deliberately ignored his teammates down the stretch and forced the shot, resulting in terrible decisions and a game where the Nuggets faced the razor blade and managed not to get cut.
The big difference for the Nuggets? 9-19, 47% from 3-point range. Ty Lawson was huge with 27 points, constantly working to get to the rim. Danilo Gallinari finally stepped up, hitting 3-4 from deep and getting 18 points on 13 shots. When Gallinari is engaged, the Nuggets are an entirely different team. Meanwhile, the Thunder never got anyone outside of the Big 2 involved. The result is they have to try to close out the Nuggets in five, wasting precious time they could be getting healthy. The hardest thing for a young team to learn is how close out a team. The Thunder still haven’t figure that out.
While the rampant speculation continues about whether the Celtics may or may not trade for a superstar, Danny Ainge is filling out his roster with veterans. Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reports that they’ve agreed to a one-year minimum deal with guard Gerald Green:
Green was originally drafted by the Celtics in 2005 at No. 18 overall, and after bouncing around different teams and overseas in the first few years of his career, he’s carved out a nice niche for himself in the NBA as a scoring guard off the bench. He played 69 games for the Heat last season after two solid years in Phoenix.
The NBA has unveiled its top 100 plays of the 2015-16 season, and there’s no mystery as to what were the top two.
No. 2: Stephen Curry‘s halfcourt buzzer-beater in overtime against the Thunder in Oklahoma City during the season.
No. 1: “The Block” by LeBron James on Andre Iguodala in the final stretch of Game 7 of the Finals.
There’s plenty more, too, and if you have 25 minutes to kill, you can and should watch all of them above.
Tyler Zeller is one of the few restricted free agents left on the market who could make an actual impact next season, and on Saturday morning, he’s come off the board. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports that the fourth-year big man has agreed to a deal to stay with the Celtics. It’s for two years and $16 million, with the second season being a team option.
Zeller isn’t a starter, but he’s a nice rotation big man, especially at that price. He can play minutes off the bench for Boston, and his contract is also very movable with the second season being unguaranteed. He played just 11.8 minutes per game last season, but averaged 18.5 points and 9 rebounds per 36 minutes.
The Toronto Raptors were good last season, second best team in the East. That means the guys on Inside the NBA on TNT had to talk about them.
Which means Charles Barkley had to say “Jonas Valanciunas” a lot. Which is high comedy. While a lot of people struggle to say his name the guy is a solid NBA center who, with a little practice, you can say (and spell) his name pretty easily.
This comes from a YouTube user, via Reddit, with a hat tip to Eye on Basketball.