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.
When the starters for next month’s All-Star Game in New Orleans were announced this week, there was a mini-uproar on Twitter because Russell Westbrook — the guy averaging a triple-double this season — wasn’t picked. It’s hard for me to get worked up over two-time MVP Stephen Curry getting the nod, but if you want someone to blame it was the fans’ call — they voted Curry first overall, James Harden second, Westbrook third. The players and media had Westbrook first, Harden second, but the tie is broken by the fan vote.
Enter Baron Davis with the timely joke.
We just need to tie in a Zaza Pachulia joke and it will be perfect.
The Milwaukee Bucks had lost four in a row and had slid out of a playoff slot in the East. It’s not one end of the court — in their last five games, the Bucks had the second-worst defense and fourth-worst offense in the NBA. After that fourth loss, the team held a players’ only meeting, one where Jabari Parker reportedly ripped his teammates for a lack of togetherness.
In the postgame media sessions that followed, Parker told the press he confirmed there was a meeting and said he had been “thrashed” by his teammates for what he said.
It was that speaking to the media that got him benched for a game — as decided by his teammates — reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker did not start in Saturday’s road loss to the Miami Heat for violating a team rule that prohibits disclosing locker room discourse to the media, league sources told ESPN…
Parker’s teammates deliberated and decided the appropriate punishment for the violation was to bring him off the bench against the Heat, league sources told ESPN. It was the first time this season that he did not start.
The meeting and the benching didn’t help, the Bucks fell to the lowly Heat 109-97. (Team/players meetings are overrated in how often they help teams turn things around.)
The good news for the Bucks is that in a tight East they remain just a game out of the playoffs and three games out of the five seed. It’s going to be a tough week to turn that around with the Rockets, resurgent Sixers, Raptors, and Celtics on the schedule.
Without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the lineup, the Clippers don’t have much going for them offensively. However, there is one thing: DeAndre Jordan can still run to the rim and dunk with authority.
Denver’s Kenneth Faried took that away Saturday.
Faried hustled back in transition, showed he still had some hops and swatted away a Jordan dunk attempt.
The Nuggets went on to win the game comfortably, 123-98, behind 19 points and 10 boards from Nikola Jokic.
The Knicks last three losses have come by a total of six points. The team is not good, a little banged up, and doesn’t play any defense, but New York also has just had a run of bad luck.
The latest example: Phoenix’s Devin Booker draining a three to knock off New York, 107-105. It was a mistake by Derrick Rose, who sagged down to the free throw line watching Eric Bledsoe with the ball coming off the pick, which led to the open pass. Also, notice that Booker set up three feet back of the three-point line — this is a trend a lot of teams and good shooters are following (watch a Rockets’ game) because it makes the closeout harder. Rose would have contested a shot at the arc, but Booker gets a clean look from where he spotted up, and drills it.
Carmelo Anthony got a shot to win it for the Knicks, but his rimmed out.