Oklahoma City was in control. They had Game 3. Russell Westbrook was dishing (he had 12 assists) and the Thunder were rolling. They were controlling the Grizzlies in the paint enough to get the win.
But when Westbrook starts to do his Derrick Rose impression, the Thunder’s offensive balance falls apart. Memphis upped its defensive pressure and he seemed to try and dribble the clock out to eat up game time, but the Thunder’s shots ended up being contested jumpers. When Kevin Durant did get the ball he was out by the arc with the time running down. Westbrook and the entire Thunder team stopped attacking.
Meanwhile the Grizzlies got the ball inside and made shots. It’s what they do. They executed better than they had for the first three quarters. They played smart and hit shots.
And they sent it to overtime, where the Grizzlies won.
In this game, the Grizzlies know they need to play 48 minutes like they did for the final 10 minutes, but they will be able to approach that with more confidence. They need to again get some offensive balance from O.J. Mayo (he made OKC pay for its attention on Zach Randolph), and Randolph and Marc Gasol need to again have good games. Mayo had a good defensive stint against Westbrook in the fourth, that would be a big help if he can duplicate it.
Memphis cannot have just one good quarter, it needs a good game.
And all of that might not matter if the Thunder are playing up to their potential. This is a team learning how to be champions, and that comes with some hard lessons. Like not going away from your offense at the end of games, keeping your foot on the gas. The Grizzlies cannot stop Durant if he gets the ball in good position (although Tony Allen has done a solid job), they cannot stop Westbrook when he is attacking but also is willing to set up teammates. The Thunder can stop themselves.
If the Thunder can limit turnovers and attack the basket, they may be able to even this series. But it will not be easy. You become a champion by having to get better with every test. If that’s where the Thunder see themselves, there are lessons they need to learn from this series. And they need to start applying them now.
Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.
His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.
George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).
As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.
Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.
This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?
He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.
The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.
“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”
As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.
“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”
Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.
I think Cousins can help provide that.
I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.