Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Durant drives ball past Dallas Mavericks small forward Marion in Dallas

NBA Playoffs: Thunder should be optimistic, they were in it


It was close.

After Kevin Durant drained two free throws it was a five-point Mavericks lead with 4:18 left. Get a stop, knock down a shot and it’s a one possession game.

Tuesday’s Dallas win didn’t feel close — Dirk Nowitzki went off, the Mavs got 53 points from its bench and with each big shot it felt like the Mavs were doing to the Thunder what they did to the Lakers in Game 4.

Except they didn’t. And that is the big positive the Thunder come out of Game 1 with — Dallas played a nearly perfect game for it and Oklahoma City still had a shot in the end. There are plenty of adjustments to make, but the Thunder were in it despite all the problems ad that has to make them feel good.

Because Oklahoma City can play better.

“I could bet my whole house that Russell Westbrook won’t go 3-15 again,” Kevin Durant said after the game.

Actually, that might be a concern — in three meetings this season Westbrook averaged just 14.3 points on 32 percent shooting and hit no threes. (His season average was 21.9 points on 44 percent shooting.) Westbrook has yet to have a good game this season against Dallas and that is starting to look like a trend, not a fluke.

But there are things the Thunder can do. They might want to make it harder for Nowitzki to get the ball 18 feet out on the right baseline, for one. He kind of likes that spot. The Thunder also need to get out in transition more, force turnovers and run on every miss. Even in the half court more they need to get inside and not settle for jumpers (especially against the zone Dallas threw out in spots).

Oklahoma City  did learn that Dallas has no good answer for defending Kevin Durant. OKC has real advantages in terms of athleticism they need to exploit. They need to use those on the defensive end to contest better — Dallas is a very good jump shooting team, you can’t think just protecting the paint is enough. The Lakers did a nice job protecting the paint for long stretches, see where it got them. You have to make it harder on their shooters.

Oklahoma City just needs to be a little better at it — they were already close.

Report: Wizards signing Ryan Hollins

Blake Griffin, Ryan Hollins
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Nene hurt his calf. Drew Gooden is banged up. Martell Webster is out for the season.

Those are three players the Wizards expected to play power forward this season.

So, Washington – which has lost four straight – will bring in another big man: Ryan Hollins.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Wizards have a full roster of 15 players. They don’t qualify for a hardship exemption, which a team gets if four players have missed three straight games and will continue to be out. Only Webster and Alan Anderson definitely fit that bill. Gooden, who has missed five straight, might. But it’s unclear both how many of those absences were due to injury and when he’ll return.

So, Washington will have to waive someone to sign Hollins now. It’ll probably be Webster, whose $5,845,250 2016-17 salary is just $2.5 million guaranteed. If he’s out for the year and the Wizards plan to drop him by the summer to clear cap space, why not just do it now?

Hollins is more center than power forward and doesn’t appear to fit well with Marcin Gortat. But at this point, Washington just needs big bodies. Hollins – a nine-year veteran who plays decent interior defense, lacks offensive skill and rebounds poorly for his 7-foot frame – is at least that.

Dwight Howard crushes Kristaps Porzingis with dunk (video)

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Sometimes – as Kristaps Porzingis sees against Dwight Howard – it’s more flattering just to play James Harden-level defense.

Marc Gasol heads ball into basket after drawing foul (video)

Marc Gasol
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This was not Marc Gasol‘s first attempt to head in the ball after a whistle, but this time, he converted.

Here was his January try: