Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six

NBA Playoffs: Efficient Westbrook, Thunder need to show up

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Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are putting up numbers against the Dallas Mavericks: Durant is averaging 29.3 point per game (up from his league-leading 27.7 during the regular season), while Westbrook is at 22.7 per game.

But they are not efficient about it. Durant is shooting 44 percent and is 2-of-18 from three. Westbrook is shooting just 36 percent. Bad decisions, poor off the ball movement, just not enough execution as a team.

On the other end, throughout these playoffs the Dallas Mavericks have been very efficient. Take away Dirk Nowizki — which the Thunder did a pretty good job of in Game 3 with some physical play — and someone else steps up. Or, accurately, several somebody elses. They do what it takes to win.

The Thunder are going to have to find that in them Monday night in Game 4 or they will head back to Dallas on the verge of elimination.

That efficiency has to start on the defensive end — for all the complaining about the Thunder offense, they are giving up 114.1 points per 100 possessions this series to Dallas. During the regular season the Thunder only gave up 104 points per 100 possessions, Dallas scored 107.6.

The problems are particularly noticeable in the fourth quarter and at the end of games when Dallas is getting good looks. Part of it is nobody has a good answer for Dirk Nowitzki. But part of it is J.J. Barea’s curving cuts through the Thunder defense that forces them to collapse and leads to open shooters. Part of it is the Thunder not creating turnovers, not getting some easy baskets in transition The Thunder have to execute better at the end of games, because you know Dallas will.

The Thunder need to get more offense and that should mean less Kendrick Perkins. He’s still a good defender, but this is a bad matchup for him. He would have been great against the Lakers front line, but more-mobile Dallas has proved a problem. You think you can help off Tyson Chandler, but the man knows how to roll to the basket and finish lobs.

The Thunder have better play and plenty of fight in them — remember they had to go three overtimes in their last Game 4 to even up that series on the road, and they went on to win in 7.

But they won that Game 4 despite bad decisions and some inefficient shooting. They will have to play better Thursday, Dallas will not give them that luxury.

Doc Rivers: If Paul Pierce retires, Clippers would let him join Celtics first

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 3:  Head coach Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics share a laugh at the end of the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons during the game on April 3, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Clippers forward Paul Pierce is mulling retirement, which would mean another franchise icon could leave the NBA this summer — Lakers great Kobe Bryant, Spurs great Tim Duncan and Celtics great Pierce.

However, unlike Kobe and Duncan, Pierce left his original team.

Personally, I don’t think stints with the Nets, Wizards and Clippers do much to diminish Pierce’s Boston bona fides. Everyone will remember him as a Celtic. Fifteen years and a championship in Boston will do that.

But just in case you need more reason to tie Pierce to the Celtics, Clippers president/coach and Pierce’s former Boston coach Doc Rivers has a plan.

Rivers, as transcribed by Jay King of MassLive:

“If Paul decides to retire then we’re going to make sure that Boston picks him up for one day and he retires a Celtic because that’s what he should retire as,” Rivers said during an episode of The Vertical podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski, which was released early Thursday. “So we have all that in place. We just don’t know what he’s going to do.”

Apparently, Amar’e Stoudemire is a trendsetter. Stoudemire signed with the Knicks to retire, the first NBA player in memory to sign with a team for that ceremonial reason. Previously, it’d mostly been done in football and baseball.

If Pierce wants to follow that path, kudos to Rivers for allowing it to happen.

Rivers just has to make sure he executes the transaction wisely.

The Clippers would waive Pierce, and presumably, nobody would claim him to interfere. Pierce could then signed an unguaranteed contract with Boston. Pierce would retire, and the Celtics would waive him to clear his salary from their books.

But Pierce is due $3,527,920 on his current contract this season, and $1,096,080 of his 2017-18 salary is guaranteed. If the Clippers just waive him, they’ll be on the hook for that money. They can pay Pierce as a retirement gift, as the Spurs did with Duncan. But that seems foolish for a team facing the hard cap and without such deep ties to the player.

Before waiving Pierce, the Clippers should renegotiate the guaranteed portion of his salary (a buyout) — all the way down to $0. If Pierce is retiring, his team no longer has to pay him. Reducing his guaranteed salary would just hasten the process of getting him back to Boston.

This isn’t that complicated. It just requires Rivers to get the details of cap management correct. Actually…

Carmelo Anthony predicts Knicks-Bulls on Christmas or opening night

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 23: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks shoots over Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on March 23, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Carmelo Anthony said the Knicks should have gotten a Christmas game last year. In hindsight, the NBA reportedly agreed.

So, Anthony expects New York to get a marquee matchup — against the Bulls — on either Christmas or opening night.

Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:

The storylines are overflowing.

The Knicks added Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah — two former Bulls — to join Anthony, who strongly considered Chicago in his last free agency. The Bulls answered with a couple big names: Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. They’ll join Jimmy Butler, whose stature is only growing — just like Kristaps Porzingis in New York.

Those are plenty of attention-drawing players, and the league will want to capitalize, even if we’re talking about a couple middling Eastern Conference teams.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that New York and Chicago are huge markets.

Newspaper uses crying Michael Jordan photo with article on his race statement

SPRINGFIELD, MA - SEPTEMBER 11: Michael Jordan to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame speaks during an induction ceremony on September 11, 2009 in Springfield, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Michael Jordan issued a statement on race in America and donated $2 million to a couple worthy causes.

That drew international coverage, including one curious photo choice:

Only in Malawi.

Watch Amar’e Stoudemire’s top 10 career plays (video)

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When Amar’e Stoudemire retired, I said history will treat him better than present-day analysis — maybe even to the point he gets legitimate Hall of Fame consideration.

Get past Stoudemire’s injury-caused decline with the Knicks and his wayward years with the Mavericks and Heat, and Stoudemire was a heck of a player with the Suns (and in his first year in New York).

Thanks to the NBA, the process of remembering Stoudemire for his peak can begin immediately. I was blown away by the first few highlights before realizing they were just the introduction for the top 10.