It certainly wasn’t easy, but the Oklahoma City Thunder managed to eke out a 1-0 series lead over the Dallas Mavericks after a back-and-forth final period that ended with Kevin Durant nailing a game-winner with 1.5 seconds left to play.
The Mavericks had plenty of chances to win — Shawn Marion did a great job on Durant all night, holding him to just 10-27 shooting from the floor, and actually played perfect defense on Durant when he hit his game-winner, which took a major “shooter’s bounce” before going in. Jason Terry was red-hot for most of the game, and finished with 20 points in 24 minutes on 8-10 shooting from the floor. Some late turnovers aside, Dirk Nowitzki was on his game, and hit two clutch free throws to put the Mavericks up by one before the game’s final possession.
The Mavericks clearly gave the Thunder all they could handle on Saturday night, and had more than their share of chances to take the game. They led by four points after the third quarter, and had what appeared to be a commanding 7-point lead with just over three minutes remaining, but none of that mattered when the reigning scoring champion rolled home an impossible-looking off-balance jumper to put his team up 1-0. After a great performance, the Mavericks now find themselves in the exact same position as the Knicks do — even though one team lost by 1 point and the other by 33, both teams are down 1-0 with a chance to steal a game on the road before coming back to their buildings.
The question for both teams is how they will carry this game — will the Mavericks be deflated after giving the Thunder their best shot and coming up one play short, or gain confidence from how well they matched up against the Thunder and come out confident in Game 2? Will the Thunder freak out when they realize they have to win 11 more of these games just to get to the NBA Finals, or be able to wipe the slate clean and play like a 47-19 team in Game 2? That’s what we’ll find out later, but for now it looks like this is the best first-round series going.
Report: Rockets to interview Mike D’Antoni, Frank Vogel for coaching vacancy
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
ESPN sources say Sixers associate head coach Mike D'Antoni is interviewing for the Houston Rockets' coaching job this week
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Sources say Houston will also talk to Frank Vogel as well as part of a Kings-style broad search if the Pacers let Vogel go as many expect.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
Cavs set single-game three-point record in blowout win over Hawks
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.
Report: J.B. Bickerstaff withdraws himself from consideration for Rockets’ coaching job
The Houston Rockets are still searching for a head coach — with Jeff Van Gundy believed to be their top target — but it won’t be J.B. Bickerstaff, who has served as the team’s interim coach since they fired Kevin McHale in November. According to The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, Bickerstaff has informed Rockets management that he’s no longer in consideration for the job:
After a meeting with ownership and the front office on Tuesday, Houston Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has informed team officials that he’s no longer a candidate for the head-coaching job, league sources told The Vertical.
Other NBA teams have started reaching out to Bickerstaff about lead assistant coaching positions, and that’s where he’s transitioned his focus, league sources said.
After the Rockets’ disappointing season and disastrous playoff performance — where they lost in five not-very-competitive games to a Stephen Curry-less Warriors —it makes sense that Bickerstaff would rather get a fresh start as an assistant somewhere else, where he could build up his credentials and be a more highly sought-after head coaching candidate in the future. He isn’t a big name, so he likely wouldn’t be able to command as much money as the Rockets’ head coach as a more established figure would be. Given the Rockets’ uncertain future with Dwight Howard almost certain to opt out and not a lot of long-term pieces around James Harden, it’s not the most stable job in the world.