Lakers-Thunder Game 1: Lakers suffer a Thundertality

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This was a beating. A smackdown. A trouncing. A demolition. A boat race. A blowout. A “hit ’em in the head with a shovel and drag their team to an unmarked grave,” “nail ’em with a 2X4, watch them stagger around and then slam the door on them on the way out,” downright unavoidable-to-say butt kicking. The Thunder destroyed the Lakers 119-90 Monday to win Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals series.

The Thunder scored 39 points in the third quarter to bust the lead open. It was a 30-point lead late in the quarter, the starters didn’t play the fourth, Devin Ebanks was ejected in garbage time, and the Lakers essentially embarrassed themselves every way possible.

Some numbers, just for fun.

The Thunder finished with a 132 offensive efficiency. In the third quarter, they had a 161 offensive efficiency. They started the third with a 22-6 run. In six minutes. In six minutes, the Thunder scored 22 points, the Lakers just six. Kevin Durant had 10 points in that span, all with Metta World Peace on the floor.

Thundertality.

So for the Thunder, the only thing you can really say is “do that more.” They played nearly perfectly, holding Kobe Bryant to 20 points on 18 shots, Paul Gasol to 10 points on 11 shots, and Ramon Sessions to just 2 points. They dominated every area of the game, played their way and hit absolutely everything they put up. This is not rocket science. Play that way, all the time, and you win a title.

For the Lakers?

OK, some caveats. The Lakers are two days removed from a Game 7 which is a physically and emotionally draining experience. They were on the road against a rested and ready OKC team who have young legs and are able to get up emotionally for Game 1s. The Thunder nailed everything in sight and the Lakers were just a step behind. It’s just one game. The Lakers can recover, respond, and tie the series on Wednesday. Losing by this much doesn’t have influence on the start of Game 2. It’ll be 0-0.

That said…

A message was sent.

The Thunder ran them out the building, and no one responded. There was no fight, no charge, no big move or surge. They didn’t even trim the lead in half to make a point going into Game 2. They just wilted. The Lakers are supposed to be a better defensive team, but they were crushed by the Thunder’s three-headed monster. Everything went wrong at once for the Lakers, and they do not appear to be aware that they are facing a team that finished with more wins, including two over them in dominant fashion this season. They do not appear to recognize that the Thunder are not kids who they can take lightly. This team is dangerous and has matchup advantages over the Lakers.

If the Lakers are going to win this series, if they’re going to win a game, everything has to change.

Sixers Jabari Parker upgraded to “probable,” will decide after warm ups

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Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.

Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day.

Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play.

This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.

The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.

It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.

PBT Podcast: NBA first round playoff series breakdowns

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LeBron James‘ Cavaliers looks to be in a battle royal in the first round — and they could lose to Victor Oladipo‘s Pacers.

Miami’s defense and versatility is challenging the Sixers and shaking the faith of all those that just jumped on the bandwagon.

Utah stole a game in Oklahoma City showing great grit and resolve, not to mention a lot of Donovan Mitchell.

Anthony Davis has done everything but walk on water for the Pelicans.

The first round of the NBA playoffs has been filled with fascinating storylines — and we are just two games into each series. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all eight first-round series in this podcast, starting in the East and the tight races there, then move into the West. There’s even some “who wants to pay Jabari Parker this summer?” talk thrown in.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

James Dolan says Knicks must build around ‘great’ Kristaps Porzingis, offers fair rebuke of meddling charges

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Phil Jackson received a standing ovation in his first game at Madison Square Garden as Knicks president. Don’t forget how excited New York was for Jackson, who coached the Bulls and Lakers to 11 championships and played for the Knicks’ last title team. He was welcomed as a potential savior.

The common refrain: Jackson would have a chance to succeed if Knicks owner James Dolan didn’t meddle.

Immediately, Dolan said he would cede control to Jackson “willingly and gratefully.” Dolan later pledged to honor Jackson’s full five-year contract.

But fans turned on Jackson as he did an awful job and the Knicks struggled. Dolan opted into the final two years of Jackson’s contract, anyway, as he said he would all along. Fans got angrier. When Jackson publicly flaunted Kristaps Porzingis trade talks, outrage reached a fever pitch. Finally, Dolan stepped in to fire Jackson.

Dolan, via Larry Brooks of the New York Post:

“A great player in hockey is the difference, but a great player in basketball is the team.

“And I think we have a great player in Porzingis. We just have to build around him.”

“Everybody who wants to talk about the Knicks wants to ask me about Phil Jackson,” Dolan said, smiling and shaking his head. “The entire market wanted to me to hire him and when I did, the entire market said it was a great move. The only thing was, everyone said that I shouldn’t interfere with him.

“Three years later, everyone wanted to know when I was going to do something about Phil. The same people who told me not to interfere wanted me to interfere. But that’s OK. I just think that Phil underestimated the job.”

Dolan makes a salient point about how people perceive his involvement. The problem isn’t that Dolan meddles. It’s that he makes poor decisions.

Hiring Jackson – an out-of-touch former coach with no front-office experience – was a poor decision. I’m not enthused about Steve Mills as Jackson’s replacement, either, though we’ll see how that plays out.

Building around Porzingis is a better decision. He’s an extremely talented 22-year-old.

But it’s hardly a foolproof plan. Porzingis is recovering from a torn ACL. Dolan said Porzingis could return in December – or miss next season entirely.

Either way, the Knicks must surround Porzingis with better teammates. Dolan will and should be a part of that process. Whether he’ll positively affect it is another matter.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

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MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid remains listed as doubtful by Philadelphia for Game 3 of the 76ers’ Eastern Conference playoff series at Miami on Thursday night.

Embiid was on the floor with the 76ers for their morning shootaround practice, but coach Brett Brown says there’s no change in the All-Star center’s status.

Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s last 10 games while recovering from a concussion and surgery that repaired a fractural orbital bone around his left eye. He’s no longer in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

He took to social media after the 76ers lost Game 2 of this series to the Heat, saying he’s tired of being “babied.”

Embiid has averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games for the 76ers during the regular season.