Los Angeles Lakers v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One

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.

Report: Bulls telling teams they plan on keeping Jimmy Butler

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 14:  Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls warms up prior to action against the Toronto Raptors in an NBA game at the Air Canada Centre on March 14, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bulls defeated the Raptors 109-107. NOTE TO USER: user expressly acknowledges and agrees by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Bulls are trying to find their identity. They used to be a defensive team, but they went and got an offensive coach in Fred Hoiberg and by the end of the season had slid badly on that end of the floor. They are no longer Derrick Rose‘s team, but they didn’t have the personnel to run Hoiberg’s system. The Bulls need to figure out who they are and what players on the roster should be part of that team moving forward.

Expect Jimmy Butler to be part of that future. He’s the best player on the team, but he rubs some teammates the wrong way, and there have been rumors the Bulls would listen to trade offers.

The Bulls are telling teams they plan to hold on to him, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.

A league source tells CSNNE.com that the Bulls, while still open to listening to offers for Butler, are telling teams that are inquiring about his availability that their plan for now is to keep him in the fold.

And while there was some thought that a top-3 pick coupled with a few decent players might be enough to entice the Bulls to pull the trigger on a deal to trade Butler, CSNNE.com has been told such an offer would have to include at least one “legitimate, NBA starter” for the Bulls to even possibly consider trading him.

“And that might be a stretch,” the source indicated.

What is the hardest part of assembling a potential NBA title contender? Finding the elite, cornerstone player you need who can lead your team at both ends of the floor. The Chicago Bulls have that in Butler, he’s locked up under contract until at least the summer of 2019 on a good contract (a max before the TV deal money kicked in), why would they trade him?

Stranger things have happened, especially with the Bulls, but unless they want to tear it all down and rebuild — and they don’t — getting rid of Butler doesn’t make sense.

The better question is who will be around Butler come next fall.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 =

Watch all 25 threes from Cleveland in Game 2 win

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Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.

Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.

In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.

Cavaliers threes shotchart

Report: Rockets to interview Mike D’Antoni, Frank Vogel for coaching vacancy

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers gestures during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on February 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 126-122.   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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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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.

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.

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

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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.

Nope.

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:

That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.