Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs - Game One

Thunder/Spurs Game 2: The rise of Westbrook, Harden


I said going into this series Russell Westbrook was the key to Oklahoma City’s chances against the Spurs — he needs to attack off the pick-and-roll, get into the lane and finish. Or kick it out. But he needs to disrupt the Spurs defense and put a lot of points on the board in the half court.

James Harden has the same burden on him — he should be the guy setting up plays for the Thunder in the half court late in games. Yet Harden only had one possession where he controlled the ball in the last 10 minutes of Game 1 and that is just bad execution by the Thunder. Harden is their best playmaker.

Westbrook and Harden — more than Kevin Durant — are the keys to the Thunder getting the Game 2 win Tuesday and evening the Western Conference finals at a game a piece.

What Thunder fans learned the hard way in Game 1 is that the Spurs are a relentless offense — they keep attacking, keep pressuring, keep looking for lineups that work then they exploit it. In Game 1 the Spurs had success by going small in the fourth quarter, which allowed them to get their points in the paint thanks to a matchup that favored them. They had Manu Ginobili with 26 points, Tony Parker with 18 and they had balance.

There was a logical adjustment to the small ball for Scott Brooks — Serge Ibaka. But he didn’t go there. And he regrets it, as reported by the Expres-News.

“Every decision you make, if it doesn’t work out, you always say, ‘Why did you do that?’” Brooks said. “I’m with you on that. I wish I would have played Serge last night.”

The problem is if Ibaka does play the disciplined spurs will just move on to the next option that works. It is what they do.

Which is why the Thunder can’t have their offense go stagnant as it did in the fourth quarter of Game 1. Which brings us back to Westbrook and Harden.

Late in the game, Harden needs to be the playmaker for the Thunder. The ball needs to be in his hands because when it is Durant still gets his but so does everyone else. In Game 1 Durant was the guy with the ball, and the combination of good defense from Stephen Jackson and little off-ball movement stalled out the Thunder attack. It opened the door and Ginobili pulled the Spurs through it.

On the pick-and-roll, Westbrook simply cannot settle — he has to attack and get into the teeth of the defense. The same is true of Durant. In Game 1 the Thunder ball handler on the pick-and-roll hit just 10-of-28 shots, and that’s not good enough in this series. They are not playing the Lakers with Andrew Bynum’s long arms back there anymore, the Spurs don’t have that kind of back line. OKC has to get its points inside.

All this does not mean OKC should just try and run on the Spurs — San Antonio is more efficient in transition than the Thunder. Over the course of the season it’s true, and if this just because an up-and-down battle it doesn’t really favor the Thunder. There were 97 possessions last game, the Spurs won. As was pointed out in one Spurs preview, San Antonio has won 21 games in a row when the pace is above 94.

It’s not about just being fast, it’s about being smart.

And it’s about Westbrook and Harden.

Report: Matt Barnes attacked Derek Fisher, who’s dating Barnes’ estranged wife

Derek Fisher, Matt Barnes, Russell Westbrook

Matt Barnes is an instigator. He has been arrested for domestic violence. He also had a weird thing where he implied he was dating Rihanna only for her to claim they’d never never met.

Which is to say this is believable – that the Grizzlies forward attacked Knicks coach Derek Fisher for dating his estranged wife.

Ian Mohr of the New York Post:

Sources said Fisher was at the LA home of Gloria Govan — Barnes’ estranged wife​,​ who stars on “Basketball Wives LA” — on Saturday. Fisher and Govan have been dating for “a few months,” a source said, after Fisher filed to divorce his wife of 10 years, Candace, in March.

But when Barnes learned that Fisher was at his former home with Gloria, he drove 95 miles to LA to “beat the s–t” out of Fisher, sources said.

“Derek was in Gloria’s back yard with about 10 people having a bonfire on ​​Saturday,” said a source. “Derek’s separated from his wife and there’s a relationship with [Gloria].”

The source added, “Barnes was in Santa Barbara [at Memphis Grizzlies training camp] and heard that Fisher was in his house. He went crazy. He got in his car and went to the house and went after Fisher.”

​A source close to Fisher ​confirmed the fight but said, “Matt came after Derek but he only had a few scratches … Derek’s not going to press charges, he’s going to let it go.”

Even if Fisher – who missed practice Monday for what the Knicks called “personal reasons” – isn’t pressing charges, the NBA is investigating.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is a weird jurisdictional issue, especially if no criminal charges are filed. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the league punishes Barnes – a former Lakers teammate of Fisher – if it finds evidence to support the Post’s description of events.

Caron Butler details Gilbert Arenas-Javaris Crittenton gun incident

Caron Butler

Caron Butler wrote an autobiography, a recently published excerpt details his accounting of the Gilbert Arenas-Javaris Crittenton gun incident when they were with the Wizards.

An excerpt of the excerpt in The Washington Post:

When I entered the locker room, I thought I had somehow been transported back to my days on the streets of Racine. Gilbert was standing in front of his two locker stalls, the ones previously used by Michael Jordan, with four guns on display. Javaris was standing in front of his own stall, his back to Gilbert.

“Hey, MF, come pick one,” Gilbert told Javaris while pointing to the weapons. “I’m going to shoot your [expletive] with one of these.”

“Oh no, you don’t need to shoot me with one of those,” said Javaris, turning around slowly like a gunslinger in the Old West. “I’ve got one right here.”

He pulled out his own gun, already loaded, cocked it, and pointed it at Gilbert.

Other players who had been casually arriving, laughing and joking with each other, came to a sudden halt, their eyes bugging out. It took them only a few seconds to realize this was for real, a shootaround of a whole different nature. They all looked at each other and then they ran, the last man out locking the door behind him.

Somebody outside the locker room called 911. Flip Saunders was the coach back then, but he was too scared to even come into the locker room.

Click through to read the entire excerpt. It’s captivating.

Arenas is essentially retired and still spouting off silly takes.

Crittenton is currently serving a 23-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter.

Butler plays for the Kings.