Miami Heat's James goes to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder's Durant during Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Oklahoma City

NBA Finals Heat-Thunder Game 2: Welcome back, Thunder defense

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I had serious questions about the Thunder defense heading into Game 1. After all, this was a top ten, but not top five defense throughout the year, and it still gave up a ton of points to San Antonio (which granted has the best offense in the league). I had major concerns about how they would react to a tougher, more physical team. In Game 1, they responded beautifully. The rotations were great, their man-attack was spectacular, they did everything right. It was a major response.

“Maybe I was wrong,” I said to a friend. “Maybe they’re just better defensively than I thought they were.”

/clown nose honks

/kazoo

Welcome back, Thunder defense.

A 111 defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) for OKC, and that was the difference in the game. You can talk the no-call on an obvious fouls, or the goaltending call, or Shane Battier’s “what in the hell” three. But the reality is that the Heat allowed a Miami offense that everyone left for dead after Game 1 to put up a 111 defensive efficiency. That killed them. That’s the game.

And some of it wasn’t their fault. Thabo Sefolosha’s work has been brilliant. He’s contesting jumpers, and running under layups to disrupt without drawing fouls. James Harden has played better than usual, and Russell Westbrook, surprisingly, has been quite good. He’s been active in passing lanes and creating steals.

But the rest? It was not good. When the Heat offense didn’t fall to pieces as it did in Game 1, it created enough to get the win. Surprisingly, the biggest culprit Thursday night was Kevin Durant, who has been magnificent this year defensively. From the first tip, Durant was just a second off with his timing, just a bit slow on his rotations. And versus Game 1, when he bodied and held his ground against LeBron James in the post, James worked him over in all sorts of nasty ways in Game 2. He was overmatched. That foul trouble he got into? Four of his five fouls were absolutely legitimate. He gave up an and-one to Chris Bosh on a fast break, for crying out loud. It’s a sign of Durant’s development that he’s reached a level where his defense is expected to be better. But it is. And it wasn’t.

But Durant wasn’t the only one. Oh, the Ibaka blocks! What wonders of wonders! Too bad Ibaka also got torched by Chris Bosh and LeBron James because of his tendency to overreact to pumpfakes, and that several times late the Heat found Chris Bosh for dunks because he was too eager in his rotations. Sick blocks, tho, bro. (It should be noted Ibaka genuinely was fantastic in the first half defensively, a big reason the Thunder hung.)

Even Nick Collison, wondrous Nick Collison, was a problem. Chris Bosh abused him by being quicker and more aggressive, and drawing fouls. The Thunder as a defense was just not in a position it needed to be in on Thursday.

Everyone said that it wasn’t a problem after Game 1, that the Thunder could just outscore them. This is a very good Heat defense. That’s a flawed approach. If the Thunder want to regain homecourt and get the lead back in this series, they have to get back to playing defense as they did in the second half of Game 1. Quit worrying about Westbrook’s shots, or fouls, or goaltends. You’ve got to stop the Heat if you’re going to win the title.

Liquor company Jägermeister says Bucks’ new logo is too similar to their own

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MILWAUKEE (AP) A German company that makes a popular liqueur is not raising a shot glass to the Milwaukee Bucks’ redesigned logo.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Jägermeister has filed formal opposition with an appeal board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office about the registration of the logo.

The company contends it “has established exclusive rights in the DEER HEAD Marks through use in commerce in the United States” going back to 1968. It cites numerous reasons to oppose registration for the NBA team, including the possibility that people might confuse the two companies or believe they are connected or affiliated.

Both logos feature forward-looking deer with large antlers inside a circle or partial circle in about the same proportions.

Neither the Bucks nor Jägermeister returned messages seeking comment.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

Carmelo on NBA CBA opt-out deadline: “I’m skeptical of something getting done”

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After months of reports that the NBA and the NBAPA would be able to reach an agreement on a new CBA, it appears the two sides have hit a snag.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN is reporting that the league and the player’s union are unlikely to agree to terms before Thursday’s deadline for the players to opt-out of the current CBA.

Via ESPN:

“I’m skeptical of something getting done,” Anthony, who is the vice president of the NBPA told ESPN after the New York Knicks practiced Saturday in Los Angeles. “Do I think something could happen by the 15th? Yeah I think something could happen. But I think this kind of put a dent in conversations.

“We had something so close. We were supposed to have a deal done weeks ago, and for this to happen at the 25th hour is tough.”

This is not good news for the talks, which have reportedly gone smoothly thus far and for good reason: money.

There’s more of it to be had all around for both sides, and as Basketball Related Income (or BRI) rises, so has the NBA salary cap.

Despite this unfortunate news, it’s not all doom and gloom for NBA fans hoping to avoid a lockout. While Dec. 15 is the opt-out date for the players and they will almost certainly take it, the current CBA doesn’t expire until June of 2017.

That means there won’t be any kind of work stoppage for the 2016-17 NBA season, but both sides would have a hard date of June 30 before ostensibly triggering one.

The good news is, hopefully, that since the two sides have already been working hard on a deal that they would be close on the terms they need to settle over the following six months.

A big question is apparently whether they can still make Thursday’s deadline, as Anthony has reportedly said it would take significant discussion time and constant work to finish the deal as it stands.

No word yet on what the issue is between the league and the players, as Anthony declined to elaborate.

Rumor: Celtics, Blazers potential trade destinations for Mavericks C Andrew Bogut

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The Dallas Mavericks have one of the worst records in the NBA at just 5-17. A trade to Texas back in July was put in the works in order for the Golden State Warriors to clear enough cap space to sign Kevin Durant, but not much has come of Bogut’s time in Big D thanks to multiple other issues with the roster.

Bogut, 32, is now a potential trade target for playoff teams looking to bolter their front line, and according to a report from ESPN’s Marc Stein, both the Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers have either shown interest or make a natural fit.

Via ESPN:

Boston has already emerged as a team interested in trading for Dallas center Andrew Bogut, and here’s another team that makes sense: Portland. The Mavericks have yet to make Bogut available for potential deals, per ESPN’s own Tim MacMahon, but the Blazers are a natural suitor given their clear need for a defensive anchor at the rim as the league’s 30th-ranked defense as of Friday morning.

Boston makes a lot of sense for Bogut given their high aspirations for the season and the fact that they are the 7th-worst rebounding team in the NBA despite adding Al Horford to their roster this offseason.

The Celtics already have an excellent net rating on the season, but the space added from Bogut’s screens on offense would no doubt help propel them forward as they battle for a Top 3 spot in the Eastern Conference with the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Portland, meanwhile, needs Bogut’s skill set in a way that can’t be stressed enough. The Trail Blazers are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, something Bogut could definitely help.

In 2015-16, with a similar roster, the Blazers were a top offensive rebounding team. This season they’re one of the worst on the glass, a major contributing factor to their early struggles.

Again, Bogut would help them, but GM Neil Olshey also isn’t one to make moves to upset the chemistry of his team unless absolutely require to — see Arron Afflalo in 2014-15.

If the Blazers pull the trigger on a trade for Bogut, it might also give us a better indicator of what is happening with Festus Ezeli, who Portland signed to a 2-year deal this summer. Ezeli has been recovering from knee surgery, but the team has been notably quiet his return as of late. If he isn’t able to return in time for the Blazers to stay in the playoff hunt, Olshey could warm to a Bogut trade if the price is right.

There are a few other teams that make sense for a Bogut trade: the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, and Milwaukee Bucks are all teams either trying to head to the next level or galvanize their place as a playoff team.

None of these teams save for the Blazers are panicking yet, so we might have to wait until 2017 for a swap given that Bogut is now injured. The Mavericks C suffered a bone bruise in his right knee that will cause him to miss significant time in December.

For any team looking to trade for an aging Bogut, injury concerns are a real issue. He famously missed the end of the 2016 NBA Finals with a bone bruise in his left knee, and has played in 70 or more games just three times in his 12-year career.

When it comes to a Bogut trade, it will come down to the last micron as teams weight the risk vs. reward as the Mavericks start to suss out their asking price.

Indeed, we’ve seen for trades for players in Bogut’s position get a little pricey. Portland rented Afflalo for just 25 games at a price of Will Barton, Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver, and a protected first-round pick. Cleveland sent out a protected first-round pick, a second-round pick, Jared Cunningham, and Anderson Varejao for Channing Frye in February.

Bogut’s statistics, meanwhile, are notably down but it’s not immediately clear how much of that is due to the Mavericks overall poor play, or if that would even matter to receiving teams. His per-100 possession stats on points and blocks are down, and his net rating is terrible. It would be easy to dismiss that, rightly, to the Dallas roster collectively. Where teams really need him — rebounding — Bogut is stellar, and he’s grabbed a career-high 21.6 rebounds per-100 possessions.

When or if Dallas gets a deal together is anyone’s guess. Dirk Nowitzki has been dealing with Achilles soreness that has kept him sidelined, but he is slated to return before the end of 2016. The Mavericks mainstay has said he wants to keep playing and fighting, and although Dallas are in a huge hole, trading a useful frontline player like Bogut might betray some of Nowitzki’s confidence from the team that they are at least trying to give him reason to play through injury.

Patrick Beverley shuts down Westbrook on final play, bowls through own coach (VIDEO)

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Houston Rockets G Patrick Beverley is known around the NBA for being a dogged defender. His skill set was on full display on Friday night, where Beverley shut down Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook on a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

It all started early in the matchup, when Beverley — notorious for getting under the skin of both Westbrook and other NBA opponents — flopped with some serious gusto just 36 seconds into the first quarter.

Via Twitter:

The game continued like this, but the real highlight of Beverley’s defensive night was stopping Westbrook — who dropped his 7th straight triple-double — on an isolation play with six seconds left in the fourth quarter.

With the ball on the left garden spot, Westbrook gave a couple of dribble hesitation moves to Beverley, then tried to rise up for the go-ahead bucket.

Beverley was right up on him, and forced an airball from Westbrook:

The Rockets guard was so happy about the stop and the eventual win that he celebrated a little too enthusiastically with Houston coach Mike D’Antoni.

Going for a chest bump, Beverley wound up blasting through his own coach: