Only two games on the slate on TNT Thursday, but we still managed to find three stellar performances nonetheless. And they all had dominant offensive performances.
Third Star: DeAndre Jordan (21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, in 28 minutes)
I was a bit disgusted with the way DeAndre Jordan handled himself on the bench late during Wednesday’s win over the Spurs, but it would be difficult to find any flaws in the way he performed in Portland on Thursday. Jordan was a dominant scorer from the low block, showing patience and solid footwork when making his moves to the basket. His athleticism was under control on this night, and he even hit five of his seven free throw attempts — which raised him to 38.5 percent now from the line for the season.
Since there are no embeddable highlights available from this game at the moment, go ahead and watch Jordan prank some folks with a large fake spider at Venice Beach. (Yeah, I don’t know, either.)
Second Star: Kevin Durant (24 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks, game-sealing Dirk dagger)
The Bulls are one of the better defensive units in the league, so even without Derrick Rose, they’re still able to stay close with elite teams like the Thunder. OKC’s attack was balanced all night, until the fourth quarter came along and Kevin Durant decided it was winning time. Ten of Durant’s 24 came in the final period, none prettier than the one-legged fadeaway with under 20 seconds left that effectively sealed it.
First Star: Jamal Crawford (25 points on 9-of-17 shooting in 28 minutes off the bench)
Anytime a player returns to the place he played the previous season as a member of the opposing team, and leads his new team to victory while scoring more than everyone else in the building — and hearing the boos from the home crowd in the process — I’d say that’s a pretty stellar performance.
Report: Lakers ‘aren’t that high’ on DeMar DeRozan
No, Golden State wasn’t at full strength. But Oklahoma City reached a level the Warriors hadn’t all season. Even if Golden State had hit peak performance, I’m not sure that would’ve been enough. The Thunder were that good.
Oklahoma City was awesome, handing the Warriors 28- and 24-point losses.
But Golden State rallied to force a Game 7 tonight. If the Warriors win, they’ll become just the eighth team in NBA history to lose multiple games by more than 20 in a series and still win it. The seven to do it:
Houston Rockets lost to Los Angeles Clippers by 25 and 33 in 2015 second round
Atlanta Hawks lost to Miami Heat by 29 and 26 in 2009 first round
Houston Rockets lost to Phoenix Suns by 22 and 24 in 1995 second round
Philadelphia 76ers lost to Boston Celtics by 40 and 29 in 1982 Eastern Conference finals
Denver Nuggets lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 31 and 28 in 1978 Western Conference semifinals
Los Angeles Lakers lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 21 and 26 in 1972 Western Conference finals
Minneapolis Lakers lost to St. Louis Hawks by 34 and 30 in 1959 Western Division finals
This is probably the right course. I don’t know whom the Raptors could get if they lets DeRozan walk, but if he signs elsewhere, they would have just about $19 million in cap space – less than a max salary. I doubt they could land a better replacement.
I’m not sold on DeRozan as a playoff player, though he legitimately took the next step this regular season. But I’d rather keep him, hope he learns to handle the challenges of the postseason and possibly use him in a trade down the road. It’ll cost a max salary if DeRozan isn’t willing to take a discount, but that beats the alternative of losing him for nothing but cap space.
Report: Tyronn Lue urged Cavaliers GM not to fire David Blatt
In speaking with numerous sources close to “The Call,” cleveland.com learned the details. There were no initial pleasantries. Griffin got right to the point — David Blatt was being relieved of his duties.
Lue’s response was candid and immediate.
“This is f—– up, Griff.”
That didn’t prevent Griffin from calmly asking Lue if he could take over. Hired as the associate head coach a year and a half earlier, becoming the head of a franchise was Lue’s eventual goal. But this didn’t seem right.
Lue pleaded with Griffin, arguing for several minutes that firing Blatt was an excessive move for a team carrying a conference-best 30-11 record. Griffin listened to Lue’s pleas. When they ended, he told Lue the decision has already been carried out.
Griffin circled back to his original question.
“What’s done is done. I’m asking you if you can lead this team?” It had taken a few minutes, but Griffin got the response he sought.
“Yeah, I can f—ing lead this team.”
Griffin then congratulated him.
I’m not sure I buy all this. It’d look bad if Lue undermined Blatt in any way.
But the Cavs asked for this situation when they hired the runner-up in their head-coaching search to assist the winner. Lue didn’t have to do anything for that call to happen. The situation opened the door for it.
And it worked out. Lue has done a masterful job guiding the Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals. We’ll never know how Blatt would’ve done if he remained on the job, but Lue has set an excellent bar. I’m not yet sold Lue is a great head coach, but for this team – and the difficult task of communicating with LeBron James and elevating Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, who’d be featured stars on many teams – Lue has been aces.