Rockets-Thunder Game 5 preview: Patrick Beverly returns to Oklahoma City after Russell Westbrook injury

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After trying for a steal on the play that injured Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverly has become disliked – in some cases, to extreme levels – among Thunder fans.

So, now that the series has shifted back to Oklahoma City, nobody is taking any chances. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Arena security stationed a police officer behind bench already as Pat Beverley stretches. Building not open yet.

Pretty hefty police presence around the Rockets’ end of the court. Fake tough guys will have to stick to Twitter

In addition of officers on court for Beverley’s early warmups before doors opened, there were two on the bus. They’re not kidding around.

It’s in that backdrop Beverly becomes one of the most pivotal players in this series. Jeremy Lin is a game-time decision, but the Rockets have been much better with Beverly than Lin on both ends of the court in the playoffs.

  • Offensive rating with Lin: 88.0
  • Offensive rating with Beverly: 105.3
  • Defensive rating with Lin: 116.6
  • Defensive rating with Beverly: 107.2

Beverly has shot 6-of-16 on 3-pointers against Oklahoma City, making him one of several Rockets to step up from beyond the arc. Francisco Garcia (9-of-19), Chandler Parsons (10-of-27) and Carlos Delfino (11-of-30) are also making their 3-pointers.

In theory, those shots should help space the floor for James Harden, though he’ll have to perform better than he did in Game 4 (4-for-12, 10 turnovers).

But a lot of that positive action is sparked by Beverly, who will certainly be feeling the heat tonight.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.