Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four

Grizzlies come from 17 down, take 3-1 series lead with Game 4 overtime win over Thunder


The Thunder were going to need otherworldly performances out of Kevin Durant in every game they planned on winning against the Grizzlies in this series. And even then, there was no guarantee that victory would be theirs, considering the fact that they’d need at least one other person to step up and deliver an above average performance offensively to get the job done.

Without big numbers and a stellar overall performance from the team’s one remaining superstar, however, Oklahoma City was going to struggle. That ended up being the case in Game 4, as Durant finished 10-of-27 from the field while the Grizzlies came back from a 17-point first half deficit to get the 103-97 overtime victory.

Memphis now leads the best-of-seven series three games to one, and is just a single win away from a trip to the Conference finals.

Oklahoma City began the game by bringing the necessary intensity required to win a pivotal playoff game on the road, and jumped out to an 11-point lead at the end of the first quarter. Durant started by hitting two of his first three shots, and Serge Ibaka, who was much maligned after missing plenty of easy and open shots in Game 3 managed to come out strong with nine points in the opening period, on the way to 13 and 10 rebounds by halftime.

The Thunder looked poised to cruise in this one after getting out to that 17-point lead midway through the second quarter, but Memphis began its comeback by finishing the half on a 19-10 run to cut the OKC lead to single digits.

In the third quarter, the Thunder had briefly pushed their lead back to 12, and had it steady around seven or eight points for most of the period. But those final four-plus minutes were once again a killer, as the Grizzlies finished the period on a 13-4 run to tie the game heading into the fourth.

The final period was tight throughout, and this is where Durant simply couldn’t do enough to get his team over the hump. He had eight shot attempts in the period — as many as the rest of his teammates combined — and connected on only two. One of them was huge, however, coming on a drive and a scoop with the Thunder down two and six seconds remaining to tie the game and send it to an overtime session.

Once overtime began, the Thunder couldn’t hit a shot. Durant was 0-for-5 in the five minute extra frame, and the team was just 1-of-8.

The Grizzlies got big nights out of both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and got enough out of Mike Conley, who finished with a team high 24 points despite his 7-of-21 shooting. But just like every other game in this series, the losing team had their chances to win it in the game’s final few minutes.

It was a fantastic win for Memphis, in what is becoming an increasingly more impressive run through these playoffs. On the Thunder side, Durant just couldn’t do enough on this night to drag his team over the finish line.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked

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The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.

Byron Scott doesn’t see reason D’Angelo Russell should play more in fourth


The Lakers’ clear top priority for this season should be simple: develop their young stars.

Julius Randle is a beast with the ball in his hands, but a one-handed beast who needs to work on his right hand. D'Angelo Russell has shown flashes but is trying to adapt to the speed and style of the NBA game. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. can be pieces on a good team, eventually. The Lakers need to build that foundation.

Which is why coach Byron Scott sitting Russell in the fourth quarter of games, even blowouts, is perplexing. As were his responses when asked about it after the Lakers’ lastest blowout loss, Tuesday night to the Golden state Warriors. So Scott, is there value in playing Russell in blowouts to get him more time on the court? Mark Medina of the LA Daily News had the answer.

“Nah. There’s really no reason to. At that particular time we’re down 30 [points],” Scott said. “I wanted to get Ryan [Kelly] some time and Marcelo [Huertas] as well and some other guys that haven’t played a lot.”

That would be 32-year-old Marcelo Huertas, who played the fourth quarter Tuesday while Russell sat.

This is not Gregg Popovich resting his stars to keep them fresh for the playoffs here. We are talking about a 19-year-old rookie point guard whose game is based on court vision, anticipation, and angles, a guy who has to learn how to apply those in a league where everybody is long and fast. He needs time on the court to adapt. Is he going to make mistakes? Yes. A lot of them. That’s what rookies do. If you coach them up, they learn from those mistakes and make fewer each time out. It’s a sometimes painful process, but it’s how rookies learn.

Except in Byron Scott’s world where they get benched. Because that will teach them. Meanwhile Kobe can do whatever he wants, because he was once great and that gives him carte blanche.