Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Zach Randolph

Preview: Thunder look to avoid elimination in Game 5 vs. Grizzlies


After Memphis took care of business at home with two close victories over the Thunder, the Grizzlies lead the best-of-seven series three games to one as it shifts to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Every game in the series has been close in the closing minutes, so we should expect nothing less in one that has the potential to see the Thunder eliminated from the postseason.

The Grizzlies will need to bring the energy from the very start, or things could get out of hand quickly. Oklahoma City got out to a first half lead of 17 points in Game 4, and if that happens in this one Memphis will have trouble battling back on the road, when the Thunder will be playing to keep their season alive.

While the Thunder have needed to get contributions on both ends of the floor from a variety of players to keep each game in the series close, it’s always been about the play of Kevin Durant, and just how far he’s able to carry his team.

Durant was spectacular in the first two games at home, scoring 35 and 36 points, respectively. His numbers dipped to 25 and 27 in the two games in Memphis, although the bigger problem was the lower overall shooting percentage, along with the fact that the Grizzlies were able to shut him down when each of those games were on the line.

In Game 3, nobody on the Thunder could seem to hit a shot — the team managed just 36.4 percent shooting for the game, Durant was held to just 9-of-19. In Game 4, he was just 2-of-8 from the field in the fourth quarter, and 0-for-5 in the overtime session.

Durant will need to return to having a huge statistical impact on the game for his team to avoid being sent home for the summer.

On the Grizzlies’ side, they’ll need a strong overall defensive performance to limit the Thunder’s second and third options from getting going, and they’ll need a high-assist, low-turnover performance from Mike Conley, along with some dominant team rebounding in order to get the job done.

Memphis has shown it has enough to win this game on the road, and it should seize the opportunity — even while knowing that they would have another crack at it back home should things not go their way in OKC.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.