Too much Dirk Nowitzki in overtime lifts Mavericks over Thunder

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When Kevin Durant is putting on the kind of show that will win him the MVP award, as he was doing Tuesday night, the Thunder are very hard to beat.

Dallas did just that though.

They did it behind a vintage night from Dirk Nowitzki (well, except he continued to struggle from three going 2-of-8), who had seven of his 32 points in overtime. Behind Jose Calderon raining down threes in the clutch. Behind Monta Ellis, who had 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Dallas beat the Thunder 128-119 in a very entertaining overtime game Tuesday. With the win Dallas moved back into the eighth seed in the West — they are in a fight with Memphis and Phoenix, when the music stops one of those teams will be without a chair for the playoffs. Wins like this are huge for the Mavericks chances.

This game is also the perfect example of why the Western Conference playoffs will be so much fun — there are no easy outs. This is a potential first round matchup.

This game was within single digits one way or another almost the entire game, neither team able to pull away, both teams making runs.

Kevin Durant was a run of his own all night, playing like an MVP. He finished with 43 points on 15-of-27 shooting and he did his damage efficiently — 8-of-9 shooting in the paint and 5-of-11 from three point range. He was attacking off the dribble and knocking down shots. He was doing it all.

The biggest shot of the night was his three with :39 seconds left in regulation — with the game tied Dallas foolishly dared give him a little space three feet behind the three point line, so he drilled it and put the Thunder up three.

Then OKC got what it needed — with 30 seconds left the game Nowitzki missed from three. Then Dallas’ Brandon Wright grabbed the offensive board (Serge Ibaka mistimed his jump) and with two quick passes it was in the hands of Calderon at the top of the circle. And he buried it. Tie game.

The Thunder had one last shot, and when the Mavericks wisely doubled Durant 28 feet from the basket he whipped the pass to Russell Westbrook (who finished the night with a solid 23 points on 18 shots, he was up and down) and he dribbled in for a clean look 18 foot jumper… and it rimmed out. Dallas got one last shot, and only Nowitzki can make you think a contested 30-foot turnaround is going to fall. It just missed off the back of the rim.

But Dirk wasn’t missing much in overtime, including a vintage one-legged fadeaway over Durant. Calderon drained another three, Dallas started the OT on a 9-2 run, Nowitzki had 7 points in the frame and soon Dallas had a much needed win.

Russell Westbrook had reached his minutes limit of 30 at the end of regulation and Scott Brooks followed the plan and pulled him. When Dallas got back up he threw Westbrook back in, but by that time it was all over. Brooks needed to play Westbrook the full five or rest him, not go halfway in OT.

It’s not a bad loss for the Thunder, losing in OT to a good and desperate Dallas team on the road. It’s just a reminder that come the Western Conference playoffs every game will be hard fought. Every team has elite players.

There will be some drama. And some upsets.

Donovan Mitchell tells Thunder fans, Jazz teammates Utah not returning to Oklahoma City this season

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The Jazz blew a 25-point second-half lead in Game 5 last night, extending their series with the Thunder. Up 3-2, the Jazz are still in control. They can close out in Game 6 tomorrow in Utah. Blow that, and they must return to Oklahoma City for Game 7 Sunday.

But Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell is making it abundantly clear he doesn’t plan to do that.

Gabe Ikard of The Franchise 107.7:

Jake Edmonds of KUTV:

A confident proclamation that rallies his team or youthful exuberance run amok?

The narrative will be decided after Game 6. That’s just how this is done.

Report: Grizzlies moving toward keeping J.B. Bickerstaff as coach

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From the moment Robert Pera opted to retain control of the Grizzlies and end a prolonged ownership saga, it seemed interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff would remain Memphis’ coach.

Lo and behold…

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Bickerstaff did a decent job before the Grizzlies started tanking. But that was a small a sample, and his prior work as Rockets interim coach was uninspiring.

To be fair to Bickerstaff, those were both difficult situations. He’s an experienced assistant who might be ready for this challenge.

To be less fair to Bickerstaff, this looks like Memphis taking the cheap route. The Grizzlies didn’t appear to conduct much of a coaching search, if any. Nor has Bickerstaff been mentioned with other openings. It probably won’t cost as much to hire him as it would a more-established option.

Memphis seems to be operating under the belief that a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will right the ship next season. And they might. But given the age and injury history of those two, I wouldn’t assume they stay healthy and productive all season. Even if they do, they’d have to carry an underwhelming supporting cast – with limited room for upgrade this summer – in a deep Western Conference.

The Grizzlies want Bickerstaff, who’d be a first-time non-interim head coach, leading that team trying to win now? That doesn’t seem like the right risk-reward balance – at least until considering his salary, and even then.

Rumor: 76ers increasingly confident about signing LeBron James

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LeBron James-76ers rumors have been mainstream for the better part of the year.

And they’re not going anywhere.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

I now fully understand why whispers about the Philadelphia 76ers and their growing behind-the-scenes confidence that they can woo LeBron to Philly this summer are getting louder.

Why shouldn’t they be increasingly confident? Led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the 76ers have already won a playoff series. The Cavaliers are mired in a tight first-round series with the Pacers, and LeBron’s supporting cast has mostly stunk.

This has the makings of LeBron’s previous free agencies – when he left barren Cleveland for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat in 2010, when he left aging Miami for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love with the Cavaliers in 2014. Whatever motivations and narratives attached to LeBron’s decisions, he has left sinking teams for better-positioned ones.

The 76ers are good enough to fit that. They also have the cap flexibility to acquire him without sacrificing roster strength.

That LeBron has positioned himself as a mentor to Simmons – who shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron – would only make signing with Philadelphia easier. LeBron could sell the narrative of teaching and grooming Simmons. LeBron, who cares about his legacy, must explain why he’s again leaving his hometown team in a way that won’t alienate everyone – not easy considering his homecoming message upon his return. Working first-hand with his protégé would look understandable, maybe even commendable.

All that said, growing confidence could be going from a 1% chance to a 10% chance. That’d be a 10-fold increase while leaving Philadelphia a big underdog.

LeBron’s free agency is still a huge unknown – including, at least in part, to LeBron himself. But I believe he has already started to consider options, even if he hasn’t made up his mind. And when that happens, signs could emerge behind the scenes. Perhaps, the 76ers have a read on those.

Or maybe they’re seeing what we’re all seeing: The 76ers are rising while the Cavs are just trying to keep their heads above water. Which situation would LeBron choose?

Victor Oladipo on his final shot: “It was a goaltend”

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Ultimately, the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report will back up Victor Oladipo — it was a goaltend.

With the score tied 95-95 and just six seconds left in the game Wednesday night, Oladipo attacked LeBron James in isolation, and like so many before him thought he was past LeBron only to have a chase down block from behind end his bid — except video replays shows Oladipo laid the ball off the backboard a fraction of a second before LeBron blocked it. That makes it a goaltend, a defender cannot block a shot that has already touched the backboard. Check out the slow-mo video.

The officials didn’t call it that way on the court, and the play is only eligible for video review if a goaltend is called (to be fair to the officials, that was an incredibly close play that is very difficult to call in real time). From there, LeBron went on to hit the dramatic game-winning three that gave Cleveland the win and a 3-2 series lead.

After the game, Oladipo and his teammates were pissed about the no-call.

“I got a step on him,” Oladipo said via the Associated Press. “I felt like I even got grabbed on the way to the rim, tried to shoot a layup, it hit the backboard, then he blocked it. It was a goaltend. It’s hard to even speak on it. It just sucks, honestly. It really sucks. Even though we fought our way back, we tied the game up, that layup was huge.

“Give him credit where credit is due. The three was big-time. Definitely huge. But who’s to say they even run that play? We don’t know what happens. It’s unfortunate. It really sucks that they missed that.”

LeBron didn’t see it that way.

“Of course I didn’t think it was a goaltend. I try to make plays like that all the time and I mean he made a heck of a move, got me leaning right and he went left and I just tried to use my recovery speed and get back up there and make a play on the ball. And I was able to make a play.”

We’ll see what the Last Two Minute Report says, but to my eyes that was a goaltend, it clearly comes off the backboard.

That call is also not why Indiana lost. If Pacers’ fans want to place blame, Oladipo going 2-of-15 on the night was a bigger issue. Or Darren Collison having an off night and going 1-of-5 from the floor. Or maybe it’s just the fact that LeBron James is the best player in the game and can drop 44 on the Pacers — including the three that may well have made the goaltend moot anyway — and Indiana can’t stop it. One call late does not by itself decide a 48-minute game.

But it was a goaltend.