Oklahoma City Thunder v Dallas Mavericks

Too much Dirk Nowitzki in overtime lifts Mavericks over Thunder


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.

Report: Timberwolves declining Adreian Payne’s fourth-year option

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 7: Adreian Payne #33 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots a basket against Mitch McGary #33 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter of the preseason game on October 7, 2015 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Thunder defeated Timberwolves 122-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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A few players – Mitch McGary, Jordan Adams and R.J. Hunter – had their rookie-scale-contract team options declined as their teams waived them this offseason. Another player, P.J. Hairston, had his third-year option declined last fall.

But only one player that we know of so far from the 2013 and 2014 draft classes remains on a team but won’t finish his rookie-scale deal:

Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne, the No. 15 pick in 2014.

Minnesota will decline his $3,100,094 team option for 2017-18, a decision that will become official Tuesday.

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:

Payne will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Timberwolves can re-sign him, but only at a starting salary up to $3,100,094. Any other team can offer up to the max.

Payne probably won’t be worth $3,100,094 next summer. He’s a stretch four without 3-point range and a long 2-point jumper that is expectedly inefficient. He doesn’t move well enough in any direction, including vertically, to defend well. The concern on him coming out of Michigan State – that he relied too heavily on beating up on younger players – looks valid. Payne will be a 26-year-old free agent.

But $3,100,094 is a small amount against a large salary cap. Is it really worth letting Payne hit the open market without seeing what he does this season first?

This is the problem the Pacers ran into with Solomon Hill. They declined his $2,306,019 2016-17 team option, and he had a breakout year. He signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Pelicans this summer as Indiana could do nothing but watch.

I don’t expect Payne to duplicate Hill’s emergence, but the Pacers obviously didn’t see it coming with Hill, either. As long as Payne remains on the team, it’s probably worth Minnesota buying itself an extra year of potentially cheap labor.

If Payne develops, he could be an irreplaceable bargain. If he doesn’t, it won’t cost much to waive him – especially because the Timberwolves can stretch him.

Even if the odds are against that plan bearing fruit, the upside is high enough to justify exercising the option.

But Minnesota apparently feels differently. Barring a sudden change of plans in the next few days, Payne will be on an expiring contract.

Kobe Bryant says he was nearly late to final game, because was busy editing short stories

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd as he is taken out of the game after scoring 60 points against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Already eliminated from the playoff chase, the Jazz weren’t focused for Kobe Bryant’s final game. They ceded 60 points to the over-the-hill superstar.

How locked in was Kobe?

Kobe via Thu-Huong Ha of Quartz:

“I was actually at the office until 4 or 4:15 editing a bunch of short stories, and lost track of time,” Bryant told the Wall Street Journal’s Dennis K. Berman. “And I looked at my watch, ‘Oh…I better go home. I got my last game to play.’”

Kobe clearly summoned a will to compete by the time he reached the arena. That was a sendoff for the ages.

But this is another sign he was ready for the next chapter in his life.

Adam Silver credits Michael Jordan for role in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 12: Former player Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls smiles as he is introduced to  the crowd during a 20th anniversary recognition ceremony of the Bulls 1st NBA Championship in 1991 during half-time of a game bewteen the Bulls and the Utah Jazz at the United Center on March 12, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Michael Jordan’s most famous moment in collective bargaining came when, as a Bulls player in 1998, he told Wizards owner Abe Pollin to sell his team if he couldn’t turn a profit.

Now the owner of the Hornets, Jordan has evolved in labor negotiations – from hardliner the other way to silent to productively involved.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

“Let me just single out one owner in particular, Michael Jordan,” Silver said during his upbeat update on CBA negotiations this week following the Board of Governors meetings in Manhattan.

“I think having Michael Jordan as part of our negotiating committee, the unique perspective he brings to the bargaining table because of his playing career, having been, of course, a superstar player. Now for players to see him in that position, it doesn’t mean that if Michael says it, it necessarily means that they accept that as the position they should take. But I think that’s really added a special element unique to this league.”

I don’t know to what degree Silver is just crediting the biggest-name owner vs. someone truly influential.

But if this is the formula that achieves historic labor peace, I don’t care.

Let’s hope Jordan takes the exact same role and gets the owners and players to compromise just as quickly next time, too.

Report: Sevyn Streeter’s contract with 76ers for anthem prohibited political statements

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 01:  Actress Sevyn Streeter speaks onstage during the 'Ringside' panel discussion at the TV One portion of the 2016 Television Critics Association Summer Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 1, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
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Sevyn Streeter said the 76ers stopped her from singing the national anthem last night because she wore a “WE MATTER” jersey.

The 76ers said they use their games to bring people together.

Jan Carabeo of CBS3 (hat tip: CSN Philly):


This has been taken by some as proof Streeter was in the wrong. But the 76ers have a right to determine who uses their platform and how. That legality of the 76ers’ actions isn’t in question.

What should be questioned is the message they sent.

That they’re against any and all political statements defies belief. They have allowed their invited guests to display political messages on the court before. If Streeter wore a shirt that said “Support our troops” – no less of a political statement – would she have been barred from performing? You must believe the answer is yes to believe political statements themselves, not the specific content of Streeter’s, were the problem here.

There’s also something troubling about “WE MATTER” being a political statement, but in the reality of America, the jersey is undoubtedly political. The 76ers silencing Streeter will keep it that way.