San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder

Thursday NBA grades: Thunder defense key to beating Spurs


Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while trying out hat new Cheetos cologn

source:  Oklahoma City Thunder defense. It’s flashy when Kevin Durant has 28 points, Russell Westbrook 27 and both are throwing down monster dunks. That’s not why the Thunder won and snapped the Spurs 19 game winning streak, that’s not why they have swept the season series and won 10-of-12 from San Antonio — it’s the defense. The length and athleticism of the Thunder (even without Thabo Sefalosha) can pressure, cover ground and contest shots. The Thunder did that in particular in the second half, holding San Antonio to 39.5 percent shooting. The Spurs had an offensive rating of just 94.7. This is why, as well as the Spurs have played, I like the Thunder out of the West (or maybe the Clippers) — the hyper athleticism of OKC just beats the Spurs.

source:  Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks. This was the kind of win the Mavericks need — on the road against a quality opponent. Nowitzki was his classic self with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting and 4-of-7 from three. He also had 11 boards. With the win the Mavs move half a game up on the Grizzlies and Suns in the battle for the last couple playoff spots in the East. The Mavs opened a tough four game road trip with a win, that’s huge in keeping a hold of one of those playoff spots.

source:  Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. He had a triple-double — 25 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. He scored 19 points in the first half. He gets the lower grade because it took 23 shots to get the 25 points, he shot just 8-of-16 inside 8 feet and 1-of-7 beyond that. His legs looked tired, which is to be expected on the second night of a back-to-back after a road trip. He tweaked his right ankle with a misstep late, he was limping off the court at the end. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, but don’t be shocked that even if it’s not Griffin gets a couple of games off to rest.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.