Thunder start fast, cruise to Game 1 win over Grizzlies

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Oklahoma City opened its first round playoff series against the Grizzlies firing on all cylinders.

The lead reached as many as 14 points in the first quarter as Memphis managed to shoot just over 17 percent from the field over the game’s first 12 minutes, and the Thunder pushed it to 25 points before halftime as the rout appeared to be on.

But the Grizzlies fought back and cut that lead to two in the second half, and that was ultimately the most interesting part of Oklahoma City’s 100-86 Game 1 victory.

The resiliency that Memphis showed would lead you to believe we may be in for some more dramatic games in this series, but only if the Grizzlies bring it for the full 48 minutes.

The Thunder scored 21 of their 56 first half points on the break, which is way too many for a Grizzlies team that excels in the half-court set on both ends of the floor. During a third quarter where Memphis was locked in offensively and running well-executed sets, the pace slowed a bit and the Grizzlies were able to set their defense, since OKC was beginning almost every possession in the period by taking the ball out of the basket.

That forced some difficult and wild shots from the Thunder in the third, especially by Russell Westbrook. He and Kevin Durant combined to shoot just 1-of-9 in the quarter, as the Grizzlies were alarmingly quick in cutting the lead to single digits.

Durant and Westbrook bounced back in the fourth, however, combining for 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting as the Thunder put together a 13-1 run in a three-minute span to push the lead back up to 14 after Memphis had clawed all the way back to within just two.

Durant finished with 33 points on 13-of-25 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists. Westbrook, meanwhile, ended up with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but also turned the ball over five times.

The Grizzlies proved that they can match up with this Thunder team, but they can’t fall behind by anything remotely resembling the deficit that they faced in this one. Memphis isn’t built to overcome that from an offensive standpoint, but defensively, if they can control the tempo and force difficult shots for an entire game they way they did for about a quarter and a half of Game 1, we could see some more competitive contests.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.