Team balance: Grizzlies have had it, Thunder have not. It’s key to Game 4, series.

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You don’t win an NBA title without at least one superstar player. Two or three is better. Go all the way back to 1979 and you find just one team that won a ring without one of the 10 best players in the game, usually a couple of them. (That exception is the 2004 Pistons, and they had Chauncey Billups playing at that level for a stretch, plus a superstar defense.)

But you also can’t win a title without a good supporting cast playing well around those superstars.

The latter issue is why the Thunder enter Saturday night’s Game 4 trailing the Grizzlies 2-1 and making this game almost must win. Team balance and alternate scoring options have been at the heart of this series — Memphis has had that, the Thunder have not.

With two of the game’s top 10 players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have the superstar players they need. The Grizzlies have countered with two very good perimeter defenders — Mike Conley and Tony Allen — plus a team defense led by Marc Gasol the Grizzlies can take away the first offensive option, they can make life difficult for Durant and Westbrook — in Game 3 Westbrook and Durant scored a combined 60 points but shot a combined 34 percent and were 4-of-21 from three.

In the last two games, Thunder players not names Westbrook or Durant have shot 39.4 percent and made a total of 28 shots. Serge Ibaka has been in double figures scoring both games (12 and 15) and he’s the only other one.

Without a reliable third option (remember late in games the year they went to the Finals the ball was often in James Harden’s hands and he created for everyone else) the Thunder offense has become a “you take a turn then I take a turn” trade off between Durant and Westbrook. They still put up numbers but the Thunder are not the same offensive juggernaut.

The Grizzlies on the other hand have balance.

Oklahoma City has rightfully focused on slowing Conley, Gasol and Zach Randolph on offense — but others have stepped up. Tony Allen had 16 points, Beno Udrih 12 and Courtney Lee 10 on Thursday night in Memphis. In Game 2 Lee and Udrih combined for 30 points.

The Grizzlies are disciplined and making the extra pass to the open man. They are moving the ball side-to-side well, which is allowing Randolph to seal his man and get the ball in deep for good looks.

The Grizzlies have balance and are using it well.

The Thunder has not had that balance. If they don’t have it they might still win Game 4 — Durant and Westbrook can carry a team a long way — but it is the playoff flaw that will ultimately doom them. Much earlier than they had planned.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wear same outfit to Game 4 (photo)

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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I can’t verify Raptors forwards Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wearing the same outfit to last night’s Game 4 against the Bucks is the happenstance Patterson presents it as. But there’s a saying in journalism: It’s too good to check out.

Whatever led to this, Toronto ought to keep doing it. The Raptors smashed Milwaukee.

Patterson:

Isaiah Thomas’ sons giggle about Fred Hoiberg’s carrying complaint (video)

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Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg diverted attention to Isaiah Thomascarrying – perhaps the lamest attempt ever of a coach angling for calls through the media, made worse by it following one of the best of all time.

Thomas’ sons saw how silly it was, laughing as the Celtics guard responded.

“It’s not that funny,” Thomas said, sparking even more laughter.

Patrick Beverley: ‘If the NBA won’t protect the players… I have to protect myself’

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The NBA fined Patrick Beverley $25,000 for confronting a fan after the Rockets’ Game 3 loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Friday.

But he’s not going down quietly.

Beverley on the run-ins, which began when he fell into the crowd in the second quarter after being fouled, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“I’m OK with the hazing,” Beverley said. “I’m OK with the boos. I’m OK with other fans rooting for their team. But I’m not OK with the blatant disrespect while I’m lying on the ground and a fan yelling out to me, ‘F you Patrick Beverley, ‘F you Patrick Beverley, ‘F you Patrick Beverley,’ waving a clapper in my face. I’m not comfortable with that.

“If the NBA won’t protect the players, I feel as a man, as a grown man who has children, who has morals, to stand up for the right thing. I have to protect myself.”

“When I mean protect myself, I don’t mean go out there and start a fight with a person. I walked up to the guy, ‘At the end of the day brother, this is a game.’ No curse words. No pointing fingers. No this. No that. I just let him know that just don’t do nothing like that.”

“To put this in all perspective, this isn’t the first incident I had with OKC,” Beverley said. “I had a ballboy tell me he was going to kill me. What type of league, what is this? I had to have a police officer out in front of my house, I can’t be on the same floor as my teammates. My first year in NBA basketball I have a person saying on Twitter he was going to kill me. So, what to do?”

Beverley said by addressing the situation on Friday as he did he felt he brought more attention to it, increasing security awareness.

The ball-boy incident occurred in 2013, when Beverley injured Russell Westbrook‘s knee while going for a steal as Westbrook called timeout. Westbrook missed the rest of the playoffs, and Thunder fans have resented Beverley since.

It’s not the most pleasant aspect of sports, but I don’t have a huge problem with fans in their seats heckling players on the court. But there should be a different standard when a player falls into the crowd. A fan yelling and clapping in Beverley’s face while he’s on the ground is not OK.

Of course, this is only Beverley’s side of the story. The fan – Stuart Scaramucci, son of Thunder minority owner Jay Scaramucci – gave his account of the postgame encounter to Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

“[Beverley] goes around the refs, around the dancers and walks right up and gets right in my face and starts putting his hand right in my sternum and saying, ‘Don’t you ever do it again. Don’t ever [expletive] do that. You can’t do that to me. I’m a player. You can’t do that. You can’t do that,’” Scaramucci told the Transcript late Friday night. “…My wife [Megan], at that point in time, was standing there with [a noisemaker the Thunder hand out to fans]. She holds it out, and she says, ‘You can’t be here. You need to be in the back.’

“Patrick turns to her and he just throws his hand up and brings it down. I’m not sure if he’s trying to slap the [noisemaker] or whatnot, but he slaps her right on her arm, and at that point, I flip and start screaming, ‘Patrick slapped my wife. Patrick slapped my wife. Patrick slapped my wife.’”

Again, this is only one side of the story. Beverley might tell a different one, but at least he’s getting his wish. We’re paying more attention to fan behavior and security.

Report: Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo staying in NBA draft

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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When De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk declared for the NBA draft, they jumped in with both feet, hiring agents.

A third Kentucky freshman, Bam Adebayo, took a more cautious approach – until now.

Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports:

Adebayo is a borderline first-round pick.

He’s a ferocious dunker. All his best skills – motor, explosiveness, physicality – come together to produce slams.

But Adebayo is an underwhelming shot-blocker and rebounder, and those same tools should translate. That speaks’ to his focus.

He has a center’s game. But at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-1.5 wingspan, does he have a center’s size? Adebayo can’t step away from the basket or handle the ball, so if he can’t bang with NBA centers, he’s in trouble.