San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Three

Serge Ibaka’s back, Thunder are home and look like different team, roll Spurs in Game 3 win

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It turns out, getting one of your best players back really does help.

It was more than just getting Serge Ibaka back in the lineup, although that mattered. A lot. It was also being home where clearly the Thunder role players were more comfortable. It was a couple days off to gather themselves. It was some lineup changes by Scott Brooks that changed the dynamic on the court and gave the Thunder scoring.

Brooks inserted the suddenly healthy Ibaka plus Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup and got what he wanted — the spacing, ball movement and just plane good shooting was back in the Thunder offense. OKC was the team attacking again, rather than settling. Ibaka was 6-of-7 Parker for 15 points with seven rebounds and four blocked shots. With Ibaka in the paint Tony Parker and the Spurs were more hesitant inside the Thunder defense was aggressive and athletic and all that threw the Spurs well-oiled machine off — the Spurs shot just 50 percent in the restricted area.

Oklahoma City won Game 3 106-97 to cut the Spurs lead in the series to 2-1.

The real questions are can Ibaka come back and play like this in Game 4 Tuesday in OKC (he was clearly limping at points late in Game 3)? Will the Thunder defense follow with him again be a force? And how will the Spurs respond?

If the Thunder win Game 4 we have a series, if the Spurs do this series could end in five.

The key in Game 4 for Oklahoma City will be Tony Parker, who was 4-of-13 shooting for 9 points and he was just 1-of-6 inside 8 feet. A more aggressive Russell Westbrook guarding him and the presence of Ibaka made Parker hesitate in the paint, and he is the catalyst for all things San Antonio on offense.

Ibaka was the catalyst for the Thunder, from the opening tip the Thunder were moving the ball and attacking in transition off Spurs misses.

The Thunder put up 28 first quarter points on 12-of-19 shooting, Ibaka was 4-of-4, and the tempo was up. It was everything the Spurs have wanted offensively. Problem was, the Spurs scored 29.

That is how the first half went. Tony Parker started the game 1-of-6 shooting with three turnovers, in fact the Spurs got sloppy with the ball and the Thunder turned that into a 13-2 run. Kevin Durant had 13 in the first half, Westbrook 12 and Ibaka 10, the Thunder shot 56 percent as a team in the first half.

Yet at the half it was a four point Thunder lead, 57-53.

Credit Manu Ginobili for a lot of that, he was 5-of-7 from three and had 20 points. San Antonio hit 7-of-15 from three in the first half to stay in it. Well, that plus the 12 Thunder turnovers helped.

In the third quarter the Thunder were on a parade to the free throw line — 22 times to the Spurs zero in the quarter. In the NBA foul calls usually go to the aggressor and that stat tells you all you need to know about how that quarter looked. At the end of the third it was a seven point OKC lead, you could see which way the game was tilted but the Thunder just could not pull away.

Then the Thunder opened up fourth on 7-0 run as Boris Diaw, who had been reliable from three the first two games of this series, missed a couple and at the other end the Thunder were making plays with Reggie Jackson driving the lane and Caron Butler hitting a corner three.

From there the rout was on. By 5 minutes left in the game Gregg Popovich pulled his starters and made it garbage time.

Westbrook had 26 points and Kevin Durant 25 (both were 8-of-19 shooting) but it was the 15 a piece from Ibaka and Jackson that were the key.

Ginobili finished with 23 points, Tim Duncan had 16 points on 17 shots, Kawhi Leonard had 10 on 11 shots. As a team the Spurs shot 39.6 percent on the night.

The Thunder’s defense, when they are healthy, has given the Spurs trouble for a couple years now. If the Spurs don’t figure it out by Game 4 this is going to be a best-of-three.

Report: Lakers would trade No. 1 pick if they get it

Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott smiles as the studio begins to fill before the NBA basketball draft lottery, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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The Lakers might not even have a first-round pick this year.

Thanks to the ill-fated Steve Nash sign-and-trade, the Lakers owe the 76ers (via the Suns) a top-three-protected first-rounder. As the No. 2 seed in the lottery, the Lakers have just better than a coin-flip chance of landing in the top three and keeping the pick.

But if the Lakers land the top selection, they might not engage in the Ben Simmons-or-Brandon Ingram debate.

Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports:

Is this a good idea? The answer, as usual, is it depends on what they could get.

There’s a logic to adding another young player whose peak would align with Lakers’ core. D'Angelo Russell (20), Julius Randle (21) and Jordan Clarkson (23) aren’t ready to win. It might be better to add someone who will enter his prime when they do.

But the Lakers’ market and prestige make them a popular free-agent destination, and free agents value winning. Moderate improvements that would stick many teams on the mediocrity treadmill could open the door for the Lakers signing a star.

The Lakers should weigh these factors and trade offers logically and decide what to do if they get a top pick.

Of course, there are other factors. Jim Buss faces a somewhat-self-imposed deadline for contending. To the person in charge, what’s best for the franchise’s long-term outlook might not matter as much as a potential quick fix.

Kevin Durant: ‘When I’m talking to women, I’m 7 feet. In basketball circles, I’m 6-9’

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) pumps his fist in reaction to a foul call on Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) in the third quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Oklahoma City won 112-101. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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How tall is Kevin Durant?

He’s listed at 6-foot-9, but his teammates have guessed everything from 6-foot-10 to 7-foot-3.

Durant, via Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:

“For me, when I’m talking to women, I’m 7 feet,” he said. “In basketball circles, I’m 6-9.”

“But really, I’ve always thought it was cool to say I’m a 6-9 small forward,” he said. “Really, that’s the prototypical size for a small forward. Anything taller than that, and they’ll start saying, ‘Ah, he’s a power forward.’ ”

This mirrors Kevin Garnett, who Flip Saunders once called “6-foot-13” because Garnett didn’t want to get pigeonholed as a center.

But most height fudging in the NBA has players trying to be listed as taller. Read Herring’s piece for a fun look at the hijinks.

LeBron James wants to face Dwyane Wade, Heat in conference finals

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) greet each other before an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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The Heat haven’t gotten past the Raptors. The Cavaliers haven’t toppled the Hawks, for that matter.

But can you imagine a Cleveland-Miami conference finals?

LeBron James can.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“I think naturally of course. That’s since I’ve came back,” James said. “It’d be great to play against those guys in the postseason. Throughout my whole career, I’ve always wanted to go against (Dwyane) Wade in a playoff series. We’ve always talked about it even before we became teammates in ’10. It’s not been heavy on my mind but it’s crossed my mind throughout my whole career.”

LeBron doesn’t realize how bad of an idea this is, which is what makes it such a bad idea.

It isn’t that the Heat are playing better than Toronto right now – though they are. It isn’t that the Heat are a tougher matchup for Cleveland than Toronto – though they are, routing the Cavs twice in three regular-season games (one of which LeBron didn’t play).

It’s that facing the Heat would bring a ridiculous level of drama to the series, and LeBron’s teammates are more equipped to face the Raptors and the fewer distractions that would come with that matchup.

LeBron just wants to be on the court with his friend, Dwyane Wadewith him or against him. I think LeBron can handle that, enjoy that and still produce.

But it undermines his teammate’s focus when LeBron does something like chat with Wade during halftime when they’re trying to prepare for the second half. It can bother teammates when even more attention than usual is placed on LeBron, who’d be THE storyline in a matchup with his old team.

If the Cavs had a choice – and they obviously don’t – they should avoid all that.

But the way the teams are playing, LeBron will probably get his wish.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson suggests Seattle starts a petition to bring back Sonics

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, left, signs autographs for fans during the Brooklyn Nets NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Barclays Center, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had a dumb idea about the Sonics.

So, he posted it to Twitter:

Yes, because this is how the NBA decides where to place teams.

Seattle’s City Council voted not to sell part of a street to Chris Hansen, essentially blocking a new arena – which is probably for the best. Why build a stadium when you might not even get a team? NBA commissioner Adam Silver says the league isn’t expanding anytime soon, and no franchise appears imminent to move.

But a petition could change all that do nothing – except rile up Wilson’s fans, no matter how detached the idea is from reality.