Seth Curry, Dirk Nowitzki lead Mavericks past Thunder, 104-89

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DALLAS (AP) Seth Curry scored 22 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and 12 rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-89 on Sunday night.

Russell Westbrook scored 29 for the Thunder after scoring more than 40 in each of his last four games. He had six rebounds and five assists, but the Mavericks frustrated him into both a technical foul and a flagrant-one foul. Both came in the midst of a 21-4 third-quarter run that allowed Dallas to blow the game open.

Westbrook picked up a technical with 8:15 to go in the third quarter when he bounced the ball angrily in referee Marat Kogut’s direction after being called for an offensive foul. Then he got his flagrant with 4:27 to go in the quarter for shoving Harrison Barnes.

Barnes made the flagrant free throws and then another to give the Mavericks their biggest lead at 81-57. He finished with 17 points.

Steven Adams scored 19 for Oklahoma City, and Enes Kanter had 16.

Nowitzki tied his season high for rebounds and is 20 points away from becoming the sixth player to score 30,000. He’ll likely set the mark at home, where Dallas plays its next three games.

Curry, who has scored more than 20 points in five of the team’s last six games, scored eight of Dallas’ last 10 in the second quarter to give the Mavs a 60-50 halftime lead. The Mavericks shot 14 for 20 in the second quarter.

Westbrook scored 14 points in the first quarter and 15 in the third, but was scoreless in the other two periods.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Westbrook’s combination of a technical and flagrant-one does not result in an ejection, and he stayed in the game and scored 15 of his team’s 21 points in the quarter. … Victor Oladipo missed his sixth straight game with back spasms.

Mavericks: Wesley Matthews was back in the starting lineup after missing two games with a hip injury, scoring nine points. … Nerlens Noel had his second straight game in double figures, scoring 13. … Dallas beat the Thunder for the first time in the teams’ past six regular-season meetings.

NOT MY MVP

It’s a good thing for Westbrook that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban doesn’t have a vote in the MVP race.

Cuban said Sunday night that he would vote for either James Harden or LeBron James, and that Westbrook wasn’t in the mix despite averaging a triple-double through 62 games.

“You look at what Harden is doing on a team that was 41-41 last year,” Cuban said. “Look what they’re doing now. The Rockets have a top-three record after everybody wrote them off – because of James Harden. That’s the difference.”

Cuban said last year that Westbrook wasn’t a superstar because he hadn’t led an otherwise average team to a 50-win season and a playoff series victory, and he’s sticking to his classification.

“It’s impressive; don’t get me wrong,” Cuban said. “He’s incredible in his own way. But the criteria is the criteria.” Cuban later added: “It’d be no fun if I changed my mind.”

UP NEXT

Thunder: Host Portland on Tuesday. The Trail Blazers have won two of the teams’ previous three meetings this year, including a 114-109 win Thursday in Portland.

Mavericks: Host the Lakers on Tuesday, the start of a three-game stretch – all at home – against the three teams with the NBA’s three worst records.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.