Portland and Phoenix were tied 115-115 with just 6.4 seconds left in overtime. These are the moments that Damian Lillard and the Blazers have seemed to dominate for a couple of seasons now.
Not Wednesday. It was Eric Bledsoe and the Suns’ turn.
The Trail Blazers defended the final play well, Lillard switched onto Bledsoe off the pick, took away driving lanes, and forced a step-back three.
Nothing but net.
Give the Suns credit, but this is a tough loss for Portland.
This was one of the games everyone had circled on the calendar: The Thunder visit Oracle Arena and the Warriors Thursday night.
Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant.
Last summer’s drama come to the court, even if Durant says it’s all good.
The Thunder started 3-0 behind Westbrook averaging a triple-double — 38.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game (before he played Wednesday night). What’s gone unnoticed is the Thunder’s physical defense which has been one of the better in the league so far.
Durant’s Warriors are 3-1 but not been impressive — until the third quarter Tuesday against the Trail Blazers. That’s when they looked like the Golden State team everyone fears will figure it out (Stephen Curry dropping 23 in the quarter didn’t hurt).
Will the two shake hands before the game (don’t expect it, KD doesn’t usually shake anyone’s hands pregame)? Will they hug it out postgame? Can the Warriors’ defense contain Westbrook, or will he blow through them like he has everyone else? Thursday night is going to be must-watch NBA.
Kawhi Leonard is having an MVP-like start to the season (it’s way, way too early to discuss that award, but he’s been that level of phenomenal).
That includes putting up 30 points on 18 shots and pulling down seven rebounds in the Spurs one loss this season, on Tuesday to the Utah Jazz. He also had two assists, and the one above is a thing of beauty — he fakes out the entire Jazz team on the floor.
Leonard is not big on self-promotion, but he doesn’t need to be with performances like this. He’s going to get plenty of attention. Deservedly.
When Stephen Curry someday hangs up his Under Armours and walks away from the NBA, he will go down as the greatest shooter the game has ever seen.
But all greats build upon the players that came before them, that set the standard.
For Curry, Ray Allen set the standard. Chris Haynes of ESPN asked Curry about Allen as Allen has announced he is officially retiring from the game.
“To me, he’s the greatest shooter ever because of his longevity,” Curry told ESPN of the future Hall of Famer’s career. “He did it year-to-year and he got up on his shot. That’s what made him different. He was a special player.”
Allen still holds the record for most made three-pointers in a career, 2,973. Curry will someday break that (Curry got to 1,600 much faster than Allen).
Curry said Allen’s records like that are goals for him to shoot for — which is what they greats do, they set the bar, and the next generations try to clear it. Allen will go down as one of the greatest shooters the game has ever seen, with as pure a stroke as you will ever find. He set the bar high.
Curry will clear it.
The Truth has said his piece.
Paul Pierce will be on Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons on HBO Wednesday night (10 p.m. Eastern, with multiple other showings during the week, check your local listings), and the man with the best Rick James costume in the NBA was asked about the NBA Finals. You can see his answer above.
Then he said what he was thinking — the Warriors choked that 3-1 lead away. And that would never happen to a team he was on. (He was on a Celtics team that was up 3-2 on the Lakers in the Finals and lost, for the record.)
I hate the choked narrative for one key reason — it robs Cleveland of some of their due. The Cavaliers as a whole played an impressive final three games, and LeBron James played as good an NBA Finals series of games as you will ever see. They were not given this, they earned it.
That said, if Draymond Green could have kept his hands to himself and not been suspended for Game 5, we’d be talking about back-to-back Warriors’ championships. The Warriors did hunt threes too much and not try to go inside at key parts of the game. They helped out the Cavs plenty.