Kurt Helin

Oklahoma City Thunder v Indiana Pacers

Russell Westbrook drops career-high 54 points on Pacers in loss (VIDEO)

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If Oklahoma City misses the playoffs, it will not be for a lack of Russell Westbrook’s effort.

The MVP-candidate point guard did everything he could — he was even efficient early, scoring or assisting on 30 of the first 32 points the Thunder scored. He struggled some as the game went on but he still put up a career-best 54 points.

It wasn’t enough; the Pacers won and due to a technical foul on Westbrook — his 16th — the Thunder could be in a lot of trouble.  Still, the Thunder aren’t here without Westbrook’s nights like this (and the string of triple-doubles).

Boston’s Tyler Zeller dunked all over Matthew Dellavedova (VIDEO)

Tyler Zeller Celtics
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This was the best dunk by far from the rather uninspiring slate of afternoon games (unless you like watching the Cavaliers and Hawks reserves).

Boston got off to a fast start against Cleveland helped in part by this Tyler Zeller dunk all over Matthew Dellavedova. The best part of this is how Dellavedova makes the move over to try and make a play, realizes what is about to go down, and then makes a futile little hop.

Boston won 117-78 in a game that went a lot way in helping secure them a spot in the postseason.

Russell Westbrook picks up 16th technical foul, will be suspended Monday if not rescinded

Oklahoma City Thunder v Indiana Pacers
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Russell Westbrook scored a career-high 54 points on Sunday trying desperately keep the Oklahoma City Thunder’s playoff chances alive — still OKC lost to Indiana 116-104. That leaves them tied with New Orleans for the final playoff spot in the West with two games to go (New Orleans has the tie breaker).

But Westbrook may also have killed OKC’s playoff dreams in the same game.

Above is the video of a technical handed out by Ed Malloy — that was Westbrook’s league-leading 16th of the season.

Sixteen is the magic threshold — it comes with an automatic one-game suspension. If this technical is not rescinded by the league, Westbrook will sit out Monday night when the Thunder play the Trail Blazers. This Thunder offense would be lost without Westbrook.

I think Ed Malloy was in the wrong here — that shouldn’t have been a technical foul. Granted, I don’t know what was said. Still, it’s the last six minutes of a game late in the season with serious playoff implications; you have to let the players vent a little. Westbrook wasn’t demonstrative or showing up Malloy, he was just emotional. As a player should be in that situation. If Malloy had warned Westbrook and he continued that would be one thing, but there was no warning here.

Kevin Durant more than agrees with me.

Scott Brooks believes this one will get called back by the league.

We will see. If not, and if as one would expect the Thunder lose Monday night to Portland without Westbrook, their playoff hopes would be incredibly dim. The Pelicans play the lowly Timberwolves Monday and a New Orleans win and OKC loss would give New Orleans the final playoff spot.

Of course, Greg Monroe denies he is going to New York. And he may not.

Charlotte Hornets v Detroit Pistons
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It’s not hard to connect the dots between Greg Monroe and the New York Knicks. Monroe is a restricted free agent and quality center that a number of teams will go after (and offer the max, we’ll talk about that more in a bit). The Knicks need a presence in the paint at both ends of the court. Monroe’s agent, David Falk, Monroe’s agent, was Michael Jordan’s agent with the Bulls when Phil Jackson coached him, so there’s a relationship.

And there is scuttlebutt around the league that the Knicks may be the front runners to land him, with one report out of NYC saying it was all but a done deal.

As you would expect, Monroe denied this on Sunday, speaking to David Mayo of Mlive.com.

“You write it’s a done deal, there must be another Greg Monroe around here that I don’t know about, because I haven’t agreed to anything,” Monroe said before the Pistons’ home finale today against the Charlotte Hornets….

“This stuff right here, it’s just unfortunate that we have to talk about it,” Monroe said. “I know we have to. But I talk to my agent every day, and I know for sure, I’m 100-percent, 1,000-percent confident, that he hasn’t done anything. If they (the Knicks) have interest, maybe they might have commented on that. But I haven’t even gotten to that place yet.”

Three things.

First, yes Monroe is going to get the max. He might have in any summer, he’s averaging 16.1 points and 10.4 rebounds a game, is shooting nearly 50 percent, and he’s got a little midrange game. He has looked a lot more comfortable in the offense since Josh Smith was sent packing. Bigs get paid in the NBA. That said, this summer he will for sure because he is a “market max” guy — paying him a max contract this season will not look bad when the cap spikes to $90 million or more in 2016 and climbs from there. A lot of guys are going to get bigger deals than you would think this summer based on that premise (Khris Middleton for example).

Second, you can be sure the Knicks and Falk have had some back-channel conversations to express and gauge interest. That’s how this works; it’s how every team does it. If you want a guy, you’re laying the groundwork now, not just waiting until July 1. How in depth those conversations are is up for debate, but they happened.

Finally, Monroe may well end up a Knick, he might even lean that way now, but no decisions will be made until all the cards are on the table. A lot of teams will reach out to Monroe, he will have options. And he’s played at a steep discount this season for the right to explore them, so you can be sure he will.

Chris Paul was dishing, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin were dunking

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Clippers
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The Clippers have the most efficient offense in the NBA, scoring 109.8 points per 100 possessions.

The most efficient shot in the game remains the dunk.

The Clippers have diversified their offense some, but they still like the efficient dunk. Chris Paul had the nice setup of DeAndre Jordan for the throw-down dunk.

CP3 also set up Blake Griffin as well. The Clippers used all these dunks to pick

The Clippers used all these dunks to pick up a key 94-86 win over Memphis. Those two — and the Spurs — are all tied with two games left in the season.