Thunder serious about defense, Miami finds out hard way

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When Thunder GM Sam Presti traded for Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed at the trade deadline, this is what he had in mind.

It wasn’t just their direct impact — Perkins was in foul trouble and sat key stretches of this contest — but with them in the fold the Thunder are more committed on the defensive end then they have been all season. It’s reminiscent of last season when the Thunder played aggressive defense that fueled their transition game in the playoffs.

They are starting to look like that again, maybe a better version of that team. And that should worry everybody else in the West.

Oklahoma City’s defense, particularly in the second half, sparked a 96-85 statement win over Miami in Miami.

Miami shot 38.5 percent on the night, the “big three” shot 4-24 in the second half and the Heat registered just 94.4 points per 100 possessions, 15.6 points off their season average.

What should really make Thunder fans happy is this was a team effort — Perkins got in foul trouble, however Serge Ibaka and particularly Nick Collison did a good job clogging the paint and protecting the rim.

For those of us at home, tis game was fun to watch with plenty of highlight moments, as you would expect from two athletic teams. Some of the best came from the Heat at the end of the first half after a dunk-of-the-year candidate from Dwyane Wade sparked a Heat run. LeBron James had a couple monster dunks in that stretch, and for a bit the Heat looked like the team everyone imagined before the season started.

But in the second half the Thunder defense was controlling play and their offense was finding its spots, particularly Kevin Durant, who was making the best of it against LeBron James. Durant had 21 points on 10-15 shooting against James, according to ESPN. On defense, the Thunder made it hard on the big three, trapping Wade and LeBron on pick-and-rolls clogging the lane to force them to pull up.

The Heat made their late first-half move when they could get out on the run, but the Thunder controlled the tempo in the second half and slowed the game down. Durant led the Thunder with 19.

Once again, the game left questions about what the Heat would do in the playoffs. But for the Thunder, it looked like they are finding some answers. Answers that the rest of the West may not like.

Dwyane Wade sinks halfcourt buzzer-beater (video)

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Dwyane Wade is secure in his legacy. He’s an all-time great, and an extra missed 3-pointer during his farewell tour won’t change anything. (It doesn’t hurt that his resumé already includes subpar 3-point shooting.)

So, when many players would hold the ball, Wade heaved in a halfcourt shot to end the third quarter of the Heat’s 110-105 win over the Spurs on Wednesday. It wasn’t the biggest shot of Wade’s season, but it still mattered plenty.

Miami’s lead when San Antonio began intentionally fouling late? Three.

Jonas Valanciunas hits game-winning free throw, spoils James Harden’s 57-point night (video)

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The Grizzlies blew a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter and a five-point lead in the final 30 seconds of overtime. James Harden scored 57 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter and all 10 of the Rockets points in overtime.

But Jonas Valanciunas saved Memphis from total collapse. He drew a foul on his putback and hit the game-winning free-throw with 0.1 seconds left to give the Grizzlies a 126-125 win Wednesday.

Report: Suns exploring signing Jimmer Fredette

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Jimmer Fredette remains a fascination because he scored a ton at BYU eight years ago and… other reasons.

He has been lighting it up in China, and his season there just ended. Now, the former No. 10 pick could return to the NBA after three years away.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Phoenix still needs another point guard, and the 6-foot-2 Fredette looks like one. But he hasn’t shown the playmaking to play point guard regularly. He’s better, and sometimes even effective, off the ball.

Fredette could have stuck in the NBA with a different attitude. His long-distance shooting was an asset.

But he’s also now 30 years old. A new approach likely won’t be enough. His shortcomings, particularly defensively, will be even more pronounced as his athleticism has declined.

The Suns are bad and will remain bad, with or without Fredette. But their younger players have shown signs of progress lately. Fredette’s high-usage style could interfere with their development.

It’s hard to see the upside here other than a brief uptick in attention.

Marcus Smart shoves down Joel Embiid from behind, gets ejected (video)

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Marcus Smart recently bemoaned the lack of physicality in the NBA.

After Joel Embiid dropped his shoulder into him on a screen, Smart brought some to tonight’s Celtics-76ers game.

Smart shoved Embiid in the back, sending the center to the floor. A cheap shot? Yes. Embiid wasn’t looking. But Smart would surely argue Embiid started it. I also doubt Smart intended to push Embiid from behind. Smart just wanted to get at Embiid as quickly as possible, and Embiid happened to be facing the other way when Smart arrived.

Smart got a flagrant 2 and the accompanying ejection. Embiid received a technical foul.