Well, that was fun while it lasted.
It was nice to think Thunder-Nuggets was going to be an all-out clash of the titans. With thunder and lightning and demons and sorcery and the whole shebang. Instead, we get the Thunder, out-executing the Nuggets when it matters and where it matters in every game and a team without a star trying to rally around itself while down 3-0. The home crowd could be ready to fight tooth and nail, or it could be ready to concede a season lost to instability. The same could be said for the players.
The Nuggets aren’t slowing down Kevin Durant. They did a decent job in Game 3 and still lost. Their best chance came in Game 1 when Durant and Westbrok went off and the rest of the team was held in check. Things got away in Games 2 and 3 when James Harden and Serge Ibaka got involved. The solution? Give Durant the Kobe treatment. Let him go off, but shut down Westbrook by any means necessary (or possible) and keep the other guys down. The Nuggets bigs have to do a better job of holding control of the glass, especially against Ibaka, and Nene is going to have to have a big game.
For the Thunder? More of the same. Sharp execution. Durant being Durant. Westbook being Westbrook. Execute, and this team gets time to rest… young legs (?) before the next series. The Nuggets are down on the mat. If you’re the Thunder and you want to send a message about your inexperience, this is the game. Put the foot down.
The Nuggets cannot bring their small-ball lineup. Their most successful lineup against the Nuggets has featured Ty Lawson, Aaron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Kenyon Martin, and Nene. Their worst top-five-in-minutes lineup this series has featured the same lineup, only with dual point guards in Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson. Getting Afflalo back wasn’t overall successful, but the Nuggets found somethings that worked.
Nene has to be huge in this game. Absolutely pivotal. He’s arguably the Nuggets’ best player, one with playoff experience but not hampered with age. He needs to be physical and dominant on both sides of the floor. As he goes, the Nuggets go.
And if he doesn’t go, the Nuggets are going home.
D'Angelo Russell wants to play with Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns’ Timberwolves were reportedly interested in Russell last summer.
Why did Russell join the Warriors instead of Minnesota?
Russell, via Chris Hine of the Minneapolis StarTribune:
“I thought the opportunity here was amazing … ” Russell said after Warriors shootaround Friday. “It was definitely something I was considering very strongly. But then when this opportunity came, the weather is way better, so that helped me.”
“I did my first winter in New York and that was tough,” Russell said. “So to get the opportunity to go somewhere where it’s warm again, I think that played a major part in my plan.”
I don’t blame him one bit.
Russell grew up in Kentucky then finished high school in Florida. He spent his first couple NBA seasons with the Lakers.
He also played collegiately at Ohio State and a a couple years for the Nets. In other words, he spent enough time in cold-weather locations to know how miserable they can be.
This is an issue that will always hinder teams like the Timberwolves. It doesn’t mean they can’t attract free agents. It’s just a disadvantage.
There will always be players who don’t have multiple max offers. Minnesota can separate itself with money, playing time and other considerations.
But good for Russell for playing himself out of that group and earning a max contract in the Bay Area.
Kyrie Irving missed the Nets’ win over the Bulls on Saturday.
He’s not healthy enough to play the Pacers tonight.
Nets public relations:
Kyrie Irving (right shoulder impingement) is OUT.
Brooklyn (5-7) lags behinds Indiana (7-6) in the Eastern Conference’s middle morass. The Nets must try to catch up in the playoff race without their best player.
But it’s a long season. Brooklyn has plenty of time to gain ground. Spencer Dinwiddie is capable in relief, and the unselfish Nets can create ball movement while Dinwiddie rests.
I’m more concerned about next week. A segment of Brooklyn’s schedule:
- Nov. 24 at Knicks
- Nov. 25 at Cavaliers
- Nov. 27 at Celtics
That’s the team Irving spurned in free agency, the team Irving requested a trade from and the team Irving just left after pledging to re-sign. Those are juicy matchups. Hopefully, Irving is healthy enough to play in all three.
Ray Allen left the Celtics on bad terms in 2012. He finished his career with the Heat in 2014.
But Allen apparently could have come back with Boston in 2016… if Kevin Durant signed there first.
Allen, via Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston:
“I had a conversation with (Ainge) and I told him this was my last-ditch effort. I would’ve went back,” Allen said on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” radio show.
“This was when Kevin Durant was a free agent. He was thinking about going to Boston. And I said, ‘Hey, if you guys land Kevin, I would certainly look at lacing them back up one more time and try to make something good happen here in Boston.’ “
This is a fascinating “what if?” – for the Celtics on the court and for Allen’s legacy in Boston.
But it also probably didn’t come close to happening. Durant said his top two choices in 2016 free agency were the Warriors and Thunder. Even Allen himself said he never neared a comeback.
Still, it’s interesting – after all the animosity – Allen even spoke to Celtics president Danny Ainge about returning.
Remember Luigi Datome? He spent a couple seasons with the Pistons and Celtics.
He makes an appearance in this wild video featuring Fenerbahce coach Zeljko Obradovic (warning: profanity):
A partial transcript the best I could muster:
YOU’RE GOOD GUYS. IN YOUR EYES, YOU’RE GOOD GUYS. F— YOU, EVERYBODY! F— YOU, OK!
F— YOU, GIGI DATOME. OK? SHAME ON YOU. AND YOU…
Festivus isn’t for another month, but someone is already ready for the airing of grievances.