It was what made Dallas’ run to the championship last year so special — at the end of games they always seemed to make the right play, Dirk Nowitzki always seemed to hit the shot.
In two games against Oklahoma City, it has been the opposite. In Game 2, Nowitzki had a wide-open look at a three and missed it. He is 0-3 in the final two minutes of this playoff series when the score is within five points (according to the NBA’s on stats database). Jason Terry is 1-3 in that same situation.
At the other end of the court, Kevin Durant is 2-3 in that same situation, even if one of those shots had to touch a lot of the rim to go down. Serge Ibaka is 2-2 and James Harden has gotten to the free throw line four times (and hit them all).
This has been an incredibly close and entertaining first round playoff series, which is was last year but now the roles have reversed on who can close out well. All season Dallas has been pretty pedestrian at the end of games (which is being kind, they are one of the worst shooting teams at the ends of games this year by the NBA’s own stats), but if they don’t do it Thursday night in Game 3 they can start booking their family vacations for next week.
The real hero in this series for Oklahoma City has been Russell Westbrook, averaging 28.5 points per game. Westbrook is a tough defensive match for Jason Kidd but Dallas has done a good job forcing Westbrook to be a jump shooter. The problem is he is 15-27 (55.6 percent) from 10 feet out to the arc (according to Hoopdata). When a guy that fast is knocking down his jumpers, he’s impossible to stop.
And at some point, you know Kevin Durant will find his shot (he is 15-44 this series). Part of the credit there should go to Shawn Marion for his defense, which has been so good he mmay get time on Westbrook in Game 3, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
Jason Terry has called this the Game 7 for the Mavericks, which it is in a lot of ways. Lose and they are done. But can these Mavericks find that old spark, especially late in the game? Maybe. You know it’s going to be close if the first two games are any indication.
The Hawks’ rebuild got going with big John Collins. Though they’re reportedly eying Luka Doncic with the No. 3 pick, they could easily draft another big – Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba, Marvin Bagley or Wendell Carter.
And then there’s veteran center Dewayne Dedmon.
He no longer fits in Atlanta (never did, really). But he’s not bypassing a chance to earn $6.3 million.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
There just wasn’t going to be that much money for the 28-year-old Dedmon in a tight market this summer.
Dedmon is a good defender, and he developed his ball skills – as a 3-point shooter and passer – in Atlanta last season. The Hawks could look to trade him. Maybe, in a deal primarily about his expiring contract, he adds extra value to the other team due to his playing ability.
If Atlanta doesn’t move him, Dedmon will be a fine player on a likely tanking team. At least he’s not good enough to subvert the Hawks’ tank, especially with the new lottery format.
Nick Young will say and do nearly anything for attention.
Empowered by the Warriors’ championship, he swung for the fences when asked about Canada passing marijuana legalization.
Young, via TMZ:
“I want people to pass cocaine,” the NBA star told TMZ Sports outside 1 OAK on Tuesday night … “Everybody needs to do cocaine!”
Predictably, that caused a bit of an uproar. Then, Young backtracked:
Too late, Nick. People are already asking questions you don’t want asked.
The 76ers have too many 2018 draft picks – Nos. 10, 26, 38, 39, 56 and 60.
Philadelphia already has 11 players under contract for next season. Plus, the 76ers have the space to add premier players. There just isn’t room for everyone on the roster.
So, Philadelphia unloaded one of those selections.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
This is good return for the 76ers, who everyone knew had to trade a draft pick. The rebuilding Bulls could easily land a higher second-round pick than No. 39 next year.
Why do the Lakers want an extra second-rounder this year? Second-round picks don’t count against the cap until signed, and they can always slightly sweeten a trade offer. They’re helpful for a team with big plans and little wiggle room.
The Knicks have the No. 8 pick, and tomorrow’s draft will be the most important part of their offseason.
Will they also have cap space to add talent in free agency? That hinges on Enes Kanter‘s player option.
If Kanter opts out, New York will have even more room to operate thanks to Kyle O'Quinn declining his $4,256,250 player option.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The Knicks expected this for a while, and they’re probably not disappointed. Steve Mills and Scott Perry want to put their stamp on the franchise. O’Quinn is a leftover from the Phil Jackson era and a reminder of the recent tumult in New York.
O’Quinn’s combination of block percentage (6.1) and defensive-rebounding percentage (27.8) was unmatched last season. He just really struck a nice balance between contesting shots and remaining in position on the glass. He’s also a smooth mid-range shooter with an improved ability to distribute.
How much is that player worth?
It’ll be a tight market, especially for bigs. For his sake, I hope the 28-year-old O’Quinn already has assurances from other teams. He might get a similar salary or, more likely, a larger overall guarantee on a multi-year deal. But it’s also possible he comes out behind by testing free agency.