How do the Thunder deal with Tony Parker?

12 Comments

We can sometimes overanalyze what happened in a regular season game when trying to look at a playoff matchp. It’s like comparing Suzanne Collins and José Saramago novels, technically they are the same art form but one of these things is not like the other.

However, the Feb. 4 meeting of the Spurs and Thunder provides some interesting insights into what we might see starting Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals — specifically how the Thunder try to deal with Tony Parker.

In that game, on orders from coach Gregg Popovich to attack Russell Westbrook, Parker had 42 points on 29 shots, had 9 assists, got to the line a dozen times and carved up the Thunder defense like your dad on a Thanksgiving turkey. The Spurs won. Then this week Parker added this:

“We’re definitely going to go at (Westbrook). It’s not going to be like Dallas or the Lakers,” Parker said. “Their point guards are not as aggressive. It’s going to be a little bit different. We’re going to go at him.”


Westbrook told the Oklahoman he remembered that February game.

“It was a bad game,” Westbrook said when asked what he remembers about that night. “It was a bad game for our team. We got out sluggish, kind of let them do what they wanted to do, especially Tony Parker.”

That’s a tad short on details for my taste. Fortunately, Zach Lowe at Sports Illustrated has more details and information than you’ll know what to do with in his breakdown of the Thunder and Parker.

Westbrook, however, can be jumpy against the pick-and-roll, and the Spurs know this… In pick-and-r0lls involving Westbrook, Parker often waits an extra beat as the screen is set to see if the Thunder point guard will try to get a jump on the play by lunging in the direction he thinks Parker will go — usually in the direction of the pick. Parker had great success waiting for that lunge and then going against the pick, leaving Westbrook hopelessly behind. Or, if Westbrook’s aggressive sliding took him far above the pick, Parker would dribble at him, cross over and split defenders on his way into the paint.
The Thunder’s standard defense against Parker offered a second way for him to attack: by going full speed at the big man helping against the pick-and-roll. The cliché about Parker is that he is a shaky long-range shooter, and that opponents should go under picks, daring him to shoot jumpers. But the Thunder did not defend Parker this way. They mostly had Westbrook chase Parker over the pick, while the man defending the screener slid over to contain Parker’s dribble penetration….

The strategy concedes the pick-and-pop jumper, and Duncan get several wide-open looks at jump shots against the Thunder. But having Duncan shoot 20-footers — some of which the Thunder could contest by crashing from the wing — is a better outcome for Oklahoma City than having Parker get into the paint, break down the defense and find a layup or wide-open shooter.

Go read Lowe’s entire post.I’ll wait.

This starts to explain why I think San Antonio will win this series — the Thunder can’t really stop them, the Spurs are too efficent. Right now the Spurs’ ball movement in situations like that is incredible. Duncan may hit that 20 footer, or he may make a pass to the next guy to hit a corner three or drain another shot of choice. The Spurs are getting and incredible 1.18 points per possession on spot up jumpers in the playoffs because they are getting the jumpers they want. If they do that against Oklahoma City, the Thunder will struggle to keep up with the scoring.

Which comes back to why I think Westbrook is the key to the series — he has to dent Parkers’ efficiency on one end and create a lot of offense on the other end.

It’s a big task. Spurs are relentless on offense. As athletic and talented as the Spurs are, I’m not sure they can keep up. I just keep flashing back to the original Terminaor movie and seeing the Spurs offense.

Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Watch best of Wendell Carter Jr. at Summer League

Associated Press
Leave a comment

I will own my mistake: Coming into the NBA Draft I was not high on Wendell Carter Jr., particularly how well he would defend at the NBA level.

I missed on that one — he has impressed me and everyone else in Las Vegas at Summer League. While nobody should ever read too much into Summer League perormances, he has shown potential on both ends of the court. Check out his highlights above

His offensive game is everything that was advertised — versatile and polished. He has nailed turnarounds in the post, can score with either hand, has a jump shot with real range, and he is a smart and willing passer. Defensively he has been physical, works hard and uses his athleticism to be dispruptive.

We will see how he fares against NBA-level competition (and how he pairs with Jabari Parker and the rest of the Bulls frontcourt), but the work ethic and tools are there. The Bulls may have something in Carter Jr.

Stephen Curry nailing putts, doing shimmy at American Century Championship

Leave a comment

If there’s one thing Stephen Curry loves as much as draining a 28-foot three over the outstretched arms of a defender, it’s golf. Curry is a golf fanatic.

Which is why he never misses — and always has fun at — the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. And when he makes a putt, he will do a little shimmy, as you can see above.

Curry is currently tied for 19th in the tournament. The highest NBA player on the leaderboard is retired sharpshooter Ray Allen at seventh, and on top of the leaderboard heading into the final day is San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski.

You can watch the final round live on NBC at 3 ET Sunday.

Here’s Curry and his father Dell talking a little golf and family.

And here is Curry talking a little golf before the tournament.

NBA Summer League down to elite 8 in tournament format

Associated Press
Leave a comment

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The NBA Summer League has its elite eight.

The quarterfinals were set by the end of play Saturday, and include a few surprises.

Philadelphia and Toronto, the two lowest seeds in the 30-team tournament, both pulled out close games Saturday to stay alive. Toronto, the No. 29 seed that was winless in the preliminary round, has put together two straight wins in the tournament and will face 12th-seeded Cleveland and rookie Collin Sexton, who like Lonzo Ball last year is a highly touted point guard trying to win a summer title.

No. 27 Memphis is next up for Philadelphia. Detroit, the No. 25 seed, is also still alive.

The top-seeded Lakers and No. 2 Portland had byes into the quarterfinals. No other single-digit seeds remain in the field.

Saturday’s results:

76ERS 91, BUCKS 89

Furkan Korkmaz scored eight of his 19 points in the final 40 seconds, including the go-ahead points on a three-point play with 3.6 seconds left for the No. 30 seed 76ers (2-3).

Jonah Bolden added 13 points and eight rebounds and Isaiah Miles scored 12 points for Philadelphia.

Christian Wood had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the 14th-seeded Bucks (2-3). Sterling Brown added 15 points, Trae Bell Haynes scored 13 and Tim Quarterman 12.

The 76ers will play the Grizzlies in the quarterfinals.

CAVALIERS 92, ROCKETS 87

Collin Sexton shook off a 5-for-17 night to score 17 points for the Cavaliers (4-1). The No. 8 pick in the draft had scored 25 in the first round of the tournament.

Scoochie Smith also scored 17, Jamel Artis had 13 and Billy Preston 12 for Cleveland.

Danuel House finished with 30 points for the fifth-seeded Rockets (4-1) in their first loss of the summer.

RAPTORS 87, HORNETS 84, OT

Rawle Alkins made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in overtime and finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors (2-3). Rookie Malachi Richardson added 14 points.

Dwayne Bacon had 28 points and rookie Miles Bridges added 18 points and 11 rebounds despite shooting just 5 for 20 from the field for the Hornets (3-2).

CELTICS 74, HEAT 72

Pierria Henry scored 15 points and Guerschon Yabusele had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the 10th-seeded Celtics (4-1).

They advanced to meet second-seeded Portland.

Boston turned to its defense again, limiting Miami to fewer than 20 points in all but the fourth quarter, when the Heat scored 22.

Derrick Walton Jr. finished with 15 points for the Heat (2-3), but missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the No. 6 seed to the quarterfinals.

PISTONS 72, BULLS 66

Henry Ellenson scored 21 points and No. 25-seeded Detroit (3-2) advanced to a quarterfinal matchup against the top-seeded Lakers.

Antonio Blakeney scored 24 points for the Bulls (2-3). Rookie Chandler Hutchison had 11 points for the No. 24 seeds.

Rookie lottery pick Wendell Carter Jr. grabbed 16 rebounds but shot just 1 for 8 for six points.

GRIZZLIES 92, JAZZ 86

Second-round pick Jevon Carter had 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals for Memphis (3-2). Markel Crawford scored 19 points, hitting 5 of 8 from 3-point range, and first-round pick Jaren Jackson Jr. had nine points, nine rebounds and seven blocks for the No. 27 seed Grizzlies. Kobi Simmons added 13 points.

Georges Niang led 22nd-seeded Utah (2-3) with 18 points and nine rebounds, Trey Lewis was 4 of 6 on 3-pointers and finished with 16 points. Naz Mitrou-Long scored 14.

Jackson made a layup and then Crawford and Carter hit back-to-back 3s to spark an 11-2 run that gave Memphis a 91-81 lead with 24 seconds left.

The Grizzlies will play No. 30 seed Philadelphia in the quarterfinals.

 

Sixers’ Furkan Korkmaz comes up huge in clutch for Summer League win

Leave a comment

Furkan Korkmaz played a total of 80 minutes for the Sixers since the 2016 first-round pick joined the NBA.

But in Summer League he came up huge in the clutch for Philadelphia n Saturday.

Korkmaz had a series of crucial late plays and finished with a team-high 19 points on the Sixers win. That includes the and-1 game winning drive — check it out above in a highlight package.