Thunder make spectacular plays, Grizzlies execute game plan better and take Game 2 on road

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Oklahoma City is simply more entertaining, more aesthetically pleasing to watch than Memphis. Thunder players can do the spectacular.

Like Kevin Durant hitting a ridiculous clutch four-point play late in regulation.

There were huge dunks by Russell Westbrook, high-flying blocks by Serge Ibaka and even a putback by Kendrick Perkins to send the game to overtime.

Through it all Memphis kept grinding. And executing — all night long Memphis was making the extra pass to the man left open on the weakside, all night long they got good looks because of it.

The offensive execution, the controlling of the tempo and strong defense earned Memphis a dramatic 111-105 road win in Game 2 of their playoff series.

This series is tied 1-1 and headed back to Memphis.

Mike Conley has been a favorite of the hard core basketball set for a couple years now and showed why on a national stage Monday — he controlled the tempo which limited the Thunder’s fast break attempts, he got in the lane and broke down the Thunder defense, and when needed he hit buckets. Conley finished with 19 points and 12 assists, plus did a good job defending Russell Westbrook.

Zach Randolph added 25 points, a number of those key buckets late when his man went to help on Conley or another Griz player in the lane. Courtney Lee and Marc Gasol each had 16. Beno Udrih came in to spell Conley and was brilliant on his way to 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

OKC lacked that kind of balance. Durant had 36, Westbrook 29 and Ibaka 15 (Ibaka had the best overall game of any OKC player), and that’s it for Thunder players in double figures. As a team OKC shot 39.8 percent on the night and was 9-of-30 from three.

Memphis shot 49.4 percent and had an offensive rating of 117 on the night because of how they moved the ball. They were methodical, looking for the extra pass and the open look — much of the night the Thunder tried to overload the pick-and-roll to frustrate Conley but Memphis moved the ball to the weak side quickly and made OKC pay the price.

That’s what won the game. That’s not what anybody will talk about, rather they will discuss the wild ending.

There were moments late in regulation where Memphis tried to isolate Randolph on Perkins, and it worked once when Perkins got trapped under basket but made pass out to Gasol for bucket. However on the next one Perkins got a block that became a Westbrook steal then a Durant dunk that put the Thunder up one. If felt like they would run away with it.

But the Grizzlies kept grinding. Soon after Mike Miller hit a three off a kick out on an offensive rebound and with that the Grizzlies were up 95-93. Soon after Tony Allen was hustling over the top of a pick to block a Kevin Durant three, the Grizzlies, and after a couple Conley free throws it was a five point Grizzlies lead. They were in control.

Then Kevin Durant and his four-point play happened.

It was still a one point Memphis lead but when Conley missed a free throw it opened the door for OKC to tie or win at the end of regulation. Kendrick Perkins was put in and we all shook our heads — why sub in a guy that the Grizzlies don’t have to guard? And when Westbrook missed a three, it was Perkins under the basket with the outback to send the game to OT.

A lot of teams would have folded after giving it up late like that. Not Memphis, it just grinds on. The Grizzlies scored the first six points of overtime.

There was plenty more drama to come — Durant got away with a charge, Gasol got away with a kicked ball, and then Gasol fouled out on a ticky-tack call for that late in the game (Durant was off balance and fell).

But then Memphis just kept grinding like they did all night — Conley drove and drew the defense, Tony Allen made a brilliant cut and as he went up to shoot the help came after him, he dumped to the weak side to Randolph and it was a layup.

Ibaka traveled on the next Thunder possession and that was all she wrote.

This series was never going to be easy for OKC, and don’t be surprised if there is a Game 7 down the line. Memphis can grind like this every time out.

Watch Marcus Smart’s potential game-winner sit on rim, roll off, giving Kings’ win

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Boston came in on a 10-game winning streak where they had played well on both ends of the court, but they also got some lucky rolls of the basketball.

Not Sunday.

With Boston down one, Marcus Smart put up a floater as time expired in Sacramento, it looked like the shot would fall, and…

Give the Kings credit, at a rough start they have gone 5-2 in November, and that despite injuries to Marvin Bagley Jr. and De'Aaron Fox. Buddy Hield had 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three.

The Celtics had a balanced attack with six players in double figures, but their offense was not as sharp as it has been. This was the first game it looked like they missed Gordon Hayward, who is out with a fractured hand.

Report: This summer the Lakers, among others, were hoping Suns would buy out Aron Baynes

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Aron Baynes has been critical to the Suns racing out to a 7-4 start with the fourth-best net rating in the NBA. When Deandre Ayton was suspended for 25 games (after testing positive for a diuretic, a banned substance), Baynes has stepped up and been exactly what the Suns needed. He is scoring 15 points per game, shooting 46.5 percent from three (which is opening up the floor for guys like Devin Booker), and providing a big body defensive presence in the paint.

You can see why the Lakers and other teams were hoping Baynes would hit the market this summer. From Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Suns center Aron Baynes has emerged as a cornerstone piece for Phoenix early this season, supplying defense, leadership and, yes, shot-making. Phoenix acquired Baynes on draft night, and in the weeks to come contenders such as the Lakers hoped Baynes would reach a buyout with the Suns to hit the open market, sources said. Suns general manager James Jones and new head coach Monty Williams wanted Baynes — and are now receiving the rewards for the offseason move. Through 11 games, Baynes is averaging 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 46.8 percent 3-point shooting (two 3s made per game). Baynes will enter free agency next July, and as one team executive said, “He is positioning himself for well over $10 million per year.”

Smart move by Phoenix’s management to hold on to Baynes as an Ayton insurance policy (one they ended up needing). Plus, when trying to change a team’s culture (as Jones and Williams are working to do in Phoenix), you can’t have enough hardworking professionals in the locker room. Baynes brings that.

The Lakers thought they would have DeMarcus Cousins in the paint, but he tore his ACL over the summer. The tag team of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee has worked surprisingly well for Los Angeles to start the season.

In what will be a down free-agent market next summer, Baynes is going to be in demand. His payday is coming.

Dion Waiters on suspension: ‘It’s a minor setback. It happens. It’s life.’

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Dion Waiters has yet to set foot on the court for the Miami Heat this season and is currently sitting out a 10-game suspension by the team for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He is not suspended for the gummy bears incident, but rather a series of team infractions (remember he was suspended for opening night, too, after a run-in with coach Erik Spoelstra). However, the fact this suspension came after that well-publicized disruption to the Heat is not a coincidence.

With his time off, Waiters went back to Syracuse, where he played in college, to talk to his old coach Jim Boeheim, someone Waiters sees as a father figure.

While there, Waiters talked about his suspension publicly for the first time,  speaking with Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com.

“I just wanted to come up and talk to Coach,” Waiters said. “I know that’s a person who will always be there for me if I ever need anything. It’s a chance for me to come up, be around, talk to the coaches, things like that. And that’s important….

“I’m not going to lie to you, I’m in a great place,” he said. “I can only control what I can control at the end of the day, so some things you just can’t allow to take your head the other way, some things happen for a reason. If you stay locked in, if you believe and trust in yourself, trust in the work you put in, you know, it’s a minor setback. It happens. It’s life. You learn from it. The only thing I can do is move forward. Stay focused. Stay even-keeled. Let everything else take care of itself.”

Some will want to read that as Waiters being dismissive, but in reality this is the attitude Miami wants Waiters to have — that he can move on, get past whatever issues are going on between him and the team, and come back to bolster the Miami rotation.

That said, thanks to the impressive play from rookies Kendrick Nunna Heat-style player right out of central casting — and Tyler Herro, Miami hasn’t been hurting for quality guard play. Waiters, when he returns, is going to have to earn his spot in the rotation.

How did Paul George score 70 points in 44 minutes? ‘I got new shoulders’

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Paul George is back.

Not that he really went all that far away, the man did finish third in MVP voting last season, but he faded at the end of that campaign due to shoulder pain, which led to both shoulders being operated on during the offseason. That delayed his entry into the 2019-20 NBA season by a few weeks.

He has come back looking smooth: He scored 37 points in 20 minutes against Atlanta, the most points scored in fewer than 21 minutes played in NBA history. PG13 has scored 70 points in 44 minutes across the two games with an 80.9 true shooting percentage, hitting 56.3 percent from three, and he scored the most points in a Clippers home debut (37).

How is he doing it?

“I got new shoulder. I can’t say nothing else to that, I got new shoulders. And they haven’t been this healthy in a long time.”

George has looked fluid on the court, playing great defense and clearly just having fun out there.

The Clippers have yet to play George and Kawhi Leonard at the same time because pain in Leonard’s knee has kept him in street clothes the past two games.

The Clippers have George on a minutes limit right now and are letting Leonard have all the time off he wants (George will ultimately get some load management nights, too). While that’s led to pushback from some fans — and LeBron James, trying to score some PR points on the other team in town — the Clippers shrug it off. They don’t have their sites set on November wins, they are targeting April, May, and they hope June.

George already looks in peak playoff form.