Smart leads Celtics past Thunder 100-85

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Marcus Smart scored a career-high 26 points to help the Boston Celtics beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-85 on Sunday night.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points, Avery Bradley had 14 and Jared Sullinger added eight points and 15 rebounds to help the Celtics win their third in four games. Boston shot 48 percent and outrebounded the Thunder 47-34.

Smart, who played college ball at nearby Oklahoma State, also guarded Russell Westbrook effectively. He was part of a collective effort that held the reigning scoring champion to 5-for-20 shooting. Westbrook still scored 27 points and carried a larger load with Kevin Durant out with a hamstring injury.

Serge Ibaka scored 16 points, and the Thunder had a season-low point total and their worst shooting performance.

Westbrook had posted triple-doubles in his previous two games but finished this one with just five assists and four rebounds.

Oklahoma City’s three-game win streak was snapped.

The Thunder led at halftime 52-45 behind 17 points from Westbrook. They pushed the lead to 11 early in the third quarter, but the Celtics rallied and trimmed their deficit to 74-72 by the end of the third quarter. Boston finally took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Thomas. Back-to-back 3s by Thomas and Avery Bradley pushed Boston’s lead to nine, and a layup by Thomas bumped it to double digits for the first time. The Celtics never lost control from there.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Smart got a technical with 1:47 left in the second quarter. … Brad Stevens coached at Butler before heading to the NBA to coach the Celtics and said he was impressed with Butler’s 144-71 win over The Citadel on Saturday night. … Boston made just 13 of 20 free throws. … F Kelly Olynyk fouled out with seven points.

Thunder: G Anthony Morrow got his second straight start in Durant’s place. He went scoreless in 14:56. … Kyle Singler had scored 18 points over his first eight games this season, but had eight Sunday. … There was a marriage proposal during Kiss Cam in the third quarter. … Westbrook and Dion Waiters were issued technicals in the second half.

 

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

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Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.

Chris Paul refutes report that Michele Roberts is no longer leading union

Michele Roberts, Chris Paul and Luol Deng
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
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Michele Roberts got a new four-year term as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association in 2018.

Yet, Peter Vecsey tweeted:

The NBPA responded with a statement on behalf of Chris Paul:

NBPA President Chris Paul’s response to the false information tweeted earlier this evening regarding NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts:

“Michele Roberts has been and continues to be our fearless leader. The Twitter post that is circulating suggesting Michele is no longer the NBPA Executive Director is untrue. A Search Firm has been hired to advise on union hiring and succession planning, which has not yet begun. In the meantime, the Executive Committee is proud to report that Michele remains the NBPA Executive Director, is very much “in power,” and continues to enjoy the support of our members!”

Roberts led the union through Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations in 2016. She appears active in running the union now.

Controversially, Roberts rejected cap smoothing when the new national TV deals sent revenue soaring. That adversely affected many union members, though benefited others.

Roberts and Paul have also sometimes prioritized stars, to the dismay of the rank-and-file.

But the overall health of the union appears strong, and Roberts and Paul remain in charge.

‘Off the Dribble’ names All-Sneakerhead team (video)

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On the latest episode of “Off the Dribble,” Jacque Slade named his All-Sneakerhead team. Spoiler alert: The NBA’s shoe king – Rockets forward P.J. Tucker – made it.

Watch to see who else earned a spot.