Ice cold Kevin Durant opens door, Mavericks walk through it to even series 1-1

2 Comments

How cold was Kevin Durant shooting from the floor in Game 2 of the Thunder’s series against the Mavericks?

Sometimes a picture — or in this case, a shot chart — is worth 1,000 words.

Durant shot chart

Forget the adjustments that Dallas made — and Rick Carlisle made a few good ones — that picture shows what opened the door for Dallas, a 7-of-33 shooting night from one of the usually best in the game. Behind 21 points from Raymond Felton and 17 from Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas barely got through that door for an 85-84 win.

The first-round series is now tied 1-1 headed to Dallas for Game 3.

Credit a Mavericks team that Felton said postgame was “embarrassed” with their Game 1 effort (as they should have been). Monday night they were more physical and defended better, for example they contested 28 of Durant’s 33 shots, and he hit just six of those. But Durant usually hits contested shots before breakfast, and with the game on the line late he missed two clean looks — one to tie and one to win.

Off that second miss, Wesley Matthews (also an ice-cold 3-of-11 on the night) pulled the rebound away from him, went the length of the court and hit the layup in front of Steven Adams — the shot that put Dallas up four and would prove to be the game-winner.

That’s because Durant did hit a three (notice the one yellow patch in the shot chart) to make it a one-point game with 9.5 seconds left. A couple of quick fouls (OKC had one to give) sent Felton to the line to try to stretch out the lead, but he missed both. Russell Westbrook pushed the ball up the court looking for the win, he dished to Durant who missed the contested layup, Westbrook missed the tip in, and then Adams did not miss a second offensive rebound and lay-up — but he got his off just a split second after the buzzer (see the video above).

Carlisle’s biggest adjustment was going with the athleticism and youth that propelled Dallas into the playoffs with a late-season run — Salah Mejri and Justin Anderson. Dallas’ veteran core can be old and slow (see Game 1 for reference), but the two rookies brought energy and some highlight plays. Anderson was picking up Durant full court and being physical to knock him off his game. Mejri impact can be seen this way — he was +17 on the night (tied with Devin Harris for the team high).

Now it falls to Billy Donovan to make adjustments for the Thunder. Which he will do. But all he really needs is his two stars not to combine to shoot 15-of-55 on the night and things will look a lot better for the Thunder.

Timberwolves win first road game in 52 days, top Heat (video)

Leave a comment

MIAMI — Jordan McLaughlin’s layup with just under nine seconds left put Minnesota ahead for good, D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 27 points and the Timberwolves added to Miami’s late-season stagger by beating the Heat 129-126 on Wednesday night.

Malik Beasley scored 21 points, Juancho Hernangomez tied a season-high with 17 and McLaughlin added 13 for Minnesota. The Timberwolves were down by 12 with 3:59 left, then closed on a 20-5 run to get just their second victory in 20 games.

Jimmy Butler’s two free throws with 13.8 seconds left put Miami up 126-125, but McLaughlin’s layup on the next Minnesota possession put the Timberwolves on top to stay. Butler’s layup with 3.2 seconds left got blocked by Russell, and the Wolves held on.

Minnesota snapped a nine-game road losing streak, getting its first road victory since beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 5.

Kendrick Nunn led Miami with 24 points. Bam Adebayo had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Butler — back after a two-game absence for personal reasons — had 18 for Miami. The Heat fell to 23-4 at home and have dropped seven of their last nine overall.

The Heat stayed a half-game ahead of Philadelphia in the race for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Philadelphia lost in Cleveland earlier Wednesday, a game where 76ers star Joel Embiid departed early because of a shoulder injury.

The Heat have had major trouble closing games of late — a 22-point lead late in the third quarter against Cleveland on Monday was frittered away in what probably was the worst loss of the season, until now anyway — and a long film session and meeting on Tuesday clearly didn’t solve the issue.

They were up 121-109 with 3:59 left, and 123-112 after a layup by Butler 24 seconds later.

And Minnesota — a team that came into the night with one win in a span of 48 days — still wasn’t finished off. The Timberwolves scored the next 11 points to tie the game, getting five of those points from Beasley and a tying free throw from McLaughlin with 46 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Minnesota’s 27 attempts from 3-point range in the first two quarters was a first-half franchise record. … The Wolves are 4-0 in road games against Southeast Division teams this season, and 6-19 in all other road contests.

Heat: Adebayo played through a sprained right ankle, pushing his consecutive-game streak to 144 — extending the fourth-longest such streak in team history. … Goran Dragic’s first basket was a 3-pointer, and that pushed him one point past Grant Long (5,473) for 10th on the Heat career scoring list. … Nunn got his third consecutive rookie of the month trophy in a brief halftime ceremony.

JOHNSON RETURNS

Wednesday marked James Johnson’s first game back in Miami since the trade that sent him to Minnesota earlier this month, a move that sent Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to Miami from Memphis. “I think Minnesota is seeing what kind of versatility he can bring to the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

LOOKING AHEAD

A large contingent of fans from Slovenia were in attendance Wednesday — and more are coming Friday, when the Heat play host to the Dallas Mavericks. At last season’s Dallas-at-Miami game, more than 2,000 Slovenians were in attendance to watch their nation’s two best NBA players, Dragic and Dallas star Luka Doncic, go head-to-head.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: At Orlando on Friday night.

Heat: Host Dallas on Friday night.

Trae Young blocks 7-foot Mo Bamba at rim (video)

Leave a comment

Trae Young might be the NBA’s worst defender.

He’s small (6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-3 wingspan). His athleticism is far from imposing. He also carries a massive load for the Hawks offensively, leaving little energy for defense.

But he still blocked 7-foot Magic center Mo Bamba at the rim.

Not a great moment for Bamba.

Joel Embiid leaves 76ers game with shoulder injury (video)

Leave a comment

Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons?

The debate has gained attention this season after the 76ers spent years retooling around their stars. The answer clearly isn’t neither. But that’s what Philadelphia now faces.

With Simmons already injured, Embiid got hurt in the 76ers’ game against the Cavaliers tonight.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Losing Embiid for an extended period would be a huge blow to Philadelphia, especially with Simmons already out. The 76ers (fifth place, half a game out of fourth) are right on the edge of getting home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Embiid had been playing so well lately. This is an especially tough time for a setback.

At least Philadelphia has depth to cope. Al Horford can easily slide from power forward to center. Tobias Harris might be better off at power forward than small forward, anyway. This is where Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, acquired just before the trade deadline, come in handy as additional wing options. Kyle O'Quinn can also play behind Horford.

But the loss of talent is the biggest development, and there’s no overcoming that until Embiid and Simmons get healthy.

Zach LaVine: Trash talk directed at Dennis Schroder, not Bulls coach Jim Boylen

Leave a comment

During the Bulls’ loss to the Thunder yesterday, Zach LaVine appeared to say, “I have f—ing 40 points!”

Many assumed LaVine was snapping at Chicago coach Jim Boylen. But LaVine clarified his target was Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroder.

Eric Woodyard of ESPN:

I take LaVine at his word.

Want to make a case LaVine dislikes Boylen? You’ll just have to point to all the other evidence.