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.

Coach of the Year predictions: Quin Snyder, Brad Stevens, or maybe Doc Rivers?

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the start of the NBA season just more than a week away — it’s predictions time. We’ll be covering most of the postseason awards between now and the opening tip of the NBA season.

As a disclaimer, we get it: making NBA preseason awards predictions is like nailing Jell-O to a tree. We’ll be wrong. But it’s fun, so the NBA staff here at NBC is making our picks. Today…

COACH OF THE YEAR

Kurt Helin Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz). This race, like the NBA itself this season, is wide open. And also like the NBA this year, don’t sleep on Utah’s coach picking up some hardware. Outside of that guy in San Antonio, no coach has built a better system and culture than Snyder has in Utah. He has constructed an elite defense around Rudy Gobert owning the paint. On offense, the Jazz can’t just throw the ball to a Stephen Curry or James Harden, so Snyder has implemented a ball and player movement system that keeps defenses off balance. Utah won 50 games last season and this season adds quality veterans in Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic — guys who will fit in with that culture. The Jazz are a high profile, potential contending team this season because of what Snyder has built, and the improved status will have voters wanting to recognize Snyder.

Dan Feldman: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics).  Stevens is a good coach. He has flaws, most notably recently his inability to connect with a star like Kyrie Irving. Irving can be particularly difficult to coach, but some of his issues follow most top talents. Stevens will have to show growth in his ability to guide a championship contender. But with these Celtics, Stevens can coach to his strengths — communicating clear roles to his players in a sound scheme. There’s a clear path for Boston to have a good record in the East, and credit for Stevens would likely follow.

Dane Delgado: Alvin Gentry (New Orleans Pelicans). The New Orleans Pelicans have a tough road ahead, with several new players and an outstanding rookie that still needs to get accustomed to life in the NBA. But there’s a lot of hope in The Big Easy that Zion Williamson and the Pelicans will be a postseason team this year, and you can count me in the camp of folks who believe New Orleans will make that leap in it 2019-20. If that’s the case, head coach Alvin Gentry will be tops on the list out west to take home the award for best coach in the NBA. Gentry has a bit of a head start — he’s a proven coach, and last year his team battled admirably through the Anthony Davis trade fiasco. If Gentry can go from 33 wins to the playoffs, one season removed from losing a franchise cornerstone player, I’m not sure who else would even challenge him for Coach of the Year.

Harrison and Brittany Barnes to pay for funeral of Atataina Jefferson

Instagram
1 Comment

Harrison Barnes now plays for the Sacramento Kings, but he and wife Brittany still have ties back in Texas. Barnes played for two-and-a-half seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, and now the couple is stepping in to help the community back in Dallas in a big way.

According to multiple reports, the Barneses have offered to pay for the funeral of Atatiana Jefferson, a Texas woman shot and killed by a Forth Worth Police Department officer last week.

That officer, Aaron Dean, has since resigned and been charged with Jefferson’s murder.

Via Twitter:

Jefferson was reportedly watching her 8-year-old nephew when a neighbor called in a welfare check to the non-emergency police line. The neighbor noticed her door was open, and police responded at 2:25 a.m.

From NBC News:

Body camera footage shows the perspective of the officer outside the home, peering inside a window using a flashlight, spotting someone inside standing near a window and telling her, “Put your hands up — show me your hands,” before shooting seconds later. At no point does he identify himself as an officer.

This is extremely generous on the part of the Barnes family and another example of how players can come to grow close to the places they play in.

Lakers exercise 4th-year contract option on Kyle Kuzma

Getty
Leave a comment

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Lakers have exercised their contract option on forward Kyle Kuzma for the 2020-21 season.

The Lakers made the move Thursday on Kuzma, who is currently out with a foot injury suffered while playing for USA Basketball during the summer.

Kuzma was the 27th overall pick in the 2017 draft out of Utah. He has become a solid NBA scorer, putting up 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds last season while starting 68 games for the Lakers.

Kuzma will make over $3.56 million next season in the fourth-year option of his rookie contract. He is making $1.97 million this season.

The Lakers expect Kuzma to return to action soon. He has been cleared for noncontact basketball activities.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-NBA

John Wall will be an assistant coach for the Wizards this season

AP
2 Comments

John Wall won’t be playing for the Washington Wizards of this season, but he will have a chance to do something for the team that’s helpful. With Bradley Beal back on board after signing a 2-year, max-level extension, Wall will be helping coach Scott Brooks from the sidelines.

According to a new story from NBC Sports Washington, Wall will be helping Brooks this season in an assistant coaching role. For his part, Wall has said that he is excited about the opportunity, and that it’s a chance to see what his life after basketball might hold when it comes to potentially getting into coaching.

Via NBC Sports Washington:

“I think this year will tell me whether I can be a coach or not,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast.

“I think you have to have a lot of patience and you’ve gotta know how to interact with every player. Every player’s attitudes and character and mood swings are totally different. I learned from when a coach tried to coach me when I was young and I wasn’t the guy to coach.”

This is a good idea to keep Wall around the team and engaged. It would be sort of weird if Wall just wasn’t around while he did rehab, then expected to come back as the top dog next season.

He may never be the player he was before his injury, but if Wall remains with Brooks on the sideline for the remainder of the season it would mean he’s at least committed to taking the culture seriously in D.C. That, or he doesn’t want Beal to usurp his throne.