Russell Westbrook on Stephen Curry: “He’s not nothing I haven’t seen”

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Russell Westbrook is going to be matched up defensively on Stephen Curry (as he was almost every time they met the last couple seasons) when the Warriors and Thunder tip off Monday night. There will be switching and cross matching (a lot in this series), but it is not overstating the facts to say if Westbrook isn’t great defensively the Thunder cannot win.

Westbrook doesn’t lack for confidence. Here is what he said at shootaround Monday, via Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman.

If you didn’t watch the video, here is the money quote:

“He’s a shooter. He’s not nothing I haven’t seen. Him, (Damian) Lillard, guys like that can shoot the basketball from four or five feet behind the three. You got to do a little, different job. Just be physical.”

We’re just going to ignore the double negative.

You hear this a lot from casual fans, “teams should just push Curry around, he can’t handle it.” Yes, he can. He’s been handling it since Davidson. If you don’t think NBA teams have gone down this road before — and especially this season when the referees seemed to back off a few degrees on calling hand checking — then you haven’t been paying attention. It’s not that simple.

Tony Parker was able to create space at times against Westbrook last round (especially when they chased him over the top of picks for a while), but the result was mid-range jumpers, mostly. Do that to Curry and he will drive the rim harder (he’s become a good finisher inside), he will step back for the three, or he draws some help and then finds one of the four other shooters on the floor. Plus, if you’re Westbrook, get too physical, and you risk foul trouble.

Westbrook (and everyone) will try to make Curry put the ball on the floor and force him to drive. It’s what must be done, the Thunder can’t have Curry just raining threes, but it’s not easy to slow Curry even if you chase him off the line. Or the Warriors’ offense because Curry’s gravity draws defenders to him and it opens up shooting room for Klay Thompson, space for Draymond Green to be a playmaker, and a host of other problems.

But at least Westbrook is confident.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.