Harrison Barnes: Thunder, not Cavaliers or Warriors, were best team in 2016 playoffs

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In 2015-16, the defending-champion Warriors went an NBA-record 73-9. They were rightfully generating discussion as the best team of all time.

Then, suddenly they fell behind 3-1 to the Thunder in the Western Conference finals. Oklahoma City won Game 3 by 28 and Game 4 by 24.

Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes, who played for Golden State that year, via Road Trippin’:

My opinion is that OKC was probably the best team in the playoffs that year. I mean they were rolling, and we just didn’t have an answer for them. If Klay doesn’t have that crazy Game 6, if he just doesn’t have that crazy game, they were going to the Finals. I mean the way they were built, they were on. Rebounding, scoring – they were doing it all.

This isn’t Barnes slighting the Warriors because they let him walk to sign Kevin Durant. Andre Iguodala, who remained with Golden State, said the same thing.

And they’re right.

As good as the Warriors were throughout the year, the Thunder reached a level in the first four games of the conference finals unmatched by any team that season – including the Cavaliers, who won the title. Led by Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City overwhelmed Golden State with elite athleticism, skill and execution.

The Thunder came back to Earth just enough to allow a comeback. The Warriors won Game 5 at home and Klay Thompson‘s 41 points carried them to a Game 6 win in Oklahoma City. Then, Golden State finished the comeback in Game 7 at home.

The Warriors then blew their own 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, to Cleveland – clearing the way for Durant to sign with Golden State.

No matter how he spins it or what other reasons he had, Durant signed with the best team.

But, for a week that spring, he was already on the best team.

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.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.