For second straight game, Thunder come from 24-points (or more) down to win

Leave a comment

OKLAHOMA CITY — The same Thunder team that began the season losing close games on a regular basis now has figured out how to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and win.

Dennis Schroder scored 31 points, and Oklahoma City overcame a 24-point deficit and beat the Memphis Grizzlies 126-122 on Wednesday night.

Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander each scored 20 points and Chris Paul added 18 for the Thunder, who rallied from 26 points down to beat the Chicago Bulls on Monday.

According to the Thunder, Oklahoma City is the only NBA team in the past 20 years to overcome deficits of at least 24 points in consecutive games and win both. The Thunder will take the wins, but they’d prefer to avoid the extra drama.

“It feels good,” Schroder said. “Two of them. You can’t rely on it. We’ve just got to come out better in the first quarter. But it was good. We can go home and enjoy the time but we’ve got to be better for 48 (minutes).”

Schroder scored 22 points in the second half.

“I think Dennis was — not to gas him up or nothing — but that was inspiring tonight,” Paul said. “On a night where we sort of don’t have the energy, don’t have the mojo — just sitting over there watching how hard he was playing and the energy he was playing with, it forced everybody else to get on board.”

Brandon Clarke scored 27 points, Jonas Valanciunas scored 24 and Ja Morant added 22 for the Grizzlies.

“Tough one for us tonight,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Obviously, great job building that big lead. Credit the Thunder. They played a heck of a second half. Their bench was phenomenal. Just a little short tonight.”

The Thunder got off to another shaky start on Wednesday. Memphis shot 54% in the first half and took a 68-59 lead at the break. Valanciunas and Morant each scored 13 points for the Grizzlies while Gallinari scored 11 points for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City did not score for three minutes to start the third quarter, and Memphis took an 80-59 lead. The Grizzlies’ largest lead was 89-65.

The Thunder surged at the end of the third quarter. Abdel Nader hit a 3-pointer with nine seconds left, then Schroder stole the inbound pass and Gilgeous-Alexander hit a 16-footer at the buzzer to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to 100-93.

“That was a momentum switch for sure,” Jenkins said.

Oklahoma City finally took the lead on a pull-up jumper by Schroder with just over eight minutes to play.

Paul’s short jumper gave the Thunder a 122-120 lead in the final minute. Memphis could have tied the game, but Morant and Clarke missed in close and Schroder made two free throws at the other end for Oklahoma City to push the Thunder lead to four.

After a dunk by Clarke, Schroder was fouled with 7.5 seconds to go, and he made both free throws to give the Thunder control for good.

NBA players’ union votes to support formation of G-League union

Kyrie Irving
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Better pay. Better working conditions. Not to be treated as disposable parts by their employers.

The players in the G-League want the same thing out of a union that auto workers, teachers, and (most obviously) NBA players do. As had been expected (talks had been going on for a while), on Monday the National Basketball Players Association (the NBA players’ union) voted to support the formation of a G-League union, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The G-League players are expected to support this. Sources have told NBC Sports that team and league officials will not oppose the players unionizing, they believe there will be benefits, too.

The primary issue will be pay. Most players in the G-League earn a $35,000 salary, unless they’re an elite high school prospect, or on a two-way contract (which means they are tied to an NBA team and can be called up for 45 days a season). Some players make more through an Exhibit 10 contract with a team — meaning they go to training camp with a team, then get a bonus ($50,000 or so) if they sign with that team’s G-League team.

Other issues would include freedom of player movement, work benefits, and giving the players a voice in other matters like discipline issues.

The NBA continues to push toward each of its teams having a minor-league affiliate. Right now, only the Trail Blazers and Nuggets do not. As the G-League grows, it’s understandable the players want a larger voice in how things are run.

In other news out of the players’ union meeting, Kyrie Irving was voted in as vice president, replacing Paul Gasol. Via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Chris Paul remains the union president.

Check out Dr. Dre’s Kobe Bryant tribute

Leave a comment

CHICAGO — In a weekend filled with spectacular tributes to Kobe Bryant, this one stood out.

Legendary rapper, songwriter, record producer, and businessman Dr. Dre — a guy who grew up in Los Angeles — released a tribute that stood out (and was highlighted on TNT). Dre did this with Gibson Hazard and Jackson Bannon.

Kobe’s public memorial service takes place Feb. 24 at Staples Center.

Giannis Antetokounmpo on team’s All-Star plan: Attack James Harden

Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden
Lampson Yip - Clicks Images/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHICAGO – James Harden has griped about Giannis Antetokounmpo winning Most Valuable Player last year.

After his team lost to Harden’s in the All-Star game Sunday, Antetokounmpo got in a dig at Harden.

“Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding,” Antetokounmpo said of his team’s strategy late. “That’s who we thought we’d have the opportunity to score on.”

Harden is not a good defender. But this is playing right into his hands. He’s at his best in isolation, especially in the post. He faces far more difficulty when run through actions off the ball or trying to keep up in transition.

Down the stretch, Harden defended more effectively than usual. Not great, but above his usual standard. Good enough for LeBron James‘ team to win.

At least, as Giannis previously noted, the MVP trophy is at his house.

Report: John Beilein expected to decide on future as Cavaliers coach by Tuesday

Cavaliers coach John Beilein
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

John Beilein is considering resigning as Cavaliers coach.

They play Friday.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN on Sunday night:

The Cleveland Cavaliers and John Beilein have discussed the possibility of the coach stepping down before the end of the All-Star break, and Beilein was expected to reach a decision in the next 24-48 hours, league sources told ESPN.

This is part of the larger problem with Beilein, but this wouldn’t be a difficult transition. Assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff already does so much. And players see Bickerstaff – who previously head-coached the Grizzlies – doing so much.

In his long career as a college head coach, Beilein never had a player on a clear NBA track from the moment he arrived on campus. Beilein has so little first-hand experience with NBA players’ temperaments, which can include disrespecting a head coach and turning to an assistant.

With this report public, it’s hard to see how Beilein maintains any credibility with Cavs players if he returns. When players know the coach is finished by the end of the season, they sometimes take license to rebel. Add the dynamic of knowing Beilein considered resigning earlier, and the last couple months of the season could be even messier than the first few.

At best, everyone would accept this miserable arrangement will end soon enough. Players would tune out Beilein and not make waves. And that’s at best! Not an ideal way to develop young players like Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr.