Archive for Net Proceeds

Darn Canadians

The Raptors, be they great or be they terrible, always find a way to get under the Thunder’s aggregate skin, and they did so tonight despite not scoring in the first six minutes of the game. Down 27-20 after twelve minutes, they knocked out 42 points in the second quarter to go up seven at the half, and Toronto didn’t even try to look back: OKC pulled to within four late in the fourth, but the Raptors finished off the Thunder with relative ease, 112-102.

Kyle Lowry was much peskier than usual — 19 points, 13 assists — but the big problem was trying to DeTer DeMar DeRozan, 37 points on 22 shots despite missing both his attempts at 3-pointers. Superior shooting did most of the damage: the Raptors, once they got going, hit 52 percent from the floor, about 10 points better than the Thunder could manage. It might have helped if Russell Westbrook could have banged out a few more; as it stands, he did collect 36 points, but it took him 26 shots to do it. Steven Adams, who apparently didn’t mess up his hand last time out, reeled in 14 points and 12 boards; notably, he hit all eight of his free throws, something that never would have happened, say, a season ago.

And Toronto did all this without Jonas Valanciunas, a game-time decision, out with a knee contusion. You might want to credit backup center Lucas Nogueira, who made all five of his shots in 29 minutes and claimed a +31 for the night, even better than DeRozan. The Raptors, now 5-2, have seven road games in the next nine, but if they keep up the pressure the way they did tonight, they won’t have a thing in the world to worry about.

Meanwhile, the Thunder waits anxiously for the Clippers, who will be here Friday night with revenge, or something, on their minds.


Grinding Heat

It didn’t take too long to figure out the new, temporarily Boshless, permanently deWaded Miami Heat: they’re last year’s Memphis Grizzlies, albeit without being as doggone old as last year’s Memphis Grizzlies. Their game plan was simple enough: slow things down, keep the Thunder at about 60-percent speed. The Thunder declined, rolling up 39 points in the first quarter. Miami was a bit more successful in the second, holding Oklahoma City to a mere 16, though the Heat scored only 19 themselves. Still, the Heat kept creeping up, until a couple of minutes into the third, when OKC ran off 20 points in a row in less than six minutes and never allowed the Heat to make up the difference until the very end. The final was 97-85, and the Thunder are 6-1, 4-0 at home.

It wasn’t all horrible for Miami; OKC expat Dion Waiters, starting on the wing, got a pretty enthusiastic greeting from Loud City that I suspect will not be duplicated when the Warriors show up. (Then again, Waiters went 1-9 for two points.) And it didn’t hurt to have two Johnsons on the bench: James and Tyler came up with 28 points between them. But I have to figure that Erik Spoelstra will be tinkering with things even further in an effort to get this team into respectability. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook had a fairly terrible night, 14 points and 11 assists in 26 minutes; he didn’t play in the fourth quarter at all. It was left to Enes Kanter to roll up the score, and Kanter did not disappoint, collecting 10 rebounds to go with 24 points. Domantas Sabonis nailed a double-double of his own, his first in the league, with 15 points and ten boards.

Perhaps Westbrook is being rested for Wednesday, when the Raptors arrive from Toronto; he’ll need to be at full strength to counter the DeStructive powers of DeMar DeRozan, currently leading the league in scoring with 33.7 points per game. (Westbrook has a modest 33.2.) And the Raptors, even when they weren’t a major power in the East, had a pretty good record against OKC in recent years; there’s no compelling reason to think this will change.


They bite when they can

The Timberwolves started this season with such potential, plus Tom Thibodeau to call the shots. Thibs is apparently adept as ever, but both Ricky Rubio and Nikola Peković are hors de combat, which doesn’t help Minnesota. There are bright spots, of course — Zack LaVine has been shooting like the very dickens this season, and Karl-Anthony Towns seems to have “Next Superstar” stenciled on his forehead, but the Wolves were able to stay with the Thunder only for a couple of quarters today. (Why is there a game starting at 5 pm on a Saturday? Trying to build an NBA audience in Europe, I’m told.) OKC, with a six-point lead at halftime, pounded the Wolves to the tune of 31-19 in the third quarter, and the reserves mopped up at the end. LaVine, guarded largely by Victor Oladipo, never got much traction, and Andre Roberson tied up Andrew Wiggins. This left all kinds of opportunities for KAT, who posted a game-high 33 points on 20 shots, but Towns still wound up -19 for the night as the Thunder walloped the visiting Wolves, 112-92.

Five Thundermen showed up in double figures, led by Russell Westbrook with 28, but perhaps more important to the grand scheme of things was the return of Enes Kanter to Offensive Force status with 20 points and 10 rebounds. New arrival Jerami Grant blocked four shots. And taking the long view, there’s Semaj Christon with 10 points and five assists, not a bad showing for the rookie point guard. The Thunder are still terrible from the stripe — 15-24, 63 percent — but the Wolves weren’t that much better (21-28), and they had only two players in double figures: Towns, with that massive 33, and Shabazz Muhammad, who was 6-9 off the bench for 15 points.

So it’s the Spurs and the Thunder at 5-1, six games in. Probably too early to predict anything. Still, OKC’s next four games are at home, starting with the Miami Heat on Monday, and there’s a lot to be said for the comforting confines of the ‘Peake.


The Oraculling

You can sum up this game in one string of digits: 37-11. The Thunder, who jumped to a 10-point lead in the first quarter and who were still up by one at the end of it, were utterly crushed in the second. It wasn’t entirely the Warriors’ doing; OKC left a dozen points at the free-throw line, and struggling to 40-percent shooting wasn’t happening. Russell Westbrook did manage a double-double — 20 points, 10 assists — but with the Thunder down 25 to 30 most of the evening, Billy Donovan decided to give the newer guys some time. This would never, of course, have occurred to Steve Kerr, who had a hissy fit in the first quarter when one of his troops was suspected of having committed a personal foul. The Warriors won it 115-89, and that takes care of the Previously Unbeaten business.

You want more numbers? We got more numbers. Victor Oladipo, not always great on the road, was pretty darn great tonight, with 21 points on 13 shots — and he got a -25 for his trouble. Domantas Sabonis logged his first double-figure (13 points) line. And Enes Kanter played a whole three and a half minutes, for reasons I can’t fathom.

As for Golden State, some things haven’t changed: Andre Iguodala is still an elite-class defender, Draymond Green still has a temper, and the Splash Brothers are still pretty good at the long ball. The new fellow? Kevin Durant came up with a season-high (then again, we’re still in early November) 39 points, including 7-11 from outside. Then again, there was that time when Kyle Singler (!) shut KD down.

Then again, this was the second night of a back-to-back. (There’s always something available from the Excuse Jar.) It’s back home for the Thunder, who somehow have a late-afternoon date with the Timberwolves on Saturday. Scheduling sometimes makes no sense.


Let there be defense

Because, you know, there wasn’t a whole lot of offense going on, especially for OKC in the third, a problem that’s been building since opening night. The Thunder led 49-41 at the half, but twelve minutes later were down 66-65. Sixteen-point third quarters, I need hardly point out, are not something you find on the Road to Happiness. And in the Clippers, you have arguably the NBA’s finest thespians: a stray breeze can knock almost any of them to the floor, and several apparently did.

Still, both these teams were undefeated (3-0) coming in, and it was reasonable to assume one of them would still be so at the buzzer. (Compare this to, say, Game Seven of the World Series, which went on for four and a half hours, including a rain delay. Oh, and congratulations to the Cubbies. See you again in 2124.) The Thunder really didn’t lock down, though, until very late in the fourth quarter; a pullup jumper by Russell Westbrook (who else?) put OKC up 85-81 with 18 seconds left. DeAndre Jordan managed a late layup; Chris Paul knocked Westbrook out of bounds. The Mighty Zero somehow missed two late free throws, but only one-tenth of a second remained, and that was the end of that. Oklahoma City Thunder 85, Los Angeles Clippers 83, and OKC remains undefeated. (Who else in the NBA might still be undefeated? Right: Cleveland.)

No triple-double for Westbrook (35-6-5); in fact, the only double-double on the floor was CP3’s, with 15 points — team-high for the Clips — and 11 rebounds. The new guy, Jerami Grant, imported from Philadelphia in a swap for Ersan Ilyasova, played 17 minutes and scored six, not bad considering no one on the Thunder bench scored more than six. (Alex Abrines pulled it off in a mere two shots.)

Up the Coast Thursday, to Golden State, where drama is expected. There might even be some. You never know.


Lakers not frozen over

Nobody expected the Lakers to be as terrible as they were last year — 17-65 — and on the evidence presented this evening, they’re not; they may not be a playoff team, but they won’t be eliminated in February either, and the Thunder had a heck of a time trying to maintain a lead over the Purple Kids. Oklahoma City was up 12 at halftime; L.A. swept half of that away in the third quarter, and refused to go away in the fourth. It wasn’t until the last five minutes that the Thunder started to pull away; inside the two-minute mark, they were up 17, having scored 13 unanswered points, and Russell Westbrook was given the rest of the night off. The reserves mopped up nicely, and OKC ran up the score to 113-96 to claim a third straight victory.

Westbrook, you may be sure, earned his rest: he knocked down 33 points, reeled in 12 rebounds and served up 16 dimes. This is his second triple-double in three games. Steven Adams posted a double-double — 14 points, 12 boards — and Enes Kanter led the reserves with 16. Master of the plus/minus, though, was Victor Oladipo, who racked up a +24 while scoring 20.

The Lakers were led by Julius Randle, who impressed early and collected 20 points on efficient 7-10 shooting, and by D’Angelo Russell, who took twice as many shots but still ended up with 20. Things were going well enough for L.A. early on that Metta World Peace managed to log a few minutes; he missed two shots but did pick up a steal.

Of the California teams, the Lakers are arguably the easiest. Unfortunately for the Thunder, the other two are coming up, and on the Coast at that: the Clippers on Wednesday, followed by the Warriors on Thursday. That Golden State game will feature, if that’s the word, the first matchup between the Thunder and OKC expat Kevin Durant. Anybody’s guess how that goes; I’m guessing that Steph Curry ends up doing most of the heavy lifting.



Earl Watson has taught the Phoenix Suns one thing: don’t ever slack off. After the first quarter, in which the Suns and their three-guard set simply outworked the Thunder to the tune of 40-25, Oklahoma City began getting the occasional stop, and Phoenix led by only four at the half. Still, they kept working it; the Thunder didn’t get any kind of lead until a one-pointer with 4:45 left. One ongoing problem was T. J. Warren, who knocked down a career-high 30 points. Russell Westbrook had taken 40 shots in 48 minutes; everyone assumed he’d take the last shot with 1.1 seconds left in regulation. He didn’t, but the Suns were not fooled, and overtime ensued, with Westbrook noticeably fatigued. But In Russ We Trust: Westbrook sneaked one past a curious Suns lineup with no actual shot blockers, and the Thunder went up 111-110 with seven seconds left. Andre Roberson swatted away a Devin Booker shot, and with 3.5 left, Westbrook delivered two foul shots. A Phoenix buzzer-beater did not land, and it was OKC 113, PHX 110.

And let’s face it, we needed Westbrook to be heroic. (51 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists: by any definition, that’s heroic.) Victor Oladipo came up with 21 points, but no one else managed double figures, and the bench in aggregate scored a whopping 15 points, four less than Suns sixth man Brandon Knight all by his lonesome. It wasn’t a good night for three-point shots for either side: Thunder and Suns made five each, but it took OKC 21 tries — and Phoenix 28. For that matter, it wasn’t a good night for free throws either; many were taken, and lots were missed. (Suns 21-32, Thunder 28-38.) Still, the number that jumps out at me is +21: Kyle Singler in 33 minutes, despite 2-6 shooting for four points.

And there’s that don’t-give-up air about Phoenix that tells me they’re not destined to be a doormat this year. Three of their five starters finished with five fouls, but at no time did it look like any of them would actually foul out. Earl Watson, a wily guard — for a while, a wily Thunder guard — in his playing days, has plenty of wisdom to share.

The not-as-horrible-as-they-were-last-year Lakers (how could they be?) will be in town Sunday. I have to figure that the combination of Nick Young and Luol Deng has to be at least slightly daunting.


Wells Fargo waggin’

Early on, an aggrieved 76ers fan shot Russell Westbrook the bird. (Actually, a pair of birds; it was a two-hand job.) The chap was escorted off the premises, and the consequences were contemplated:

Nobody does angry quite as well as Russell Westbrook, but most of that ire was dissipated in just trying to stay even with the (usually) lightly regarded Sixers, who earnestly lost 72 games last year. They will not do that this year: Philadelphia has apparently learned some of that grindhouse stuff from the old Memphis Grizzlies playbook, and they maintained a small lead through much of the game. It was tied at 51 at the half; with 35 seconds left, it was tied at 97, at which point Westbrook swished a pair of free throws to put the Thunder up by two. Just outside the 10-second mark, Andre Roberson swatted away a Sixer floater, the ball changed hands several times, and finally Enes Kanter stuffed it into the cylinder for a 101-97 lead. Joel Embiid (20 points) made a valiant effort to put the Sixers back into it, but he wound up putting a knee into Victor Oladipo. The ex-Magic man finished the job with two more free throws, and that was that: Oklahoma City 103, Philadelphia 97.

A lot of this, of course, was Westbrook, who came up one dime short of a triple-double: 32 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists. In a suggestion of future lineups, Billy Donovan started Domantas Sabonis at power forward, subbing in Kanter every chance he got. (Kanter played 24 minutes, Sabonis just over 16.) Both Alex Abrines and Semaj Christon put in decent showings from the bench.

This is a more balanced Philly lineup than we’ve seen in a while, with rookie Embiid installed in the middle and veteran Gerald Henderson keeping a eye on the wing. Regrettably, there was no time tonight for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, rookie swingman with the greatest name since Luc Mbah a Moute; he drew a DNP-CD.

Home opener is Friday against the Suns. It’s a wholly different attack: Phoenix will kill you from the wing, while the Sixers do their best bothering in the middle. Too early in the season to make any meaningful predictions, though.

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Right in the Nuggets

The Thunder have seldom had problems with Denver in recent years, and they weren’t going to start tonight; the Nuggets played close in the first quarter, went stone cold in the second, and couldn’t mount enough runs to prevail. Oklahoma City’s preseason ends 3-3 with this 97-87 win; there were some problems Billy Donovan will be wanting to look at, one of the more blatant ones being “How come you guys foul so darn much?” Steven Adams, working tonight between injuries, led the Thunder with 17 points; Russell Westbrook, who didn’t play at all in the second half, did a lot more ball-movement than he did hero ball, which has to be reckoned a Good Thing. (And he did stop at the scorer’s table once to check on Dodgers vs. Cubs.) Playing against his old team, Joffrey Lauvergne picked up nine points.

One upcoming issue: whom to shed. The Thunder have 20 players on the roster, and must get down to 15 before the season begins, but the D-League can absorb only so many. I’m hoping they find a way to keep Semaj Christon, who doesn’t cost much and who seems to have one heck of a good work ethic, along with a three-syllable (!) first name.

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Young and hungry-ish

Tom Thibodeau is running the Timberwolves this year, and we can expect more ferocity, more often, from the team that’s been the Northwest Division doormat for so long. We didn’t get to see a while lot of that tonight at the ‘Peake, inasmuch as the Wolves played last night and, well, whoever heard of a back-to-back in the preseason? So Thibodeau let his reserves play all night, and they made a decent showing against a nearly full-strength Thunder deployment. Then again, OKC, 1-3 in the preseason so far, was presumably loath to lose in front of the home crowd, so methodically putting away the young Wolves might have been higher on Billy Donovan’s to-do list than we’d come to expect from the four preceding games. Still, while the Thunder kept the Wolves more or less at bay during the fourth quarter, the Wolves kept messing with Thunder sets and forcing turnovers. The score at the horn was 112-94, and, as always this time of year, it’s the preseason and therefore doesn’t mean a thing. The Wolves will be back, though, and they will bite, or at least scratch.


Only slightly less Grizzly

The key to Memphis this year was supposed to be that the veterans were older, the newbies were newer, and the coach (David Fizdale) is in his first year in the top slot. (The Fizmeister was previously an assistant at Miami.) If the combination of these factors was supposed to mean that the Grizzlies were going to be easy, or at least easier, well, it didn’t happen that way in Tulsa, where the Thunder fouled all over the place, and when they weren’t fouling, they were turning the ball over. All the Griz had to do was not mess up, and for the most part, that’s exactly what they did; after falling behind 31-17 in the first quarter, Memphis buckled down and dispatched the Thunder, 110-94. It’s hard to imagine how OKC came up with 94 points after 35 personal fouls (the Griz took 44 free throws, making 34) and 28 turnovers. Then again, the Thunder roster is in decided flux, what with injuries all over the place. But it’s preseason, right? None of that stuff matters. Nor will it matter Sunday night, when the Timberwolves show up in Oklahoma City. I plan to keep telling myself that until the Real Season begins.


Without the brand names

When it was announced that the Mavericks would be starting the five guys you could expect to see starting in the actual season, I sighed a bit; I figured Billy Donovan’s rotation technique, the basketball equivalent of throwing stuff against the wall to see if it sticks, would put the Thunder behind the 8-ball early on. And indeed, OKC fell behind by 20 at one point. Rick Carlisle, however, was anxious to see some of his reserve troops in action, and the Thunder gradually pulled back into contention, even tying the Mavs several times and taking a three-point lead with 5:24 left. It didn’t last long — Dallas promptly went on an 8-0 run — but it made several of us feel better. And so did Kyle Singler, starting at the three after Andre Roberson turned up bruised; he led all the starters with 17, and when’s the last time you heard that? The Mavs prevailed, 114-109, but hey, it’s only the preseason. Still, this is the first time Dallas has beaten Oklahoma City in the preseason, and this is not the sort of precedent one wants to set.

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Still in Spain

With Steven Adams still hors de combat, Billy Donovan went with four of Monday’s starting five, inserting Enes Kanter in the center position. This didn’t last long; Kanter rolled up the points easily enough, but so did FC Barcelona, and Kanter was replaced by Ersan Ilyasova. (Interchangeable Turks! Only in Oklahoma City.) Amusingly, the power at the Palau Sant Jordi went off during halftime, but it didn’t delay the game much. This wasn’t the scoring fest that took place on Monday in Madrid, by any means; the Thunder squeaked by, 92-89, on the strength of a 5-0 late run. Still, Kanter, left to his own devices, managed to come up with 24 points; Victor Claver led FCB with 25. And that’s it for the Spanish part of the preseason; there will be almost a week to recover from jet lag.


Ever been to Spain

Mostly, I wanted to see who Billy Donovan started in this first preseason game. Not too surprising, perhaps: Russell Westbrook at the point, Victor Oladipo at the two, Andre Roberson moving to small forward, rookie Domantas Sabonis at power forward, and Steven Adams in the middle. Not entirely unexpected. What I didn’t expect, perhaps, was the sheer ferocity of Real Madrid, who after falling behind by 22 points jumped out to a one-point lead with 4:35 left. (It did not help that Adams was gone before halftime with an ankle sprain.) Donovan had said that he wasn’t going to play Westbrook in the fourth, and he didn’t; it’s somehow wonderfully apt that Alex Abrines, a Spaniard in the Thunder works, took over towards the end, hitting two treys in a row to put it out of reach, or so it seemed. But Sergio Llull, who’d ended the second and third quarters with buzzer-beating treys, ended the fourth with, you guessed it, a buzzer-beating trey, and overtime duly ensued. Real Madrid pushed their way to a six-point lead with half a minute left, and wound up winning it by five, 142-137. If that sounds like a lot of scoring, well, it was. But, as I always say, it’s preseason. Don’t jump to any conclusions.


To make a few extra bucks

Kevin Durant wanted you to come to dinner, and a lot of people did, while KD himself was still in town. Now his restaurant has closed.

Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, wants to sell you a car:

This summer, Westbrook has opened a car dealership with his name on it in Van Nuys, Calif., a neighborhood of his native Los Angeles. This month, Westbrook posted a video on his Snapchat with a brief glimpse of the showroom at Russell Westbrook Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Van Nuys. The video showed off Westbrook’s trademark RW logo painted on the floor, as well as a NBA-style clear backboard and rim mounted on a wall in the dealership.

They have, at the moment, a fair number of “Aged New Cars”: unsold 2015s going out for well under sticker.


Ain’t that a kick

Talk about painting a target on yourself:

Draymond Green is no stranger to peoples’ privates, and now the world is privy to his.

The Golden State Warriors star — who was suspended for a game in the NBA Finals for repeated shots to opposing players’ groins and was arrested for assault in mid-July — found himself in controversy once again Sunday after a picture of his penis was posted to his Snapchat.

Of course, Green claimed he was hacked, but nobody bought it:

“It was a situation where it was meant to be a private message,” Green said at Team USA’s practice at the Toyota Center in Houston, via ESPN. “I kinda hit the wrong button and it sucks. It was meant to be private. We’re all one click away from placing something in the wrong place, and I suffered from that this morning.”

Still unknown: the identity of the intended recipient.

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One way only

From the “We Will Not Forget” files:

Maybe the part that leads out of town.


As the digits actually did fall

Remember this from last month?

Victor Oladipo wore #5 in Orlando, and I was sort of wondering what would happen when he got to Oklahoma City, where Kyle Singler wears #5.

Singler moves to #15. My one correct projection: Ersan İlyasova will indeed wear #7. Daniel Hamilton will wear #25, and Domantas Sabonis #30.


Least likely scenario

2016-17: Warriors go 76-6, win it all.

2017-18: Durant opts out of year two, looks for another team in need of rings.

No, I’m not holding my breath.

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Kyle Singler’s time to shine!

It’s now or never, right?


As the digits fall

Victor Oladipo wore #5 in Orlando, and I was sort of wondering what would happen when he got to Oklahoma City, where Kyle Singler wears #5. If Wikipedia is to be believed — as of Sunday night, when this was written, the club Web site had not been updated — Singler is switching to #25, the number he wore as a Detroit Piston, leaving #5 for Oladipo.

Meanwhile, Ersan İlyasova is assigned #7. Of the draft picks, Domantas Sabonis apparently will be #23 — he was probably hoping for #11, worn by his dad as a Portland Trail Blazer, but Enes Kanter isn’t giving it up — and Daniel Hamilton will wear #55. (Hamilton was #5 at UConn.)


An unexpected act of Prestidigitation

Sam Presti comes up with the damnedest deals sometimes. Serge Ibaka will be packing up and heading for Orlando; in return come guard Victor Oladipo, forward Ersan İlyasova, and the rights to the Magic’s #11 draft pick, Domantas Sabonis.

Points of interest:

  • İlyasova has playoff experience: seventeen games with the Bucks, ten of which he started. And he’s at least vaguely familiar with the Thunder organization, as he played a whole season for the old Tulsa 66ers in the D-League.
  • In two games against the Thunder last season, Oladipo put down a triple-double (21-13-10), followed by a 37-point explosion.
  • Sabonis made a name for himself at Gonzaga; in two years he started 32 of 74 games and averaged 13.5 points a game.

In terms of dollars, Oladipo and İlyasova combined make somewhat more than what Ibaka is scheduled to make next year. In the case of İlyasova, he’s guaranteed only $400k unless he makes the Thunder roster by the first of July; Oklahoman beat writer Anthony Slater says that he will, and will be paid $8.4 million. Oladipo is a near-bargain at $6,552,960. Serge will earn $12,250,000 next year. And if Sabonis is signed to a rookie contract immediately, he’ll be paid $2,033,500, give or take 20 percent, as is the rule for rookies.

Oh, and the Nuggets sold the #56 pick to the Thunder, point guard Daniel Hamilton from UConn, who will probably spend Year One in the D-League.

Still, nobody does out-of-the-blue trades like Presti, which inspired Royce Young thusly:

Now that’s brass — or something stronger still.

What do I think? Right now, I just want to make sure that I spell “İlyasova” correctly. (That’s a dotted I; Turkish also has an undotted I.)


The price of a fit of pique

After a frustrated Steph Curry fouled out Thursday night and hurled his mouthpiece into the crowd, the NBA decided they had to Do Something:

NBA star Steph Curry and Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr were each fined $25,000 for their actions during Thursday’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Curry fouled out of the game — the first time he has done so in his professional career — and threw his mouthpiece into the stands, forcing the officials to eject him. His wife, Ayesha, tweeted after the game that it was “rigged” in order to force a Game 7 between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kerr was slapped with a fine for criticizing the referees after Curry fouled out.

The projectile in question wasn’t aimed at anyone, but it did hit a fan; Curry duly apologized to the fan.

Still, 25 large isn’t going to hurt much. Said Gerard Van der Leun: “Curry makes that much during tip-off.”

Which is almost true. Steph Curry’s reported salary for this season was $11,370,786, which is far enough over $100k a game for him to consider this pocket change.

While looking up that number, I came across a startling fact: of the fifteen Warriors on salary, four are paid more than Curry. Splashmate Klay Thompson is the highest-paid, at $15,501,000. And both of them are already under contract for next season, so they’re not going to get huge raises. (Thompson gets 7.5 percent; Curry, 6.5.)

For the record, Golden State has the fourth-highest payroll in the league, with $93,631,286 in salaries. The highest? Cleveland, with $108,300,458. (LeBron gets about 21 percent of that.) In between, the Clippers and, yes, the Thunder.


Moore than almost anyone else

By the numbers: Maya Moore is twenty-seven today, and wears number 23; after four years of utterly stunning numbers at Connecticut, during which time the UConn women won 90 games in a row, she was drafted Number One (of course) by the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.

Maya Moore in uniform

Before you ask: she’s reported to be six feet tall.

Maya Moore out of uniform

And come to think of it, she’s produced rather a lot of amazing numbers:

Last night in a 110-78 win against the Atlanta Dream, she scored 19, with five rebounds and four steals.


For it was not to be

The third quarter said it all: Golden State 29, Oklahoma City 12. A six-point lead turned into an eleven-point deficit in twelve minutes. The Thunder managed enough of a response to cut the Warriors’ lead to four, but they would get no closer than that. And it’s not like you couldn’t see it coming, either: it’s apparently possible to block Klay Thompson or Steph Curry, but not both. And unlike the situation that prevailed in Game Six, Curry was also effective inside: if he couldn’t take the long ball, he’d smoothly shift his way into the paint and lay it up. Steve Kerr also left a surprise for the Thunder: instead of Harrison Barnes, he’d start Andre Iguodala and epoxy him to Kevin Durant. So Durant’s numbers looked better, if only because Iguodala did a good job of keeping KD bottled up. With the Warriors up 90-86, Serge Ibaka fouled Curry on a three-point play; Steph knocked out all three freebies, the Thunder came up empty on two possessions, Curry sank another long ball, and you can stick a fork in it, it’s done. Ibaka came back with a couple of free throws, but it didn’t matter: Golden State 96, Oklahoma City 88, and the Warriors will go on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals.

(Truth be told, I figured it was going to be something like 99-all in the waning moments, and then Curry would swish a trey at the buzzer. The result, however, was pretty much identical.)

With Thompson held to barely half of the 41 he got day before yesterday, Curry took up the slack and then some, scoring 36 on a highly respectable 13-24 from the floor, 7-12 from outside. (For comparison, KD was 10-19 for 27.) What undid the Thunder was not so much the inability to contain the Splashes as it was the inability to make seemingly easy shots themselves: I haven’t seen so many blown bunnies since Hugh Hefner still had good respiration.

But that is neither here nor there. All I want to know right now is whether we suddenly turn into a town full of Cavaliers fans.

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Going back to Cali

For a Game Six, this was awfully Game Seven-y. “Dripping with drama,” said radio guy Matt Pinto, and right after he said that, Splash Brother Number One splashed a trey to tie it up at 99-all with 2:47 left. But it was Splash Brother Number Two who did the most damage tonight; after an exchange of buckets, Klay Thompson’s 11th trey opened up a three-point Warrior lead, Draymond Green banked one in with 15 seconds left, and Thompson finished the job with two free throws. Golden State 108, Oklahoma City 101, and there will be a real Game Seven Monday night in Oakland.

You know what’s scary? The Warriors came up with ten treys from people not named Klay Thompson. Twenty-one of forty-four, 48 percent, rather better than their percentage from inside. Thompson’s 41 points led everyone, of course, but Steph Curry came awfully close to a triple-double: 29 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists. Green, when he could keep both feet on the floor, delivered 14 points and collected 12 boards. The rest really didn’t matter.

And it’s hard to say that the Thunder took too many unnecessary treys, attempting only 23. Then again, they missed 20 of them. (Kevin Durant, Dion Waiters and Serge Ibaka each had one; Russell Westbrook didn’t get one at all.) There’s a lot to be said for reliance on points in the paint, where the Thunder were sort of dominant, but still: Durant was 10-31 for the night, Westbrook 10-27. Good looks, bad looks, sometimes no looks, it didn’t make any difference.

So it’s off to Oakland once more. And if at the end of the season, what you were hoping for was a shootout between either Steph or Klay versus Cleveland’s J. R. Smith, your wish may well be granted. I would consider that outcome suboptimal, but hey, I’d watch it. At least, I’d listen to it on the radio, assuming one of the spastic sports-radio stations around here deign to carry the freaking NBA Finals. Between now and then, though, it’s Do or Die time.

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In case you thought this would be easy

“When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight,” observed Dr. Johnson, “it concentrates the mind wonderfully.” The Golden State Warriors, facing elimination not in two weeks but in four quarters, buckled down from the get-go and presented their hometown crowd with the hope of one more game, mostly by controlling the paint and keeping the Thunder from easy dashes to the rim. OKC led for 14 seconds in the third quarter, but that was it; when Andre Roberson fouled out inside the two-minute mark, you could see the game slipping away. Steph Curry (of course) picked up two free throws on that foul, giving the Warriors an eight-point lead, and then stole the ball on the next possession. A layup followed, and the last Thunder rally fell short. Golden State 120, Oklahoma City 111, forcing Game Six back in the Big Breezy on Saturday night.

To win actual games, you must score points. Kevin Durant scored 40, but it took him 31 shots. (He did hit all 13 of his free throws.) Russell Westbrook came up with 31 on 28 shots. Compare to the Splash Brothers, who scored less but with a lot less work: Curry 31 on 20 shots, Klay Thompson 27 on 21 shots. The Warriors, who shot around 50 percent most of the night, fell to 47, but the Thunder never broke above the middle 40s and finished at 43. Nor would rebounding save them; the boards were even at 45 each. And the X Factor might have been Andrew Bogut, who played an unprecedented (for him, anyway) 30 minutes in the middle, collecting 15 points and 14 boards while guarding the paint. But this is the line that bugs me the most: Enes Kanter was at 0 on the plus/minus scale while scoring one point. Evidently it wasn’t his night.

Dispatching the Warriors in Game 6 becomes a bit more urgent, because if the series goes to seven, it’s back to Oakland, and I have to assume that nobody wants to go back to Oakland. And some of our own fans are, um, excitable:

If things are done right, that won’t be necessary.


And the arena goes totally nuts

The great mystery to Thunder fans was the fact that the NBA did, after all, elevate Draymond Green’s assault on Steven Adams’ dangly bits to a Flagrant Two, but did not order Green’s suspension. This was fine with me, for the sake of asterisk avoidance: if the Thunder pull off a win in this series, I don’t want to hear anyone warbling “Yeah, what did you expect would happen when they lost a starter for one whole game?” Which would have been dumb anyway, since Green hasn’t been that much of a factor in the series, though he did reel in 11 rebounds tonight. The bigger threat was Klay Thompson, who was held to four points in the first half but exploded for nineteen in the third quarter, enabling the Warriors to shave the Thunder’s 19-point halftime lead to as little as four. Still, OKC was up 12 at the beginning of the fourth, and the forgotten Andre Roberson — the Warriors didn’t even bother to guard him when the series began — wrought havoc on Golden State during that final frame. With the Thunder up 23 at the 3:15 mark, Steve Kerr yielded; it wasn’t technically over, but it might as well have been. Oklahoma City 118, Golden State 94, and Brian Davis asked Dre at the end: “What did you have for breakfast, and can I have some?”

Statistic to ponder: Roberson finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and two blocks. Further statistic to ponder: Klay Thompson, who had 26 after three quarters, finished with, um, 26. Steph Curry spent 20 shots getting 19 points, and Draymond Green made one shot all night. Meanwhile, Dre and Kevin Durant were assembling double-doubles — KD had 26 points and 11 rebounds — and just because, Russell Westbrook turned in a triple-double (36-11-11).

There will of course be a Game 5, in Oakland on Thursday. This is about where the Warriors, and all the pundits, figured they’d be wrapping it up. And ABC, which will be carrying the Finals, must be beside itself with grief; suppose the Thunder dispose of the Warriors, if not Thursday, then shortly afterward, and suppose the Raptors, dead even with Cleveland through four games, manage to finish off the Cavs. You’ve got Nielsen Small Market vs. Nielsen No Market At All. Great argument, as always, for radio.

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This time it’s personal

This one opened fairly well, with the Thunder squeezing out a six-point lead after the first quarter. As Oklahoma City started to open up some distance, there was a nasty yet ludicrous contretemps: Steven Adams fouled Golden State’s Draymond Green, and Green, in keeping with his style earlier in this series, kicked Adams in the nards. Literally.

Draymond Green on the attack

Adams’ expression says this: “You try that stunt one more time, and I find out about it…”

Green was tagged with a Flagrant One, free throws were exchanged, and the Thunder were off. Whether it was karma or simple vengefulness, OKC proceeded to pound the living crap out of the Warriors, taking a 25-point lead (72-47!) at the half, running that lead to as many as 41 in the third quarter, and the Splash Brothers were vaporized before the fourth quarter even started. Oklahoma City 133, Golden State 105, and the Thunder go up 2-1.

How bad did it get for Golden State? Steph Curry got a respectable 24 points, but it took him 17 shots; Klay Thompson poured in 18, but it took him 19 shots. Nobody else made double figures. And Draymond Green, 1-9 for six points with four turnovers, finished -43 for the evening.

Meanwhile, the two big Thunder stars got a bit of unexpected rest, with neither playing in the final frame. Kevin Durant knocked down 33 points; Russell Westbrook 30 (with eight boards and 12 dimes). Four more in double figures, with Enes Kanter collecting a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds). The Thunder shot 50 percent; the Warriors took the same number of shots (92) but missed eight more. Rebounds? OKC, 52-38. Assists? OKC, 21-19. Free throws? OKC 33-37 (89 percent), Golden State 19-25 (76 percent). But here’s where the Warriors got cut off at the knees: after 4-12 from long distance in the first quarter, they were 6-21 thereafter. A Warrior team without the three-point shot is … well, down by 28 at the horn.

Game 4 is here in the Big Breezy on Tuesday. Nobody is expecting it to be easy. But if Draymond Green sticks out that big foot one more time, the Thunder are going to force it down his throat — or up somewhere else.

(Photo: Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman.)

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Swift and ferocious payback

Monday night, some folks were wondering when Stephen Curry would finally get hot. The answer turned out to be tonight in the third quarter, in which Steph knocked down something like a hundred points in a row. More or less simultaneously with this eruption, the Thunder went totally to pieces; after that 31-19 quarter, OKC was down twenty, and the Warriors opened the fourth with an 11-2 run. That was it for Billy Donovan; to give the man credit, he always knows where his towel is, especially when it’s time to throw it in. Golden State 118, Oklahoma City 91, the series is even, and, well, hey, no one figured the Thunder would win one in Oakland.

Pretty much everything went the Warriors’ way: OKC held a one-point lead for all of twelve seconds, late in the second quarter. Seven Warriors scored in double figures. (The Thunder had two, exactly the two you think.) The usual Thunder strength — rebounding — failed them tonight: the Warriors had a 45-36 edge on the boards. The long ball, which did not serve Golden State particularly well Monday night, was deployed effectively this time around: 13 of 28. (Curry was 5-8 from distance; the Thunder in aggregate was 7-23.)

So what happened? Various Twitter wags will blame it on Kyle Singler, who played the last eight minutes and collected one rebound, one steal, and one foul. But the game was already lost before Singler ever made it to the scorers’ table. The OKC defense didn’t defend when they had to — Golden State shot 51 percent for the night — and while once again Curry missed game-high honors, which went to Kevin Durant with 29, there didn’t seem to be much of anything Steph couldn’t do tonight, which demonstrates why of recent MVPs, he might be the M-est.

The series resumes in Oklahoma City Sunday and continues Tuesday. No predictions: frankly, I feel like I’ve been kicked in the crystal ball.

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