May 5, 2012, 11:12 PM EDT
I’d say that the torch in the West has been passed, but that’s not what it felt like.
It felt like James Harden and the Oklahoma City Thunder grabbed the torch and ran off with it.
Harden scored seven in a row — and had 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter — to spark the Thunder as they came from 13 points back in the fourth quarter to sweep the defending champions Mavericks out of the playoffs, winning Game 4 103-97.
Harden is the guy the Thunder want to have the ball late in games because he makes plays — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fall into hero ball when given the ball late, Harden looks to make plays. Oh, he can score, but he will just as likely set up others. He sparks the Thunder. He sparked this comeback.
If you’re just noticing that now, you seeing what other GMs have been noticing for a couple years — there are a lot of teams that covet him. Doesn’t matter, the Thunder are not letting him go.
For Dallas, this outcome was really decided last summer when Mark Cuban decided not bring Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler back — he rolled the dice on this season to set up the room to offer a max deal to Deron Williams this summer. They had hoped Lamar Odom could fill in that gap, but he couldn’t. That lack of depth showed during the comeback — Dirk Nowitizki had 34 but he did not have enough help anymore. The Mavs put up a fight, but they no longer had the horses.
But it was not all Dallas — Oklahoma City has grown as a team and were far the best side in this series. They have grown and evolved at both ends of the floor, and sent a message with this sweep that they are the team to beat in the West. They have the best scorer in the league — Durant had 24 points and 11 rebounds in this one. They have Westbrook’s speed and scoring. They have Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka in the paint.
And they have Harden coming off the bench. Dallas couldn’t match him. And they are gone because of it.
Mar 16, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Patrick Beverley leaves LeBron James in the dust, before attacking the rim and throwing down a huge slam on Chris Bosh.
Mar 16, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
LeBron takes a nice pass from Wade and elevates over Dwight Howard for the vicious first quarter slam.
Mar 16, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Jarrett Jack believes custom fitting players with the sleeved jerseys would reduce the complaints. But he still doesn’t like the way they look, regardless of how they do or do not impact performance. “We’re like the Beach Police,” Jack said.
Mar 16, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT
How I wish “Brian” were real. Alas, this is a faux documentary on former NBA player Brian Scalabrine is not real. Still, the trailer is brilliant. An actual documentary following Scalabrine, now an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, would be interesting. He’s long been one of the better interviews around the NBA, his…
Mar 16, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Jim Cleamons is currently an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks, but he was a member of Phil Jackson’s coaching staff both in Chicago and Los Angeles, and has nine championship rings to show for it. The Bucks happened to be in town to face the Knicks on Saturday, just one day after the news…
Mar 16, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Doc Rivers, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan all recently explained why they’re against the NBA raising its age limit. But there are valid reasons on the argument’s other side.
Mar 16, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
John Wall splits two defenders near mid-court before putting the exclamation point on a win over the Nets with a thunderous slam.
Mar 16, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
The Sixers are currently riding a 20-game losing streak, but for better or for worse, no one inside the Philadelphia organization is deluding themselves as to what’s going on there this season. Call it tanking, or as the NBA’s new commissioner Adam Silver prefers, rebuilding. But either way, there’s going to be a whole lot…
Mar 15, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
There are plenty of players who make exaggerated vocal noise during the course of an NBA game, with Carlos Boozer of the Bulls perhaps heading up that very long list. While it’s accepted to a certain extent, it’s also nice to see a veteran of the game point out just how ridiculous it is. During…
Mar 15, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT
How Detroit’s Andre Drummond staggered and went down after this hit, and how he stayed down for several minutes (all the way through the ensuing commercial break not part of the above video), is a little frightening. The medical staff brought out a stretcher but he got up under his own power and was helped…
Mar 15, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Joakim Noah receives a $500K bonus if he’s named to the All-NBA first team. Does he have a shot?
Mar 15, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Carmelo Anthony seems initially pleased with the hiring of Phil Jackson. Mike Woodson, on the other hand, didn’t sound quite as optimistic — for obvious reasons.
Mar 15, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
The Thunder are just a game back of the Spurs for the league’s best record, an achievement that would guarantee home court advantage throughout the playoffs. But they’ll willingly be hurting that effort by resting Russell Westbrook as a precautionary measure in certain back-to-back sets.
Mar 15, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
We’ve known for a very long time that the Lakers wouldn’t be making the playoffs this season. After Friday night’s loss, it became official.
Mar 15, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
The mere presence of Phil Jackson in the Knicks front office will have an immediate impact in terms of big-name free agents looking at New York as a possible destination.
Mar 15, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
After playing out consecutive 10-day contracts, the Nets have signed Jason Collins for the remainder of the season.
Mar 15, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Kenneth Faried showed why the Nuggets would have been crazy to trade him at the deadline, as he helped send the Heat to their fifth loss in six games.
Mar 15, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Ultimately Thomas Wolfe will be proven right, you can’t go home again. Not even Phil Jackson. It’s easy to sit back and list the reasons Jackson’s return to the team that drafted him, taking over basketball operations of the New York Knicks, will not work: James Dolan; Jackson has never had any front office experience before;…
Mar 15, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Evan Turner wasn’t initially that fond of the Sixers new GM, but he may have changed his mind on his way out of town.
Mar 15, 2014, 12:46 AM EDT
I wouldn’t say Utah’s Enes Kanter dunks on the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan because that implied Jordan got in his way. Jordan went for the block but kind of tried to swipe it as Kanter went by. Didn’t work, big dunk for the Jazz. The Clippers went on to win the game 96-97, their 10th consecutive…
- Doc Rivers, Clippers players oppose raising NBA’s age limit 20
- Report: LeBron ‘will look at’ Knicks in free agency now that Phil Jackson is in place 66
- Phil Jackson to Knicks could work. It probably won’t, but it could. 32
- Pau Gasol says Kobe was right to rip Lakers front office 45
- It’s confirmed: Phil Jackson returns to Knicks to head up front office, revive franchise 33