ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Minnesota Timberwolves were hoping that this season would be when their young core would finally come together and establish themselves as contenders in the Western Conference. Instead, while they’ve been competitive, they’ve struggled to win close games, taking just one game all season that was decided by four points or fewer.
Part of that has been due to struggles to score down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Another pat of that might be scoring baskets for the wrong team. Last night against the Thunder, as the third quarter wound down, Oklahoma City’s Derek Fisher fired up a contested three-pointer from the corner. Rookie Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng went up for the rebound, but somehow ended up accidentally tapping the ball in to the wrong basket, just before the halftime buzzer. I think there’s not much to say here other than #shaqtin.
On my initial viewing, I thought this was one of the greatest flops of all time: TWO people flopping, at the same time, at the same rate, with the same result (a charge is called on Omer Asik). After all, we’ve seen some pretty remarkable flops this season.
But when you see the overhead angle, I think it’s actually just really good defense by the Thunder, with a result that displays the terrific comedic timing of Kevin Martin and Derek Fisher… -
As everyone knows by now, the compressed NBA schedule will force every team to play three games in three nights at least one this season (42 times in total). With only 66 games to stake a claim to a playoff spot or seed, how teams perform during these killer slates could have a large impact on how their seasons turn out.
With that in mind, we’re going to keep track of each of the 42 three-plays to see which teams take advantage and which teams fall apart. Up next, the L.A. Clippers, who played three straight from Mar. 20-22.
Some teams, when faced with the three-for-all challenge, choose to look big picture and not worry so much about the individual outcomes of such a difficult stretch of games. And by some teams, I mean the Dallas Mavericks.
The Clippers? Something tells me that will not be the case with them as they embarked on their second threeplay of the season. With rumors of unrest and discord swirling around them, how they performed over this span could end up shaking the team to its core:
Game 1: Pacers 102, Clippers 89 – A bad start for the Clips, but a loss to the Pacers isn’t the worst thing in the world. Blake Griffin had 23 points and 10 rebounds, but was 2-7 from the foul stripe. BG, you have got to work on your free-throw shooting dude. It pains me to dislike a single part of your game. -2 points
Game 2: Thunder 114, Clippers 91 - LA gave up 66 first-half points to Oklahoma City, which I’m not sure is a great recipe for success in this game. This was the first outing for Derek Fisher in a Thunder uniform after being unceremoniously dumped by the Lakers at the deadline. Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a big deal if he’d been ceremoniously dumped? -1 point
Game 3: Hornets 97, Clippers 90 - This one hurt. I don’t care if it was their third-in-three, you can’t let Chris Paul lose his first game back in New Orleans. Yeah this was the Super Bowl for New Orleans (Even Jason Smith played like a Saint — too soon?), but no amount of motivation should be enough to overcome the talent differential between these two squads. For shame, LAC, for shame. 0 points
Interestingly enough, there have now been four teams to go undefeated (Heat, Bulls, Thunder, Suns II), and four to go defeated, as the Clippers put up -3 points and join the lowly ranks of the Mavericks, Suns I, and Pistons in the winless column.
Nothing of note came out of the previous three teams putting up a bagel. Will that be the case for Vinny Del Negro and the Clippers?
Up next: The Bucks and Pacers both play three straight Mar. 22-24.
It’s been good last 24 hours or so for Lakers All-Star big man Pau Gasol. First, after hearing his name bandied about in trade rumors for months, he didn’t go anywhere during yesterday’s trade deadline (though the same couldn’t be said for Derek Fisher). Then, as we mentioned here last night, Gasol took to the Interwebs himself and sent out a YouTube message to his fans to recap the trade deadline and express his happiness to still be a Laker.
Yet neither of those things seemed to properly encapsulate just how happy Gasol might be about staying in L.A. When the Internet can’t make you happy, what do you do?
You sing, of course. Specifically, you sing for a charitable cause.
Gasol, an ambassador for UNICEF, performed on stage Thursday at the El Rey Theatre where he belted out his own version of The Fray’s “How to Save a Life” at a charity event.
The Orange County Register was on hand for the event — which was also attended by Tom Hanks, Don Chedale and several other Hollywood A-listers — and has a report and some great photos.
An interesting day for the Lakers — after months of speculation about the futures of guys like Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, both of them stayed put, while seemingly Laker For Life Derek Fisher was somewhat unceremoniously shipped out in what was essentially a cost-cutting move.
By the way, Derek Fisher and Andrew Bogut weren’t the only late-game heroes last night (just the onlyones to get the Horry treatment) — there was nearly a buzzer-beater epidemic, as Rudy Gay and Raymond Felton also came up big in the clutch.
In case you missed any of it, our brethren on the multimedia desk here at NBA.com put together a pretty sweet round-up of all of last night’s fireworks. Roll it!
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One of my favorite kinds of buzzer-beaters: the unexpected-decoy GWBB.
Don’t get me wrong. Derek Fisher is no stranger to big shots in clutch situations (San Antonio*, cough cough**).
* Don’t forget who was on that Spurs roster. Big Shot Bob of course.
**Watching that video again, have I completely forgotten Hedo Turkoglu’s tenure on the Spurs? I could have sworn he went straight from the Kings to the Magic. That portion of his career has been totally lost to the recesses of my brain.
Still, when a team has Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, and some other guard known for last-second heroics, you assume the defense is going to focus on them. It takes a strong coach to consider that defensive initiative and take what is given. Obviously Phil Jackson fits comfortably in that category.
I wonder if Jackson is to the point where says to himself, “Self, this is a regular-season game against the Clippers. Why not gamble a little?”***
*** This theory will really gain steam when Derrick Caracter hits a game-winner.
Matt Barnes tosses it into Fisher almost immediately after ball-faking the lob to Gasol — if Kobe was the next option, Fisher couldn’t have been far behind — and Fisher heads towards the rim without hesitation. You figure in most situations, the Clippers are just happy not to have the ball in Bryant’s hands, and they’ll take their chances with Fisher. Well, chance taken, and ballgame over. Lakers beat Clippers, and the world makes sense for at least another night.
But what did Robert Horry think?
Once again, the Horry scale examines a shot in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Clippers-Nets game), and celebration, and give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys.
Difficulty: Moderate. The closer you get to the basket the higher percentage shot you can get, and Fisher creates a nice amount of separation from Eric Bledsoe here for his running layup. Still, he has to get the shot over the outstretched arm of the leaping, 6-foot-11 DeAndre Jordan, which with this kind of time left shows pretty impressive touch by Fisher.
Game Situation: L.A. down a point after Jordan’s dunk with 3.1 seconds left. Do-or-die time for the Lakers.
Importance: Honestly, I don’t know. The Lakers-Clippers rivalry is so one-sided, I feel like this loss means more to the Clippers than the win does to the Lakers. Sorry Blake Griffin, this is what you have inherited. See what you can do to turn things around.
Celebration: This is supposed to be a Clippers home game, but listen to the crowd react. The only other road games where the Lakers get this much support are in Atlanta. Ouch babe.
3.5 Horrys. A very nice shot, but it’s a Lakers-Clippers game — it can’t come as that much of a surprise. The Lakers are like a bully holding a smaller kid at arm’s length, then letting go quickly and watching the kid fall over in the mud. Pretty nice work though, Derek.
What do you think?
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