Sefolosha steals a headline for Thunder 0
The best part of Oklahoma City ending San Antonio’s 20-game winning streak?
That classic of a series will be going at least five games.
It has been a long time since we’ve seen a matchup as pleasing to watch.
After two games it looked all but over. That is, until Thunder head coach Scott Brooks went back to the drawing board and took it to the game’s best coach, Gregg Popovich.
Switching on far more pick-and-rolls instead of simply being beaten senseless greatly helped the Oklahoma City cause, but putting swingman Thabo Sefolosha on star point guard Tony Parker made the biggest difference.
Sefolosha’s massive wingspan and tremendous lateral quickness made life difficult for the Frenchman who was stymied, for the most part, from doing his favourite thing, getting to the basket.
That left Tim Duncan to be the centre of the offence for the first time in, oh, a decade and it didn’t work very well.
Sefolosha’s inspired offensive performance and three-point shooting was just a bonus for the home side.
The switching of Sefolosha onto Parker brought back memories of the 1991 championship series between Chicago and Los Angeles.
After losing Game 1, the Bulls put Scottie Pippen on the great Magic Johnson. That allowed Michael Jordan — who previously had been trying to slow down Magic — to save more energy to dominate offensively, which could be the case for Russell Westbrook now as well.
While Johnson still produced strong numbers the rest of that series, those who watched the games know that Pippen bothered him and kept him from truly going off.
If Sefolosha can do the same against Parker and Westbrook benefits from the rest like Jordan did, all of a sudden, San Antonio moving on isn’t quite the given it once appeared to be.
LET HIM SHOOT
Even though Rajon Rondo shot a stunning 11-for-13 on jumpers in Boston’s loss to Miami in Game 2, Miami defiantly refused to change its gameplan for Game 3.
Rondo traditionally has been an extremely poor mid-range shooter, but is one of the league’s premier penetrating guards. Miami will continue to play off of him because that’s the right approach to take based on Rondo’s long track record.
According to hoopdata.com, as pointed out by ESPN, Rondo shot just 28% from the field on shots 10-15 feet from the basket this season and 39% on shots from 16-23 feet.
BOSH GETTING CLOSER
Chris Bosh took part in Miami’s morning shoot-around on Friday in Boston and though Miami won’t set a timeline for his return, the thinking is he could be back as soon as Game 5.
That’s assuming Boston makes a series out of the Eastern Conference Final. If the Celtics only have one win heading into that contest, Bosh likely will get another night off in preparation for the Finals.
FIRST SHAQ, NOW PHIL OUT
First Shaquille O’Neal declared he had no interest in joining the front office of the Orlando Magic, now, his former coach, Phil Jackson has followed suit.
According to the Orlando Sun Sentinel, Jackson bowed out on Thursday.
“It drew some interest from Phil,” former Magic and Chicago Bulls guard Sam Vincent told the Sentinel. “But in the end, Phil decided to go with another opportunity.”
While Vincent believes Jackson is done with coaching, another of his ex-players, Pippen, told ESPN Radio back in April that he thinks Jackson will get back into the game in some capacity.
PACERS NOT IN FOR GORDON?
A follow-up to Thursday’s note about the Indiana Pacers: Larry Bird admitted that team owner Herb Simon will not allow him to go after restricted free agents because they are too expensive even though Bird is in favour of doing so.
That’s interesting because the team has long been linked to Indiana native Eric Gordon, a restricted free agent who has said he will test the market rather than re-sign immediately with New Orleans.
The Pacers can’t try to force the hand of the Hornets if Simon doesn’t let them make a big offer.
If the team can unload Danny Granger for even more cap space — and shift Paul George to small forward where he should thrive — then perhaps Simon changes his mind?
AROUND THE RIM
According to multiple reports, instead of going after a big name, the Washington Wizards will retain Randy Wittman and promote him from interim to head coach. Hired after the Wizards started 2-15, Wittman helped get the team back on track and led the Wizards to wins in 8-of-10 games to finish the season ... High-flying former scoring star Orlando Woolridge has died at the age of 52 while under hospice care for a chronic heart condition. Wooldridge played 13 years in the NBA, averaging 16.0 points per game playing alongside superstars like Jordan, Johnson and Isiah Thomas ... Ultra-thrifty Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling continues to employ general manager Neil Olshey on a month-to-month basis. That could cost the Clippers since Olshey, third in executive of the year balloting, could bolt for the Portland Trail Blazers ... NBA Commissioner David Stern would like to crack down on flopping, make only players 23 and under available for Olympic duty like in soccer and eliminate defensive basket interference ... Had to laugh upon hearing that New Jersey guard DeShawn Stevenson has an ATM in his kitchen. The kicker: Stevenson charges his visitors a $4.50 US fee to take out money. Smart man ... When asked where Jonas Valanciunas would go in this draft (the Raptors got him fifth overall last year) ESPN’s Chad Ford reiterated what has been the standard answer for a while now: The Lithuanian centre would be the second player off the board, behind only Anthony Davis.