Oklahoma City Thunder: Time to panic after 5th straight loss

Before the season began, it was only a matter of who the Oklahoma City Thunder will face in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Now questions surface if they will even make the playoffs after losing five in a row. Is it time to panic in Oklahoma?
The Brooklyn Nets put an end to their five game losing streak displaying a masterful performance late in the fourth defensively and handing the Thunder their fifth straight loss with a 94-92 victory Friday night as they continued their offensive slump.
Led by Jarret Jack who scored 23 points going eight-for-fifteen shooting off the bench. Jack seem rejuvenated, turning the time clock a couple years back to his playing days with the Golden State Warriors when he was causing havoc for teams late in the playoffs.
Completely being shut down in the 4th quarter, the Brooklyn Nets exposed yet again a struggling Thunder team who could not seem to get into rhythm offensively in the 4th quarter. The Thunder could not buy a basket down the stretch and were hel

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Suns’ Eric Bledsoe Gets in Face of 76ers’ Nerlens Noel After Hard Foul

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe was visibly upset after this hard foul on him during Friday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

While driving to the basket, Bledsoe was knocked to the floor by Nerlens Noel. Moments later, Bledsoe got into Noel’s face, despite being a full 10 inches shorter than the 76ers big man.

Here’s another angle of the scuffle:

Fortunately, the situation didn’t escalate.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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Kobe won’t take paycut, hints at retiring after contract ends

Kobe Bryant’s days as an NBA player might be numbered.
The Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard hinted that he wouldn’t play past his last contract — which expires after next season — when he criticized hometown discounts saying they were a “big coup” for owners.

Kobe insinuates that he won’t be playing beyond his current contract.
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) November 21, 2014
“It’s the popular thing to do,” Bryant said, via ESPN.com. “The player takes less, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I think it’s a big coup for the owners to put players in situations where public perception puts pressure on them to take less money. Because if you don’t, then you get criticized for it.”
Kobe received some backlash from Lakers fans last year when he signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension, making him the NBA’s highest paid player as a 36-year-old coming off a major injury.
Bryant also was asked about Dirk Nowitzki, who took a hometown discount by signing a contract for three y

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Fordham Basketball: After Tough Week on the Road, Time to Look Ahead

Fordham lost twice this week in back-to-back games on the road against Big Ten opponents.

After a 94-77 win over the New York Institute of Technology in the season opener, the last two games served as a reminder that nothing will come easy this season—not that anything has ever been easy—with eight underclassmen who could see significant time, a schedule that includes 18 games against Atlantic 10 teams and the just-completed trips to Penn State and Maryland.

Last Sunday against Penn State, just two days after its win over NYIT, Fordham took an early 10-5 lead, but the Nittany Lions responded with an 11-0 run and led 38-21 at the half. The Rams trailed by as many as 25 in the second half and lost 73-54.

“Life with seven freshmen is interesting,” Fordham head coach Tom Pecora said after the Penn State loss, according to FordhamSports.com. “We’ve got to use this game as a learning experience and take something from it as we move on.”

Four days later Fordham was in Maryland, where the Terrapins, now 3-0, continued their hot start to the season with a 66-50 win over the Rams. Fordham kept it close in the first half, trailing by just five at the break, but Maryland would pull away in the second half for a 66-50 win.

“They’re good. We knew they were good. We had great respect for them,” Pecora said about Maryland in postgame remarks, reported by FordhamSports.com. “I thought we played really hard considering we didn’t have Eric Paschall and Antwoine Anderson. The guys played real hard, and they competed.”

Despite the two losses, there was some good news this past week, as Paschall was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week after scoring 31 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in Fordham’s opener. The 31 points he scored against NYIT set a school record for most points scored by a freshman in his debut.

At 1-2, there’s some relief in sight. Fordham’s next four games against UMass Lowell, Maryland Eastern Shore, Siena and Monmouth, all at home, are games it can win. Then there’s the two against local rivals St. John’s (Madison Square Garden) and Manhattan (Barclays Center), before Howard and South Carolina State come to Rose Hill. Fordham won’t leave New York City until it travels to Rhode Island on Jan. 7.

As tough as the games were at Penn State and Maryland, it’s good to have those in the rearview mirror. It will be important for the Rams to get healthy, as that’s been one of the big storylines of the season so far.

Paschall didn’t make the trip to Maryland after undergoing medical tests. Before the game, WFUV Sports reported that he had an irregular heartbeat.

It’s expected that he’ll rejoin the team at practice Friday.

The injury bug has definitely hit Fordham hard.

Anderson was a game-time decision opening night, played just five minutes at Penn State and sat out the game at Maryland with a groin injury. Point guard Nemanja Zarkovic has been battling a hip injury for some time, though he’s been able to play through it. Manny Suarez, who didn’t play in the opener, played a season-high 20 minutes Thursday night. He had shoulder surgery in July. Ryan Canty, one of only two seniors, is out indefinitely following back surgery.

The Rams dressed just 12 players Thursday. Eventually, one would think, they’re going to get healthy.

On the non-injury front, Jon Severe, who was suspended for a week due to a violation of team rules, has appeared in the last two games but has played only 22 minutes combined and has only two points in those games.

You have to think that Fordham can take advantage of a long stretch of games at home over the next month-and-a-half. There will be challenges, but no back-to-back scenarios on the road against teams from power conferences.

Time to look ahead.

 

Statistics, game information and quotes courtesy of FordhamSports.com.

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. A full archive of his articles can be found hereTwitter: @CFCostello

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Joakim Noah throws temper tantrum after foul on DeMarcus Cousins flop (video)

Joakim Noah is as emotional a basketball player as there is in the NBA. It’s never difficult to ascertain how exactly the Chicago Bulls center is feeling, for better or worse. And on Thursday night at Sleep Train Arena in a game against the Sacramento Kings, it was definitely for the worse. Noah didn’t have…Read More
The post Joakim Noah throws temper tantrum after foul on DeMarcus Cousins flop (video) appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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2014-15 NBA Power Rankings: How Every Team Stacks Up After 3 Weeks of Action

If the NBA were Hogwarts—and with all the witchcraft and wizardry its players are able to pull off from night to night, it just might be—we’d still be waiting for the Sorting Hat to split all 30 teams into their respective houses.

Do LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers belong among the high-achieving elites in Gryffindor? Or are they destined to settle in among the ho-hum inhabitants of Hufflepuff?

Is there any hope for Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers to slide out of Slytherin? Can the Golden State Warriors legitimately launch themselves from Ravenclaw into the ranks of title contenders over the long haul? Will Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook return in time to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder from flunking out entirely?

And have you tired of this particular Harry Potter comparison yet?

Yours truly may or may not have inched closer to a clearer picture of the Association’s hierarchy last week. Let’s see if we can come closer to snatching the Snitch this time around.

Begin Slideshow

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Re-Ranking the Top 20 CBB Recruiting Classes After Early Signing Period

College basketball’s early signing period for the 2015 class is in the books, and surprise, surprise, Kentucky was a big winner.

John Calipari landed two top-10 players for his 2015 class and has the Wildcats primed to take home another potential championship-winning group. Kentucky isn’t the only team in an ideal position well before national signing day, though.

With that in mind, here is a look at the top 20 recruiting classes for the 2015 cycle. These classes are strictly looked at and compared against each other in a vacuum, so current rosters were not considered part of the rankings.

Star ratings and recruit information is courtesy of 247Sports‘ composite rankings.

Begin Slideshow

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Frank Kaminsky Nearly Gets Posterized, Gives Props to Opponent After Game

Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes wasn’t quite able to posterize Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky on this dunk attempt Wednesday night, but he did miss in spectacular fashion.

The 6’0” guard drove hard to the basket and went right at the 7’0Kaminsky. However, when it came time to throw down the hammer, Sykes was rejected by the rim. 

It would have been a serious candidate for Dunk of the Year if Sykes had completed the play. Instead, it will just go down as a spectacular miss. 

Sykes’ near-posterization of Kaminsky led to a pretty great Twitter exchange after the game:

What a cool display of respect between opponents.

[Vine, Twitter]

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Lakers Showing Signs of Life After Terrible Start to 2014-15 Season

Don’t plan to attend a parade down Figueroa Street just yet, Los Angeles Lakers fans. Don’t even sit on StubHub for seats at Staples Center beyond mid-April, unless you’re eager to support the Los Angeles Clippers.

A 98-92 win over the Dwight Howard-less Houston Rockets won’t bring another Larry O’Brien Trophy to L.A. Neither will a 104-99 victory against the Atlanta Hawks, sans DeMarre Carroll and a whole Al Horford.

But wins are wins, especially those that come on the road. And in a season clouded with misery and predictable disappointment, every a little ray of sunshine counts.

The Rockets still have plenty going for them, despite the absence of the Lakers’ newest nemesis, on account of a knee strain. James Harden, for one.

Harden had himself an evening that was at once typical of and unusual for such a prolific and aggressive scorer. The two-time All-Star scored 28 points on just 11 field-goal attempts, with a pair of threes, a slew of slashes and eight made free throws constituting his total.

Typical Harden, right? Not if you peek behind the box score.

Harden didn’t register any points until a quarter-and-a-half had passed, and he didn’t hit from the field until there were just over three minutes left until the break.

Of course, The Beard brushed by L.A.’s defense for 24 second-half points.

Just none when it really mattered. He put the Rockets up five with a 20-footer at 2:42, but he failed to get back on the board as the Lakers ripped off a stunning 12-1 run.

What happened? Wesley Johnson happened.

Good Wes came out to play in the waning moments, hounding Harden on one end and hitting shots on the other. With the clock running under a minute, he picked Harden’s pocket and finished an and-one on the other end that gave the Lakers a 94-92 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Two possessions later, he smothered the smooth-scoring swingman to the point of jacking up a desperate air ball from beyond the three-point line that wound up in Kobe Bryant‘s hands. Carlos Boozer noted the importance of Johnson’s role to the team, per Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:

Fitting, too, that Bryant would be the one catch, a tough, contested miss, that all but sealed the game in the Lakers favor and the one that actually did. His night was full of misfires—20 all told, including those from the free-throw and three-point lines. 

Heck, his evening was about as streaky as Harden’s. Bryant opened the scoring with a three, then missed five straight shots…then nailed six in a row…then went on to miss seven consecutive field goals later on. Along the way, he took more than his fair share of maddeningly contested shots, including a few of the variety that had ESPN Insider Tom Haberstroh (subscription required) in such a fit:

Watching the Lakers play basketball this season, for the most part, has been a miserable experience. It’s hardly team basketball. Flip over to a Lakers game and chances are you’ll see four guys in purple-and-gold standing around watching Bryant build a house, brick-by-brick.

But just because it took Bryant 28 shots to pile up his 29 points doesn’t mean he came up empty; far from it. He led all scorers with nine fourth-quarter points—one more than a certain swagtastic shooter.

Nick Young followed up a 17-point season debut in Atlanta with 16 more at the Toyota Center Wednesday night. It’s way too soon to say he’s the Lakers savior…but they are 2-0 since he returned from a broken finger.

This, after a 1-9 start in which they looked like easily the league’s worst team west of Philadelphia and, in some ways, its most hopeless over the long haul. Their defense had been scraping the bottom of the deepest barrel in the NBA for stops, ceding 113.4 points per 100 possessions, while allowing their opponents to shoot a sizzling 48.5 percent from the floor.

The Rockets managed a mere 40.5 percent for themselves and were outrebounded 47-38 by the size-deprived Lakers, with Jordan Hill accounting for 16 points and 10 boards inside.

Granted, Houston didn’t have Howard, whose forays around the rim—like those few he fit in before bowing out of the Rockets’ season-opening blowout in L.A.—rank among the best way to boost a squad’s field-goal percentage on any given night. And the Lakers’ struggles defending the three were as evident as ever, with Houston’s trey-happy attack, hitting 15-of-38 (39.5 percent) from downtown.

But there’s no point in poo-pooing improvement, however token.

Not after watching the Lakers cede at least 107 points on eight different occasions coming into the game. Not after suffering, sulking and slinking through an unbearable bundle of barrages that embarrassed this franchise and its coach, Byron Scott, who came into the campaign preaching purple-and-gold pride and physical defense. Not after wondering whether the sky was actually falling, or if those were just drops of real rain to soothe California’s drought.

And certainly not after seeing the Lakers spread the wealth a bit, rather than wait for Bryant to either save or bury them, depending on the outcome of a contested shot late in the clock.

Four double-digit scorers in Houston. Five in Atlanta. Not coming from the end of the bench, benefiting only from the solemn, pointless opportunities with which crunch time is rife, especially in Lakerland.

Is it the Swaggy P Effect? Has Young’s mere presence helped to balance out Bryant’s on-ball proclivities, by providing the Black Mamba with a reliable scoring partner? Has he reinvigorated the Lakers’ locker room with his trademark brand of San Fernando Valley-bred bravado?

Maybe. Maybe not. Well, probably not. But compared to a decrepit Carlos Boozer? A lost Jeremy Lin? A supporting cast stymied, at times, by the Mamba doing his thing? Young’s not just a breath of fresh air; he’s a freakin’ gust of it. In true Young style, he defined his Swag, courtesy of Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding:

It’s all relative for the Lakers right now. They can talk all they want about championship aspirations and building toward the sport’s biggest prize. They wouldn’t be the Lakers if they didn’t, and Kobe would not be Kobe if he didn’t, wrote B/R’s Kevin Ding:

So he has to answer the questions about making the playoffs by deflecting and saying it doesn’t matter what he says about that because people aren’t going to believe the Lakers will make it anyway. He might not rationally expect the Lakers are going to, but he has to operate as if they can.

It’s all about process for these Lakers. Laying the foundation for their future. Establishing a system, an attitude, an approach, a culture under Scott into which the next Lakers—and the Lakers after that, and the Lakers after that—cannot only fit, but eventually also thrive.

As the famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Indeed, the Lakers look as though they’re at least 1,000 metaphorical miles from hanging their 17th banner. And two wins in mid-November, amidst an 82-game schedule that ends on Tax Day in America, April 15, equate to little more than the pre-walk shuffles of an anxious infant on the Lakers’ long road back to relevance.

Each bit counts, though, no matter how small, when there are only small bits of solace to be found in the sea of uncertainty that surrounds the NBA’s marquee team and its most polarizing living legend.

As Bryant put it after L.A.’s first win of the season, 107-92 victory over the Charlotte Hornets: “You’ve got to start somewhere.”

 

Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.

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Kentucky Looks Too Big to Fail After Romp over Kansas at 2014 Champions Classic

Putting a nice bow on a tipoff marathon that featured more than a few blowouts, Kentucky and its extremely talented front line made a statement against Kansas in a 72-40 beatdown at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The statement is that these Wildcats are unstoppable giants.

Kansas is a very big, talented team. The Jayhawks have five forwards 6’8″ or taller who will do some serious damage this season.

But for the vast majority of the nightcap of the Champions Classic, they looked like a junior-varsity team scrimmaging against its bigger and better upperclassmen.

As mentioned during ESPN’s broadcast of the game, Kentucky has 10 players who are 6’6″ or taller, seven who are 6’8″ or taller and four who stand at least 6’10″.

As Jay Bilas astutely noted, trying to put the ball in the bucket against the Wildcats “is like trying to play Frisbee in the Redwood Forest.”

Even with Tyler Ulis, who might be 5’9″ in platform shoes, Kentucky’s average height is 79.7″, according to KenPom.com (subscription required). The gap between Kentucky and second place on that list (78.8″) is larger than the gap between second place and 33rd place.

Pomeroy’s data on height only goes back to the 2006-07 season, but this year’s Wildcats are bigger than any other college basketball team in the past eight years. Convert Kentucky’s average height to centimeters (202.4) and you can see that these Wildcats are taller than almost every NBA squad.

And unlike other teams with big men who have two left feet, Kentucky’s giants are outrageously talented.

 

Through three games, they have already blocked 28 shots. That’s an average of 9.3 per game. Last year, St. John’s led the nation at 7.6 blocks per game.

Even when the Wildcats had Anthony Davis, they “only” averaged 8.8 blocks per game.

That ridiculous average isn’t because they padded their stats against Grand Canyon and Buffalo. Rather, the 11 blocks against Kansas on Tuesday were the most they’ve recorded this season.

Kentucky had already tallied all 11 of those blocks before the under-eight-minute timeout in the second half. Marcus Lee and Karl Towns Jr. led the way with four each.

The game barely reached the midway point of the first half before an unofficial contest broke out on Twitter to see who could best describe the sheer dominance of Kentucky’s big men:

It could have been so much worse, too. Kansas had at least 10 other shots altered for fear of being blocked, resulting in an almost incomprehensible team shooting percentage of 19.6.

After the game, Kentucky coach John Calipari told Andy Katz on ESPN’s broadcast, “We’re so long and athletic, and we keep coming at you in waves. We don’t have subs. We have reinforcements…It’s like tanks coming over a hill.”

Though the defense has been firing on all cylinders (with the exception of that first half against Buffalo on Sunday), the scary thing is that Kentucky’s big men are still finding their legs on offense.

They played incredibly to hold the Jayhawks to just 40 points, but how did the Wildcats only score 72 points of their own?

They shot just 47.5 percent from two-point range, despite having a half-dozen big men who can probably touch the top of the backboard.

What’s bizarre is that Kentucky only had two dunks on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats had plenty of layups, but this team could be the second coming of Dunk City if it wanted to be. Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson are among the best angry dunkers in the country, but we didn’t get to see either of them throw one down against the Jayhawks.

That isn’t meant as a criticism of how Kentucky played on Tuesday night so much as it is a warning of what’s to come. When these big guys are firing on all cylinderswhen Poythress isn’t missing all five shots he takes and when Lee is aggressive enough to take more than three shotsthis is a team that could win conference games by 60 points.

And how about those platoons that we all wanted to see dead and buried after the Wildcats trailed Buffalo at the half on Sunday?

In most sports, platoon is a dirty word.

In baseball, whether it’s a closer by committee or third basemen who swap starting jobs based on the opposing pitcher, what the manager is basically saying is that he doesn’t trust either option. The same goes for football with a platoon situation at quarterback. If you have two QBs, you have no QBs.

But a college basketball platoon designed to get equal playing time for 10 very good players?

That seems to be working out pretty well.

For the big men, it will pay huge dividends in the long run.

While guys such as LSU’s Jordan Mickey and Auburn’s Cinmeon Bowers wear down by mid-February due to playing close to 35 minutes per game, Kentucky will not only still have six big men, but they’ll be fresher than all the others in the country.

There might not be a single forward or center on this team who averages a double-double, but the combined forces of the post dwellers from the Blue and White platoons could absolutely average 40 points and 35 rebounds per game.

Through less than one week, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor appears to be the best big man in the country. As far as “best team in the paint” goes, though, it’s Kentucky by a country mileand the gap is only going to get more pronounced as the season progresses.

After the game, Katz asked Coach Calipari how Kentucky can be beaten.

“You can shoot threes,” Calipari said. “You can get us in the post. We foul. We fouled like crazy (tonight). We kept them on the line. We’ve got a long way to go.”

There you have it. The blueprint to beat Kentucky!

Good luck executing it.

 

Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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