Alec Nathan (B/R) on yesterday’s L2M report from Thunder/Celtics: “The NBA announced in its Last Two Minute Report Wednesday that, upon review, Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris committed two violations before hitting a game-winning three against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night. According to the league, Morris should have been called for a five-second violation on the inbounds pass that preceded his go-ahead triple and whistled for traveling before he released the shot because he moved his pivot foot prior to dribbling. The NBA stated Morris’ five-second violation was “detectable with stopwatch,” while the travel was “observable in enhanced video.”
Erik Horne with three reasons why OKC’s closing schedule is manageable: “The Thunder has four road games left that each appear daunting. Two have massive implications: at San Antonio March 29 on the first night of a home/road back-to-back; at New Orleans April 1. The other is at Miami on April 9. At home against Golden State (April 3) and at Houston (April 7), while important for the Thunder to stay ahead of Minnesota, San Antonio, New Orleans and Utah in the win column, may not be a difficult as they appear on paper. Houston has all but wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, jumping out to a four-game lead on Golden State as the Warriors nurse injuries to Stephen Curry (right ankle sprain), Klay Thompson (broken right thumb) and Kevin Durant (rib fracture).”
Nick DePaula (ESPN) decodes the scribbles that grace the sneakers of NBA stars: “Why Not? KB3. It’s one of the easier-to-miss notes along the sneakers of perhaps the league’s most flashy player: a simple “KB3″ in small text etched by Russell Westbrook nightly onto his Jordans. The initials hold deep meaning for the reigning MVP, honoring Khelcey Barrs III, Westbrook’s childhood best friend and high school teammate who passed away during a pickup game in 2004, at the age of 16. Those around the team at the time often say 6-foot-6 Barrs was the school’s best player. The two shared a dream of one day playing together at UCLA. After Barrs collapsed on the court, it was later uncovered that he suffered from an enlarged heart.”
Rohan Nadkarni (SI) on Corey Brewer and the Thunder’s newfound closing lineup: “In the postseason, Brewer likely won’t be able to maintain his torrid shooting streak, but any gravity he provides on offense will end up being a significant upgrade over Roberson. This isn’t meant to denigrate Roberson, but any attention paid to Brewer, even if it’s minimal, allows OKC’s best players to thrive. With one less defender in the paint, the Westbrook-Adams pick-and-roll becomes much more lethal. With a little more focus being shifted to Brewer, PG and Melo have an extra half-second on their catch-and-shoots. And while Brewer is far from a lockdown perimeter defender, he’s no stiff either, and at the very least he can guard any wing until George decides to take over for the closing stretch. Brewer certainly makes more sense as a closer than some of the Thunder’s other options.”
Paul Flannery (SB Nation) on Paul George being the key to Thunder playoff hopes: “Given the way this season has gone and the sense of immediacy that surrounds George’s summer, the playoffs offer both a momentous challenge and an opportunity. If they are to truly contend it will depend in large part on George’s ability to elevate his game. He has been a phenomenal postseason player over the years, going toe-to-toe with LeBron James in a pair of conference finals. In later postseason matchups, George kept Indy afloat with huge scoring barrages under dire circumstances. George doesn’t have to carry OKC in the playoffs. He just has to be himself. That’s a luxury few teams can provide and it’s one PG now enjoys. The playoffs will be a telling moment in his career, as will his decision this summer.”
Dan Favale (B/R) lists Josh Huestis on this summer’s under-the-radar free agent finds: Best Fit: Chicago Bulls / Speaking of Roberson: His season-ending patellar tendon injury initially resulted in a heightened role for Huestis. Corey Brewer’s arrival earlier this month has basically put an end to that. Huestis is averaging under seven minutes over Oklahoma City’s past five games. Still, he retains diamond-in-the-dregs potential at the defensive end. He’s similar to Roberson in many ways. He has the size, at 6’7″, to body up against stronger wings and some bigs but the lateral gait to keep pace with tinier guards. Paul George is now the only one of Oklahoma City’s wings to have guarded more pick-and-roll ball-handlers. And the 0.65 points per possession Huestis gives up in these situations ties him for the league’s sixth-best mark among 164 players to pester more than 90 such plays.”
Paul George is releasing a colorway of the PG2 that honors Kobe Bryant…: “Following an NCAA March Madness theme, the Nike PG 2 Mamba Mentality is the next iteration of Paul George’s signature basketball sneaker, and like the nickname says, it celebrates Mamba Day next month, inspired by Kobe Bryant’s Nike Prelude pack. This first look at the model features a purple upper highlighted with graphics that were used on the upper of the Kobe 6. Other details completing the design altogether are blue laces, volt branding and a crimson lining.”
Around the League: LeBron dropped 35 points and 17 assists last night…. The Greek Freak sprained his ankle…. Manu Ginobili says Kawhi won’t be back this season…. Dwight Howard went for 32 points and 30 rebounds last night…. Why can’t the Rockets be the Warriors?…. Deandre Ayton will enter the NBA draft…. Updated 2018 mock draft.