Notes from TNT’s NBA Coverage – Tuesday, March 25, 2014: Mavs out shoot Thunder; Lakers beat up Knicks

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Dirk put up 32 in the win.

TNT’s NBA coverage continues Tuesday, April 1, with doubleheader action featuring the Houston Rockets @ Brooklyn Nets at 8 p.m. ET and the Portland Trail Blazers @ Los Angeles Lakers at 10:30 p.m.

 

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TNT NBA Tip-off presented by AutoTrader.com

Matt Winer, Shaquille O’Neal, Rick Fox and Baron Davis

 

O’Neal on Thunder forward Kevin Durant and his chances of being awarded MVP honors: “He’s very close. He just has to remain consistent, remain aggressive, stay healthy and go forward. It’s close. [Heat forward] LeBron James is one of the many players that have played this game that could be MVP every year…but I think this year Durant is the guy.”

 

Davis on the importance of the race between San Antonio and Oklahoma City for the top spot in the Western Conference: “It’s huge because it comes down to who’s going to be at home in the Western Conference Finals. It’s going to be hard to beat San Antonio and Oklahoma City at home. That top spot is very valuable for those two teams.”

 

Fox on Kevin Durant’s shooting prowess: “If there’s a shot that seals his MVP campaign it may be that game-winning shot against Toronto in [double] overtime [last Friday].”

 

Davis on the Thunder without injured point guard Russell Westbrook: “With Russell you get that constant push, killer instinct, attack and one-man fast break. Without him the ball is in [Thunder forward] Kevin Durant’s hands more, you’ll see [Thunder power forward Serge] Ibaka involved more and the bench will have to play a big role.”

 

O’Neal on the drop-off that occurs for the Thunder without Russell Westbrook on the court: “There’s not that much of a drop-off because Kevin Durant is on the court. When Westbrook came back early from the injury, he tried a little too hard and got the team out of rhythm. If they’re playing the right way, [with] Westbrook looking for KD, Durant taking his moments and keeping everyone involved, they’re a dangerous team.”
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Oklahoma City Thunder (119) at Dallas Mavericks (128)
Dick Stockton (play-by-play), Mike Fratello (analyst) with David Aldridge (reporter)
Fratello on Mavericks point guard Jose Calderon: “You forget how important Calderon is to this offensive scoring machine.”

 

Fratello on Kevin Durant’s MVP worthy season: “He’s put up such great numbers,  improved in all these different areas and has done it without his running partner Russell Westbrook, [who] missed so many games. Yet [Durant] still has them right in contention for perhaps the best record in the Western Conference.”

 

Fratello on Kevin Durant’s unselfish play: “You see the change in Durant’s game. He could have very easily taken some of these shots. Instead, he’s shared the basketball with his teammates.”

 

Fratello on Thunder veteran Derek Fisher: “He’s the guy they count on. He’s in incredible shape, has a great toughness about him and a great mental attitude. He’s a pro. [Fisher] does the things he has to do: defends the ball and makes open threes.”

 

Fratello on Thunder guard Reggie Jackson: “You can see the experience of Jackson. He started 33 games since Westbrook was injured. His game has just grown.”

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Sprint Halftime Report
Winer, O’Neal, Fox, Davis

Fox on the leadership of Kevin Durant: “He’s not only affecting the game with 20 points, but making his teammates better…that’s what I like about his play this year. He’s also playing defense.”

 

O’Neal on Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook: “In order for them to be a championship team, Westbrook has to learn a little more control. They are a good team, sometimes a great team, but in order to go to that next level everything has to be done correctly…and it starts with Russell Westbrook.”

 

O’Neal on Westbrook’s need to defer to his teammates: “It’s about deference. A lot of people are forced to defer, and some people are willing to. He has to be willing to defer to [Thunder forward] Kevin Durant. They both need to make their teammates better. That’s how you win championships.”

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Fratello on Kevin Durant’s 36th consecutive game with 25 points or more: “He just makes it look too easy. He scores from anywhere on the floor and gets to the free throw line a lot.”

 

Fratello on how Mavericks guard Monta Ellis helps them play their best: “Dallas plays its best when [Monta] Ellis is aggressive, attacks the rim and [the Mavericks] spread their three-point shooters out. [Ellis] has been willing to give the ball up and find those shooters. That’s when they play their best basketball.”

Fratello on Mavericks point guard Devin Harris: “Harris is very athletic and deceivingly strong once he gets around the rim. [Defenders] don’t understand just how quick Harris is.”

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New York Knicks (96) at Los Angeles Lakers (127)
Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Steve Smith (analyst) with Ric Bucher (reporter)

Smith on Knicks point guard Raymond Felton: “[He excels when] he’s able to be the Raymond Felton of old. He struggled this year with his shot and his confidence, and he’s been in and out of the lineup. He has to pick it up defensively in this stretch.”

 

Smith on the Lakers’ deficit at the point guard position: “You look at this Lakers team…they don’t have a traditional point guard other than [first-year Laker point guard] Kendall Marshall – no [injured Laker veteran] Steve Nash, no [former Laker point guard] Steve Blake, no [injured Laker point guard] Jordan Farmar – and it’s really hurt them. [Lakers head coach] Mike D’Antoni’s style of play needs a point guard.”

 

Smith on the Knicks’ chance to make the playoffs: “This is a Knicks team with [power forward] Amar’e Stoudemire playing well and [guard] J.R. Smith starting to get a rhythm. They still have a chance…it’s a slight chance, but all of the remaining games are key games [for the Knicks].”

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Sprint Halftime Report
Winer, O’Neal, Fox, Davis

O’Neal on the focus of the Knicks: “A lot of times the Knicks don’t have focus. If the Knicks want to make it to the eighth spot [in the Eastern Conference] they have to believe in that goal and stay focused.”

 

Fox on the struggles of the Knicks: “They’re in L.A. playing a team that, if they are serious about going to the playoffs, they should be handling right now and taking care of business. The Lakers run downhill in Staples Center and they come at you for 48 minutes. The Knicks are playing a pace that doesn’t suit them.”

 

Fox on what will be Knicks President Phil Jackson’s most significant imprint on the Knicks: “It starts with him. He’s the biggest addition that the Knicks can look at and say at the end of the day we’re a better organization, which makes us a better contender for championships. Down the road I’m sure there will be a lot of changes. It will start in the front office and work its way down onto the court. But they are still in the playoff hunt and [Knicks head coach] Mike Woodson is still the coach. Phil Jackson would say, ‘Let’s stay present in the moment right now.’ The Knicks still aren’t out of the playoffs.”

 

O’Neal on Phil Jackson’s potential impact on the Knicks: “They’re going to have to believe in Phil’s philosophy. Phil is different, but his philosophy works.”
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Smith on [Lakers injured star] Kobe Bryant’s future with the Lakers: “It doesn’t seem like Kobe wants to be in a rebuilding situation. I think Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers need to get on the same page, because Kobe wants to win now. It’s going to be very interesting, especially this summer, to see how it all plays out.”

 

Smith on the Knicks lack of effort against the Lakers: “They need to win, but a sense of urgency is not on the Knicks’ faces. They don’t look like they want to be in the playoffs.”

 

Smith on the Knicks: “Point blank…Knick basketball might not be making the playoffs the way they’re playing right now.”

 

Smith on whether Knicks President Phil Jackson can get the Knicks back to the level of a championship caliber team: “When you bring in a Phil Jackson you get instant credibility…one of the greatest basketball minds to ever be around the game. We know he’s won championships; he brings that pedigree. I think it’s going to be a long process for the Knicks to get back to a championship level, but they’re at least starting off in the right direction. It’s going to come down to how much Phil Jackson’s going to be involved day to day, how much he will rely on his general manager and how much [Knicks owner] James Dolan is going to give Phil Jackson to be able to get the Knicks back on track to win a championship.”

 

Smith on the defensive issues of the New York Knicks: “It’s initial defense, man-to-man. You can’t get broken down that easy. It’s communication. It’s trust. Right now the New York Knicks don’t have any trust for each other on the defensive end.”

 

Smith on Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni’s development of his young players: “A lot of these players are getting a chance to showcase their skills. There’s no pressure, so it’s like an audition…like a big time scrimmage for them. They’ve been out of it so long that [they don’t worry] about wins and losses. Give Mike D’Antoni a lot of credit, he’s developed a lot of these young guys and given them a lot of confidence. [With all of the Lakers injuries], these guys are given a chance to show their talent.”
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Inside the NBA presented by Kia
Winer, O’Neal, Fox, Davis
O’Neal on Mavericks veteran power forward Dirk Nowitzki: “He’s a great player. We’re told on defense to run and protect the paint, but Dirk has made an incredible living at the three-point line. He can shoot the ball. If Dirk is shooting the ball well, they are definitely going to get in [the playoffs].”

 

Davis on the recent struggles of the Portland Trail Blazers: “The ship is sinking. They’re just not playing as a team. When you have someone like [Portland forward] LaMarcus Aldridge hurt, that’s really going to hurt your team. They are falling in the standings, and they’re falling fast. If you don’t have that closer it’s going to be hard to get into the playoffs in the last 10 games of the season.”

 

Davis on the limited regular season minutes of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook: “He’s a dynamic player. If I’m the coach, I’m going to play him on restrictive minutes anyway knowing that I’m going into the playoffs. I want to have him fresh and I want to be able to play Russell Westbrook as much as I can in the postseason.”

 

Fox on the energy of Russell Westbrook: “You see Russell go all-out and attack the basket. We know he’s going to be aggressive. He’s geared for the game but, at the end of the day, they go nowhere far without him healthy. When he plays at that pace, he gets himself in situations where if he’s not careful he’ll put himself out of the game again. You don’t want him to lose that energy but at the same time you want him to be smart about when he is using that style of energy and that pace.”

 

Fox on the Charlotte Bobcats in the postseason: “Charlotte is a team to be concerned about, [due to] the combination of [Bobcats point guard] Kemba Walker and [Bobcats center] Al Jefferson.”

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