Blog Posts by Eric Freeman

  • Kevin Durant's game-winning dunk finishes off a likely MVP season (Video)

    Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is the NBA's likely MVP for the 2013-14 season. While LeBron James might still be the league's best player, depending on how you rate such things, there's little question that Durant has put forth the best campaign of any player. Apart from winning his fourth scoring title in five years, Durant has improved in virtually every aspect of the sport and carried OKC through several lengthy periods of absence for co-star Russell Westbrook. It's hard to imagine him having done more to help his team.

    In Wednesday night's regular season finale against the Detroit Pistons, Durant put an exclamation mark on his already amazing year. With the Thunder needing a win to lock down the West's No. 2 seed for the playoffs, the lackluster Pistons held a meaningful lead for much of the contest. Then, in the fourth quarter, Durant took over. With OKC down 111-110 and under 20 seconds on the clock, Durant took an inbounds pass, went to his left, and dunked on both

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  • Check out the first-round matchups for the 2014 NBA Playoffs

    After nearly six full months and 82 games for each of the NBA's 30 teams, the regular season now gives way to the postseason. With no clear favorite, a massively competitive Western Conference, and two big rivals atop the Eastern Conference, this year's playoffs figure to be worth the wait.

    Without further ado, let's take a quick look at the first-round matchups, along with full schedules (all times Eastern and some quick analysis. (We'll publish in-depth previews for every series later this week.)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE

    No. 1 San Antonio Spurs (62-20) vs. No. 8 Dallas Mavericks (49-33)

    Game 1: Sunday, April 20, at San Antonio, 1:00PM on TNT

    Game 2: Wednesday, April 23, at San Antonio, 8:00PM on NBA TV

    Game 3: Saturday, April 26, at Dallas, 4:30PM on TNT

    Game 4: Monday, April 28, at Dallas, 9:30PM on TNT

    Game 5*: Wednesday, April 30, at San Antonio, TBD

    Game 6*: Friday, May 2, at Dallas, TBD

    Game 7*: Sunday, May 4, at San Antonio, TBD

    The eternally effective Spurs bounced back from last

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  • Kobe Bryant went to France before the Lakers finale, refers to season as 's---'

    This Los Angeles Lakers season was always going to be a trying one full of challenges, but the reality has been something akin to a worst-case scenario. L.A.'s most popular squad enters Wednesday night's season finale at the San Antonio Spurs with a 26-55 record, second-worst in the Western Conference and sixth-worst in the entire NBA. The franchise will have to consider many options this summer as they attempt to reload and return to relevance.

    The most bizarre aspect of this terrible season, though, has been the relative absence of Lakers icon Kobe Bryant. In his 18th season, Kobe managed to participate in only six games as he struggled to recover from a torn Achilles tendon and subsequent injuries. He has been a presence around the Lakers, but he hasn't been the sort of ever-present force that has made him the NBA's most popular active player around the world.

    It now appears that Bryant has ended his 2013-14 responsibilities with the Lakers a little earlier than originally intended.

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  • Blake Griffin gets 16th technical, will miss Clippers' finale in Portland (Video)

    The battle for playoff seeding in the Western Conference could determine several teams' fates this spring. With all eight playoff teams having looked very dangerous at some point in the regular season, first-round matchups figure to go a long way in figuring out which franchises avoid upsets or put themselves in position to surprise NBA fans. There are many quality teams in the West, so seeding might mean less than the ideal matchup.

    Heading into the final day of the regular season, the Los Angeles Clippers will be without Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick as they determine whether they enter the playoffs with the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. The team announced late Tuesday night that neither player will make the trip to Portland for the Clippers' regular season finale. 

    That decision comes after Griffin was assessed his 16th technical foul of the season with 3:23 remaining in the second quarter of Tuesday night's eventual 117-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets. The All-Star power forward earned

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  • Damian Lillard offends Chris Webber and Karl Malone in new Foot Locker ad (Video)

    With the NBA postseason nearly upon us, it's time to sort out stars' legacies. While various statistical milestones and awards confer legitimacy on careers, championships tend to carry the most prestige of all. If a great player retires without a ring, he's going to be diminished in the eyes of many fans and basketball lifers.

    This phenomenon just happens to be the subject of the newest ad from Foot Locker. In this 30-second spot, Portland Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard talks about picking up new Adidas gear at Foot Locker — maybe because he just signed a giant contract with the shoe and apparel giant — and says that he doesn't want to end up like "one of those guys that never won a ring." Unfortunately, Lillard seems to have forgotten that he invited ring-less NFL legends Barry Sanders and LaDainian Tomlinson to his house to watch the game. And when he tries to cover for himself, he ends up offending retired NBA stars Chris Webber and Karl Malone in the process.

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  • The Milwaukee Bucks are officially the NBA's worst team, secure top lottery odds

    Tanking remains a concern for many NBA fans and analysts, but there's no question why teams consider it a useful plan. Strategic losing gives teams a chance to rebuild and reload their rosters through the draft. It's the most apparent way of landing a star-quality player and becoming a true contender.

    This manner of rebuilding has become such an acceptable plan that it's easy to identify several franchises that enter the season with little hope of making the postseason. This fall, those intentional losers appeared to include the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns (a surprise playoff contender until finally being eliminated on Monday night), and Utah Jazz, among others. Yet the worst team of the 2013-14 season may not have intended to be anywhere near this terrible.

    On Monday, the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors 110-100. The defeat pushed the Bucks' record on the season to 15-66, or three games worse than the 18-63 Sixers, who defeated the Boston

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  • Corey Brewer scores 51 points in a very confusing offensive onslaught (Video)

    The end of any NBA season is full of bizarre and atypical events. When a team loses all hope of making the playoffs, lineups and strategies can go in weird directions. It's a good idea for fans to expect the unexpected.

    Nevertheless, there was really no way to predict what Minnesota Timberwolves wing Corey Brewer achieved on Friday night against the Houston Rockets. In a performance without clear precedent, the seven-season pro scored a career-high 51 points on 19-of-30 shooting from the field and 11-of-15 shooting from the line in 45 minutes. With star power forward Kevin Love, guard Kevin Martin, and center Nikola Pekovic sitting out, Brewer was the focus of the Wolves' offense and a terror for the Rockets. Check out his shot chart — heavy on baskets at the rim — below:

    Corey Brewer's remarkable shot chart against the Houston Rockets (via NBA.com).

    It was surprising enough that this legitimately dramatic game-winner from rookie Gorgui Dieng seemed like the secondary story in Minnesota's 112-110 win (video via The Point Forward):

    NBA fans have seen very, very

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  • Rajon Rondo has been warned for a hilariously obvious flopping violation (Video)

    When the NBA instituted warnings and fines for flopping at the beginning of the last season, the hope was that it would curtail the practice by providing some measure of shame for the worst offenders. That hasn't entirely happened — players still sell contact really often — but it's definitely the case that we now have several working examples of the worst kind of flopping. If the league says it's bad, it's usually pretty terrible.

    Yet it's very difficult to prepare for the sheer ridiculousness of the flop that earned Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo a warning on Thursday. In the fourth quarter of Wednesday's eventual loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Rondo set up to take a charge as his Hawks counterpart Jeff Teague dribbled through the lane. Unfortunately for Rondo, Teague avoided him and passed to teammate DeMarre Carroll. That didn't stop Rondo from trying to sell the (lack of) contact anyway. Check it out below (the relevant moment starts around the 24-second mark):

     

    Brett

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  • Chris Copeland's game-winning runner sends starter-less Pacers over Bucks (Video)

    Absent any context but win-loss record, Wednesday night's between the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks was a bit of a mismatch. The 53-25 Pacers and 14-64 Bucks represent opposite ends of the Eastern Conference standings and have much different incentives to win and lose. Yet, when Indiana head coach Frank Vogel decided to sit all five of his starters vs. Milwaukee, the matchup suddenly became a real contest. The Pacers, mired in the midst of a confounding struggle, would need strong performances from their usual bench players in order to best the NBA's worst team.

    It was a tight game, with the two squads playing to a standstill into the final seconds of regulation. Would the Pacers step up to the challenge? Or would Vogel and Co. suffer the shame of losing a gimme game due to their desire to get the starters some rest?

    Let Chris Copeland, who didn't even crack the secondary starting lineup, answer those questions (via Beyond the Buzzer):

    With that runner, the Pacers came away with

    Read More »from Chris Copeland's game-winning runner sends starter-less Pacers over Bucks (Video)
  • Steve Nash passes Mark Jackson for 3rd-most assists in NBA history (Video)

    Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash has had a rough past two seasons, suffering through various ailments and looking like a shadow of his former self. Entering Tuesday night's home game against the Houston Rockets, Nash had played in only 14 games this season and was even declared out for the rest of the campaign several weeks ago, only to return shortly thereafter as a backup for starter Kendall Marshall. As Nash has documented in his web series, all of this has been a real struggle.

    The silver lining is that Nash now has something very positive to show for his efforts this season. Late in the second quarter of that game vs. the Rockets, Nash passed ahead to Jodie Meeks for an easy fastbreak dunk and his fifth assist of the night. It was also the 10,335th assist of his career, putting him one ahead of current Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson for third on the NBA's all-time list. Take a look below:

    Jackson immediately congratulated Nash on knocking him down to

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