STORMY FINISH?

Experiment in Oklahoma City looks to be a failure for Thunder

Russell Westbrook and the Thunder are on the verge of being ousted by Utah. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Last summer everyone was waiting for the next super team to form. Where would Carmelo go?  Where would Paul George go?  One day the Lakers were the place for Paul and the Rockets the place for Carmelo, another day the Cavaliers and so on and so forth until the smoke cleared and both landed in Oklahoma City.  Huh?  Yeah, the place that has been bleeding talent for the last three years suddenly is in the business of bringing Russell Westbrook help?  I guess the powers that be decided that if you’re going to pay Westbrook $200 million dollars he should have some help to actually win something, and so the newest super team was formed.

But honestly, this was never a squad that worked right. Carmelo is known as a guy who scores buckets by the bushel, George has never really lived up to the hype. In the era of the dominant three, he’s always been well, third fiddle, and Westbrook for all his venom and vitriol is probably going to be the odd guy out when it comes to championship rings when it’s all said and done in this era, and putting them together just made for a weird casserole of headlines, under-performance and typical media questions like “who takes the last shot?” “Whose team is this?”

I’ve never understood those questions because there’s one thing Coach Gene Hackman taught me in the movie The Replacements, “winners want the ball.”  So obviously, Westbrook right? Or George? Well definitely not Carmelo right?  Either way it looks a little irrelevant now.  Fast forward to the playoffs and here we are in the first round and Mr Double Triple Double and company are on the verge of a five game bounce by the far less talked about Utah Jazz.  Ricky Rubio, Rudy Gobert and the genuine rookie of the year Donovan Mitchell are stifling the poorly built Thunder and suddenly storm clouds are forming on the horizon.

Paul George is scheduled to make $20.3 million dollars this coming season but can opt out and wear a ski mask to get around $30 million dollars in a new max deal.  It’s the NBA so someone will probably give it to a guy who has never done much more than aggravate Lebron James in a few playoff series. But should it be the Thunder?

Don’t forget about Carmelo, who gave up $8 million dollars in a trade kicker to come to Oklahoma, and also has an opt out for this season.  So if you’re Oklahoma, this year you paid about $70 million to three guys and surrounded them with Australian Jason Mamoa and Raymond Felton to limp out of the playoffs in the first round in what will presumably be five games and now each of those three guys is going to cost about $10 million more next year.  Awesome.

In today’s nonsensical topsy turvy NBA you’re going to see a bunch of talking heads on TV all summer long try and convince you that Oklahoma needs to resign George and Carmelo.  That giving each of them another $175 million each is the only hope Oklahoma has of winning anything. Let me simplify this for you; no it isn’t.  As a matter of fact this is exactly the one thing (I guess technically, two things) OKC shouldn’t do.  You tell them each, thanks but no thanks and you go out and sign three more guys who can defend and shoot the 3 and you let Westbrook sell out your arena night in and night out in his pursuit of all kinds of regular season accolades and early playoff exits, because there isn’t a team that OKC could build in the next three years that would overtake Golden State or Houston. Or next year’s Lakers or this year’s Utah Jazz for that matter.  If you’re OKC you have to have the presence of mind to realize that once Durant left, the championship window closed, and that once James Harden left Durant was never far behind.  So say goodbye to Carmelo and Paul, say hello to lots of stats, 45 wins a year and mediocrity.

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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