Posts about Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder and Mavs get big wins; key NBA games for tonight

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

For the past three weeks or so, anytime two teams in the top 9 of the western conference square-off, it’s much watch television for all basketball fans. That’s just the kind of season we’re having in the west. I know the eastern conference looks like it will be bit more competitive (especially as of late) this postseason but the west will be a bloodbath every single round. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, as usual, but at least we got a little preview of what we could see in a couple of week during last night’s games. Both the Thunder and Mavericks got big wins over the Spurs and Clippers (respectively), two of the best teams in the conference as of late. What does that tell us? Well, for one, no team is invincible in the conference. At least for one night. I still wouldn’t bet against the Spurs but at least we can see that they won’t completely roll over every other team. Especially the Thunder, because after last night’s win over their I-35 rival, they have swept the season series 4-0. Are the Thunder just a match-up nightmare for San Antonio? A little bit but don’t forget that the Spurs were playing their 5th game in just over a week’s time. It was still an impressive by OKC, who used their superior length and speed to counter the Spurs’ ball-movement. Conference finals preview?

Once again, not getting ahead of myself. Especially if the Clippers or Mavs, who squared off last night, have anything to say about not being included in the conference finals discussion. Now, my Mavericks are a bit of a long-shot to make it that far into the playoffs but they would at the very least give any opponent in the west a well-fought series. But that’s the western conference in general and that’s why it’s so great. The Clippers have been playing excellent basketball for over a month now, led by Blake Griffin, who posted his first triple-double of the season. Dallas was able to survive Griffin’s performance but it wasn’t easy, as the Mavericks continue to fight with the Warriors, Grizzlies and Suns for those final three spots in the conference. The Mavs, with their barrage of shooters, have one of the best offenses in the league but it’s going to have to be their defense that makes sure they have a position in the postseason. Right now it’s spotty but if they can fix their late-game mistakes, Dallas can do some real damage. The Clippers on the other hand are pretty much locked into the #3 seed, barring anything crazy happening in the final stretch of the season. Right now they’re set to face the Warriors, and man oh man, would that be a juicy first-round match up. At lot left to happen before we get to that point so let’s see what games will affect both conferences as we begin the final week and a half of the season.

Lots and lots of games tonight. In fact, the only teams that aren’t in action tonight are the Spurs and Clippers. But don’t worry because we’re still going to get some great games tonight, some of which have big implications. As stated previously, any game involving two western conference playoffs contenders is a great watch. Especially 6 through 9 because at any time, those teams can switch in a variety of ways. The biggest games among the western teams tonight are the Thunder in Houston and the Suns in Portland, both games should be great. The east isn’t as intense but there’s still a lot to learn from various teams and some shuffling that will happen among the non-Pacer and non-Heat teams. The Raptors are fighting to stay in the 3rd position and what do you know, they’re going up against Indiana tonight. The Pacers need to get back into the form and getting a win over the team one spot beneath them is the right direction. You can also tune into Boston-Philly for tanking reasons. But let’s focus on the Wizards, in New York tonight to take on Moe’s Knicks, who are all of a sudden in the 8th spot in the eastern conference. Washington is trying to move up a spot in the standings while New York is trying to fight off the Hawks and Cavaliers for the final spot in the postseason. Should be a good game and a good Friday of basketball to get the weekend started.

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NBA Wednesday: Kevin Durant’s incredible hot-streak; other lingering notes.

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First of all, i’d like to apologize to the NBA. It’s mostly been football for me the past few weeks, the main attraction this time of year, but i’ve been watching the Association on a more casual level. There are various reasons for that (I won’t bore you) and while it’s mostly been Mavericks basketball, i’m still keeping tabs on what’s going on around the NBA circles. Until the Super Bowl is over, i’ll keep it casual with the NBA but since it’s the only pro-football game left for this season, my basketball coverage will continue to improve in the next couple of weeks. After all, what can happen during the NBA regular season that can eclipse the all-mighty NFL? Enter Kevin Durant. Durant’s current scoring streak includes 30 points or more in 8 straight games, with totals that include 46 (last night), 48 and 54 points. At first sight, I thought to myself “well, this is the most impressive scoring streak since Kobe’s stretch in the 06-07 season” and then I came across this stat sheet. My predictions were correct! Kobe was more of a volume shooter (scoring 398 in 10 games) and while Durant has “only” managed to score 383 points in 10 games, he’s doing it more efficiently than Kobe did. Think about this: in the month of January so far, #35 of the Thunder is averaging 37 points/game while shooting just over 52% from the field. If that’s not must-watch basketball, I don’t know what is. For those that are interested, Durant does play tonight as the Thunder are in San Antonio to take on the Spurs. The top two teams in the western conference going head-to-head that also includes the most impressive shooting stretch in the past 7 years? Yes, all basketball fans should be watching ESPN at 8pm ET tonight.

As impressive as Durant’s streak has been, it’s not everything that has been going on with the NBA right now. Can I just get one thing on record? Let’s all pump the brakes on statements that say Durant is now the favorite for MVP and that Indiana is now the favorite to win the title. I get where the debate is coming from. It’s a fun one to have right now because Durant has looked so impressive and because Indiana appears to be taking complete control of the top spot in the eastern conference. But as we’ve seen in the past, the MVP isn’t won over a month long stretch in January and NBA title isn’t won because you’re the top seed in the conference. I give plenty of props to Durant for making it an actual conversation now but my money is still on LeBron, he does more for the Heat than any player does for their team. I’m also impressed with Indiana’s 4 game lead over Miami for the top spot in the conference, making it very clear that they want home court advantage in the postseason. Right now, I think Indiana would be favored, mostly because Miami seems to be in a bit of a rut but once the weather gets warm again, Miami will be the favorite. By the way, check out the Pacers in Phoenix tonight; contrasting styles that should provide a great NBA product. I know this topic is a bit old now, but I’ll just ask the NBA a quick question: can we send Miami and Indiana to the western conference, Utah and Sacramento to the eastern conference and make the east the new D-League?

Here’s a highlight video of Durant’s 46 against the Blazers last night. It starts to get ridiculous around the 1:30 mark of the video. A sequel is possible tonight!

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Recapping the NBA’s big Christmas Day slate

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors

For a lot of sports fans around the league, Christmas Day is when the “real” NBA season begins. A lot of it has to do with the fact that NFL season is, unfortunately, winding down and more of the focus is shifted towards the Association. Another reason the NBA gets so much attention on the 25th of December is because the entire day is dedicated to showcasing the best teams around the league, going head to head in some of the best basketball that the league has to offer. Unfortunately for the NBA, most of yesterday’s games didn’t include a few of it’s best teams and didn’t provide it’s best product. Luck wasn’t on David Stern’s side. It’s not his fault that some of the biggest teams in the biggest markets are dealing with franchise-level injuries. The game schedules were put into place before the season began and no one thought that at this point of the season, the Nets, Bulls, Knicks and Lakers would ALL be dealing with key injuries. At the same time, how were the Pacers not included in yesterday’s festivities? Portland (tied atop the west) was also missing but no one really expected, before the season, that they’d be among the league’s elite. Not the same for Indiana, the Heat’s biggest obstacle for a fourth straight Finals appearance and tied for the best record in the league. Most people thought that Indiana would continue to battle for the eastern conference’s top position during the regular season and once the postseason began. So, once again, I’ll wonder: why weren’t they included?

Let’s get to some of the teams that actually played in yesterday’s game. Like the past few couple of seasons, the NBA was featuring a quintuple-header. I actually felt bad for the NBA countdown crew (ESPN and ABC) because they were basically dealing with a 13 hour work day on Christmas Day. And to boot, getting up early for a Nets-Bulls game is not something that’s really worth doing. Are the Nets, as a team and franchise, in some serious trouble heading into the future? I’m not talking about just this season. The next few years and beyond look bleak for the Nets, no draft picks while being locked into some pretty big deals. While the Bulls are ugly to watch without Rose, at least Chicago showed some heart in their victory over the Nets yesterday. Not showing heart were Moe’s Knicks. New York got pounded by the Thunder yesterday, led by their duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. I’ll sum up how easy it was for Oklahoma City: Durant scored 29 points on 10-for-16 shooting seemingly without sweating and Westbrook had a triple double halfway through the 3rd quarter. Oh yeah, the Kicks also suffered the worst defeat by any home team on Christmas Day. Let’s shift over to the west coast, where LeBron and co were visiting a depleted Lakers team. Surprisingly enough this game didn’t keep the trend of complete blowouts for the day. The Heat looked in control for most of the game, especially halfway through the second quarter and after but the Lakers hung around and almost stole the game. After giving up the lead in the 4th, Miami re-gained composure and closed out the game. Still, lots of a props to a scrappy Lakers team who played well enough to make this an entertaining game worth tuning in to.

The best was saved for last as the quality of basketball got better as the day went on. The Rockets were in San Antonio (hosting their first Christmas Day game) against the Spurs in a good ole fashioned Texas shootout. Normally Houston is sort of a weird team but they played very sound and balanced basketball. It’s something that the Spurs set the bar doing so but during yesterday’s game, the Rockets raced out to a big lead, forcing the Spurs to play catch up the entire game. San Antonio managed to get within striking distance a couple of times. That was, until James Harden took over in the 4th quarter. Harden dropped 16th in the final quarter as he led the Rockets to a big win over their in-state rival. The most entertaining game of the night came late in the day when the Clippers visited the Warriors. A physical contest that included two ejections (Blake Griffin and Draymond Green), two technical fouls, two flagrant fouls and shoving even after the final buzzer went off. The Warriors won the game after a last second heave by the Clippers was short but up until that moment, it was either team’s game. When your coaching staff has to separate the sides after the game is over, there’s definitely some bad blood. I’m already looking forward to when these two teams go at against because they provide a good basketball product with some of that old school (pictured above) roughness.

One a side note: I’m with Dirk on this one when it comes to the special edition uniforms. Not a fan of the sleeves or the giant logos on the chest.

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NBA Wednesday: Indiana’s dominance and other notes from the past week

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A lot of the country’s basketball fans weren’t focused on the NBA last night. In fact, most of the attention was put on the game at the collegiate level. There were some marquee match ups featuring what figures to be three of the next superstars in the NBA. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch much of Duke, Kansas or Kentucky mostly because i’d rather watch my Mavericks. I don’t have much interest in basketball at the college level unless it involves joining a pool for brackets come March. Chances are that Wiggins, Parker and Randle will all be great players at the NBA level but until I actually see it, let’s pump the breaks and worry about what’s actually going on at the NBA level. Who’s dominating the league so far in this early season? So far this season, the Pacers have looked like the most dominant team in the league on a nightly basis. The defense and coaching is going to be there without a doubt. That’s one of the staples of Indiana’s game. But let’s add Paul George, second in a lot of early MVP races, who is continuing to play at the level everyone expects him to after his performance in last season’s playoffs. Let’s also look at the bench, much improved during the offseason and it shows on a nightly basis. Their offense still looks a bit stale sometimes but it’s not a glaring problem, just their style of basketball. What’s also interesting is that Danny Granger is set to return to his first game sooner than later. How will that affect a Pacers team that’s off to a franchise best 8-0 and the only undefeated team left in the league? I can’t imagine the train stopping anytime soon. Their schedule gets a little more challenging in the next few weeks but I could see them winning out the rest of the month barring an upset. The real challenge for this great Pacers team comes in December when their month starts with a five road games in 8 days against some of the top teams in the western conference, followed by the Heat at home. Until then let’s just enjoy what they’ve currently doing because despite getting almost no attention, the Pacers are the best team this season so far.

Speaking of no attention, the Spurs just seem to do what they do every single year. Play good basketball and win games. Right now they’re 7-1 and atop the western conference and I don’t know anyone who would bet some serious money on San Antonio giving up that position. Who would take their position if they slip for a few games? Well the obvious answer is OKC, especially now that Russell Westbrook is back and continues to look healthier as the games go by. To no one’s surprise, Durant leads the league in scoring (30.2/gm) but it’s going to rest of the supporting cast that I feel will ultimately make a difference. How the rest of the west shakes out is going to be fascinating to watch. From the Suns (how are they still there?) on down to the Lakers, all of those teams will be fighting for 3 through 8. Out east it continues to look like only the Heat will keep up with the Pacers, at least until Rose and the Bulls get themselves together and are 100% healthy. Most impressive players this season? These are aside from the obvious ones like LeBron or Durant. I’d have to go with either Kevin Love and Anthony Davis. Love finally looks healthy again, second in scoring behind Durant and leading the league in rebounding. And with Anthony Davis, well I think we’re all being reminded why he was the consensus #1 overall pick just a couple years ago. 

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Heat and Grizzlies are conference finalists

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Halfway to the ultimate prize. That’s what the Heat and Grizzlies are thinking this morning after they took care of business and eliminated their opponents in 5 games. For Miami it’s just a step in the process, repeating as the champions was the clear goal from the beginning. Last night the Heat used a big 4th quarter to come from behind and eliminate the Bulls from the playoffs 4 games to 1. LeBron James, as usual, was the best player on the court last night (23pts, 7 reb, 8 ast) but it was Dwyane Wade’s spark in the 4th quarter that really fueled the Heat’s comeback. The Bulls actually played very well, leading for the entire 3rd quarter and at one point they had a double digit lead. For a a few minutes there, the Boozer and Robinson-led Bulls actually looked like they were going to send the series back to Chicago. But as the rest of the series showed, it was too big of a mountain for Chicago to climb. The effort wasn’t a problem. This Bulls team was too depleted but hats off to Chicago for making this such a great series to watch. For Miami it’s on to the eastern conference finals where they’ll be awaiting their next opponent. I have a feeling that Indiana takes care of business tonight and sets up a nice series against the Heat.

It’s been a hard past for this Grizzlies franchise. I remember when the Mavs used to always eliminate them in the first round back in the mid-2000s No more because for the first time in franchise history, the Grizzlies are in the western conference finals. The Grizzlies withstood a late rally by the Thunder to win on the road and takes the series 4-1 to move on to the west finals. Things got a bit shaky for Memphis there at the end of the game but the Thunder didn’t make the shots at the end (thought Durant’s last shot was in) to make the comeback complete. Kevin Durant did not play well, especially in the 4th quarter and when the chance to come up big for his team came around it was evident he didn’t have it. It’s really hard to carry your team for several games and the pressure increases exponentially during the postseason; Durant feeling the effects as the series went on. Z-Bo led the way for the Grizzlies with his “old man” basketball (24 pts, 14 reb) and despite some missed free throws late, he was the power behind the Memphis offense. Marc Gasol played great defense as always and what do you know, another big clutch shot by the best big man in the league. That’s what makes this team so scary for whoever their opponent in the west finals is. 

I don’t know what it was about last night but there were a ton of dunks. Big shout out to Tayshuan Prince for this dunk. Dunking on three Thunder players at once. I know i’m not the only one who hit rewind on their remote just to watch it again.

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Heat and Grizzlies win to take 3-1 series leads

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Both Miami and Memphis won deciding games last night but they both won their respective games in different manners. Miami completely dominated the Bulls while the Grizzlies mounted a comeback to edge out the Thunder in overtime. Am I the only one who has the slight feeling that these two teams will be meeting in the Finals? I’m getting ahead of myself. The Miami Heat have officially rounded back into their championship form. The Heat dominated pretty much every facet of the game against a depleted Bulls team that could no longer compete. Miami ended up winning the game 88-65 but the deciding quarter was clearly the 3rd as Chicago could only manage to score 9 points, a franchise playoff low. It’s simply too big of a task for this Bulls team to compete with the favorites to win it all, no matter how much effort is put into it. Nate Robinson was terrible (0-12 from the field) after starting the series with plenty of swagger and confidence. LeBron James on the other hand (27 pts, 8 reb, 7 ast) was great as he continued to play at MVP-level and looks like he’s completely in the zone. This series looks to be all but over as it heads back down to Miami for Wednesday night’s game.

It was surprising to see how well the Thunder started out in last night’s game, dominating the offensive side of the ball but it was coming from the supporting cast around Kevin Durant. The Thunder looked solid, leading the Grizzlies by as many as 17 points during the 2nd quarter. It was Memphis who played the better second half and overtime, frustrating Durant late in the game and forcing the Thunder into some costly turnovers to help the Grizzlies take a commanding lead in the series. The Thunder can certainly extend this series. They showed it last night during the first half how they can do so. Durant had a nice stat line (27 pts, 7 ast, 7 reb) with a clutch basket but it’s not that great considering what he’s done in other games since the Westbrook injury and the Grizzlies will certainly live with that. The Grizzlies will definitely live with Marc Gasol playing the way he did last night (23 pts, 11 reb, 6 blk) as he might have been angry with the fact that despite winning DPOY, Gasol wasn’t named part of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team. It’ll be interesting to see how the Thunder respond at home tomorrow night as their season is on the line while the Grizzlies look to strike the final blow and secure a spot in the conference finals.

If there’s a show worth staying up for, Inside the NBA is definitely one of them. It’s a shame that this show can’t be the main one covering the Finals. Anyways, here’s a video of them making fun of Wade’s choice of clothes:

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Knicks and Grizzlies both even up their series

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Nice to see that we’re going to have two series in each conference go at least 5 or 6 games. Or at least that’s what I think we’ll see with both series that evened up last night. The Knicks bounced back nicely, dominating the 4th quarter to win big over the Pacers and square the series at 1 as it heads back to Indiana. What in the world happened to the Pacers last night? The Knicks were the better team for most of the night but in the 3rd quarter, the Pacers climbed back into the game and eventually took the lead for the first time all game. It only lasted a few minutes as New York went on a 34-6 run to put the game out of reach late in the 4th quarter. It looked like the Knicks just turned it on and the Pacers had no idea how to respond. Melo was great in the second half, scoring 22 of his game-leading 32 points for New York. It was clear that the Knicks were the more desperate team, going down 0-2 in a series spells doom for a team but I was just a little surprised at how easily they handled the Pacers. It’ll be interesting to see how Indiana responds when the series heads back to their place because they plyed so much better in Indiana during the last series. There’s going to be so many Knicks fans in the crowd, I just know it. By the way, shout out to Iman Shumpert for this nasty putback dunk during the 2nd quarter.

How about those Memphis Grizzlies? Better yet, where did this Conley play come from? Mike Conley’s big game (near triple-double) was the difference last night as the Grizzlies took down the Thunder 99-93 to even the series at 1 a piece. Conley always had that “potential breakout game” stamp on him and last night (26 pts, 10 reb, 9 ast) he was in a pretty even fight with Durant for the best player on the court. Durant had the better stat line overall (36 pts, 11 reb, 9 ast) but unfortunately for KD, the Thunder rely on him too much down the stretch. I liked the way Memphis played defense on him during crunch time, double teaming him at all times and basically saying “Durant is not beating us tonight” while daring anyone else on OKC to step up. Memphis just looks like a better team most of the time, finding different players to step up at various times throughout the game. Once again the Gasol-Randolph combination down low was very difficult for OKC to defend. Unless Durant has some over-the-top game in Memphis, I could see the Grizzlies winning the next 3 in a row to move on to the conference finals.

How about the top 10 dunks in the first round:

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Second round of the NBA Playoffs gets underway

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First of all, was there any doubt that LeBron James was awarded the MVP trophy for this season? I was more surprised that someone actually gave Carmelo Anthony a first place vote. Was that you Moe? LeBron was one first-place vote shy of being the unanimous decision. Congrats to LeBron as he joins an elite cast (Russell, Wilt, Kareem and Jordan) as they only players who have been awarded most valuable player in the regular season at least four times in their careers. Now that it’s out of the way, the Heat can focus on the next round as they take on a depleted but very tough Bulls team. On to Sunday’s action:

Things got going in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder were trying to maintain their momentum, after taking care of Houston in 6 last Friday. I really thought Houston would push the series to 7 but Durant and the rest of the Thunder team had other plans. The Grizzlies were coming into town so everyone, including OKC, knew it was going to be a tough test. Memphis came out playing well, keeping the game within reach and actually looking like the better team after 3 quarters. It was simply too much Kevin Durant (35 pts, 15 reb, 6 ast) for Memphis to handle, especially down the stretch. The Grizzlies weren’t able to hold on to their double-digit lead in the fourth quarter and during the final minutes made a few mistakes when they could have closed the Thunder out. Durant hit a clutch shot (stemming from a Fisher steal) with 11.1 seconds left in the game and the lead stayed with OKC until the final buzzer went off. Usually I think the underdog has to steal game 1 in order to win the series but with Westbrook’s injury, these teams are much more evenly matched and I think Memphis has a shot to push it to the limit. Cut down on the little mistakes and leads won’t melt away like they did for the Grizzlies.

Things shifted out east for the second game, as the Knicks were playing their first second-round playoff game since 2000. Back when Moe actually had hair. The crowd was rockin’ from the start, there to fully support the home team but it was the Pacers who were the tougher team that afternoon. Indiana simply out-muscled and out-worked New York, winning the game 102-95 and stealing home court in the process. The Knicks were within a point late in the 2nd quarter but after that, it was all Pacers for the entire second half. Melo had a nice stat line (27 pts, 11 reb) but needed 28 shots to get those points, clearly frustrated because of foul trouble during the 3rd quarter. Roy Hibbert’s game didn’t reflect in his stat line (maybe the 5 blk) because he looked good inside, his presence was felt and outplayed Tyson Chandler for pretty much the entire game. I’m reluctant to say Indiana has a big upper hand in the series because of their inconsistencies against Atlanta last round but it seems like they’ve found a formula that gives the Knicks real trouble. The Knicks just need to play more efficiently because unless your team is on fire, jacking up shots isn’t the way to beat the Pacers.

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