Ken Berger of CBS Sports with nice feature on how OKC built a winner: “They’ve done it with the NBA’s lowest payroll at $49 million, the youngest starting lineup in the league and the youngest GM — likely the only one who emulates renowned prog-rock drummer Neil Peart in his spare time. Throw in Kevin Durant, the lowest-maintenance superstar in basketball, and former journeyman point guard Scott Brooks as the head coach, and you have the perfect storm for making arduous, long-term vision seem like an overnight success.”
HoopsWorld notes the good health in OKC: “The team has played 72 games so far this season. Durant has started all 72. So has Russell Westbrook. And Thabo Sefolosha. And Jeff Green. Only Nenad Krstic amongst the Thunder starters has missed any games – and he’s missed two. So how rare is that, to have a starting lineup so complete this deep into the season?”
Vote for KD in his Lost Ogle Sweet 16 matchup. He can’t lose to some pretty newswoman. That wouldn’t be right.
Brian McKitish for ESPN.com writing about fantasy hoops: “I love me the Serge! Though he is still incredibly raw as a prospect, Ibaka has been able to carve out a spot in the Thunder rotation as a defensive specialist and dominant shot-blocker. Since the All-Star break, Ibaka has averaged 7.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, which doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but is simply phenomenal considering that he’s done all that in just 19.4 minutes per game. Sure, he’s probably only a shot-blocking specialist in deeper leagues at the moment, but the upside here is completely off the charts. He hasn’t even begun to touch on his potential as a player yet, and it’s scary to think what he’ll be able to do after he refines his game a bit.”
Scott Brooks with a simplistic approach to the Thunder’s late game execution: “I disagree that they’ve become an issue,” Brooks said. “You get the ball and you make a shot, or you miss a shot. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad executed play.”
John Hollinger looks at what’s clouding the West’s playoff picture: “The Thunder are the one team that has barely strayed from its trend line over the past two months, and there’s no reason to expect any different going forward. The one potential bugaboo, a hamstring injury to James Harden, was both minor in the grand scheme of things and already in the rearview mirror after he scored 23 points in his first game back last week. Let’s move on.”
Updated playoff matrix. Not pretty for OKC. But the good news is, the Thunder has at least one win over every team.
OKC 11th in SI’s power rankings: “The Thunder are holding their breath that Thabo Sefolosha plays this kind of D in the playoffs. In wins over Houston and the Lakers, Sefolosha stifled Kevin Martin (eight points) and Kobe Bryant (11). That D, his coach says, has inspired the Thunder’s startling defensive improvement. “Thabo has changed the culture of our team,” Scott Brooks said. “[He] is an inspirational leader on our team on the defensive end.”
Also, Chris Mannix looked at some Western playoff matchups: “No. 2 Dallas vs. No. 7 Oklahoma City: The old Mavs own two wins over the Thunder. The new, post-trade Mavs lost by 13 points in Caron Butler’s and Brendan Haywood’s first game. Dallas’ edge in playoff experience is a big factor, but so is OKC’s superstar just itching to break out. Take the Thunder in 7.”
Marc Stein dropped OKC to 11: “What strikes you as the better indicator of OKC’s playoff potential? Last week’s narrow losses at home to the Spurs and Blazers? Or Friday night’s pounding of the Lakers? Sorry to say that, for us, it’s the former.”
12 on NBA.com: “The Thunder beat the Lakers with one of their best defensive games of the season, but they lost to the two teams on either side of them in the standings this week. Six of their last 10 games are on the road, including visits to Boston and Dallas this week.”
In Hollinger’s playoff odds, seven West teams are 100 percent in the playoffs. One team is at 99.9 percent. Guess who? AHHHHHHHH.
Magic Number Watch: Nothing changed. Still at four for Memphis and three for Houston.