Shoals came up with seven biblical nicknames for seven players: “Serge “Plague of Darkness” Ibaka. This one’s tricky, since in the majority African-American NBA, “darkness” is always going to sound like race thing. So let’s go ahead and make fun of that, with a rising young stud who happens to hail from the country that provided the setting for Heart of Darkness and a continent that, in the colonial days, was known as “Darkest Africa.” Plus, all racial connotations aside, I think this does something to convey what an intimidating player Ibaka — with his feel for the game, ridiculous bounce, and height — could be in a year or two.”
Kevin Durant will guest on Jay-Z’s newest rap album. The report says it’s a small part on one song. “I saw that Nike ad and the kid had flow,” Jay-Z said. “I met him in New York a few months back, we talked and thought it might be fun to do.”
Matt from Blog-a-Bull on Garnett’s f-bomb: “I hope the NBA gets that mixed in with the playoff commercials.” I think it would sound terrific autotuned.
Brett Pollakoff of FanHouse: “In all fairness, that wasn’t the game. The Celtics shot just over 36 percent from the field in the fourth quarter, were outscored by nine points in the second half, and were outrebounded by eight over the final two periods. While Durant did shoot nine of his 15 free throw attempts in the second half, the Celtics were only whistled for two more fouls than the Thunder during that stretch, while their leading scorer, Paul Pierce, didn’t hit a field goal and scored just a single point in the third and fourth quarters combined. I’m not at all blaming Garnett for swearing on live television to convey his disappointment, but I am blaming him for pointing to a fairly meaningless statistic to explain his team’s loss to what is, right now, simply a superior team.”
Matt Moore for PBT: “Second, let’s be clear. Durant did get superstar calls. And while it sucks for Boston, it’s not like Paul Pierce hasn’t gotten his fair share of draws along the way. In the meantime it’s yet another example of the startling growth from the young Thunder. Getting those calls at this stage in his career helps Durant out to a huge degree. Then again, if he doesn’t get them once the playoffs start, that could frustrate him to a large degree.”
The Celtics weren’t happy about the officiating, but Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston says it’s no excuse: “To be clear, the Celtics did not pin all the blame on Wednesday’s 109-104 loss to the upstart Thunder on the referees. The refs weren’t the ones who were late closing out on Jeff Green as he drilled a pair of ice-water-in-his-veins 3-pointers in the final two minutes to help Oklahoma City emerge with another monumental win this season.”
Celtics Hub: “ESPN Instant Classic? Come on Sklar Brothers, I know you’re reading this right now and I know you can make this happen. This game had every thing an NBA fan could want. It was a dog fight. It was a gun fight. Both teams played extremely hard on both ends of the floor and both teams deserved to win this game.”
The Tulsa Shock unveilled their jerseys yesterday and honestly, I don’t think they look too bad. I like the black and yellow.
From the AP recap: “The young Oklahoma City Thunder needed to beat just two more teams to reach their goal: wins against every club in their two seasons since moving from Seattle. And not just any ordinary teams. On Wednesday night, the Thunder completed the feat by edging the 2008 NBA champion Boston Celtics 109-104. Just five days earlier they beat the other, the Los Angeles Lakers — last season’s champions.” I’m confused. OKC hasn’t beaten Cleveland since 2007, Durant’s rookie year in Seattle.
SI’s Award Watch has KD fourth in MVP and first for Most Improved: “According to Kobe, Russell Westbrook may deserve a spot on this list next to teammate Durant. Bryant said recently that Durant has “improved leaps and bounds. Durant’s a great player, but I think Westbrook’s development has really helped elevate [the Thunder].” Kobe knows of what he speaks.
Ian Thompson of SI on the game: “With their defense failing, the Thunder took it to their elders offensively. They earned twice as many free throw attempts than the 17 that were whistled for the Celtics, and Oklahoma City made 28 of them. Rivers clearly disagreed with the officials’ perspective, but it is becoming more and more difficult for him to stave off the perception that his team is too old to be feisty against the talented younger teams. When these two teams agreed to that trade three years ago, each headed off on an opposite path. The Celtics succeeded in winning now. And now the Thunder are succeeding in winning later.”
David Thorpe names his most improved rookies: “Ibaka has steadily grown into his role in OKC. In fact, he’s performing so well that draft prospects who are a bit raw are being measured against him. Meaning, scouts are asking, “Can he develop like Ibaka?” Now playing 20 minutes a game, Ibaka has averaged 7.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in March. Impressive stuff, especially when you consider that he plays with a great spirit and impacts games even when he’s not stuffing the stat sheet. Can he ultimately start for the Thunder? It’s still too early to tell. But that’s because he could theoretically be a college freshman right now; he’s still just 20 years old.”
Magic Number Watch: Houston has been eliminated and the number over Memphis stands at one.