Frank Hughes of SI with a great piece talking about the Thunder going to the playoffs: “It is pretty easy to root for the underdog Thunder. At a time that it is only too convenient to complain about the seemingly lackluster attitudes adopted by many haughty and entitled professional athletes, the Thunder embody what we want our pro teams to be. They take their jobs seriously and exude that fleeting and infectious college atmosphere even though they are paid like movie stars. They talk about, and actually put in, hard work, Brooks drilling them diligently even in these late stages of the season. heir public relations staff has been instructed not to promote any players or coaches for individual awards because they believe in winning as a team. Brooks has a clause in his contract that gives him a bonus for getting the team to the playoffs, but not for winning Coach of the Year.”
John Hollinger: By winning, the Blazers banished the Thunder to the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup against the defending champion Lakers. Of course, in a season full of irony, the Blazers’ most likely reward is a first-round meeting with either Denver or Utah, a pair of teams they’ve beaten just once in eight tries. Portland may have the No. 6 seed clinched before they take the court on Wednesday, as they’ll own it if San Antonio loses to Dallas in a game that starts 2½ hours earlier.
Kelly Dwyer: “A great game that was close until the final minutes, though Portland seemed in control throughout. And don’t let the Thunder fool you. Oklahoma City play by play man Brian Davis wanted us to keep perspective as the Thunder lost its fourth game in five attempts, and while nobody had OKC fighting for its 50th win in the last week of the regular season in their preseason previews, that doesn’t mean we can’t criticize the Thunder for falling off the rails defensively over the last few weeks of the season.”
I just feel like saying it again: I couldn’t have been more impressed by the Blazers last night. Nate McMillan has got his guys playing with so much resolve, it’s inspiring. They take one blow and they get back up. We’ve all seen the similarities to the Thunder and the Blazers, but I hope those continue when OKC inevitably gets hit with some adversity.
Portland Roundball Society with great interview videos and a recap: “Throughout the first half the Thunder scored at will. They were aggressive, made tough shots and got to the line. Kevin Durant came out on a roll. At the half he had 21, nine of which came at the free throw line. But as the Blazers reemerged to begin the second half, something changed. Perhaps they sensed the moment—that a loss or a trip back to Los Angeles was too much to bear. Down 43-51 at the half, Portland roared out of the gates, scoring the eight straight points to pull even. They focused collectively on Durant.”
Fran Blinebury says Fear the Thunder: “Just 17 months ago, the Thunder were 1-17 with a rookie coach who’d just been thrown into the deep end of the pool and all they were trying to do was keep their heads above water. Now they’re playing solid defense, riding the talents of the best all-over-the-court big man scorer since Bob McAdoo and doing the backstroke as they float into the playoffs. With nothing to lose and a chance to play loose, it might be time for a little healthy fear of the Thunder.”
Nick Collison on OKC getting the Lakers: “We’ll have to play our best basketball,” he said. “You know, you’ve got to run into everybody at some point.”
Say it with me: BEAT L-A! BEAT L-A! BEAT L-A! Clark Matthews made an excellent point last night via Twitter: That chant should start Wednesday night against Memphis with ESPN in the house. Speaking of, Clark would like any reasons you may have to hate the Lakers sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do it.