ESPN’s future rankings has OKC at No. 2: “Of course, the Thunder remain behind the Bulls in the Market category. Chicago and the Bulls franchise are much greater lures, and — as with San Antonio and the Spurs organization — it’s going to take certain types of players to adapt to the culture of the Oklahoma City locale and the Thunder franchise. As a result, Oklahoma City might lose out on free agents that could round out its roster. Fortunately, Presti seemed to know that all along, which one reason he traded for Perkins and extended Nick Collison, and why even with cap space the past two summers, the Thunder never dove headlong into the free-agent market. Instead, Presti has built his team from the bottom up, and over the next three years we rate them the most dangerous bunch in the West.”
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com on OKC’s big win: “Perkins’ partner in crime is no longer Garnett, but Serge Ibaka, who has been able to slide back to his natural power forward position with Perkins’ arrival. Ibaka had 12 rebounds, three blocks, two steals, and one earful from Perkins on Wednesday night. He better get used to it. On the play in question, there was a miscommunication between Perkins and Ibaka, and Erick Dampier got free for a layup under the basket. Perkins blasted him, using one of his six fouls and getting into it with Ibaka afterward. “We have a rule: no layups,” Perkins said. “So I had to take one for the team.”
Interesting stuff from ESPN Stats and Info: “Based off of video tracking, Durant did much of his damage against James. Durant had struggled when guarded by James previously, shooting only 36.4 percent from the floor against him in his career entering the night. However Wednesday was a different story as Durant was 10-of-15 from the field when guarded by James, scoring 21 of his points against him.”
Jason Whitlock: “I like the Thunder’s chances. OKC’s bruising big men are sort of like hockey enforcers for Durant. KD is free to roam the ice like Wayne Gretzky. Despite facing a motivated James most of the game, Durant had little trouble scoring 29 points. Early in the game, Durant got to the rim on backdoor cuts. When James took that away, Durant relied on his quick-release jumper. “This team came in and got the win,” Wade admitted nonchalantly. “They beat us. You can accept that.” That’s respect. The Heat know they faced a championship-caliber team on a hot streak.”
Dwyane Wade’s awesome dunk last night? He traveled.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN’s Heat Index wrote on the Thunder yesterday: “They get together for team-wide video game tournaments and order bulk chicken wings from where ever they can find the best deal. If you wander into the locker room about 75 minutes before any game you’ll likely find it mostly empty, more than 10 players routinely go to a pre-game chapel sessions together. These aren’t scenes that are standard in the NBA and they may not be standard in Oklahoma City as the players age and mature in the coming years. It isn’t clear where the Thunder are headed, even though core players like Durant, Perkins and Collison now have long-term contracts signed since last summer. The team is expected to offer an extension to Westbrook this summer depending on labor talks.”
Love what Darnell Mayberry said in his notes: “I hope everyone can appreciate the growth Durant is undergoing right before our eyes. Two years ago, he would have gone 6-21 against a team like the Heat. And he probably wouldn’t have done anything on the glass or to make his teammates better. But tonight, he took another step on his journey to stardom. His final line: 29 points on 12-for-21 shooting with seven rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block and only one turnover. Not shown is his phenomenal defense on LeBron. Two years ago, James would have had Durant’s stat line from tonight. And it would have come in three quarters because he probably wouldn’t have needed to play the fourth. The gap is closing and before we know it, Durant just might be the league’s best player.”
Windhorst’s recap: “The Miami Heat were growing tired of the hands interfering with their driving lanes and the big bodies shoving them around under the basket. The frustration was showing on their faces and on the scoreboard. Then then horn sounded and the Oklahoma City Thunder made substitutions. Sitting on the scorer’s table ready to check in were Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka — a rugged physical banger and a freakishly long-armed leaper acting as the relief. Those sorts of moments made it a long night for the Heat as they faced the reality of the new — and, of course, easily overlooked — weapon that have the Thunder on a surge. When healthy, Oklahoma City now has one of the deepest, tallest and most versatile rotation of big men in the league.”
OKC’s magic number for the playoffs is down to six. It’s at 12 for the division.