Interesting take from Berry Tramel: “But in May 2011, Harden shouldn’t hold all the hope of the Thunder offense in his skilled left hand. The idea that Durant or Russell Westbrook are going to have to make all the plays for the Thunder in crunch time, this post-season or future, is silly. The NBA superstar culture has produced this belief that stars have to take over down the stretch. Good if you can get it — Durant in Game 5 of the Denver series, for example — but elite playoff teams can nix such plans. That’s why Harden’s so valuable on the court, as a third scorer, but the Thunder has to rely on its other guys, too.”
Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com says the Thunder have to get nasty: “And for more than three quarters, Sefolosha was good. Everyone on the Thunder was good, because everyone on the Thunder played with passion and aggression, with force, after three games in which the force wasn’t always with them. In Game 3, for example, the Thunder came out flat — on their home court, no less — and found themselves trailing 27-12 at the end of the first quarter.”
John Hollinger of ESPN.com on Westbrook and Rose: “So get your shots in now, everyone — it’s only going to get harder from here. Both players are 22, both are ferocious competitors and both are still learning on the fly. Right now Rose is the golden boy and Westbrook is the metaphorical redheaded stepchild, but in the big picture they’re birds of a feather. In time, once they figure out what teams are doing to them and come back with better tactics and better jump shots, they’re going to be impossible to contain. Even for each other when they meet head-to-head in the Finals. Which, despite their hiccups in these conference finals and their diametrically opposite narratives, remains a very strong possibility in the near future.”
5-on-5 on ESPN.com: “Marc Stein, ESPN: Another significant step in their evolution, but also a season that put the Durant-Russell Westbrook partnership in the crosshairs. It’s a season, furthermore, that showed us that OKC — for all the utopia talk that surrounds this franchise — has issues like every other team. But all these experiences will prove invaluable as OKC’s evolution continues. Dealing with this kind of scrutiny and criticism, as well as playoff heartache, are all new concepts for the Thunder’s kids.”
Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas: “The Mavs might even be better next season — if they keep free agent Chandler and re-sign a healthy Caron Butler and/or have Beaubois recover from his confidence crisis and figure out how to use his dynamic athleticism and skills to be a difference-maker. But bank on this: Oklahoma City will be an obstacle for a long time. And beating the Thunder isn’t going to get any easier.”
Remember Serge’s pretty crossover in Game 4? He traveled.
Scott Cacciola of the Wall Street Journal on KD’s backpack: “If the Oklahoma City Thunder can’t beat the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night, it will be knocked out of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals. A loss also would end a compelling run by one of the postseason’s most improbable stars. We’re referring, of course, to Kevin Durant’s backpack.”