NBA Playbook breaks down OKC’s perfect play: “The set usually begins with some false action that leads into a dribble flip (DF) between Kendrick Perkins and of the Thunder’s two primary ball handlers (Russell Westbrook and James Harden). Perkins then sprints out of the DF into either a rim run or a pin down with Kevin Durant moving off either action on the weakside. The strongside of the floor is usually spread opposite, giving Durant the option to tight curl into the paint and attack the rim. That is the normal pattern of the play which, even without any wrinkles, poses enough problems for an opposing defense. But in the fourth quarter of last night’s game, the Thunder (perhaps by accident), introduced a new wrinkle that made it nearly indefensible.”
Zach Lowe of SI.com on OKC’s supertrio: “There will be growing pains, obviously. Even in Sunday’s win, the Thunder’s offense sometimes stalled out after the first action, with one of the stars choosing to isolate as the other two stood around. Westbrook still appears to think he shoots 90 percent on pull-up 20 footers early in the shot clock. And, interestingly, Durant and Westbrook probably need to do better integrating Harden so he’s not a third wheel quite as often. Westbrook and Durant actually shoot the ball a hair more often with Harden on the court versus with him on the bench, but Harden’s attempts plummet when he shares the floor with his fellow stars; he has attempted nearly 20 shots per 40 minutes with Durant on the bench but only 10.5 per 40 minutes when he’s on the court with Durant, per NBA.com. Harden’s assists per minute also drop from about 6.5 per 40 minutes without Durant to about 4.1 when he’s out there with Durant.”
Brian Kamenetzky in a 5-on-5 on ESPN.com: “That the Thunder have a top gear that will be difficult for teams to keep up with on either side of the ball. Whether they can get there four times over seven games against elite competition in a Western Conference finals or Finals is hard to say, but if they can the rest of the league is in trouble.”
Marc Stein of ESPN.com’s power rankings: “Worth repeating even if you already know: KD and Russ are the first teammates ever to score 40-plus points in the same game twice in their careers, let alone twice in the same season. The way OKC has played since an increasingly forgivable L in Utah makes you think this team is really starting to put it together.”
Sekou Smith of NBA.com on the MVP race: “Well, Durant showed up and showed out — chasing a triple double before finishing with 29 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block — in what, for most of the night, was truly a head-to-head matchup James. The Heat star, on the other hand, continued the struggles that have plagued him the past week and a half. He finished with a pedestrian (by his standards) 17 points, seven assists, four turnovers and three rebounds. One game does not a MVP make. But if you are trying to find ways to separate the two of them, head-to-head competition is a great place to start. And Durant dominated this matchup.”
Mike Prada of SB Nation makes a compelling case for KD as Most Improved: “In practice, Durant will never win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. The honor seems earmarked for Jeremy Lin, because we’re so used to giving the award to guys who merely become relevant when given the opportunity. But while Lin’s rise is a great story, he hasn’t made the ultimate jump that Durant made this year. Lin went from a nobody to a somebody. Durant went from a household name to the second-best player in the league. Which is more impressive?”
Giveaway: Win this slick Kevin Durant “Durantula” print from artist Reza Rasoli of HoopDreamInk by following @HoopDreamInk on Twitter then tweet why KD deserves the MVP using #hoopdreamink as a hashtag. Best answer wins. Contest begins today 9 a.m. CST and ends on Friday, March 30th 4 p.m. CST and the winner will be announced shortly after.