Sekou Smith of NBA.com on OKC’s late game struggles: “These same late-game issues won’t simply go away because the postseason has started and the Thunder flip some imaginary switch to make it stop. The inability to close out games has cost teams championships. Just ask the Heat about what went wrong in The Finals last year when they failed to close out the Mavericks in Game 2 and it wound up costing them an entire series. Failure to close out games is a fatal flaw that could push the Thunder’s championship clock back another season if they are not careful.”
KD says LeBron is MVP: “He deserves all the love (for MVP),” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. “He’s playing phenomenal basketball. I’m just trying to get better every single game and trying to help my team as much as I can. I’m just blessed to be in that conversation.” But then again, what do you expect KD to say? “Nah, I’m totally the MVP”?
Beckley Mason of TrueHoop on dangerous fouls: “But violence hasn’t disappeared in the NBA, and the matter is complicated by the relative value of the players involved. Consider that Robin Lopez has little value compared to Blake Griffin, so if Lopez had taken Griffin out of the game, it would have been a much more damaging blow to the Clippers, even as it was a Suns player committing the infraction. Or how about Sunday, when Metta World Peace was ejected for brutally elbowing star Thunder guard James Harden in the head — though it wasn’t a part of the L.A. game plan, the exit of World Peace and Harden was a net gain for the Lakers, who eventually came back and won the game.”
Austin Link for ESPN.com on OKC in the postseason: “As a young, guard-oriented offensive juggernaut, the Thunder are one of the NBA’s most exciting teams. Unfortunately for them those same traits make them more vulnerable in the playoffs. The Thunder made a move last year that could have remedied their struggles down low, bringing in Kendrick Perkins at the trade deadline. While he was a productive center with Boston, he has struggled mightily this season, putting up a minuscule 8.6 PER (league average is 15.0). Unless he steps up in the playoffs, Kevin Durant’s crew might be destined to once again end its season just short of the Finals.”
Ian Thompson of SI.com has James Harden as Sixth Man: “Harden emerged as the Thunder’s poor-man’s version of Ginobili, minus the flair and the all-out killer instinct. Nonetheless, he fills a crucial role by coming off the bench to handle a variety of roles as OKC’s third-best player. Harrington provided reliable bench scoring to help keep the Nuggets in the playoffs despite injuries and roster moves. Williams was the Sixers’ primary scorer without complaining about his role with the second unit.”
Zach Lowe of SI.com has KD third: “Durant has attempted more shots out of the pick-and-roll this season than he did in the full 82 games last season. He has posted a career-best defensive rebounding rate, and the fancy camera/tracking system STATS LLC has installed in Oklahoma City (and nine other arenas) shows that Durant grabs an unexpectedly huge percentage of rebounds when he’s within 3.5 feet of the ball. On defense, he can still get lost now and then around screens and away from the ball. But he’s a smarter team defender now, and he uses his long arms to contest jumpers without fouling. His ability to defend bulkier players allows coach Scott Brooks much of the same flexibility that Miami’s Erik Spoelstra has in going small, though Brooks has been a bit more cautious in doing so against the best opposing front lines.”
Steve Aschburner of NBA.com on Metta World Peace’s suspension: “Here’s where the NBA can put some teeth into its discipline and really support the newfound concern about head injuries: Tie World Peace’s suspension to Harden’s recovery time. The NHL has talked about similar linkage between time lost by players who suffered intentional harm and the punishment meted out to their assailants. And it seems only fair — if OKC has to play “X” number of games without Harden, it doesn’t seem right that the guy who put him out of service might be back first to help his team. One possibility: A stiff suspension that adjusts up the longer the harmed player is out. For instance, the NBA could impose a suspension of “10 games or the length of Harden’s absence-plus-five games, whichever is longest.” Or five games and plus-three. Something that would make the transgressor and his team feel a greater pinch that the victim and team that got wronged.”
Harden tweeted: “Im solid. Feeling good. Appreciate y’all for checking on me!!”