Bill Simmons with an always entertaining retro-diary: “Durant (27 points) makes two freebies, Duncan makes one of two (Spurs by 14), then Westbrook air-balls a horrific 3 with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. For the record: I like Westbrook. He’s young, he’s a good teammate, he’s fun to watch, he gives a crap, and he’s absolutely breathtaking in person. He also gets dissected on the Internet like no NBA star other than LeBron, something that undeniably affected him last summer and led Presti to tell me a few weeks ago that he’s never seen an athlete face more scrutiny at a younger age than Westbrook faced during last year’s playoffs. That’s just the nature of the beast now — basketball has become a 24/7/365 sport, and once we’re down to one playoff game a night, every flaw and every bad decision gets exacerbated. A lot of times, unfairly.”
Zach Lowe of SI.com: “But the Thunder have to try something. Perhaps they should experiment with Sefolosha on Parker, and/or with going under the initial screens, rather than chasing Parker over them. Maybe they should trap Parker more aggressively, hoping that they can recover properly before Parker finds an open Duncan. I don’t know the answer, but I know the status quo isn’t working. The Thunder need a solution — and they’re running out of time.”
Berry Tramel: “Nothing is assured, not even for these Spurs and most definitely not for the Thunder. But the horizon looks promising in Oklahoma City. Pay your dues, display some patience and these baby Boomers should one day grow up to be like the Spurs.”
Jesse Blanchard of 48 Minutes of Hell on Hack-a-Splitter: “Taking advantage of an opponent’s weakness, within the context of the current rules, is not bad form. It’s brilliant strategy. And the answer to the perceived dilemma is not to take smarter coaches chess boards away and forcing them to play checkers with the rest of the NBA, but to call for better players and better coaching to close this loophole.”
Beckley Mason of TrueHoop on OKC’s pace: “To hearken back to economics, the Thunder are in an odd position of not really having big marginal advantages over anyone in any one area, despite a lot of strengths when averaged across buckets. Their only real weakness is that they simply can’t play slow-down, knock out ball the way a team like Miami can — indeed, the Thunder actually were better than the Spurs at super-slow games, and far better than the Celtics. But against the Heat, that relative strength becomes a massive boondoggle. The, conversely, the Thunder are well above average at a faster-paced game… but still significantly worse than either the Heat or the Spurs! The only decisive advantage the Thunder really have in terms of pace is to play a very normal, league-average 91-95 possessions. My theory is that the Thunder defense gradually breaks down as the game gets faster, but the offense (isolation based and transition-heavy as it already is) doesn’t have a second gear that allows it to become more efficient in a fast-paced setting.”
Hanson is singing the national anthem tonight. Prepare yourselves.
Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: “Brooks could make some adjustments heading into tonight’s game. One consideration might be to check Parker with Thabo Sefolosha, a bigger guard who could better defend the Spurs’ offensive catalyst because of his 6-foot-7 frame. The Thunder have been most successful during the series’ first two games when they went small, moving Kevin Durant to power forward. They’ve gotten into trouble trying to check the Spurs’ perimeter game with Perkins and Serge Ibaka in the lineup at the same time.”
Chad Ford’s mock draft has OKC taking Jeff Taylor: “An elite athlete, Taylor can be a lockdown defender and has range on his jumper. He’s probably undervalued at this point, but that happens to seniors. The Thunder will capitalize.”