Trimester awards in a 5-on-5 where four people picked KD for early MVP, including Ethan Sherwood Strauss: “KD was recently marked by Andrei Kirilenko, the ideal guy for defending Durant. The result? Durant had 33 points on 21 shots. I marvel at the 50-40-90 shooting production, but I’m also amazed by how it’s maintained on a hefty 17.3 shots per game. When you factor in KD’s improved passing, it’s clear that he’s leading the pack through this third of a season.”
Neil Paine of ESPN.com: “According to Synergy Sports, Oklahoma City’s spot-up shooting has been particularly sharp in the early going. The play has easily yielded the most total points for the Thunder, and they rank second only to the Knicks in per-play efficiency on spot-up chances, led by Durant (who is fourth among all players in points per play on spot-ups) and Martin (who ranks 10th). In fact, you can trace OKC’s meteoric offensive rise over the past four seasons by tracking the development of their spot-up efficiency, which rose from 19th in the NBA in 2009-10 to 15th in 2010-11, sixth a season ago, and now second.”
J.A. Adande of ESPN.com on what he’s wishing for OKC and Miami’s game: “For both teams to treat this like Game 6 of an NBA Finals that ended prematurely. The Heat have had trouble finding motivation for most of their games this season (it says something about their talent that they’ve auto-filled their way to a 16-6 record nonetheless). Inspiration shouldn’t be an issue against the team that could snatch the crowns off their heads in June. Meanwhile, the Thunder players are smart enough to realize they can’t truly avenge their Finals loss on Dec. 25. That doesn’t mean they can’t send a message, like a certain whistling character in “The Wire.” OKC comin’, yo.”
Kevin Martin is playing against the Heat tomorrow.
Joe Kaiser of ESPN Insider on Serge Ibaka’s rebounding trend: “It’s probably about time to start looking at Ibaka as more than just a shot-blocker and rebounder. An in-depth look at his stats reveals a talented offensive player who is showing major improvement as a shooter and scorer in his fourth season in the league. Ibaka became a full-time starter last season at the age of 22 and played well, but his numbers hovered right around where they were in his second year in the league: 9-10 ppg, 7-8 rpg, 53-54 percent field goal percentage. Statistically speaking, only his shot-blocking (3.7 per game) improved a considerable amount from his second to third season in the league.”
NBA.com MVP watch: “The Thunder’s 12-game win streak came to an end against the Timberwolves Thursday night, but that doesn’t diminish the work Durant has put in. Even more impressive than the raw numbers is the fact that he’s become a force on both ends of the floor. He’s contesting shots, playing physically and demanding that his teammates pay as much attention on the defensive end of the floor as he does on the other side.”
John Rohde with a fun feature about Scott Brooks: “Brooks’ humor is not a string of one-liners. He is neither Henny Youngman nor Rodney Dangerfield. Brooks habitually spews those familiar Thunder company lines. Thousands of questions are being asked, but 99.7 percent of the time Brooks reverts to 10 patented responses uttered by every card-carrying member of the tight-lipped franchise. What’s refreshing is no matter how many times Brooks is asked the same question, he’ll answer politely. On many occasions, prominent national basketball writers have expressed their pleasure in dealing with Brooks, and it’s not because of the Thunder’s rapid rise to NBA prominence.”
NBA.com power rankings drop OKC to No. 2: “The end of the Thunder’s 12-game winning streak on Thursday was what you would call a “schedule loss.” Playing an Atlanta-Minnesota back-to-back is a pretty tough and pretty unique scenario. Before that though, OKC had an important defensive performance — considering the opponent and their own recent defensive slippage — against the Spurs on Monday.”