Matt Moore of CBSSports.com looking at OKC’s road: “The Thunder were in all five games last summer vs. Miami. That’s forgotten due to the brevity of the series. But they were right there. That has to be the idea. They weren’t outclassed in the Finals, they were merely beaten in three very difficult contests before their hearts gave out. They can hang with Miami. They can beat the Heat. They can defeat LeBron. They have to believe that, because otherwise, the ladder they’ve been climbing for four years doesn’t go anywhere. It just hits a concrete ceiling, and they slip and fall into one of those teams remembered for how good they were, and how close they came, but not for having been the best. It’s on Durant. It’s on Westbrook. The rest of the team is great, they play together. But it will take two of the best postseasons of any two players over the past ten years for the Thunder to win the West, to make the Finals, to beat the Heat. Another long climb up the rope. Nowhere to go but up.”
Darnell Mayberry: “For the life of me I can’t figure out what Westbrook did to put the fear of God into Brandon Jennings. Every time these two teams meet, Jennings wants no part of Westbrook. It’s incredible. Because Brandon Jennings is a tough, confident and cocky little dude. But he loses all assertiveness when facing Westbrook. It happened again tonight. In the opening minutes, after Westbrook scored two quick buckets out of post-ups against Jennings, the Bucks quickly switched Monta Ellis onto Westbrook. Jennings slid over to Sefolosha. At the other end, Jennings couldn’t get rid of the ball fast enough, passing ahead to Jennings on the wing before even crossing halfcourt. The only time Jennings really looked for his shot was when the ball swung back to him on the perimeter and he settled for deep 3s.”
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Looking back on my 35 statements made with extreme confidence, I’d say I did pretty well. I also swung and missed wildly, like predicting Perry Jones would be a major contributor.
If you missed it, here’s the first round schedule.
Steve McPherson for HoopChalk: “When things are clicking for Oklahoma City, the offense should look very much like a Coltrane performance: there’s a kind of inherent unbalance to the way the unit is structured, but so long as the individual talents of the players are marshaled well and don’t fail them, they can create beautiful things out of relatively simple material. The problem for the Thunder is likely to come when those individual talents fail them. On the one hand, all those minutes together have made the starters very comfortable with each other, but on the other, that’s a lot of minutes for a team to play. A lot of their success last season—especially against the Spurs—came from being able to run their opponents out of the gym. Certainly the compression of the schedule had its own deleterious effect on teams’ health, but the Thunder’s starting lineup played just a little over half as many minutes last year (664) during the regular season as they have this year. As good as they are, and as much better as they’ve gotten this season, their success is still grounded in individual virtuosity. It remains to be seen how they’ll deal with opposing teams that can find ways to consistently derail their overflowing, video game-esque offense.”
Tyler Parker of Ballerball: “He’ll be back, Euro-stepping in April on the Peake wood once more. He’ll be in other colors now, wearing a lively kind of red, and there will be no cheers for him. Felt beards won’t litter the arena any longer and when his threes scrape the ground we won’t join in as we used to. We’ll yell at Thabo or Russ or, Bird help us, Fisher, and say you can’t give him those, because we’ve seen it before. We know. Or, maybe, we don’t. The scariest part of all this is the chance that, maybe, we didn’t know what we had. Maybe he was That Dude the whole time. Maybe he’s The Bearded Reaper and he’s coming for our basketball souls. Or, maybe he’s in for a wake up call. Maybe Collison takes thirty charges on him. Maybe Durant and Westbrook lay him over coals and hit the slow roast. I don’t know, and that’s why this sport is so lovely. Harden is coming back to where he started, to try to make sure those he started with don’t continue on. Everything comes full circle.”