Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “The Thunder just did what they’ve done this year, took care of a team at home. Beat the stuffing out of the Kings and clinched the No.1 seed in the West. Russell Westbrook was athletic, Kevin Durant was quietly tremendous, and the defense did its work. Pretty great season after the Harden trade supposedly buried them.”
Sekou Smith of NBA.com: “A dangerous Lakers team battled a hobbled San Antonio Spurs team, the same Spurs we’ll see this weekend, and won an emotionally charged game to move one step closer to locking up that No. 8 seed. If the Lakers can keep up the same sort of intensity for another week and a half, that first-round matchup in the playoffs will be considerably more difficult than it might have with Bryant in the mix and the rest of his teammates taking their usual backseat. The Thunder have every reason to be confident, if they do indeed match up with the Lakers in this weekend. They still have decided advantage on the perimeter with Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the charge. And Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are more than capable of dealing with Howard and Gasol inside.”
It’s amazing how hard people are still trying to talk themselves into the Lakers. People are actually wondering if the Lakers are more dangerous now without Kobe? Here’s one thing for sure: The last team the Lakers want to see in the playoffs is the Thunder.
KD on talking to Larry Bird: “I just talked to him one time,” Durant said. “But, you know, when you talk to somebody for that one time you can tell that you’re kind of, like, connected because he’s been watching. If I pick up the phone and call him it’s like we’ve been talking every day.”
Stein’s power rankings have OKC second: “If the Thunder can keep their average margin of victory where it is now, at +9.4, it’ll be the sixth-highest figure since the introduction of the 3-point line starting with the 1979-80 season. And the five teams with higher average victory margins, if you pay attention to this stuff, did win it all.”
NBA.com has OKC second: “The Thunder have the edge for home-court advantage through the Western Conference finals, but it’s still encouraging that they’ve allowed less than 90 points per 100 possessions in their last four road games, including wins over the Pacers, Jazz and Warriors. Improved defensively from a year ago, they’ll finish the season as the only team to rank in the top five on both ends of the floor.”
KD got a first place MVP vote from ESPN.com’s panel. Note: It wasn’t from me. Kevin Martin finished fifth in Sixth Man.
John Klein of the Tulsa World: “The Thunder has assigned a player to the 66ers 37 times this season, by far the most active relationship between an NBA team and its NBA D-League affiliate. That is more than the next two teams combined (Houston Rockets 14 times to Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio Spurs 13 times to Austin). The Thunder has been using Tulsa much more like a major league baseball team uses its Triple-A baseball affiliate. Instead of placing players in the D-League at the start of the season, then forgetting about them until the next season’s training camp, the Thunder has been using the 66ers to keep its bench players active and engaged. No one knows if the current practice will become the norm in the NBA. However, there’s little question the Thunder has decided players at the end of the bench can best be utilized by keeping them active and sharp with short stints with the 66ers.”