Tom Haberstroh of ESPN Insider: “So what’s so special about the Pacers, Heat, Thunder and Spurs? This isn’t earth-shattering news, but they’ve been successful lately. Head over to the standings and you’ll see that they hold four of the top five W-L records in the NBA, with the Blazers trying to stay in the championship-contention picture. But this is a key thing: We’ve already seen the Big Four contend — unlike the Blazers. The Heat are two-time defending champs. The Spurs came within seconds of grasping the Larry O’Brien Trophy last season. The Thunder reached the NBA Finals in 2012, and the Pacers came within a win of reaching the Finals last season. In our minds, seeing is believing.”
Eric Freeman of Ball Don’t Lie: “Yet these stats and reactions don’t communicate the full experience of watching Durant right now. While Durant has been a tremendous offensive player for some time now, he has recently elevated his game to a level we typically reserve for the greatest players of all time. He’s taking on a massive scoring load, doing so with efficiency, and reserving his best play for when the game is on the line. These are the memorable performances that build an MVP candidacy, and it will be fascinating to see if (and/or how) Durant tops them.”
Nick name via r/nba for Kevin Durant: The Slim Reaper. Beautiful.
Berry Tramel: “Got a call Tuesday afternoon from a Guthrie nursing home. A nice lady said she and her fellow residents just wanted my opinion. Why is Kendrick Perkins on the Thunder? I tried to explain it best I could. She seemed reasonably satisfied with my answer. Then Tuesday night, Perk showed her why. And Thabo Sefolosha did the same, just in case she was wondering about him, too. The Thunder beat Portland 105-97 in a showdown for the Northwest Division lead, and yes, the Thunder won because Kevin Durant scored 46 points and again went wild down the stretch. But the Thunder also won because it turned up the defensive heat. Perkins and Thabo, four-season defensive anchors for the Thunder, seemingly always have to justify their existence in the starting lineup or even on the roster. Thabo’s shooting has slumped this season. Perkins’ offense is a nightmare. But their defensive value trumps their offensive shortcomings. Defense still wins. Defense and Durant is how the Thunder has to survive without Russell Westbrook. It’s not a bad plan even with Westbrook.”
Darnell Mayberry: “Remember, too, that this is only Jackson’s 17th career game as a starter. There are going to be growing pains. All the frustration with him at the moment, as well as all the talk of how his erratic play is somehow helping drive the price down for the Thunder, is hogwash. Jackson is going to get better. Much better. And these experiences are going to be a leading reason why. If you don’t believe me, think back to what you probably were saying during Russell Westbrook’s 17th career start. Now look at him. That’s not to say Reggie is Russell. But it does show that these things take time. You’ve got to be patient.”
LeBron says he’s got a “KD Watch” on his phone. What’s his angle here? Is he trying to get in Durant’s head? Trying to soften him up for the Finals? I’m so confused.