Mike Prada of SB Nation breaks down OKC’s defense: “The Thunder’s defense is not impossible to beat, of course. Like many overload schemes, it struggles with misdirection; if you can occupy Sefolosha’s attention in particular, the Thunder’s collective wingspan is clipped somewhat. The Wizards did a great job using the threat of Bradley Beal’s jumper to distract Sefolosha and open up other opportunities in their 96-81 win on Saturday, for example. Perkins, bless his soul, is still an excellent post defender, but can be exploited in space during the times Scott Brooks inexplicably sticks with him. And, of course, teams with really quick ball movement can beat the rotations. But, as they’ve shown throughout the Month of Durant, the Thunder have the athletes, scheme and execution to stop the best offenses in the league. Oklahoma City’s D has been steadily improving for some time, but never has it been this stingy or stifling or complete. That, combined with the best offensive player on the planet and the eventual return of a multiple-time All-Star, makes the Thunder the clear favorites in the West and possibly the entire league.”
Darnell Mayberry: “Nobody from the Thunder will say it. For them, it’s just another win, just another night that was used to get better. But don’t let the company line fool you. This was a big win. Not because of the opponent, or because of how it was done. This win was monumental because it was the Thunder’s 40th this season. OKC became the first team this year to hit that 40-win mark, a number that 40 percent of the league probably won’t see this year. And the Thunder did so four games before the All-Star break. Chalk that up next to the rest of the evidence that shows just how powerful this team is. No James Harden. No Kevin Martin. No Russell Westbrook. No problem. The Thunder just keeps on winning, developing in all the right areas while trucking along and making hardships look like a joke.”
Another interesting nugget from Darnell: “Sefolosha did a fantastic job of shutting down Kevin Martin. He was the only real scoring threat Minnesota had left, and he mustered just eight points on 4-for-10 shooting. For only the fifth time this season, Martin didn’t attempt a free throw. Another excellent performance by Sefolosha and another example of why I think anyone who wants to trade him is crazy. This team, in my opinion, can’t win a title without Sefolosha. He means that much on defense in my eyes.”
Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland in something you really need to read: “For years, we have talked about “advanced stats” when what we were really talking about was slightly savvier arithmetic. That’s going to change, whether we want it to or not. Don’t get me wrong — metrics like points per possession and PER have significantly improved the analytical discourse surrounding basketball. Still, there’s a tremendous amount left to do. And given these vast haystacks of newfangled player tracking data, we’re in desperate need of similarly newfangled needle-extraction techniques.”
According to Hollinger’s playoff odds, OKC has the highest percent chance of winning the title.
LeBron guarded every Clipper last night and then said this: “That’s why I should be Defensive Player of the Year,” James said. “No one has ever done this before.” Note: Blake Griffin scored 43.