Darnell Mayberry: “I wonder if the MVP race is getting to Durant’s head. Forget what he says. Study his play. One night after LeBron James scored 61 points, Durant answered with 42 through three quarters. Today, Durant was hellbent on getting a resume-boosting triple-double. His missing free throws — perhaps the most mental thing in the game — at a relatively alarming rate. All these things are potential signs that it’s weighing on him. And how could it not? Despite what Durant or anyone on his team says, this award matters to him. A lot. It would be his first one and would be another step toward solidifying his place in the game’s history. It seems natural for this race to seep inside his head.”
Derek Fisher: “I mean, just in terms of respecting the game, respecting each other, bringing the right sense of urgency to our jobs, that’s what we get paid to do,” Fisher said. “We’re not losing games because teams are better than us. We’re losing games because of things that we’re doing poorly. You always give credit to your opponent, and I’ll do the same thing today. But it’s no question we’re just not bringing the right focus, the right mentality, to the game that one would expect from us. Not outside of the locker room. What we should expect from ourselves.”
Dan Feldman of PBT on Scott Brooks’ saying KD could score more: “You know who could score more than they’re currently scoring? Every player in the NBA who gets on the court. They all have the ability to hijack their team’s offense, at least temporarily. Durant and LeBron are two who could do so without consequence, but neither are the selfish players who’d do that, which is part of the reason both are having such great seasons. As they come down the homestretch of what has become a tight MVP race, let’s focus on what they do, not what they could do.”
Berry Tramel: “Now, I don’t believe the Thunder wants to get Scotty Brooks fired. The players would be nuts to adopt that mission. Foreman Scotty never throws them under the bus. He rewards them at every turn, like a full day off in Los Angeles between the debacle in Phoenix and the Saturday practice at UCLA, which produced no discernible defense. Some NBA coaches wouldn’t have said “have fun” after giving up 128 points in Phoenix. Heck, some NBA coaches would have got on the charter jet in Phoenix and said turn this thing around, we’re going to Oklahoma City, and we’re going to practice there twice, and we’ll go to LA at the last possible moment. But that’s not Brooks’ way. And it’s not the Thunder’s way to make rash decisions. So I’m not saying Brooks is in as much as two percent of trouble. I’m just saying his team isn’t listening to him anymore. At least not for the last couple of weeks.”
Kyle Wagner of Deadspin on the Sloan conference: “Bill James used to write about “the fog,” about how the lack of evidence that a thing exists is not definitive proof that it doesn’t. He was talking mostly about clutch hitting and pitching, and if you page through the classic “Underestimating the Fog” you’ll find that a lot of the supposedly false idols the stats of the day were tearing down turned out to actually be true, to varying degrees. This is an especially important idea in basketball now, and will be in other sports as their scientific revolutions come around, because the methods of observation have taken such a huge step forward. Maybe you can’t judge clutch shooting with a play-by-play, but we’ll find something in the new data. Just one season of half the league using SportVU and we’ve already (further) debunked the idea that the hot hand is pure myth.”
Is Giannis the next KD? Not so fast.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN LA pouring it on: “Turns out that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren’t all that intimidating when you have Jodie Meeks on your side. Meeks exploded for a career-high 42 points, and the same Los Angeles Lakers defense that had given up an average of 136 points in their last three games held the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder to 26 points below that in the Lakers’ most shocking win of the season. It was appropriate that Meeks was the guy to lead the way. In a season marred by injuries and inconsistency, Meeks could be counted on all year, scoring in double digits in 51 of the 59 games he played in.”