Jeff Caplan of NBA.com: “With or without Westbrook, Durant, tied for second in the league with DeMar DeRozan in logging 38.4 mpg, has revealed new ways to make himself an unstoppable force. With less than two weeks to go in the regular season, it’s practically inarguable that he will win his first MVP trophy. If he does, it will be the second time that LeBron James, a four-time winner, will fall just short of becoming the first player to win three consecutive MVP titles since, no, not MJ, but Larry Bird from 1983-86. And if there’s still a speck of doubt, there is one more no-one’s-done-that-since MJ tidbit. Durant, the Western Conference player of the month four times in the season’s first five months, averaged 34.5 ppg in March. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Durant is the first player to average 33 points or more in three successive months since, you guessed it, Jordan in 1989-90.”
Michael Erler of Pounding the Rock: “It amused me to no end how many otherwise-rational basket-bloggers attached any real meaning to this game, especially since the Spurs were playing their fifth in seven nights, on the road, while the Thunder hadn’t played since Sunday and their two previous opponents were home romps over Sacramento and Utah. Anyone who pays even scant attention to the Spurs and how they do things couldn’t have watched the second half of this garbage and thought to themselves, with any objective thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is legit, Pop is totally playing to win here.’”
And in the comments of Pounding the Rock, there’s an incredible amount of griping about Westbrook’s steal. I’ve watched this replay 20 times now. I’m truly not seeing the egregious contact. What am I missing, other than being an irrational Spurs fan?
Oh, and one more from Mr. Erler: “Uncalled fouls on Tony Parker followed. He was smacked on the head by Ibaka on one drive, and got nothing. He was repeatedly knocked to the floor by Russell Westbrook and others and never got one call. Tiago Splitter, of course, couldn’t dream of getting a call. And in the fourth quarter, Westbrook blatantly threw down Mills in plain view of everyone and was allowed to pretend he got a clean steal and stroll his way to a dunk … Adam Silver may be the new commissioner but it seems to me that David Stern’s NBA is still alive and well. I don’t know if television executives are influencing them to favor the marquee Thunder or if the zebras are just intimidated by that crowd, but I see no way the Spurs are ever gonna get a fair shake in that building. If this game doesn’t drive the point home that the guys better be diligent in securing home court advantage, I don’t know what will.”
Darnell Mayberry: “A few whispers tonight that the Spurs played their main guys (most of them) because they wanted to keep the streak alive. That they wanted to get a win this season against the Thunder. I don’t buy that. I believe the Spurs genuinely didn’t care about the streak, and in a weird way going winless against the Thunder might do more for stoking San Antonio’s motivation in a potential conference final than it could for boosting its confidence in the same scenario.”
Zach Harper of CBSSports.com: “Back in 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder survived going down 0-2 to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals before running off four straight wins. The Thunder have owned the Spurs since going down 0-2 in that series. They’ve won 10 of their next 12 games, including Thursday night’s second half surge. The Thunder took advantage of Kawhi Leonard getting limited time in the third quarter to grab a nine-point lead heading into the fourth.”
Dan McCarney of the San Antonio News-Express: “Make no mistake — the Thunder were deserving victors, especially after choking the Spurs out so ruthlessly in the second half. But allow us to indulge, if only for the sake of posterity, a minor qualification, brought to you by the irregular mess that is the NBA regular season: While the Spurs playing their fifth game in seven nights, the Thunder had three off days to gird their loins for a must-win game. In reality, fatigue probably wasn’t quite the factor many will make it out to be after just one player — Kawhi Leonard, hardly taxed at 30.1 — averaging more than 30 minutes during the win streak. Far more hurtful was the rest-induced absence of Manu Ginobili, with whom the Spurs enjoy a spike of nearly 10 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court.”
Trevor Zickgraf of 48 Minutes of Hell: “Trying not to take too much away from this game because of the crazy schedule the Spurs had just gone through and the fact that there was no Manu Ginobili, whose shot creation was sorely missed. Make no mistake, this team presents the biggest problem for San Antonio, but that doesn’t mean the Spurs can’t win a series against the Thunder.”