Jan Hubbard of Sheridan Hoops isn’t sold on OKC: “The Thunder has done a wonderful job of drafting, and Brooks has his team playing at a high level. But OKC is hardly a sure thing. A major step for the Thunder will be winning a playoff series against a team seeded in the top four. They have not yet done that. When they do, I will believe the future has arrived. Until they do, they are a team with potential. And as history has told us, there are significant steps between that and a championship.”
Zach Lowe of SI.com has James Harden as an All-Star snub but Westbrook making it: “And yet for all the hemming and hawing, Westbrook is an obvious All-Star, one of the 10 or 15 best players in the league, a scoring force still learning the league’s most demanding position. And he’s getting better at it, despite the drop in assists, some of which is due to the Thunder handing more creative responsibility to Durant and more minutes to James Harden. Westbrook is trying and making more next-level passes — the interior slips and tricky diagonal looks to shooters outside his direct line of vision. All of this comes with growing pains, especially since the Thunder lack any kind of big man pick-and-roll threat to pair with Westbrook. But the guy is a stud.”
Kevin Pelton has Westbrook making it along with Harden: “I went back and forth between Harden and Steve Nash. From a standpoint of pure entertainment, it’s hard to go wrong with Nash, and the two-time MVP continues to perform at a high level as he approaches his 38th birthday on Tuesday. Nonetheless, Harden is simply playing too well to leave him off the roster, especially since he is clearly the second-best shooting guard in the conference after starter Kobe Bryant. In this case, track record should work in Harden’s favor, since he’s been playing at an elite level since last year’s All-Star break.”
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com has KD second in the MVP: “Durant scored 95 points on 66 shots through three games this week before the Spurs ran the Thunder ragged. Double-digit rebounds in all. Durant’s been on the MVP list as a “oh, we should put KD on there, what with the Thunder so good and all.” But this is the week Durant’s really stepped up and put his stamp on the picture. He’s averaged 28 points per contest in his last 10 games, is third overall in scoring per game, and is second in Player Efficiency Rating behind LeBron James.”
GQ talked to James Harden about his style and called him the NBA’s “most eclectic dresser”: “Everyone wants to know what’s in the backpack Kevin Durant wears to press conferences, but at GQ we’re more curious about what’s in the closet of KD’s teammate. Since punctuating his arrival in the league by wearing a bow tie to draft night in 2009, Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden has quickly distinguished himself from his four-button suit brethren. “Weird and funky” is how Harden, born and raised in Los Angeles, describes his style. His signature off-court look is a mix of high and kid fashion—Gucci shoes meet Looney Tunes—while on the hardwood he’s emerging as an elite sixth man for the league’s top team. Harden spoke to GQ about his style must-haves, and that pair of Louboutins he just can’t bring himself to wear in the Thunder locker room.”
J.A. Adande of ESPN.com on last night: “Truth is, the NBA needs more games like this — at least the first 47 minutes, before the officiating came to the forefront, when it was just two young and fast teams going at it, producing 13 ties and 12 lead changes, plenty of full-court action, and the occasional back-and-forth between Aldridge (who finished with 39 points) and Durant (33). But Aldridge didn’t have a Westbrook riding shotgun, producing a stat line of 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Aldridge didn’t even have Ray Felton, who missed the game with a foot injury. (I know “foot injury” is a sensitive word combination in Portland.)”
Ben Golliver of Blazersedge: “53 minutes of back-and-forth, tooth-and-nail basketball between two highly-motivated teams evaporated with six seconds remaining in regulation. Trailing 103-101, Thunder All-Star forward and 2-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant drove hard to his left from the top of the key, shadowed by Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. One of the few defenders in the league long and quick enough to recover defensively on Durant after he turned the corner, Aldridge rose a split-second after Durant, but with impeccable timing, and appeared to swat the ball into the backboard, causing it to ricochet to nearly halfcourt. The defensive play of Portland’s season.”
Darnell Mayberry: “I don’t know whether that block by LaMarcus Aldridge was a goaltend or not. Even the in-arena replays that I saw were inconclusive. Many have said on Twitter that it was clearly a clean block. If so, there’s obviously going to be a large segment of fans who insist the Thunder got a gift. I can’t disagree. The Blazers probably would have won. But it was a bang-bang play (when I saw it live I thought it hit the backboard first) and you can’t fault the officials if they got it wrong. That’s the breaks.”
Here’s how angry and upset some Portland fans were last night: They actually wouldn’t acknowledge that the Thunder still had possession after the Aldridge block/goaltend. Even though James Harden CLEARLY runs it down. The chances of OKC winning there were slim, but the Thunder at least had the ball still.
You know what I found funny? On the Thunder broadcast, after Brian and Grant saw a replay, they concluded it was goaltending. But on the Portland broadcast, they initially thought it was goaltending but changed their mind on the replay. And people want to act like that call was clean cut or something.
Sean Highkin of Portland Roundball Society: “Scott Foster’s goaltending call on LaMarcus Aldridge was awful. There’s no getting around that. The game should have been 103-101 with six seconds remaining in regulation. It’s very possible that the Blazers would have won had the correct call been made. But had Aldridge’s block stood, Oklahoma City would have had the ball back with more than enough time to execute a final play for either Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook to tie or win the game. The call absolutely shifted momentum in the Thunder’s favor in the waning seconds of regulation, but a Blazers victory was no sure thing regardless.”