Tag - NBA

Five Thoughts 4-21-18 (Game 3 Jazz 115, Thunder 102)

Five Thoughts 4-21-18 (Game 3 Jazz 115, Thunder 102)

1. Before the game I predicted Utah would win game 3 and Thunder would come back and win a close one in Game 4 to escape by the slimmest of margins. While I won’t completely abandon hope of that, tonight was beyond troubling. Quite simply, Utah appears to be the better team. Since mid January, Jazz have best record in NBA. They have the best defensive player in the NBA. They have the best rookie in the NBA (or second if you prefer Simmons). They have the best three point shooter in the NBA. They are the best defensive team in the NBA. They have one of the (if not THE) best coaches in the NBA. I expected us to lose tonight. What I didn’t expect was to get so overwhelmed. One thing we know— Russ and Adams are tough. They aren’t pushovers. Tonight, they got bullied. Rubio owned Russ and Gobert owned Adams. Both of our guys looked borderline intimidated. I don’t think they WERE intimidated, but they were dominated. That was surprising to see. And it leads me to believe that Utah is simply the better team. They are pretty fun to watch to be honest. Well constructed, well coached, very balanced. They play differently than just about every other team in the league. Much more old school with true bigs and a pass-first point guard. It was somewhat frustrating tonight, but I’m really not upset post game. We look inferior, both in talent and in preparation.

2. The Rubio/Russ thing tonight was very surprising. I certainly did not expect Russ to get his arse handed to him the way he did. Obviously there is simply no way the Thunder are going to sniff a win in any game where Russ gets completely dominated by Ricky Rubio. No doubt the presence of Gobert is having an effect on what Russ does offensively. He is struggling to finish at the rim and tonight you saw him get gun shy and either pass the ball back out or force a pass to nowhere resulting in a turnover. So it’s not like Rubio himself was eating Russ up defensively, but the point is that in the head to head match up one point guard was awesome and the other was subpar. The fourth quarter really highlighted it. With Russ on the bench, PG got going a bit and we cut the lead from 14 down to 7. Russ came back into the game after a Utah timeout. Very first possession, Rubio loses Russ and hits a little jumper. Russ then turns the ball over shortly thereafter. From that point on it’s all Jazz. Thunder were actually having more success with Russ on the bench. You aren’t going to leave him there; I’m not suggesting that. Simply outlining how striking it was tonight that Rubio outplayed RW. Surprising and disappointed. We’ve seen Russ look bad before. We’ve seen him go wild. But it’s been pretty rare where we’ve seen him essentially stand down. He looked shell shocked tonight.

3. Can’t blame any of this series on Melo. He’s done his job. His job for the Thunder isn’t to be a star. It’s to be efficient with the shots he gets and to occasionally bail the offense out with ISO when it stagnates. He’s done that in this series. He’s also made some nice plays on the defensive end with active hands. He will never be an overall positive defensively but with the exception of Game 2, Favors hasn’t really hurt us and in that game he did some of his damage from far away from the basket. Melo is a role player that is supposed clean things up for the top two guys. Can’t point a finger at him when the other two aren’t setting the stage.

4. I liked Donovan inserting Patterson early tonight (clearly Billy reads the blog). It worked out pretty well too as we went on a big run around the time PP came in. Beyond that, Donovan didn’t have any answers tonight. It’s possible the answers aren’t there to be had. Maybe the mix just isn’t right and the experiment was destined to fail. Maybe they just need more than a year to get it all worked out. Maybe he’s done the best anyone can do. It’s also possible there are strings to be pulled that haven’t. I don’t really have any specifics I want to see from Donovan. The rotations are mostly fine. Perhaps some nit picking here or there, but I’m OK with it overall. But if you watch the game tonight it’s pretty clear that one team had something over the other that is hard to replace: Confidence. Utah looked like they had that game totally under control-even when they didn’t. We were the opposite— tentative, confused. There just wasn’t much to like tonight and virtually nothing that would give you confidence that they can figure it out before Utah wins two more. I’m not sure how much of the problem Donovan is or was tonight, but he clearly didn’t have any solutions either.

5. I doubt Russ plays this poorly again. He knows he got abused tonight and I imagine he will come out Monday with some ferocity. It’s possible that could filter throughout the team. It’s also possible that the free and easy spirit with which Utah played could tighten now with some pressure shifting. So I don’t necessarily expect a repeat in Game 4 from what we saw tonight. But I don’t have any confidence that we can do what it takes for four quarters on the road against this team. Perhaps the point guard match up shifts in our favor or at least levels out, but then maybe we don’t shoot the three as well or someone else for Utah picks up where Rubio left off, etc. It would also help if Adams could stay on the floor. The thing is if this was ONLY a gut check game, I’d feel OK about it. But it’s not. This isn’t just a matter of playing harder or smarter. There are real basketball issues here and they aren’t going away. The one thing this team has done well all season long is to wiggle themselves free right before the train comes barreling down the track. Every time I’ve been ready to kick dirt on them they do something great. Something that keeps hope alive. Well, here are again.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
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OKC drops Game 2 102-95

This game had the makings of an exciting fourth quarter showdown between some of the NBA’s best athletes. The problem for the Oklahoma City Thunder was that only Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz were the only ones to make plays down the stretch.

After a 19-0 run to take the lead late in the third quarter, Russell Westbrook and company looked prime to steal a game at home that they had frankly been outplayed in.

Then Donovan Mitchell happened once again.

The “rookie” entered the fourth with 15 points, noticeably not as explosive as he was in Game 1. With a few days of dealing with a minor toe injury, Mitchell was able to find his feet late and drop 13 points in the final quarter.

On the other side, Westbrook, who finished with 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting, 13 assists and eight rebounds, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony combined to go 0-for-14 in the fourth. Not the performance you want out of your stars in a tight playoff series.

“We just missed shots,” Westbrook said in the postgame. “We got the looks we wanted, they just didn’t fall.”

“I don’t really know what happened or have any excuses as to why we missed so many,” Anthony added. “Fourth quarter, we just didn’t shoot the ball well.”

Much of that is true, but a substantial amount of credit needs to go to the Jazz defense. In Game 1, “Playoff P” stole the show, scoring 36 points on 8-for-11 shooting from three.

After that performance, Mitchell was very precise as to what his wishes were for Game 2.

“I hope he doesn’t go 8-for-11 again,” Mitchell said afterwards.

Tonight was a much different story. George went 6-for-21 from the field, including 4-of-12 from three. “Playoff P” played like “Post All-Star Break P.”

Obviously a large emphasis was put on making George have a difficult night. Utah did the things necessary to make it happen. It was all the more impressive considering George’s first two made threes were and-1 opportunities.

“I think the way we locked in defensively,” Mitchell said after Game 2. “These two (Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert) really played well, and we came ready to play and took turns on it.”

Much of the blame will rest upon the Thunder’s inability to keep the Jazz off the offensive glass. A big turning point came at the 6:42 mark of the first quarter which saw Steven Adams pick up his second foul. After going to the bench, Favors and company went to work.

The Jazz finished with 15 offensive boards but grabbed seven of those in the 12 minute absence of Adams. It snowballed from there. Gobert grabbed five offensive boards and Favors finished with eight.

“We felt like Derrick offensively was really good in Game 1,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the game. “He was really good on the offensive glass during that run for sure.”

Utah opened the game on a 9-0 run. After a Billy Donovan timeout, OKC responded with a 9-0 run of their own. With the 19-0 run by the Thunder in the third, and the Jazz 14-3 run to close the third and begin the fourth, it is obvious both teams struggle with maintaining their consistency.

With the series tied 1-1, the Thunder look to respond on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. In the last two seasons, Oklahoma City is 2-2 at Utah. Game 3 tips off at 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 21 on ESPN.

Three Keys to the Game

Paint scoring: F

OKC finished with 40 points but surrendered 50 to Utah. It is apparent that Steven Adams is dealing with some discomfort. Billy Donovan was not willing to say he is injured but that all players “are not 100 percent at this point in the year.” With Adams in foul trouble, the Thunder’s small lineup was no match for the combined efforts of Gobert and Favors

Rebounding: F

This was the main culprit of tonight’s loss.

Share the ball: B

There were moments of great ball movement. The problem was most of it occurred during the runs the Thunder went on. In the middle of said runs, Oklahoma City would settle for bad shots, and stagnant in the half court.

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Game 2 Injury report

With Game 2 only hours away, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz will throw down. If Oklahoma City wins, they take a commanding 2-0 series lead into Salt Lake City. If Utah wins, the series becomes even once again.

All of that aside, the most important thing is the injuries! Oklahoma City has a couple of issues and so does Utah. So, let’s examine them.

JAZZ

Donovan Mitchell

The rookie sensation hurt his toe in Game 1. He went back to the locker room in real pain. However, he returned, hit some shots, and made a run of it. The x-rays were negative for any fracture or break but there is still obvious pain.

“I’m real determined on playing but if my body can’t, I’m not going to push it now and not be available the rest of the series,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s a matter of being smart with it.”

With is career ahead of him and the constant misdiagnosing of team physicians, it’s not a complete surprise if Mitchell was to sit out today. He has his entire career ahead of him. A loss this season isn’t going ot kill any chance of them winning a ring. They weren’t winning one anyway, even if they beat Oklahoma City in this series.

Probability of playing: 90%

Thabo Sefolosha

The beloved former Thunder player has become a staple in the Jazz lineup before getting hurt. Sefolosha underwent surgery on his right MCL in mid-January, with this news being the first update on his recovery process. His timetable puts his return to full form sometime in the summer.

On top of the MCL injury, Sefolosha has been suspended for five games due to a violation of the NBA’s anti-drug program, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

OUT

THUNDER

Andre Roberson

Roberson’s patellar tendon tore on January 27 and he’s been out ever since. There’s no hope of him coming back this season. Despite the photos of him taking set shots and all of that, he’s not coming back this season. He’s done. We do miss him though. Miss you Dre Dre

OUT

Corey Brewer

Brewer sprained his knee nailing a three over the very bad Memphis Grizzlies on April 11. There was hope it was only a sprain and not anything more serious. He played in Game 1, saying he was 80 percent. That’s good, as it’s been an entire week now since he sprained his knee. Plenty of time for Brewer to rest.

Probability of playing: 100 percent

Paul George

George was diagnosed with a hip contusion late in his nuclear performance in Game 1’s win over Utah. “Playoff P” had 36 points and powered Oklahoma City to victory. George, obviously hobbled by the hip, really hasn’t practiced and wasn’t made available to the media this afternoon for shoot around due to getting treatment. Don’t think that’s going to hold him out.

“It’s the playoffs, I don’t miss playoff games,” George said.

Probability of playing: 100 percent

 

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Nick Collison’s legacy is more than basketball

Nick Collison has been more than just a basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has not only been a great teammate but a friend, a mentor, and a helping hand here in the community. His impact has been felt immensely from the players around him, and a favorite to any Oklahoma City Thunder fan you talk to.

Mr. Thunder has been with the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder franchise his whole career, dating back to when he was drafted in the first round in 2003. He holds a special place in Thunder fan’s hearts, and that showed on Wednesday night versus the Memphis Grizzlies.

Collison’s locker room bravado is hard to understand because it’s not antiquated within a numeral. If you had to, you could put it to wins. The stability for younger players and his ability to connect on a personal level goes beyond the court.

“He is somebody I always look up to, man. It is a real pleasure to have him here. I just wanted to make sure you all showed him some love,” Westbrook said.

Russell had to pause while talking about Collison, as Thunder fans were giving Nick the standing ovation he rightly deserved.

After the game, Westbrook continued to sing praises of being around a guy like Collison for ten seasons. “I’m just thankful to have him by my side each and everyday. I appreciate everything he’s done for me,” Westbrook said.

“It was cool. It meant a lot to me,” Collison said. “We’ve been through a lot together, and it was cool to be able to have a moment like that.”

It was cool to see Nick being shown the love and adoration that this city and this organization has for Collison. It is way more than just what Nick brings to the basketball floor, but also what he brings to this community and his teammates off the floor.

Like Westbrook mentioned in his pregame address, Collison has been not only a teammate but a mentor. That is exactly what he has been for Steven Adams. Ever since Adams was drafted at the age of 18, Collison made an immediate impact, helping develop Steven into the person and player he is today.

Not only has Collison helped Adams on the court, they have developed quite the friendship as well, traveling together during the offseason. Adams even took Collison to his homeland of New Zealand a couple offseasons ago.

Collison has accepted this role and mentored a lot of the young guys that have been up and coming in the Thunder organization. Not only Adams, but guys like Jerami Grant and Enes Kanter when he was here have been taken under Collison’s wing as well.

It is Nick’s leadership and mentoring ability that has been a huge part in this successful Thunder organization. A lot of Adam’s offensive game can be contributed from the help of Collison. Especially that patented ‘flip’ shot that Steven seems to make every time now down the floor.

When you ask other teammates, even guys like Paul George and Carmelo Anthony who have only been his teammate for one season, they have nothing but great things to say about what kind of person and human Collison is.

“Just seeing what he has brought to this team and this organization, being one of the true pioneers of the game when it comes to Oklahoma City,” Anthony said.

“It’s amazing just how great this community is, and just the love that they have for one of the best human beings that I have been around,” George said.

George mentioned how the community loves Nick, and his impact here in Oklahoma City is undeniable. As any NBA team, they love to be involved and make a difference. That is no different for the Thunder, and especially for Nick.

Collison has developed many relationships here in Oklahoma City, and made an everlasting mark. He has made countless donations, with his money and time.

It is easy to see Collison loves to help people here in Oklahoma City, early in 2018 he took a family on a $10,000 grocery shopping spree.

Collison also visited a VA hospital earlier in the season, building some relationships with the people there. It is acts like these that Collison has done countlessly over his ten years here in Oklahoma City that has made him a pillar in the community.

So when you hear the crowd give Nick “MVP” chants, or the “We Want Nick”, it is easy to realize that it is more than just basketball. They absolutely admire Collison for the person he is, and the countless selfless acts he has done for the State.

Nick Collison did more than just play basketball for this organization. He also embodies what the people of Oklahoma are all about: hard work, dedication, and resiliency. That is another huge reason in why this city adores Collison so much.

Nick has always been the ideal NBA veteran any team would want. A calming voice in the locker room, always working hard and improving his game, mentoring to the young guys and always ready to play when his name was called.

Nick’s legacy will be more than just what he did in the stat sheet, or how many games he played in. It is the mark he has made in this community, in this organization, and obviously with his teammates. It is easy to see why Collison will be one of the first in Thunder history to get his jersey retired into the rafters.

We don’t know if Collison is ready to hang it up just yet, but that last regular season game, it couldn’t have went down a better way. Collison got the roars from the crowd, the love from his teammates and even got some minutes where he played just like the player we all know he his.

When you talk about Thunder as an organization, it is impossible to not mention the contributions Collison has made to the franchise, and the fingerprints he has all over on the very foundation that this team was built on.

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Three Points and-one from the Enemy: the Utah Jazz

I talked to Mychal Lowman, the Editor-in-Chief of SLC Dunk, arguably one of the best SB Nation sites, about the upcoming first round series. I really wanted to get a Jazz fan’s point of view on the series. While we’re all biased, I wanted to see what they thought about things. So, here are three questions and as Paul George probably fouls him on it, an and-one.

Chuck: A lot has changed for both teams since they last played (Dec. 23, 2017), Andre Roberson has been lost for the season and the Jazz have this rookie who’s going to be Rookie of the Year, really coming into his own. Can we essentially throw out the regular season series because of all of it?

Mychal: I think we have to. Since that December 23rd game the Utah Jazz finished the season 33-15. Contrast that with the OKC Thunder which have finished the season 30-19 since that mark. Since that time, Utah has traded away Rodney Hood and released Joe Johnson. They acquired Jae Crowder from the Cleveland and moved Royce O’Neale full-time into the rotation. Ricky Rubio has found a jump shot. The NBA game has slowed down for rookie Donovan Mitchell which is frightening for opposing teams. Derrick Favors is still healthy. Rudy Gobert is the Defensive Player of the Year. Most importantly, Favors and Gobert have learned how to play effective minutes at the same time.

Meanwhile, Donovan Mitchell stopper Andre Roberson is gone which is like giving the Utah Jazz the contra code to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder still boast three All-Stars in Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. Not to mention, Steven Adams seems to best Rudy Gobert on the offensive glass. But now there isn’t an obvious counter to Donovan Mitchell in the Thunder’s rotation unless the Thunder want to wear down Westbrook or George on the defensive end.

These two teams haven’t truly played each other in the current forms which makes this series highly unpredictable.

Chuck: What does Utah have to overcome to beat the Thunder?

Mychal: It seems crazy not to mention the All-Stars, but everyone knows Russell Westbrook and Paul George are going to get theirs. In order to beat the Thunder, the Utah Jazz must overcome Steven Adams. He had a +/- of 18.5 against the Utah Jazz during the season series. The only teams he had a higher +/- against were lottery teams. He seems to own Rudy Gobert. While Kiwi-French relations historically have been cordial, Kiwi-French relations on the basketball court are quite frosty. Gobert only averaged 10.5 points and 9 rebounds against the Thunder the from Down Under. Against the Utah Jazz Steven Adams pushes Rudy Gobert around and has averaged 4.5 offensive rebounds a game. That’s a remarkable number, period, let alone against the Defensive Player of the Year. Those extra possessions are demoralizing and necessary against Utah’s league best defense. If Steven Adams has a big series, Utah doesn’t win this. If Steven Adams has a legendary series, this series is over in 5.

Chuck: What’s Oklahoma City’s greatest weakness the Jazz can exploit?

Mychal: Their playoff experience. The Utah Jazz have been one of the best teams in basketball since January 22nd. Since that time they have rattled off win streaks of 11, 9, and 6. They haven’t lost consecutive games in that stretch. Entering the playoffs, the Utah Jazz are one of the hottest teams in the NBA and they lack playoff experience. Ricky Rubio? Never been. Donovan Mitchell? Rookie. Rudy Gobert? Was in and out of the lineup fighting off an injury sustained in Game 1 of last year’s playoffs against the LA Clippers.

Joe Johnson? Gone. Rodney Hood? Gone. George Hill? Gone. Boris Diaw? Gone. The only players who have played extensive minutes in the playoffs are Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, and Jae Crowder. That’s it. The Utah Jazz don’t have the veterans with playoff experience anymore. They have the defense, the phenom scorer, the depth, and floor general point guard. The problem is the playoffs are different. Opposing teams can spend hours pouring over film finding your minute weaknesses. Quin Snyder can coach the hell out of Utah, but will these playoff neophytes be able to adjust in time? I’m not optimistic, but this Jazz team has made a habit out of proving people wrong.

Chuck: For an and-one: Give me your most biased prediction

Mychal: Utah is a really good road team this season. That seems weird to say of a team that’s 20-21 on the road, but think about this. Since January 22nd, Utah has only lost two games on the road. They’ve actually lost more games at home over that span of time than on the road. That’s why home court in this matchup means squat. This matchup might even embolden Utah. No expectations of home court. Less pressure. They’re not picked to win. My most biased prediction is Utah wins game one of this series. They go back to Utah and go 1-1. They then win in OKC and close it in Utah in game six. Donovan Mitchell averages 20 points a game, but the real hero of the series is Derrick Favors who destroys Patrick Patterson and Carmelo Anthony at the four spot. Derrick Favors is a free agent in the offseason, and he’d like nothing more than to pad that resume with some playoff highlights and get PAID.

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Brewer expected to play Game 1

Yahoo’s Shams Charania is reporting Corey Brewer received treatment to his injured knee and shouldn’t miss any time and looks to play in Game 1 on Sunday against the Utah Jazz.

Brewer took a tumble after Mario Chalmers rolled up onto his knee on Wednesday night. It was incidental contact. It was an unfortunate and left Brewer clutching his right knee. Brewer would leave with a knee sprain per the Thunder. We all feared for the worst. However, the worst has come out: He’s expected to play in Game 1.

Since joining the Thunder as a free agent on March 1, he’s helped transform the Thunder into a contender once again. Since his first game on March 3, Oklahoma City is 11-7, the ninth best record in the NBA.

Oklahoma City’s offense has been reinvigorated with Brewer. Oklahoma City’s offensive rating is 109.5, which is seventh since adding Brewer. They’re averaging over 112 points per game. That’s in comparison to 107.4 (17th) during Andre Roberson’s injury to his signing.

In 18 games for the Thunder this season, Brewer is averaging 10.1 points per game, the most since the 2014-15 season, where he averaged 11.5 points per game. His 34.3 percent from three is the second best of career (2009-10, Brewer shot 34.6 percent).

It’s really his energy that does everything. He goes 100 mph and that’s infectious. Oklahoma City’s pace has skyrocketed since his signing. Oklahoma City is generating four more possessions a game. That’s four less for the opponent, which is a +8 net for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City hosts the Jazz in Game 1 of the Western Conference first round on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. The game will be live on TNT and on Fox Sports Oklahoma. We’ll have Brady Trantham and Co. in arena for your complete Game Day coverage.

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Westbrook made triple-doubles normal

Russell Westbrook didn’t triple-double against Memphis on Sunday. Instead, he grabbed 16 rebounds in 21 game minutes, securing a triple-double for the season. FOR. THE. SEASON. Oh yes, it just so happened to be for the second straight year.

What we’ve watched from Westbrook is historic. He’s the only man in NBA history to do it twice. Yet, there are criticisms. Sure, maybe he goes after other people’s rebounds but if you’re going to stand there, staring at the ball like it’s a bright color butterfly, Westbrook is going to get that ball.

“My job is to do everything,” Westbrook said. “That’s what I do. I go out and do everything and I do it on a night-in, night-out basis. Nobody else do the same [expletive] I do every night.”

Westbrook has done something incredible. He’s made triple-doubles a normal, every day statistic. Something that pushed Jason Kidd into the Hall of Fame, Westbrook is being shamed for.

Westbrook’s 104 triple-doubles, 86 in the past three seasons is a mark that surpasses everyone else. What he’s done is made everyone criticism and belittle his accomplishments.

Why? Two reasons:

You could equate a lot of it to his personality. Westbrook is often coarse and sometimes rude with the media when he’s upset. Despite what he does in the community with the Why Not? Foundation and other charitable works, it’s the post game back-and-forth with a reporter that catches ESPN’s eye. That gets the page clicks and turns into revenue. Showing Westbrook opening 40-plus libraries in the Oklahoma City metro isn’t as tantalizing.

He’s made it look so easy and other NBA players have started doing it as well. Since the start of Westbrook’s rookie season, 2008-09, there have been 105 different players who’ve triple-doubled at least once. 52 of them have more than one. Compare that from the previous 10 seasons from 1997-08 to 2007-08, the NBA only saw 91 different players triple-double. It took 12 years for the NBA to match what we’ve seen over the last 10 years.

Everyone is trying it now. LeBron James, arguably the greatest player ever, has been on a tear of triple-doubles. He’s needed them for his team to stay afloat. The saying “LBJ could do it every night if he wanted to.” So, you’re saying one of the greatest players of all-time would have to try to do what Westbrook tries to do? That’s a wonderful compliment to Westbrook.

It’s probably a combination of both. Rubbing people the wrong way. Not catering to the belief you should bite your tongue for the betterment of the reporters or the repercussions. Because when Kidd hit his 100th, NBA.com did a complete breakdown of his triple-double stats. For the record, Kidd is 79-28 all-time when his team triple-double. Westbrook is 86-18.

While Kidd is going to be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. It should be noted, this is what Lawrence Frank, Kidd’s former coach in New Jersey said about his ability to pass Wilt Chamberlain:

“It’s crazy what he does,” Frank said. “I don’t care if he was 13, 23 or 43. To be able to do it at this level consistently, it’s unbelievable. His will is an unbelievable deal. That’s what makes him separate from everyone else.”

Sounds a lot like someone we know and love.

Westbrook’s lore will live on beyond his days. As he moves on, the appreciation for what he does will grow. The idea of “stat stuffing” will fall to the side and the admiration of one the greatest players of our generation will get his full due.

For now, Westbrook is going to do what he does best and that’s do what he wants to do.

As Westbrook says: “Now, I do what I want.”

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Five Thoughts 4-11-18 (Thunder 137, Grizzlies 123)

Five Thoughts 4-11-18 (Thunder 137, Grizzlies 123)

1. You know how in the movies there is sometimes a ridiculous scene where the protagonist narrowly escapes death by a matter of inches? You know, they untie themselves a half second before the train roars over them or they grasp on with their pinky to the ledge just before they fall 100 stories to their death? The kinds of scenes that can almost a ruin a movie because they are so absurd. You just don’t slip off the roof of the Sears Tower and save yourself by the narrow margin of a hangnail and then walk away clean ten seconds later. Yet, it DID happen for the Thunder this year. There were multiple occasions this year where the season was on the verge of tumbling over the cliff. Just five days ago, the Thunder were facing a road game at Houston with the VERY real possibility that they could miss the playoff altogether. Their last three road games they trailed in fourth quarter in all of them. They won them all. So here we are five days later… Not only did they make the playoffs, but they somehow managed to claim the 4 seed and home court advantage. And now they line up on the opposite side of the Warriors on the bracket. In a season full of tough luck and bad bounces, nearly everything went right for the Thunder over these final days. All the hand-wringing, all the frustration, all the worry about the colossal failure of potentially missing the playoffs…and here they are: home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs in a highly competitive conference.

2. No sense in diving too deep into the Memphis game. I am neither going to gush over how we manhandled them for the most part and I am not going to be concerned about sleepwalking for much of the second half. The Grizzlies didn’t put an NBA team on the floor tonight. Dillon Brooks is a good looking rookie, but that was a ragtag bunch for the most part. They had their bags packed and were ready to get to the beach after that one. Been a long year in Memphis. So the Thunder did what they were supposed to do and buried them early. Then, they jacked around the last quarter and a half and allowed the score to be more respectable. I didn’t care. It was meaningless in my eyes. What I liked was that PG seems to have found his stroke again and Adams looked much more spry tonight than he has recently. Schedule has been brutal lately— it was nice to end with a game where the opponent was almost literally physically incapable of being you on any night.

3. Loved that Russ went ahead and attacked the glass to secure the triple double average. I viewed it as a bit of a middle finger to his critics accusing him “stat chasing.” Personally, I would be happy to field a team of guys who all “chase stats” the way he does. No doubt Russ snatches rebounds from his teammates on occasion. But when he rebounds the ball, the offense also starts much, much faster. By allowing Russ to grab a rebound that would otherwise be easy for a big man, is that it jumpstarts the offense. He so damn fast that he’s often at the mid court line in what seems like one dribble after the rebound. Averaging a triple double is insanity. Doing it two years in a row is double insanity. There is nothing wrong with chasing an accomplishment simply for the gratification of accomplishing it. He is in the record books (again) and I would have been disappointed had he just let others do the glass work tonight. He is who is he. Glad to see he didn’t pretend to be someone else.

4. The Nick Collison tribute tonight was both heartfelt and awkward. I figured there would be some acknowledgement of this potentially being his last regular season home game. I just didn’t expect it would come from Russ holding a microphone before tip. That was a nice gesture from Russ even if it produced a bit of red-faced moment for Nick. It was clear Russ wanted to let everyone know how he feels about Nick and it was clearly an honest statement from the heart. It was cool. Then the “we want Nick” chants made things a little uneasy. They came too early in the game. The other thing is that he isn’t the team trainer or some Rudy-esque walk on. Collison was a star college player and a darn good NBA contributor for over a decade. He’s now been relegated to something of a team mascot— and while I am sure he appreciates the love from the fans and understands it is completely well intentioned— he is probably also a little embarrassed by it. Then, what are the odds that a guy gets hurt shooting a three and the OTHER team is the one who decides to put Nick into the game? That was an oddly tense moment. Poor Collison had legit pressure on him with the entire arena wanting to see him score. It was kind of painful to watch him miss all those free throws. Then a relief when he finally got one to go. In the end, he got his well deserved ovation and acknowledgement. It’s cool that both the player and organization have felt it important enough for him to remain here his entire career. And we can’t forget that by all accounts Russ is a someone who prefers the routine, the familiar. He also appreciates loyalty and toughness. It’s no surprise he respects Collison. And keeping Nick around these past couple of years likely hasn’t hurt. Very nice to see Mr. Thunder have a little moment— even if it was a clunky moment.

5. Now, it’s on to Utah and the postseason. What to expect? Honestly it’s almost midnight and I’m tired. I mean this both literally and figuratively. It’s been a long grind. Five Thoughts multiplied by 82 games is well, a lot of thoughts. Let’s call it a night and drop a playoff version before the games start this weekend.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Thunder Game Day No. 82: vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Oklahoma City Thunder (47-34, 20-20 away)

at

Memphis Grizzlies (22-59, 6-34 away)

Wednesday, April 11 :: 7:00 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)
TV Coverage: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27)
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 16½-point favorite. The over/under is 211½.
Online StreamFS OK | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Grizzlies: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • Welcome to the final day of the 2017-18 NBA regular season! The Thunder host the Memphis Grizzlies in a game that weirdly enough has a lot of meaning.
  • Oklahoma City hasn’t lost at home to Memphis since Nov. 7, 2014.
  • The Thunder need a victory to move into the fourth seed, but they’ll need help Utah has to lose to in Portland tonight. If that happens, Oklahoma City will host the Jazz.
  • If Oklahoma City wins and the Jazz win, Oklahoma City will be the sixth seed. They’ll travel to Utah for the first round.
  • If the worst happens, and Oklahoma City loses, they’ll be the eighth seed and go to Houston.
  • Oklahoma City finished their death march, 11 straight games vs. teams .500 or better 5-6, which is better than some predicted.
  • Russell Westbrook also needs 16 rebounds to become the first person in NBA history to have two seasons of a triple-double average. He’ll also be the first person who would have back-to-back seasons with the triple-double average.
  • Westbrook has two triple-doubles in both games he played against Memphis this season.

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Brian Davis and Michael Cage call the game on the Thunder’s flagship station, Fox Sports Oklahoma. You can watch the game there, catch it on NBA League Pass, or use the Fox Sports App (If you’re in Oklahoma).

SCOUTING THE GRIZZLIES

  • The Memphis Grizzlies are 22-59 on the season, 14th place in the Western Conference.
  • Over their last 10 games, Memphis is 3-7.
  • In their last 10 road games, the Grizzlies are 1-9, including four straight.
  • In their previous game, Memphis lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 113-94 on Monday night.
  • In their all-time history, Oklahoma City is 59-26 against Memphis.
  • Since relocation for the Thunder, Oklahoma City is 22-14.
  • Surprisingly, despite the large point spread tonight, neither team has been favored by 10 points or more in the series.
  • Oklahoma City is 12-5 against Memphis at the Peake, winning five straight.
  • The last loss at home to the Grizzlies: Nov 7, 2014, the injury plagued season.
  • Oklahoma City goes for the four-game season sweep. It would be the first season sweep in the series by either team.
  • Oklahoma City beat Memphis 121-114 on Feb. 14, a large comeback in the fourth quarter led to the victory.
  • INJURY REPORT:
    Tyreke Evans (Personal) is out.
    Marc Gasol (rest) is out.
    JaMychal Green (knee) is out.
    Andrew Harrison (wrist) is out.
    Wayne Selden Jr. (knee) is out.
    Jarell Martin (ankle) is out.
    Chandler Parsons (knee) is out.
    Mike Conley (heel) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Memphis came on Dec. 8, 2015, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 125-88 (37-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (34 points) vs. Memphis occurred during a 114-80 loss on Dec. 19, 2016.

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) is out for the season.
  • Alex Abrines (concussion) is out.

Playoff Scenarios

  • There are three playoff scenarios remaining for the Thunder. They’ll need help. Here they are:
  • Thunder win + Utah win over Portland = Oklahoma City 4th seed and would host the Jazz in the first round.
  • Thunder win + Portland win over Utah = Oklahoma City 6th seed and would travel to Utah in the first round.
  • Oklahoma City loss to Memphis tonight = Oklahoma City 8th seed and would travel to Houston in the first round.

WHAT’S IN A GRIZZLIES NAME

  • When Vancouver was awarded an expansion franchise in 1994 to begin play the following season, the team’s owners had tentative plans to name the team the Mounties.
  • The Royal Mounted Canadian Police and fans alike objected, so team officials resumed their search for a name. The local newspaper sponsored a name-the-team contest, which club officials monitored before choosing Grizzlies, an indigenous species to the area, over Ravens.
  • When the team relocated to Memphis before the 2001-02 season, FedEx was prepared to offer the Grizzlies $100 million to rename the team the Express, but the NBA rejected the proposal.



Three Keys to the Game

Bench

Though the bench is 29th in scoring, they’ve been key down the stretch. They were large on Monday night in the comeback against Miami. They were big against Houston. The starters should dominate tonight. Oklahoma City needs the bench to keep the tide the way it is.

Efficiency is key

Oklahoma City is 31-4 when when they outshoot their opponent. Oklahoma City comes out, shoot better, they’re most likely going to run away with this. It’s huge for Memphis to win games. The Grizzlies are 3-49 when they’re outshot by their opponents. Surprisingly enough, the Thunder have been outshot in two of the three games. Cannot give these back ups a real chance. Shoot well.

Rebound

Oklahoma City has to win the rebounding battle tonight. The Thunder are 34-11 when they have the same or more rebounds as their opponents. They’re a fun 13-23 when they lose the rebounding battle. Plus, we want to see Westbrook go bananas.

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Five Thoughts 4-9-18 (Thunder 115, Heat 93)

Five Thoughts 4-9-18 (Thunder 115, Heat 93)

1. At the end of the game tonight as the starters exited for the last minute or so, I am pretty sure I FELT the same way the team LOOKED. That was the happiest/most relaxed looking Thunder team I’ve seen all season. There was relief (I was definitely feeling that), but I think there was a bit more than that. It wasn’t just relief that “oh we clinched a playoff spot finally.” It was more along of the lines of “oh, we can be pretty good after all.” These last two games have been essential for obvious reasons, but not only did they GET the Thunder into the playoffs, it feels like they also have some real momentum now. They’ve won three of four. The three wins were all on the road against playoff teams (Pelicans, Rockets, Heat). The middle team there just so happened to be riding a 20 game win streak in their arena. All three games required fourth quarter comebacks. The Thunder delivered all three times. Quite frankly, in those three fourth quarters the Thunder have looked awesome. Dominant even. Tonight was off the charts. 39-12? Goodness. So while I am of course happy to finally shake free of the potential deflation of missing the playoffs entirely, I am genuinely excited to see what this can do now that they are there. There could be a silver lining to our struggles throughout the year. Thunder were forced to focus and gel at the end. They now enter the playoffs as underdogs of sorts. And as long as they win Wednesday, they will avoid Houston and GS in round one. It’s not a terrible spot to be in.

2. I was not feeling relief or happiness early on. As a matter of fact, that brutal start had me feeling about as frustrated and tense as I’ve felt all year (and that’s saying something). They started the game 0-10 and were down 23-5 for crying out loud. Even early, that’s a tall mountain to climb. The fact that they somehow managed to get it down to 6 by the end of the quarter was huge. Abrines may have hit one of the bigger shots of the year. He made their first shot from the field; after that things started to flow. The starters literally didn’t make a shot before that sub was made. Miami helped by missing a boatload of three’s (although they were killing us in the paint). I also thought Melo was key to the game not getting away early. Good energy and one huge block on the defensive end to stop a momentum turning play. The bench overall was massive tonight. I didn’t like the way we played the third quarter—especially Russ. Rushed, sloppy, quick shots. The game was starting to slowly slip away. Bench saved the day. Just huge to start the fourth with a big run like that. Patterson hasn’t been putting up big numbers, but he has been far more effective lately. And what can you say about Grant? He’s a beast. Glad to see Donovan extending him deeper into the rotation in the fourth quarter. He’s earned it. Starters did a great job of closing the game out, but the bench teed it up for them.

3. Been saying it for over a week now— I’m concerned about Adams. Everyone else is sort of rounding into shape and he is regressing. He’s struggling a bit to score inside, he’s missing more free throws, and he isn’t making as many impactful plays on either end. I wouldn’t say he’s been bad by any means, but he just sort of been so-so out there. I really wonder about him physically. He takes such a beating. He’s also had some tough match ups lately with Jokic, Anthony Davis, Capela, and Whiteside. Kind of looks to me like he is on fumes. I guess they really can’t with seeding on the line, but I’d love to see him sit against Memphis. They should be able to beat them regardless. It would be nice for Adams to get a legit 5-6 days off before the playoffs begin. Of everyone on the team, it seems he needs it the most.

4. Gotta give PG credit where it is due. He cost us the GS game (he admitted as much himself), but with our backs against the wall these past two games he has gotten the job done. Not a huge fan of seeing him hoist 13 three’s in a game, but the ones he made were pretty timely. Even with that volume of outside shots, he still drove the ball fairly frequently as well. Early in the game he helped keep us from drowning by getting to the free throw line— and he’s the one guy this year that has been reliable once he gets there.

5. Thunder answered the call over the past week or so; certainly over the past two games. Now the Thunder can perhaps have a little fun. Memphis is a bad team when relatively healthy/trying to win. Right now, they are in a mad dash to get this season over with and get as many ping pong balls in their favor as possible. They essentially sat down half of their team tonight with various ailments. In the case of Marc Gasol they just called it “rest.” Because I guess he won’t get enough of that over the next 5-6 months once their season ends Wednesday. They actually hung with the Wolves through three quarters tonight because even when teams “tank” the actual players on the floor don’t. These are generally guys trying to stick in the NBA, so they will play hard— at least for awhile. On Wednesday the Thunder need to come out focused like it’s a playoff game and put it away early. Memphis will absolutely wave the white flag early if the score is ugly. Potential is there for Thunder to coast and an easy win with additional rest isn’t going to hurt at all at this point. They shouldn’t take the game for granted, but in all reality, this should be an open and shut game. For the first time in well over a month the Thunder SHOULD give us a stress free night. If they do, the guarantee the six seed at a minimum with the 4 or 5 still very much in play depending on other results that evening. This is a much more comfortable place to be than I thought it would be prior to the Houston game. If indeed the Thunder have figured something out, the my did so at the absolute latest point possible without causing irreparable damage to their chances. Hope lives.

 

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!