Tag:Oklahoma City Thunder
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Posted on: December 30, 2011 6:04 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 7:12 pm
 

3-on-2 Fast Break: First impressions

3-on-2 asks the EOB crew to compare two quick items for debate. This week's topic? First impressions. You can follow EOB on Twittergerald-wallace-2011 at @EyeonBasketball.

1. Which team has been most impressive in the first week of the season and why? 

Matt Moore: We knew how good the Thunder were going to be, and it took a huge near-miracle shot from Durant to assure victory on Thursday. We knew the Heat could be this good, we're just not certain they'll keep this pace. But how about the Portland Trail Blazers? They've been impressive on both sides of the ball and beat a very good Denver team that had been as impressive before Thursday. The Blazers are hitting on all cylinders and Thursday night Raymond Felton started to get involved. Jamal Crawford has been surprisingly efficient. LaMarcus Aldridge is still LMA, and Gerald Wallace has been a demon on defense. The Blazers have made a statement early. 

Royce Young: Oklahoma City. The Thunder are the only team with four wins, and they aren't wins over nobody. Orlando, an improved Minnesota squad on the road, at Memphis and a buzzer-beating victory over the defending champion Mavericks. And not just that, but those four wins both were sets of back-to-backs.

The Thunder had to overcome a lot of noise after the Memphis game to remain focused on their task. Outside distractions like supposed altercations and supposed feuds can be difficult to move past, but the Thunder have handled their business in the first week. They've put away four wins in five days. And against some pretty good teams. That's impressive.

Ben Golliver: Miami Heat. The Big 3 and company have dumptrucked Dallas, blown out Boston and come back against Charlotte after appearing a bit bored during the first half. In each game, the Heat had flashes of superhuman play that can't be match by anyone in the NBA, Oklahoma City included. LeBron James is the key: his improved mid-range game, attack mentality and restraint from hoisting long balls takes Miami a giant leap towards becoming the team everyone has wanted them to be since the Summer of 2010. A self-assured Chris Bosh helps too.

2. Which team has been most disappointing in the first week of the season and why?

MM:  How about the Suns? The Suns weren't going to be good, but they weren't supposed to be this bad. Steve Nash looks trapped on an island of misfit toys and this is not how his career should end. Marcin Gortat is fine, good even, but the rest of the team can't hit a shot and still can't defend. It's looking very bad early for the Suns. 

RY: Dallas. The Mavericks are going to be fine. I don't know if they're going to be fine in the sense they'll compete in the playoffs for a repeat, but they're going to be fine in terms of getting back to the playoffs. Thursday's game in Oklahoma City showed that those wheels are turning again finally after a pretty major champagne hangover. 

But still, an 0-3 start with two blowouts is not how you want to see a defending champ come out of the gate. There was a real complacent look to the Mavs early on. They were missing a bit of that drive. Totally understandable, but at some point you've got to snap out of it.

BG: Sacramento Kings. No one expected the Kings to be world-beaters this year and their season opening win was about as exciting as life gets for the Cowbellers. The disappointment is more about Tyreke Evans. What is going on here? Evans has barely produced in the boxscore aside from his scoring, which is way down from his career averages through three games. A 4-point, 5-turnover effort against the Portland Trail Blazers was particularly bewildering. Is he out of shape? Checked out? Out of sync? Struggling to deal with new teammates? Simply off to a slow start? Evans seemed like a prime candidate to bounce back from an injury-plagued sophomore season and get back to his sterling Rookie of the Year performance in 2009-2010. Instead, the nosedive continues.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 6:04 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 7:12 pm
 

3-on-2 Fast Break: First impressions

3-on-2 asks the EOB crew to compare two quick items for debate. This week's topic? First impressions. You can follow EOB on Twittergerald-wallace-2011 at @EyeonBasketball.

1. Which team has been most impressive in the first week of the season and why? 

Matt Moore: We knew how good the Thunder were going to be, and it took a huge near-miracle shot from Durant to assure victory on Thursday. We knew the Heat could be this good, we're just not certain they'll keep this pace. But how about the Portland Trail Blazers? They've been impressive on both sides of the ball and beat a very good Denver team that had been as impressive before Thursday. The Blazers are hitting on all cylinders and Thursday night Raymond Felton started to get involved. Jamal Crawford has been surprisingly efficient. LaMarcus Aldridge is still LMA, and Gerald Wallace has been a demon on defense. The Blazers have made a statement early. 

Royce Young: Oklahoma City. The Thunder are the only team with four wins, and they aren't wins over nobody. Orlando, an improved Minnesota squad on the road, at Memphis and a buzzer-beating victory over the defending champion Mavericks. And not just that, but those four wins both were sets of back-to-backs.

The Thunder had to overcome a lot of noise after the Memphis game to remain focused on their task. Outside distractions like supposed altercations and supposed feuds can be difficult to move past, but the Thunder have handled their business in the first week. They've put away four wins in five days. And against some pretty good teams. That's impressive.

Ben Golliver: Miami Heat. The Big 3 and company have dumptrucked Dallas, blown out Boston and come back against Charlotte after appearing a bit bored during the first half. In each game, the Heat had flashes of superhuman play that can't be match by anyone in the NBA, Oklahoma City included. LeBron James is the key: his improved mid-range game, attack mentality and restraint from hoisting long balls takes Miami a giant leap towards becoming the team everyone has wanted them to be since the Summer of 2010. A self-assured Chris Bosh helps too.

2. Which team has been most disappointing in the first week of the season and why?

MM:  How about the Suns? The Suns weren't going to be good, but they weren't supposed to be this bad. Steve Nash looks trapped on an island of misfit toys and this is not how his career should end. Marcin Gortat is fine, good even, but the rest of the team can't hit a shot and still can't defend. It's looking very bad early for the Suns. 

RY: Dallas. The Mavericks are going to be fine. I don't know if they're going to be fine in the sense they'll compete in the playoffs for a repeat, but they're going to be fine in terms of getting back to the playoffs. Thursday's game in Oklahoma City showed that those wheels are turning again finally after a pretty major champagne hangover. 

But still, an 0-3 start with two blowouts is not how you want to see a defending champ come out of the gate. There was a real complacent look to the Mavs early on. They were missing a bit of that drive. Totally understandable, but at some point you've got to snap out of it.

BG: Sacramento Kings. No one expected the Kings to be world-beaters this year and their season opening win was about as exciting as life gets for the Cowbellers. The disappointment is more about Tyreke Evans. What is going on here? Evans has barely produced in the boxscore aside from his scoring, which is way down from his career averages through three games. A 4-point, 5-turnover effort against the Portland Trail Blazers was particularly bewildering. Is he out of shape? Checked out? Out of sync? Struggling to deal with new teammates? Simply off to a slow start? Evans seemed like a prime candidate to bounce back from an injury-plagued sophomore season and get back to his sterling Rookie of the Year performance in 2009-2010. Instead, the nosedive continues.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 12:17 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 1:07 pm
 

Friday 5 with KB: (Too) Early returns

By Matt Moore



In this week's edition of 
the Friday 5, Ken keeps sticking up for the Celtics, we talk about whether the Nets are a disaster, and early surprises. You can follow Ken Berger on Twitter @KBergCBS

1. You threw the Celtics a life line on Tuesday, saying how their comeback effort against the Heat meant they're not dead yet. Then they turned around and flopped in New Orleans like a corpse. No, I'm sorry, that's too far. A corpse would at least give resistance by being dead weight. How bad is this going to get for the Celtics to be in some real trouble?

Ken Berger: You can't fully evaluate the Celtics until they get Paul Pierce back. Even then, it's going to be a bit of a horror show at times for Boston, with old bodies stressed by the schedule and not enough depth to cover it up. In a shortened season, three- and four-game losing streaks certainly are magnified. But as long as Boston's core remains healthy and gets them through the season, they'll be there at the end.

2. We're two weeks out of training camp and a week into the season. How much leftover anger from the lockout are you hearing from players and agents?

KB: Haven't heard much. I think everyone (including myself) needed to shift gears from lockout mode to basketball mode. I do think at some point there will be a power struggle for leadership of the NBPA, as the agents who wanted Billy Hunter out have not changed their minds.

3. The Nets are off to a pretty horrific start. Is there a point where this becomes a concern for Dwight Howard as he evaluates suitors, and does this only strengthen the likelihood of him ending up in L.A. as you forecasted?

KB: Well, yes and no. It's faulty logic to look at the Nets and shake your head in disbelief that Dwight would want to play for THAT team. That's not the team Dwight would be playing for; he'd be playing for a Nets team with HIM on it. Big difference. The most interesting aspect of the Dwight saga won't be where he does and doesn't want to play, but where the Magic are and aren't willing to trade him. If Otis Smith and Alex Martins decide they want Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the likelihood that Dwight's a Laker goes through the roof. If that can't or won't happen, can the Nets flip some of their assets for win-now players Orlando would want, i.e., Luis Scola and Kevin Martin from the Rockets, or something similar? Fascinating chess match that Orlando will be playing.

4. The Knicks do not look good right now after being dominated by an L.A. team playing Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy significant minutes. Rank their concerns in order: Injuries (Davis, Jeffries), Mike D'Antoni, overall roster.

KB: I'd say injuries and schedule are the Knicks' biggest problems, and I'd include Iman Shumpert among the injured players they miss the most. Not that Shumpert was necessarily ready, but losing him means Mike Bibby must fill a bigger role off the bench, and this is not good. Tyson Chandler needs to tone it down a notch; with three techs in three games, he's making Knicks fans yearn for Rasheed Wallace to come out of retirement and sign for the mini mid-level. Heading out West to start the season isn't ideal after a long lockout and short training camp, so I'll re-evaluate the Knicks after they play a couple of home games this week and get comfortable on the East Coast. I do like the offense running through Melo and would like to see more Melo-Amar'e pick-and-rolls. Like a lot of contending teams (Dallas, Lakers, Celtics), the Knicks are having to incorporate new players and tweak their schemes with little or no practice time. So it's too early to panic and point the finger at D'Antoni.

5. Two parter. What's the team that's impressed you the most and team that's disappointed you the most so far, early in this season?

KB: Even though I picked them to go to the Finals, I'd have to say the Thunder (4-0) are playing even better than I thought they would. It's a little early for disappointment, but I'd classify it as disappointing to see the Nets lose Brook Lopez and face a long, ugly road to the March 15 trade deadline without their key asset in a potential Dwight Howard trade.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 2:34 am
Edited on: December 30, 2011 2:50 am
 

Report Card: Westbrook's redemption



By Matt Moore

The Knicks wilt again out West, the Thunder rise and fire, and the Blazers win the best game of the night. Here's your nightly report card. 

A: Russell Westbrook


One day removed from a horrid shooting performance in a near-loss and after a brief altercation with Kevin Durant that subsequently became the biggest story in the league for a day, Russell Westbrook brought the Thunder back. He made all the plays late starting with a dunk and-one off a steal. He hit big shots when he needed to and grabbed a huge offensive rebound off a Durant miss late. It was a terrific job by a player with a lot of pressure on him, and showed why the Thunder believe he and Durant can be special together.

Westbrook isn't the pure point a lot of people think Durant needs. But in terms of scoring point guards, he's one of the best in the league. His fearlessness and ability to make things happen in key moments should not be overshadowed by a handful of poor shooting nights for the young player. Westbrook is a legitimate star who plays on the same stage, if not level, as Kevin Durant. 

A: Los Angeles Lakers


Ball movement. Help defense. Efficiency. The Lakers won with good basketball. Not superstar power, though Pau Gasol played well. They weren't pretty or fun to watch, they just worked to create open shots and knocked them down. Even when the Lakers were losing earlier this week, they had great effort, just poor execution. Against the Knicks, they really turned the effort into execution and simply played better basketball against what is arguably a more talented team in terms of star power.

B: Houston Rockets


The Spurs didn't have it, but the Rockets also never allowed them to find it Thursday night. The Rockets ran efficient offense over and over, getting contributions from their key guys and really attacked the Spurs inside with Samuel Dalembert. It was a key win after a disappointing opener against the Magic. Kevin Martin stopped being terrible and went back to Kevin-Martin-hood.

B: Portland Trail Blazers


They won against a very good Nuggets team and kept their hot streak alive. They shot 51 perent from the field. They also turned the ball over 25 times and let the Nuggets back in it after a huge initial rush. They lost the free throw battle. In reality, they had a hot night, shooting 51 percent from the field. They also played solid defense, if allowing a number of open looks. These two teams are evenly matched and the Blazers edged them. Room for improvement, but they get a B.

C: Dallas Mavericks


The Mavericks got a number of things to go their way in this game, and also played much better. The ball movement was there, Dirk was resurrected from lockout hibernation (29 and 10), JET was firing, and Ian Mahinmi and Brendan Haywood played well inside. But their defense was still several steps off of last year, and for crying out loud, the only guy in the building you have to guard with 1.4 seconds left and you give him a look? Better, Mavericks. Not good.

D: Dirk Nowitzki


Dirk nabbed a technical for complaining about a call in the fourth quarter. Was just a terrible time for that kind of a tech. 

D: New Jersey Nets


Missing Brook Lopez? Sure. But the effort isn't there, from any of the players. How exactly are you going to convince Dwight to come there by getting killed by him?

F: New York Knicks


Carmelo Anthony, point forward is not walking through that door. Carmelo Anthony, ball-stopping shooter is. Both Anthony and Stoudemire struggled mightily against a Lakers defense that attacked their dribble whenever they got the ball. The Knicks have no creator, no initiator, no playmaker, just bullets and no gun. Oh, and defensively? Renaldo Balkman spent the most time guarding Kobe Bryant. Whoever had that idea needs to spend some time reconsidering the way he approaches the world.

Incomplete: San Antonio Spurs


Back-to-back, but after two really solid defensive games the Spurs took a giant step backwards Thursday night.

E for Effort: Orlando Magic


It's not hard to beat the Nets. But the Magic are firing on all cylinders right now. Dwight Howard with 24 rebounds, Ryan Anderson 22 points. The Magic are still a good team in the middle of all the turmoil. Again, against the Nets. But still.

Gold Stars:


Dirk Nowitzki. Jason Terry, Serge Ibaka. Steve Blake. Pau Gasol. Josh McRoberts, Luis Scola. Jimmer. Wesley Matthews.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 12:59 am
 

Durant steals Westbrook's thunder again

Posted by Royce Young



OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook had them chanting his name. For about three minutes, he owned Oklahoma City. Chesapeake Energy Arena was all his.

And then Kevin Durant stole his Thunder.

Durant hit a game-winning 3 at the buzzer to lift the Thunder over the Mavericks, 104-102. And while it was a big shot that kept the Thunder undefeated at 4-0, it was also something symbolic for the team.

"I just tried to shoot a good one," Durant said. "I'm just glad I made it, man. I'm glad I made it."

The young Thunder had to endure a tough day of answering questions and hearing about how their two best players reportedly hate each other (or something like that). And with Westbrook struggling again, it looked like we might be headed for another ugly night. But Westbrook bounced back, hitting three of his last four shots and scoring seven of the Thunder's last 12. His first, a breakway and-1 dunk, had the crowd calling his name.

"RUSS-ELL! RUSS-ELL! RUSS-ELL!"

There was a reason for it. These Oklahomans aren't stupid. They know what was going on. A night before, Westbrook went 0-13 from the floor and had a reported altercation with Durant. And he was again stuck in a rut, laboring through another tough night starting 3-9. You could Westbrook was feeling it. He wasn't himself. He wasn't playing with that normal burst of energy or emotion. But the crowd lifted him.

"I've never seen in my 20 years with the NBA what the crowd did tonight," head coach Scott Brooks said. "They knew he was struggling. They watched our game last night and he struggled. When he made the layup and the free throw and the crowd started chanting his name out, that was special. This is a special place to play. I've never seen it before."

Said Westbrook:"It's amazing what these fans would do for you. I love this city, I love my teammates. I'm just thankful."

Said Durant: "The crowd was unbelievable tonight encouraging him and I think that gave him some extra push. We can only do so much. We're always on top of him encouraging but the fans for the fans to do that meant a lot and he hit some big shots ... That shows how much they follow us out there. For them to encourage him like that was beautiful to see. I'm glad he was able to carry us in the last few minutes of the fourth and lead us to a good win."

But all of that quickly became background noise because of what Durant did. With 1.4 seconds left and OKC suddenly down a point because of a Vince Carter go-ahead 3, Durant caught a pass from Thabo Sefolosha and in his beautiful, gliding way, launched a deep 3 that hit nothing but the bottom.

"He lives for shots like that," Westbrook said. "He has come a long way and I am really happy for him."

Which seems like it might be a thing Westbrook would say through gritted teeth. For a second, he was the Thunder's man. So many times last season, Westbrook carried the Thunder. And not only was he doing it against OKC's nemesis in Dallas, but he was producing quite the story. It was quite the bounce back, what, with the crowd chanting his name and such.

But like a slap in the face, he was placed right back in his role. He was humbled once again by the Thunder's alpha dog. Maybe that's going to bother him tonight when he goes to sleep, maybe not. All Westbrook would say after the game was he was happy to win. Short, and to the point, is Russell Westbrook.

Oklahoma City is still in its growing pains as a young team. The supposed tension between Westbrook and Durant made the game against Dallas something of a game within a game. How would they handle it? How would they respond? And it was against the Mavs nonetheless, a team that's been known to play with the Thunder's emotions.

With the Thunder's elevated exposure comes all the outside noise that hit the Thunder over the last 24 hours. But nothing shuts it up quite like the sound of a 25-footer swishing through the net as the horn sounds.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 11:45 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 1:29 am
 

Video: Kevin Durant buries the Mavs in one second

By Matt Moore

The Mavericks had the Thunder where they want them. Like last year in the Western Conference Finals, the Mavs had hit a huge shot, forcing the Thunder, who have historically struggled with final possessions, to try and hit a shot with just one second. Last time the Thunder tried this against the Mavericks, Kevin Durant was blocked on a pull-up 35-footer. 

But on Thursday night? The Thunder didn't try anything silly or miss their execution. A catch and shoot for the best offensive players in the league. The result? KABOOM.




That. The Thunder should do that every time they're in a late-game situation. Durant has one of the best catch-and-shoot motions in the league and yet he almost always is put in an ISO off the dribble position. That was absolutely perfect execution and an amazing shot from one of the game's best. 

It should be noted that it was Russell Westbrook nailing two huge jumpers and converting a big steal along with a key offensive rebound off a Durant miss which set all this up. Regardless of their relationship, the two need one another and on Thursday, they delivered for each other.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 7:36 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 9:15 pm
 

Durant on altercation: 'Nothing happened'

Posted by Royce Young



OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Thunder locker room is typically a pretty fun, loud place to be before games. But Thursday night, it had a much more somber, serious tone to it.

Maybe it had something to do with what happened a night before in Memphis. Or maybe, it had more to do with the story that came out after that game. Which appeared to be the case.

A day after a reported altercation on the Thunder bench against Memphis which led to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook supposedly having to be separated, the team basically did absolutely everything possible to shoot all that noise and chatter down.

Westbrook, who did not speak to the media following an 0-13 performance in a win over the Grizzlies completely blew it off.

"What happened?" he said when asked about the incident. "Oh, I don't know what you're talking about. But we got a game tonight and I'm looking forward to playing against Dallas."

Durant took a similar approach.

"I don't think nothing happened," he said. "People keep saying we had this and that happen on the sideline. Nobody seen nothing. They didn't hear anything. Somebody said that something happened. Everybody on the bench was yelling, the coaches were yelling, not at each other in a bad way but trying to get everything in order. We gave up a few points in that possession so we were trying to get back in order. We were playing a good game and slacked off a little bit for two or three minutes so everybody was yelling.

Reportedly the incident occurred with about three minutes left in the second quarter when Westbrook passed the ball to an open Thabo Sefolosha who didn't take a 3. Westbrook loudly yelled "Shoot the f------ ball!" which evidently led to Westbrook raging on the bench during the next timeout. Kendrick Perkins stepped in to try and calm Westbrook down and then Durant did, which reportedly escalated things.

"It wasn't just myself or Russell or Perk. It was everybody," Durant said. "It was nothing that people should be blowing out of proportion. It happens every single day. Teams go through emotions, things happen. It's a competitive sport man, everybody's not always going to come in and be happy.

"I think you guys should just let it go man. I know you guys like conflict but you should just let it go."

Westbrook's mood was extremely reserved as he was clearly annoyed at the line of questioning he was met with before the game. Durant had a similar tone, but was at least willing to expound on the situation a bit. But it was certainly a different atmosphere than normal before a Thunder game. Maybe that had something to do with the world champion Mavericks being in town, but maybe not.

Westbrook said at the end of last season that he wanted to do a better job controlling his emotions and temper. I asked how he felt he was doing with that this season.

"Okay. I could definitely do better," he said. "But it's early in the year. We're winning. So everything's good."

Head coach Scott Brooks did his best to just pass this off as just the life of an NBA team.

"If you don't have disagreements, that means your team isn't very good," he said. "The game before that I got into a heated debate against our bigs. They weren't doing a good job in pick-and-roll defense. I think it's debate. To me an altercation is a fight or a shove or something like that. A discussion is different than an altercation but that did not happen.

"I've been coaching these guys for four years and we haven't had one fight, which surprises me," Brooks said. "We haven't had any issues that were below the belt where I had to step in."
 
 
 
 
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