Detroit Pistons vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 82 of 82)

adams durant westbrook singler thunder pistons

  • When: Wednesday, 16 April 2014 at 7:00 PM EST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The Oklahoma City Thunder have no one to blame but themselves for being in this position. The Thunder have had 2 opportunities to not only put the Clippers away in their chase of the No. 2 seed in the West, but also of resting their guys, namely Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. Instead, the Thunder will have to play a real game on the last game of the season in order to hang onto the 2nd seed.

This will be the 2nd and final (duh!) meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder won the first meeting 119-110. It was a memorable game because Thunder rookie Steven Adams had 17 points and 10 boards in only his 5th game. That would end up being, statistically, his best game of the season.

The Opponent

drummond smith jennings monroe pistons

The Pistons come into the game with a 29-52 record. It is a season that has been mired in disappointment beginning with the firing of head coach Maurice Cheeks and culminating in the resignation of longtime GM and Pistons great Joe Dumars. The additions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith were supposed to get this team over the edge, but instead, these two players have been a huge part of the problem. Their lack of efficiency from the perimeter has made life that much harder for burgeoning big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. It’s a team that was not put together very well, and the effects are showing on the court.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Detroit Pistons

  • PG – Brandon Jennings
  • SG – Rodney Stuckey
  • SF – Kyle Singler
  • PF – Greg Monroe
  • C – Andre Drummond

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

Perimeter Defense - Defensively, this game caters to the Thunder’s strength. Both Monroe and Drummond are post players that rarely venture further than 15 feet out. The Thunder post players (Ibaka, Perkins, Adams, and Collison) will be able to remain in their comfort zone in the paint. Where the Pistons could beat the Thunder is on the perimeter. With the inside contained, the Thunder players should stay with the shooters and defend the 3-point line.

adams jackson lamb jennings thunder pistons


Mind Games - The Clippers will be resting some of their players (Blake Griffin and JJ Redick), and claim they aren’t actively chasing the 2 seed. But that sounds like a psychological ploy to me. If the Thunder play lackadaisically and lose this game, you can bet the Clippers will deploy all available resources to win their game against the Blazers. Remember, the Clippers’ game starts as the Thunder game is ending. Also of note: The Blazers have nothing to play for (can’t move up/can’t move down) so they will probably be resting their players also.

3. Stay Healthy - We are playing for the second season, not this season. Stay healthy, gentlemen.

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Posted in Thunder Pre-game Report

On Second Thought: An NBA Postscript

thunder warriors tip off

When the season begins, every writer and media pundit has predictions for how teams will do. Sometimes they are spot on. Sometimes they are dead wrong. Here a collective of how many people thought the seasons of each team would go, and how they really went.

Atlanta Hawks – After years of mediocrity, the Hawks are in a position to begin rebuilding with the selection of Dennis Schroder and Lucas Nogueira.

  • Reality: The Hawks are still mediocre, but crept into the playoffs in the terrible Eastern Conference.

Boston Celtics – With the team blown up, Boston looks to rebuild through the draft.

  • Reality: Boston actually performed a little bit better than people thought, but are still in rebuild mode.

Brooklyn Nets – With the acquisition of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry from Boston, the Nets look to stack a team to contend with the likes of Miami and Indiana.

  • Reality – It took a buzzer beater from Joe Johnson in early January to finally get this team kick started. Since then, they are 34-15, and appear to be the strongest contender in the East to challenged Miami and Indiana.

Charlotte Bobcats: Biggest free agent signing in team history, but the team still has too many holes to contend for a playoff spot.

  • Reality – New head coach Steve Clifford brought a defense first attitude that transformed the identity of the team and made them competitive every night. Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker have formed a dangerous offensive duo that could give a contender trouble come playoff time.

Chicago Bulls – The return of Derrick Rose will bring this team back to the position it was two seasons ago: a title contender.

APphoto_Bulls Rose Basketball

  • Reality – Yeah, about that return. It lasted 10 games. A torn meniscus derailed Rose’s comeback plans and once again, derailed Chicago’s chances of contending. They still play hard and will give whoever they play fits in the playoffs because of their defense. But the reality is that, without Rose, they don’t have any one player dynamic enough to take over in the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers – With 2 No. 1 picks and 2 No. 4 picks on the roster within the past 3 years, the young Cavs are looking to take the next step as a franchise.

  • Reality – Sometimes, youth and immaturity go hand in hand. Going from a rebuilding team to a playoff contender can be a difficult leap to take if most of your players have never been there.

Dallas Mavericks – The acquisitions of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon will help Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs contend for a playoff spot.

  • Reality – That basically is the reality. A healthy Dirk and an efficient (by his standards) Monta Ellis have helped Dallas get back to the playoffs after a one year absence.

Denver Nuggets – The loss of Andre Iguadola will affect Denver’s defense, but their depth will help keep them in the playoffs.

  • Reality – Injuries (old and new) destroyed the depth the Nuggets had and prevented them from reaching the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons.

Detroit Pistons – The acquisitions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith should help young big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe make the jump into their first playoff foray.

  • Reality – The continued development of Drummond and Monroe could not overcome the inefficiency of Smith and Jennings. The Pistons disappointed and long time GM Joe Dumars was let go.

Golden State Warriors – The addition of Andre Iguadola will provide the perimeter defense to balance the offense provided by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors will improve upon their surprising season from the previous year.

  • Reality – While the team has improved in terms of record, injuries to Andrew Bogut and David Lee may prevent the team from improving upon their 2nd round exit from last season’s playoffs.

Houston Rockets – The winners of last summer’s free agency sweepstake should easily see the team rise from playoff team to title contending team with the addition of Dwight Howard.

dwight howard houston rockets

  • Reality – Houston is a fringe title contender, but seems to struggle, surprisingly, on defense. Houston’s perimeter defense is porous, at best, which leaves Howard on an island in the paint and shooters open on the perimeter.

Indiana Pacers – The team that was a game away from knocking the Heat out of the playoffs looks to take that experience and build upon it.

  • Reality – What once looked like to an inevitable meeting between the Pacers and Heat came into doubt when the Pacers struggled after the All-Star break. Having recovered enough to get the No. 1 seed in the East, it will be interesting to see which Pacers team we get the rest of the way: the one from Nov – Jan or the one from the middle of February on.

Los Angeles Clippers – The team built around Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and a bevy of shooters will throw their hat into the title contending conversation and will be a force come playoff time.

  • Reality – Chris Paul has Chris Paul’d and Blake Griffin has become what we all thought he would become (a double/double monster). The Clippers are a title contender if their shooters, namely JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford, remain healthy.

Los Angeles Lakers – If the team can stay afloat until Kobe returns in December, they could be a dark horse threat in the Western Conference.

  • Reality – Those 6 games in December were kind of like watching Michael Jordan in a Wizard uniform. But a lot like Derrick Rose, Kobe got re-injured and didn’t play another game for the Lakers. Unlike the Bulls though, the Lakers weren’t built to sustain a season without Kobe, and withered away under a cloud of Nick Young yolo-jumpers.

Memphis Grizzlies – After reaching (and getting swept) in the Western Conference Finals, the Grizzlies are hoping the additions of  Mike Miller and Kostas Koufos will help take the team to the next level.

  • Reality – After stumbling a bit early in the season due to an injury to Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have recovered enough to secure a playoff spot. The question is whether this team has reached its ceiling.

Miami Heat – The defending champs should blaze through the regular season as one of the top teams, and have as good a chance as anyone else to find themselves holding the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season.

  • Reality – Yep, it’s Miami. It’s Lebron. They coasted and played mediocre (by their standards), but still managed to get the No. 2 spot in the East while resting most of their main players throughout the season.

Milwaukee Bucks – After getting swept by the Heat in the previous season, the Bucks look to get younger and build for the future. Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Larry Sanders will get plenty of development time this season.

giannis antetokounmpo bucks

  • Reality – If the goal was to get younger and build for the future, mission accomplished. The Bucks handed the keys of the ship to the kids and the results have gone as expected. The worst record and the best chance at drafting an impact player in this loaded draft.

Minnesota Timberwolves – The addition of Kevin Martin and the health (FINALLY!) of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio should finally propel this team into the playoffs.

  • Reality – It’s hard to make the playoffs in the West. The Wolves had a +2.8 in terms of margin of victory, but still ended up 10th in the West. A positive MOV usually means you blow opponents out when you win, but you lose the close games. It’s the story of the Minnesota’s season.

New Orleans Pelicans – New name, new uniform, same rebuild. The addition of Jrue Holiday and the continued development of Anthony Davis should help the team improve from the previous season, but it won’t be enough for a playoff spot.

  • Reality – Injuries really did a number on the Pelicans this season, but above prediction was spot on.

New York Knicks – The ultimate hot/cold team. They did nothing to drastically improve the team in the offseason. They could either duplicate last year’s feat and win over 50 games or they could completely bottom out and win less than 40.

  • Reality – The Knicks took what was behind Door No. 2. The Knicks came out the gate struggling to shoot the ball, and never recovered consistently throughout the season. They still had a chance at making the playoffs in the final month, but their inconsistent play was too much for them in the end.

Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder got their first dose of reality since settling in the Great Plains with Russell Westbrook’s injury. How the Thunder, and especially Kevin Durant, handle the absence of Russell Westbrook will go a long way to determining how this season will play out. Will they be the one man band they were in the playoffs last season or will they be more diverse and share the load?

slim reaper

  • Reality – Not only did the Thunder weather the initial storm, but they also weathered another storm in the middle of the season. Not only did Kevin Durant share the load, but he also learned how to completely take over a game. The “Slim Reaper” stretch from mid-January to the All-Star break pushed his game to an entire different level and probably won him the MVP. The team never wavered and is currently ahead of where most people thought they would be in the beginning of the season.

Orlando Magic – The post-Dwight Howard rebuild is in full-swing. The Magic have a ton of young players they need to develop in the next few seasons. This season will be no different than the last.

  • Reality – Yep, the Magic are in full rebuild mode.

Philadelphia 76ers – Another team that is in full rebuild mode. The team traded its only All-Star, Jrue Holiday, for Nerlens Noel and will probably look to trade Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes who will be free agents at the end of the year.

  • Reality – The prediction for this team was tame. This team hit rock bottom (tanktastic!) and then decided to keep on digging (26 game losing streak).

Phoenix Suns – Another team that is looking towards the future and not focusing on the present. The team traded their only post presence in Marcin Gortat for someone that will probably not suit up at all this season (Emeka Okafor). This combination of players will have the fans in Phoenix asking if the Sun has set yet.

  • Reality – Wow, completely wrong on this assessment. This is why you play the games. The Suns banded together under first year coach Jeff Hornacek, and surprised everyone from day one with their up-tempo offense and relentless energy. Unfortunately, their youth showed in the final week of the season as they dropped the two games they needed against the two teams ahead of them.

Portland Trailblazers – A talented team that has underachieved the last few seasons, the Trailblazers are at a cross-roads as to what to do with this current roster. They have good players, but the team has no idea what it’s ceiling is. If everyone stays healthy, this team could make some noise in the Western Conference.

  • Reality – The Trailblazers made it through the season virtually unscathed and have finally begun to put it all together. The starting 5 has been an offensive powder keg all season, but their depth and defense leave a lot to be desired.

Sacramento Kings – The fact that the Kings are in Sacramento for the foreseeable future makes this season a success for Sacramentans. On the court, this team is beginning to resemble a rebuild gone wrong. The key player (DeMarcus Cousins) is an immature malcontent and the rest of the team is a ragtag bunch of inefficient shooters, undersized power forwards, and shoot first point guards.

  • Reality – The Kings shuffled their personnel around throughout the season, but the result has been the same…bad basketball. Good news is that Cousins seems to be maturing and developing into a franchise player.

San Antonio Spurs – Every year, 29 other teams wonder when San Antonio will irreversibly age. And every year, 29 teams come out disappointed. With a team that was a Kawhi Leonard free throw away from winning the championship, this year will be business as usual. They’ll probably rest their players, win games, and end up near the top of the Western Conference.

tim duncan spurs


  • Reality – Yep, your 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs. Ol’ Faithful

Toronto Raptors – The Raptors are a team that is in the decision-making portion for their rebuild. They have developed some young players and now they have to see who is kept and who is quelled. With their inefficient shooters and inexperienced post players, look for this year’s Raptors team to look a lot like last season’s.

  • Reality – Well, surprise surprise. It’s a good thing the Thunder has the Raptor’s pick from last season, because it wasn’t going to be any good this season. The Raptors’ season took off after the Rudy Gay trade that gave them a ton of balance and depth. The young players, namely, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas, have developed into good players that the team can build off of. The lottery team has jumped all the way to the 3 spot in the East.

Utah Jazz – When a team doesn’t sign it’s two best players, who also happen to be free agents, that is usually a sign of an impending rebuild.

  • Reality – While the Jazz are currently in a rebuild, it is a staggered rebuild where they have been stockpiling young players (Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks) for the past 3 seasons and now want to start a full-on rebuild. Results are still inconclusive.

Washington Wizards – With the addition of Marcin Gortat, the Wizards are starting to put together an extremely formidable starting line-up. If they can just get over the proverbial hump, they should be a power in the East for the next couple of seasons.

  • Reality – It took them a while to make it over that proverbial hump, but once they got a few games over .500, they maintained and are in the thick of the playoff race in the East.
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Posted in Around the League

Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans preview (Game 81 of 82)

rivers perkins westbrook thunder perkins

  • When: Monday, 14 April 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

The magic number for the Thunder to clinch the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference is 1. The remaining schedule for the Los Angeles Clippers is a lot more difficult than the remaining schedule for the Thunder. With that said though, it would probably be in the Thunder’s best interest to win tonight and cease any drama relating to the “race for No.2″.

This will be the 4th and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder defeated the Pelicans last Friday, 116-94, for the 10 consecutive time dating back 3 seasons.

The Opponent

holiday anderson pelicans

The Pelicans come into the game having lost their last 8 games. Injuries have completely decimated their season, as their top 6 players are likely to be out for the rest of the season (if Tyreke Evans sits out the rest of the year). Unfortunately, their ineptitude in the wins department probably will not yield them a lottery pick due to a draft day deal from last June that netted them Jrue Holiday from the Philadelphia 76ers. With all those injuries, the best players the Pelicans have left are role players, at best.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

New Orleans Pelicans

  • PG – Austin Rivers
  • SG – Anthony Morrow
  • SF – Darius Miller
  • PF – Jeff Withey
  • C – Greg Stiemsma

Edit: Apparently, Greg Stiemsma was waived today. So, obviously, he will not be starting at the 5. More than likely, Withey will be the 5 and Al-Farouq Aminu or Luke Babbitt will play the 4. 

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Derek Fisher
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Point Guard - With the Thunder playing yesterday, this is a scheduled rest day for Russell Westbrook. Also in that game, Reggie Jackson suffered an apparent neck/back injury when he got sandwiched in a pick and roll. This may be first time since December 2008 that Westbrook or Jackson doesn’t start a game at point guard for the Thunder. With the importance of having everyone as healthy as possible for the playoffs, look for the Thunder to exercise caution and sit Westbrook and Jackson.

fisher durant sefolosha perkins thunder

2. Bench play - Without an emergency 4th point guard, look for the Thunder to use Jeremy Lamb more as a play-maker. Also, with Nick Collison’s body looking like it was used as a stunt double for Russell Crowe in Gladiator, look for Perry Jones to get some run at one of the forward spots.

3. Get it done - Win tonight, and the next game only matters to the rookies and 2nd year players on the roster. This team is primed for the playoffs and is just frothing at the mouth to get it started.

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Posted in Thunder Pre-game Report

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Indiana Pacers preview (Game 80 of 82)

westbrook collison west hibbert thunder pacers

  • When: Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 12:00 PM CST
  • Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

“We’re Number 2! We’re Number 2!” That will be Oklahoma City’s battle cry heading into the playoffs. Hopefully they won’t be saying that in June. The San Antonio Spurs took care of business in their last two games, and locked in their No. 1 seed for the playoffs. The only thing still left to see is who the Thunder will face in the playoffs. The Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, and Memphis Grizzlies all have the possibility of finishing with the 7th seed.

The team the Thunder are facing are trying to avoid the same fate as the Thunder. The Indiana Pacers are currently tied with the Miami Heat for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but hold the tie-breaker by virtue of their conference record. With two games remaining for both, the ball is entirely in the Pacers’ court. Finish with the same record as the Heat and they end up with the No. 1 seed. This will be the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Pacers. The Thunder won the first meeting early in the season, 118-94.

The Opponent

hibbert west george pacers

The Pacers come into the game with a 54-26 record, and tied for first in the Eastern Conference. In the first 54 games of the season, the Pacers started hot with a 41-13 record. Since then, they are 13-13, with only 2 of those victories against playoff teams. Many theories abound as to what happened to the Pacers since February 20th. That day coincided with the Danny Granger for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen trade. It may be coincidence, but Granger was a veteran who was finally making his way back into the rotation from a knee injury that had robbed the past 1.5 seasons from him. With the trade, the Pacers lost a valuable locker room presence that may have helped in a locker room that may have already been fracturing. But the real issue at hand, may be the lack of offense. While never a high scoring outfit, the Pacers have slipped to near anemic levels, scoring only 96.6 points per game, which is the least of any of the playoffs team not named Chicago or Memphis. The lack of offense has coincided more with the regression to the mean for Paul George and Roy Hibbert. They probably played a bit over their heads in the first half of the season and have failed to reach that sort of production since.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Indiana Pacers

  • PG – George Hill
  • SG – Lance Stephenson
  • SF – Paul George
  • PF – David West
  • C – Roy Hibbert

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Meaning of the Game - The Thunder are basically locked into the No. 2 spot in their conference. But the Pacers will be fighting and clawing in their last two games to try and maintain the No. 1 seeding. In appearance, this game seems to mean more to the Pacers. But don’t be surprised if the Thunder use this game to send a message: We don’t care if it’s Miami or Indiana, and we’re not helping one or the other.

westbrook hibbert perkins thunder pacers

2. Paint defense - The Pacers weaknesses fall right into the Thunder’s wheel-well. The Pacers’ lack of 3-point shooting causes them to lose the dish part of “drive and dish”. The Thunder are great at packing the paint and hoping their length will bother the opponents on the perimeter.

3. Offense - The notion that the Pacers are great defensively could be a bit of an illusion. Only 5 of the Eastern Conference teams score over 100 points per game. With so little offense in their conference, the Pacers have been feasting on offensively anemic teams. Against the top 9 teams in the West, the Pacers are only 7-10, with their last victory happening on February 7th, against the Trailblazers. With the Thunder at full strength, the Thunder should not have any problem outscoring the Pacers.

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New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 79 of 82)

durant ibaka defense thunder pelicans

  • When: Friday, 11 April 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The magic number for the San Antonio Spurs to clinch the No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs is now 1, after their defeat of the Dallas Mavericks. While it is still mathematically possible for the Thunder to get the No. 1 seed from San Antonio, they would require a ton of help. Namely, for the Spurs to lose the rest of their games and for the Thunder to win the rest of theirs. Not impossible, but not entirely probable, either. Instead, with their position firmly entrenched in the No. 2 spot, look for the Thunder to start resting their players. This will be especially helpful for Kevin Durant, Reggie Jackson, and Serge Ibaka, who have had to shoulder the load  all season while Russell Westbrook and others have been out with injuries.

This will be the 2nd of 3 meeting between these two teams. The Thunder have won 9 in a row against the Pelicans, dating all the way back to the 2nd half of the 2010-11 season. You can say that the upsurge of the Thunder has coincided with the downslide of the Hornets/Pelicans since the Chris Paul trade.

The Opponent

evans pelicans

The Pelicans are currently 32-46 and sit in the 12th spot in the West. While they’ve already improved from last season, injuries have derailed what may have been an even greater improvement. Point guard Jrue Holiday, who was obtained in a deal on draft day last June (and will probably cost the Pelicans a lottery pick in the next draft), has only suited up for 34 games. Anthony Davis, the foundation of the franchise, has played in 67 games and will not be available for the rest of the season. Ryan Anderson, the stretch four who was brought in to space the floor, played in only 22 games before a herniated disc killed his season. Injuries are one of those things that can kill a rebuild quick. With the possibility of the team having no first rounder in this next draft, the Pelicans will be dependent on their key players coming into next season healthy. Of the players who are still healthy, only Tyreke Evans averages in double figures (14.0 points per game).

Probable Starting Line-Ups

New Orleans Pelicans

  • PG – Brian Roberts
  • SG – Tyreke Evans
  • SF – Darius Miller
  • PF – Al-Farouq Aminu
  • C – Greg Stiemsma

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Reverse Obama - Don’t give them hope. Take it all away. Do it in the first quarter, if possible. I want the starters off the floor by the middle of the third quarter.

2. Continue working on rhythm - IF the regular starting line-up plays, use this game as a pre-season game and continue to work on rhythm and continuity.

ibaka durant westbrook sefolosha

3. Bench - The Bench Mob should get plenty of run in this game. Here’s hoping newly signed rookie Grant Jerrett gets some reps in. He may have a future as a stretch 4 for the Thunder.

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Posted in Thunder Pre-game Report

The Race for 8th and the Thunder


I have really enjoyed this first season of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’. Many critics have panned it, but I think it has melded well with the Marvel movie universe, and has enough gumption to stand on its own. This season has focused on their hunt for The Clairvoyant, a villain who always seems to be one step ahead the agents. So much so, that the agents start to think the villain is in their head.

Well, I would like to let the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D know that I have found The Clairvoyant. His name is  Matthew Winick, and he’s the mastermind behind the NBA schedule. He has to be The Clairvoyant. Who else would’ve scheduled the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, and Memphis Grizzlies to play each in round robin fashion in the final week of the season for the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

randolph nowitzki grizzlies mavericks

We rarely see “win and you’re in” scenarios in basketball, but this season we could possibly have 3 games which impact where those teams end up on the final day of the season. First off, the tie breakers are as follows:

  • Dallas owns the tie breaker versus Memphis (3-0)and is tied with Phoenix (1-1).
  • Phoenix is tied with Dallas (1-1).
  • Memphis owns the tie breaker versus Phoenix (3-0)

With Dallas holding a 1/2 game lead over the Suns and a 1.5 game lead over the Grizzlies, they are firmly in the driver’s seat. But the teams they face in their final 3 games have a winning percentage of .654. It doesn’t get any easier for Phoenix, whose four remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of .577. The easiest trek may be Memphis’, which currently sits in the 9th position in the West. They play the 76ers and the Lakers before beginning their round robin games against the Suns and Mavs. They are in a much better position than Phoenix to control their destiny.

calderon dragic suns mavericks


As a basketball fan, you live for this time of year. The first two days of the playoffs have always been my favorite days of the season. Two days, two quadruple-headers. That is sweet nectar from the basketball gods. Luckily, basketball fans will get a 3 game play-in tournament before the playoffs even begin. Those games are:

  • April 12th – Phoenix @ Dallas
  • April 14th – Memphis @ Phoenix
  • April 16th – Dallas @ Memphis

With the Oklahoma City Thunder firmly in control of the No. 2 seed in the West after last night’s victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, my focus can be redirected towards the West’s 8th seed. Those three teams will be battling for the 7th and 8th seed. Other than who might finish with the 7th seed, how does this affect the Thunder?

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

The answer to that lies in San Antonio. There’s still a sliver of hope the Thunder can get the No.1 seed in the conference, and in the league. That hope lies in the fact that the Spurs will face the Mavericks and Suns on back to back nights. Two desperate teams against a team that is known to rest its starters as the season winds down. Tony Parker will be out for tonight’s game against the Mavericks. After they face the “duo of desperation”, the Spurs then travel to Houston to face the Rockets, who may be needing to win in order to stay ahead of the Portland Trailblazers for the 4th spot (and final home court position) in the West.

All told, if the Spurs finish 1-3 in their final 4 games, and the Thunder win out, Oklahoma City will head into the playoffs with the No. 1 seed. A lot of things will have to fall in OKC’s favor, but it’s not an impossible scenario. With the Spurs playing 2, or possibly, 3 desperate teams, the onus may be on them to hold on to the top seed in the West.

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers preview (Game 78 of 82)

ibaka griffin durant dudley sefolosha paul clippers thunder

  • When: Wednesday, 09 April 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

For the first time in nearly 2 months, the Oklahoma City Thunder could trot out a completely healthy roster. Now, the words “completely healthy” can be debated as Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins are still working their ways back from injury. But the fact still remains that this will be the first time since February 20th, that the Thunder will have the ability to put out the same starting line-up that we’ve all grown accustomed to in the last 3.5 seasons.

Since February 20th, the Thunder have suffered from bouts of inconsistency and complacency, especially on the defensive end. With their two defensive stalwarts out and Russell Westbrook being held out in one of the two games on back to backs, the Thunder have had a difficulty time carving out any sort of rhythm. But now, hopefully, the Thunder are getting healthy when they need it the most.

This will be the fourth and final meeting of the year between these two teams. The Clippers lead the season series 2-1 and are 1.5 games behind the Thunder for 2nd place in the Western Conference.

The Opponent

griffin jordan crawford paul clippers

The Clippers are currently sit at 55-23. They are an offensive juggernaut, averaging 107.8 points per game, which is No. 1 in the league. Their attack is led by PG Chris Paul, who in his 9th season, leads the league in assists (10.8) and steals (2.5) per game, while also averaging 19 points. Blake Griffin has taken that next step and is now a bonafide MVP candidate. His game has become more diverse (better mid-range shooter, better play-making skills) and his free-throw shooting has improved. When defenses converge on either of these two players, they have a cornucopia of shooters around them to make the defense pay. Jamal Crawford, JJ Redick, Darren Collison, Matt Barnes, Danny Granger, Willie Green, and Jared Dudley are all shooting over 34% from 3-point territory. On the inside, DeAndre Jordan has been a defensive monster, averaging 13.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Los Angeles Clippers

  • PG – Chris Paul
  • SG – JJ Redick
  • SF – Matt Barnes
  • PF – Blake Griffin
  • C – DeAndre Jordan

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

* It’s been a while since I wrote that starting line-up down.

3 Keys to the Game

1. Perimeter Defense - As mentioned in the “The Opponent” section, the Clippers have 8 players that shoot over 34.1% from the arc. Luckily, Crawford and Granger, appear to be out for the rest of the regular season. In the last game these two teams played, Crawford and Barnes torched the Thunder for 60 points on 11-18 shooting from 3-point land. With a full compliment of players, look for the Thunder to stay more on the shooters and hope that whoever is guarding Paul (be it Westbrook, Sefolosha, or Reggie Jackson) can stay in front of him most of the night.

westbrook paul thunder clippers

2. Attack - Of the top five teams in the league (San Antonio, Miami, LAC, OKC, and Indiana), the Clippers are the worst defensively. They allow 100.7 points per game (14th in the league) and struggle defending the paint when Jordan is not in the game. While head coach Doc Rivers has made the team better defensively, they were still average, at best, to begin with.

3. Playoff Atmosphere - You smell that? It sure does smell like the playoffs. I have a feeling this game will be completely primed. I put the O/U on technicals being called at 5…..and I’m taking the over. This will probably be the last big game of the season for each team. With so much riding on it, I expect nothing less than a playoff atmosphere-type environment. April 19th cannot get here soon enough.

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Posted in Thunder Pre-game Report

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