Monthly Archives: November 2013

San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 13 of 82)

Perkins duncan diaw leonard spurs thunder

  • When: Wednesday, 27 November 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The San Antonio Spurs have been the Oklahoma City Thunder’s chief rivals for the Western Conference crown for the past 2 seasons and that does not appear to be changing any time soon. After battling it out in a great 6-game series in the 2012 Western Conference Finals, and going toe to toe for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference last season, these two teams seem to be on the same collision course this season. Yes, there are a couple other teams, like the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Golden State Warrior, that are trying to throw their hats into the fray. But the teams they are trying to catch are still the Spurs and the Thunder.

This is the first of four meeting this season between these two rivals. The team split the season series 2-2 last season, as the Thunder won the last game between them to eventually get the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs. The Spurs come into the game having won 11 in a row, while the Thunder have reeled off 4 straight. Each of these games are usually highly competitive affairs that almost always come down to a couple of possessions at the end of the game.

The Opponent

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game One

Every year we keep wondering when the Spurs will finally act their age (old) and every year we are met with defiance from Gregg Popovich’s team. While the Indiana Pacers are running away with the media-driven “best record in the NBA” talk, the Spurs, as usual, find themselves tied with the Pacers (13-1), but with much less fanfare. The Spurs are 10th in the league in scoring at 102.1 points per game, but only give up 90.1 points per game on defense (good for 2nd in the league). They are a lot like the Thunder in that they have a consistent core of players and then have specialists around that core. The Spurs’ attack, which consists of a lot of penetration and 3-point shooting, is spear-headed by point guard Tony Parker. The Spurs have 7 players that average at least 10 minutes per game and shoot over 35.7% from 3-point land. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard man the wings and are 2 of the 7 players who are very adept at shooting the 3. Even though his numbers are down across the board, Tim Duncan still commands a modicum of respect, while Tiago Splitter is grabbing rebounds at a career high clip of 7.2 a game. The Spurs aren’t afraid to use anyone and everyone off of their bench, but the mainstays are Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli, and Patty Mills. Continue reading San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 13 of 82)

The Thunder and the 66ers: Paying Dividends

lamb tulsa 66ers thunder

Last season I wrote about the Oklahoma City Thunder’s extensive use of their D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers. After the Harden trade, the Thunder found themselves in the peculiar position of being a contending team, while also having a handful of players that they needed to develop. In the Harden trade, they received a good stopgap in Kevin Martin and an apt apprentice in Jeremy Lamb. The Thunder used Martin as their 6th man off the bench, and he performed serviceably for them, notching averages of 14.0 ppg and 2.3 rpg on 43% 3pt shooting. The wild card in the trade was Lamb, the rookie out of Connecticut who was the 12th pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

Lamb was used in spot duty throughout the season, but spent most of his time in Tulsa where he averaged 21 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in 21 games. There is no doubt that that experience helped Lamb in his transition to be a major cog off the bench for the Thunder this season.

Reggie Jackson spent only 3 games in the D-League last season, but he made his mark known. His per game averages for those 3 games were an astounding 28 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 8.3 assists on 60% FG shooting and 36% 3-pt FG shooting. After that 3 game stint, Jackson went on to get the majority of the back-up point guard minutes on the team and eventually led to Eric Maynor being traded to the Portland Trailblazers. That move paid dividends when Russell Westbrook went down in the second game of the 2013 NBA playoffs. Jackson performed well in his first foray as an NBA starter. Even though the Thunder lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs, Jackson provided enough of a steady hand that the Thunder knew, regardless of how the Kevin Martin negotiations went in the offseason, that they had a true 6th man already under contract.

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While Jeremy Lamb was an unknown heading into the season, it was known that he would be part of the rotation. What wasn’t known was how Perry Jones III would fit into the equation. Would he be in the rotation? Would he be shuffled back and forth between Tulsa and Oklahoma City? What is known is the Jones was a combination of size, speed, and athleticism that is unparalleled in the league, outside of Kevin Durant and Paul George. A 6’11 hybrid that can possibly play every position not named point guard.

The key to Jones’ success is if he ever learns how to harness all the raw talent and ability into something feasible on the basketball court. Early returns this season have proven inconclusive. He has shown flashes of being a good rotation player, but also gets caught doing a lot of floating on the floor. Also, due to the rotation, he may be the odd man out at the moment. A little bit of extra seasoning in the D-League may be beneficial to Jones. Not necessarily an entire season’s worth, but maybe 10 games in 3-4 game stints would do wonders for this development. Continue reading The Thunder and the 66ers: Paying Dividends

Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 12 of 82)

thunder jazz durant ibaka jackson lucas favors harris

  • When: Sunday, 24 November 2013 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

Trap game. This game has that written all over it. With only 3 games in 7 nights, this is the middle of the three, and probably, the least to look forward to. The Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, and have a prime time match-up with the San Antonio Spurs coming up on Wednesday. This will be a Sunday night game against the worst team, record-wise, in the league, with a crowd that will probably small and subdued due to the weather outside.

The Thunder faced the Jazz in Utah for the first game of the season. At that time, the Thunder were still trying to get used to life without Russell Westbrook, and struggled from start to finish. The still pulled out a 101-98 victory, but needed 42 points from Kevin Durant to do it. Surprisingly, after coming back in the 3rd game of the season, the Thunder organization has chosen this game for Russell Westbrook to rest. Hopefully the rest of the Thunder players will be a little bit more up to the task in this game and won’t need nearly 40 minutes each from Durant and Serge Ibaka to pull out the game.

The Opponent

jazz trey burke

1-13. That’s all you really need to know about the Utah Jazz. They are 29th in the league in points per game at 89.6. And they give up an average of 100.6 ppg. Plain and simple, this is a bad team, but also a very young team. Rookie Trey Burke will make his first start of the season after coming back from a broken finger. He’ll be flanked in the back court by Gordon Hayward and Richard Jefferson. Up front, the Jazz have a good young tandem in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Off the bench, the Jazz use young, athletic players like Alec Burks, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Evans, Diante Garrett, and Rudy Gobert. Continue reading Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 12 of 82)

5-on-5: Analyzing the Thunder’s first 10 games

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The Oklahoma City Thunder have had a whirlwind first ten games of the season, but still find themselves with a record of 7-3. A collection of Thunder bloggers and podcasters have stopped by to discuss the beginning of the season for the Thunder.

1. What has been the biggest surprise of the season for the Thunder?

Alex Roig, Now That’s Thunder Basketball: The biggest surprise of the season for me was the quick return of Russell Westbrook. After the news broke that he had the arthroscopic procedure and would be out for the first 4 to 6 weeks of the season, I mentally prepared myself for a month of low scoring, frustratingly inefficient games. And this was before the Minnesota game. But alas, Westbrook returned in the 3rd game like a knight coming back from a victorious battle, and all was normalized in the land of the Thunder.

Royce Young, Daily ThunderGotta be Russell Westbrook’s return, right? Coming back a solid four weeks earlier than expected and completely changing the perception and feeling around this Thunder season.

Eli J. Friedman, Thunderous Intentions: The play of Serge Ibaka. When the Thunder lost Kevin Martin, people started to question how Oklahoma City would replace him with a third-option scorer. Many eyes looked to Jeremy Lamb or Reggie Jackson. So far, Ibaka has been that third option. He is averaging a double-double with 14.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks a game. Those are all-star type numbers right there. I didn’t see this type of play coming from Ibaka.

Zebulun Benbrook, Welcome To Loud City: The Thunder’s late-game resilience. They’ve had four games so far (Phoenix, Washington, Golden State, and Denver) where they’ve successfully re-gained the lead after trailing for the majority of the fourth quarter and much of the game. You might say that this is the bench unit’s fault, but I prefer to think on the positive side. Scott Brooks’ new flexibility regarding late-game rotations has paid huge dividends. Basically, he lets the starters and bench get equal time as complete units in the first 38-40 minutes of the game. Then when the game hangs in the balance, he throws in the Big 3 of Ibaka, Durant, and Westbrook along with the two other highest performing players, whomever they might be. This allows the team to have the optimal lineup at exactly the right time, and makes for some really exciting finishes.

Jay Smith and Andrew Schlecht, Down To Dunk Podcast: Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the season was the quickness in which Russ returned to the Thunder. After two lackluster games, Russ returned 3-6 weeks ahead of schedule and immediately changed the team.

2. What has been the biggest disappointment so far for the Thunder?

Roig: The biggest disappointment has been the play of Thabo Sefolosha. Honestly, you could flip flop between Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins, but Perkins’ play (or lack thereof) isn’t anything new. We’ve witnessed the gradual decline in Perk’s game, and almost come to expect it. But, Sefolosha’s bread and butter has always been perimeter defense, and, to the eye, he seems to be getting torched a lot more in this small sample of games than he did in years past. To compound that, his offense has been virtually non-existent this season. And by offense, of course, I mean 3-point shooting. In the Thunder’s offense, they need Thabo to act as a perimeter decoy/floor spacer when he doesn’t have the ball, and to knock down threes when he does receive the ball. He didn’t do that in the first 7 games of the season, shooting 3-21 (14%) from 3-point land, which has led to the early season struggles of the starting 5 on offense. He’s gone 4-6 from 3-point land in the last 2 games he’s played, so hopefully he has turned the corner. Continue reading 5-on-5: Analyzing the Thunder’s first 10 games

Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 10 of 82)

The Denver Nuggets versus Oklahoma City Thunder

  • When – Monday, 18 November 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where – Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

There’s just something about coming back home after a tough road stretch. The Oklahoma City Thunder just had their first West Coast swing (to go along with a trip to Milwaukee??) and finished 1-2 on the trip, with the losses coming to Western Conference contenders, the Clippers and Warriors. That’s right, people. Its about that time to sound the alarm!!!! In reality though, the Clippers game was completely winnable if Serge Ibaka doesn’t lock arms with Blake Griffin to do a dosey-doe before halftime. And if the game ever comes down to Andre Iguadola taking a fade away 18 footer from the corner, you take that every day and twice on Sunday. What I’m trying to say is that both the games were winnable and, sometimes, those are just the breaks.

The Thunder and Denver Nuggets always seem to have exciting games due to the up-tempo style of both teams. This is the first meeting of the year between the two Northwest division rivals. The Nuggets won the season series last season 3-1, and always seem to give the Thunder issues on the boards and with points in the paint (especially Andre Miller and Ty Lawson).

The Opponent

foye lawson nuggets

The Denver Nuggets come into the game with a 4-5 record. They seem to be a better team than what their record indicates, but are currently decimated with injuries and inconsistent play. Their attack is started by point guard Ty Lawson, who leads the team in points, assists, and steals. The team once again has great depth and shuffles the line-up around constantly. Up front, Kenneth Faried leads the teams in rebounds per game, but is a bit undersized at the 4 spot, especially with Javale McGee being out. With that said, the Nuggets are still 2nd in the league in total rebounds. The flexibility of the roster leads to a good bench, led by Andre Miller, Nate Robinson, Evan Fournier, and Timofey Mozgov. Continue reading Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 10 of 82)

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers preview (Game 7 of 82)

paul griffin jackson collison clippers thunder

  • When – Wednesday, 13 November 2013 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where – Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Finally! The first prime-time match-up of the year for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sure, they’ve faced the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves, but this is the type of game that the national media salivates for. A game in November that, in actuality, has little to no meaning, but who’s hype rivals that of a match-up in May. Two teams many media pundits have picked as possibly coming out of the loaded Western Conference.

The Thunder come into the game having won 4 in a row after starting the season 1-1. They are starting to fall in line offensively, with Russell Westbrook working his way back into game shape and Kevin Durant leading the league in scoring (30.2 ppg). The bench, one of the many question marks coming into the season, appears to be one of the strengths of the team. But, 3-point shooting is still a huge concern for the team, as they are only shooting 27% from deep, good for 28th in the league.

This is the first of four meetings between the Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Thunder swept the season series last season, with one game going into overtime and the Thunder winning another one by 4 points. Stylistically, these teams are very transition oriented, which usually leads to high scoring affairs.

The Opponent

paul crawford jordan griffin clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers come into tonight’s game with a 5-3 record. After losing to their Staples Center brethren on opening night, the Clippers have won 5 of 7, with their two losses coming on a road trip through Florida (Miami and Orlando). The Clippers’ offense is the best in the league, in terms of points scored per game, at 109.9. But that figured is negated by the fact that they allowed the 28th most points in the league at 106.4 points per game. That offense is orchestrated by, arguably, the best pure point guard in the league in Chris Paul, who is averaging a league best 12.4 assists per game, while also notching 21.3 points. The starting lineup is a hyper active mix of athletic big men (Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan), a scoring wing (JJ Redick), and a 3 and D wing (Jared Dudley). The Clippers also boast one of the stronger benches in the league led by Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, and Darren Collison, but lack any big man depth. Continue reading Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers preview (Game 7 of 82)

5 for 5: The Run

durant westbrook thunder lakers fisher farmer

5 for 5: The Longest Shortest Season  |  5 for 5: Tragedies, Courtrooms, and Beginnings  |  5 for 5: The Rivalries  |  5 for 5: The Thunder’s Godfather

This past season, the Oklahoma City Thunder completed their 5th season in the state of Oklahoma. In a world dominated by round numbers, getting to the midway point is always a cause for celebration. In any relationship, you look back at key moments that made it possible to arrive at certain anniversary marks. In the next few weeks heading into training camp, I’ll be looking at 5 defining moments that made it possible for the Thunder to not only roar into the Plains, but also to do it in winning fashion.

When the Thunder went into the 2009-10 season, their expectations weren’t that high. They were coming off a 23-win season that saw them change coaches mid-season and continued cultivating the young talent that would eventually become their core. They drafted James Harden with the 3rd pick in that year’s draft and ushered in Serge Ibaka, who was drafted in the previous year’s draft, but stayed in Europe for an extra season of development. With the coaching staff firmly entrenched under Scott Brooks and a full year after the Seattle to Oklahoma City transition, the team was looking for tangible improvements on the floor and in the win column.

Hindsight being what it is, the most important addition to the Thunder that season didn’t even don a jersey. After Scott Brooks took over for PJ Carlismo in late November of the previous season, the team also fired Carlismo’s number one assistant Paul Westhead. On December 31st, probably in response to Brooks’ inexperience as a head coach, the team hired veteran assistant coach Ron Adams, whose specialty was defense. The teachings of Adams didn’t immediately pay dividends as the team saw their opponents’ scoring average go from 102.2 ppg before his arrival to 103.7 after his arrival. But the seeds of his defensive principles started to take root after the team had an entire offseason and training camp with Adams.

ron adams mo cheeks thunder

The team came out the next season with a defensive mindset that immediately showed results not only in the stat column, but also in the win column. They improved their defensive rating from 20th to 9th in the league, and held opponents to 98.0 ppg, which was a 5 point improvement from the previous season. The continued evolution of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook into All-NBA stewards also helped in the improvement process, as well. The result was a 27 win improvement that netted the Thunder the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Their opponent in wait were the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Continue reading 5 for 5: The Run

Washington Wizards vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 6 of 82)

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Washington Wizards

  • When – Sunday, 10 November 2013 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where – Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The Oklahoma City Thunder return home from a one game road trip to face the Washington Wizards. The Thunder come into the game having won 3 in a row to coincide with the return of Russell Westbrook. They find themselves 4-1 on the season and have used these first 5 games, against easier competition, for the most part, as an extended training to help assimilate Westbrook back into the mix. So far, it has yielded positive results.

For whatever reason, regardless of record, the Wizards always seem to give the Thunder problems. Its just one of those teams that matches up well against us. The teams have split their season series in the previous two full season and the Wizards won the only meeting between the two teams in the strike shortened season.

The Opponent

wall beal wizards

The Washington Wizards come into this game with a 2-3 record. They started the season losing their first 3 games, but have rebounded in the last two, to include a 112-108 OT victory over the Brooklyn Nets. The Wizards are led by their back court duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal who combine to score 38 points and dish out over 13 assists per game. Their biggest issue is that they aren’t very efficient in how they score as both guards are shooting under 42% from the field. Defensively, Trevor Ariza is probably their best wing defender and will take on the duties of guarding Durant. Up front, Nene and Marcin Gortat form a formidable duo capable to putting up double-doubles if allowed. The bench is led by veterans Al Harrington, Martell Webster, Kevin Seraphin, and Eric Maynor. Continue reading Washington Wizards vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 6 of 82)

Oklahoma City Thunder at Detroit Pistons Preview (Game 5 of 82)

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  • When – Friday, 08 November 2013 at 6:30 PM CST
  • Where – The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI

The Oklahoma City Thunder embark on their 3rd road game of the season against the much improved Detroit Pistons. The Thunder finally started looking like themselves in their last game against the Dallas Mavericks. They set a season high in points and assists, and showcased the young talent that has been brewing on the bench and in Tulsa for the past year.

The Thunder come into the game with a 3-1 record. They swept the season series against the Pistons last season and have won 8 straight dating back to the Thunder’s inaugural season in 2008-09.

The Opponent

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The Pistons come into the game with a 2-2 record. After whiffing on free agent signees Ben Gordan and Charlie Villanueva in 2009, Pistons GM Joe Dumars aggressively pursued and signed free agent forward Josh Smith and traded for point guard Brandon Jennings. Those two moves combined with young big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe have a lot of people mentioning the Pistons as a dark horse playoff team. The Pistons have had their issues in trying to work Smith in as a small forward and Jennings has struggled with his 3-pt shot in the early going. Off the bench, the Pistons are led by veterans Charlie Villanueva, Kyle Singler, and Rodney Stuckey. Continue reading Oklahoma City Thunder at Detroit Pistons Preview (Game 5 of 82)

Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 4 of 82)

durant westbrook thunder mavericks

  • When: Wednesday, 06 November 2013 at 8:30 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

Three words come to mind when I think of this game: Return to normalcy. For the past 6 months, Thunder fans have been living on the edge regarding our present and our future. We’ve seen what life is like without Westbrook and we’ve seen Westbrook (surprisingly) come back for the home opener on Sunday. Now it feels normal. A primetime game with the whole band together against a rival. To me, the NBA season starts today.

The Oklahoma City Thunder come into this game with a record of 2-1, after what can only be described as a whirlwind first week. They looked good, but not great, in their opener against Utah. Then, in Minnesota, crews are still trying to pick up the mess that was left behind by the shellacking the Thunder received at the hand of the Timberwolves. And then Westbrook returned to provide a spark at home against the surprisingly resilient Phoenix Suns. The week was like the recordings of a seismograph: up and down, up and down. But alas, the Thunder came out relatively unscathed and have had a couple of days between games to practice with a full compliment of players.

The regional rivalry between the Thunder and Dallas Mavericks begins tonight in Oklahoma City. The Thunder won all 4 games against Dallas last season, and have won 10 straight games against the Mavs, to include the playoffs. While it may seem to currently be a one-sided rivalry, two of the games last season went to overtime and a third was only a 6 point victory for OKC. Regardless, when it comes to regional rivalry games, you can usually throw records out the window.

The Opponent

mavericks nowitzki ellis calderon marion dalembert

Coming into this game, the Mavericks are 3-1, and are surprisingly one of the top offenses in the league. Surprising, not because of the personnel, but because of how quickly the new parts have assimilated into an offensive force. The Mavs are still led by forward Dirk Nowitzki, who seems to be recovered from the myriad of ailments that plagued him last season. The Mavs’ reassembled backcourt seems to be what is spear-heading the offense. Shooting guard Monta Ellis has been very efficient in the first 4 games of the season, averaging 25 ppg on 53% FG shooting. The other half of the back court, Jose Calderon, has struggled mightily offensively, but has done a good job orchestrating the offense. Off the bench, the Mavs are led by veterans Vince Carter and Dejuan Blair. Continue reading Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 4 of 82)