Category Archives: Thunder Post-game

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Summer League: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Orlando Magic (Blue Team) Recap

thunder summer league

The Oklahoma City Thunder remained unbeaten in summer league play as they defeated the Orlando Magic Blue Team, 73-65. The Thunder moved to 2-0, behind the combined efforts of Mitch McGary and Semaj Christon. The Magic got off to a quick start, jumping out to a 6-1 lead to begin the game.  The Thunder weathered the initial storm and stayed in attack mode for the rest of the game. With the score 52-51 in favor of OKC with 8 minutes left in the game, the Thunder started to attack the basket at will and outscored the Magic 21-13 in those final 8 minutes.

The Thunder featured three players that were constantly attacking the paint (McGary, Christon, and Levi Randolph). For the Magic, only Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja seemed to be trying out there. Christon thoroughly outplayed Elfrid Payton, who finished fourth in the NBA Rookie of the Year vote last season. Christon consistently got past Payton to get into the teeth of the Magic defense where he displayed his playmaking ability and an array of tear drops and bank shots.

McGary put on a show, going from rebounding the ball on one end of the court to starting a one man fastbreak to the other side of the court. This has always been a part of McGary’s game, and now he appears to be more comfortable in incorporating this into his repertoire more often. McGary also displayed a mid-range jumper, making shots that stretched out past 18 feet. If McGary is able to incorporate that into his game with the Thunder, they may have their hands on another versatile offensive player.

mcgary thunder summer league

 

For the Magic, Aaron Gordon put on a summer league clinic. He had a double/double, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 boards. He displayed a versatile offensive game that featured mid-range jumpers, ball-handling, and play-making. Gordon seemed comfortable handling the ball and being the focal point on offense. For Mario Hezonja, this game was likely a microcosm of what his rookie season will be like. There were flashes of brilliance, like the monstrous dunk in the first half and the ‘in your face’ 3-pointer in the 3rd quarter to bring the Magic within 1. But there were also mistakes and inefficiencies that will be a part of Hezonja’s rookie campaign. Hezonja’s finished with 14 points, but on 6-16 shooting from the field (2-9 from the 3-point line). One of his best comparisons coming in was JR Smith, and this performance was very Smith-esque.

Elfrid Payton, on the other hand, had a game to forget. He scored just 4 points on 1-3 shooting, while notching 4 assists and 4 turnovers. His shot, which was his biggest weakness coming into last season, seems to have shown no improvement at all. This may be something to watch with his young Orlando team in the next 2 to 3 seasons.

The Thunder will play the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, while the Orlando Magic Blue team will play the Memphis Grizzlies.

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Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 77 of 82)

lamb adams thunder howard rockets

  • When: Sunday, 05 April 2015 at 12:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

Its becoming quite apparent that the race for the 8th seed in the Western Conference (and Eastern Conference, I guess) is likely coming down to the last few days of the season. Both New Orleans and Oklahoma City have 6 games remaining as of the start of Sunday, with the Thunder holding a slim one game lead. Injuries and tough schedules have made it difficult for either team to gain any separation in the standings from the other. Just when the Thunder looked like they were beginning to put it together, down go Serge Ibaka, Nick Collision, and Andre Roberson in succession to various knee and ankle ailments. Just when the Pelicans thought they could gain ground on the Thunder, down goes Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson with ankle and knee injuries. While injuries are a shame, its good to know that both teams are battling through them and remaining relatively competitive. Here’s to both remaining healthy the remainder of this season and into next season.

This is the third and final meeting of the season between these two teams. Houston has won the previous two meetings. The first game was one of the more weirder games you’ll ever see. The Thunder were down both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but completely muddied up the game and held the Rockets to 69 points in the game. Unfortunately, for the Thunder, they only scored 65 in that game. The second game featured all the star players, but lacked any real drama, as Houston opened the game with a 40-18 first quarter, and put that baby to bed early.

The Opponent

howard harden terry rockets

The Houston Rockets come into the game with a 52-24 record, half a game up on the Memphis Grizzlies for not only the Southwest Division title, but also for the 2nd seed in the playoffs. Houston general manager Daryl Morey has transformed the Houston Rockets from a purely offensive team to one that is one of the more balanced outfits in the league. They rank in the top half of most major categories and are carried by their MVP candidate shooting guard James Harden. With starting point guard Patrick Beverly sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn wrist ligament, Harden will be asked to take on more of the ball handling duties for the team. Veteran Jason Terry takes over for Beverly in the starting line-up. On the wing, Trevor Ariza has been a great addition as one of the better 3 and D guys in the league. The returns of both Terrance Jones and Dwight Howard have bolstered the Rockets’ attack, even as they work their ways back from their injuries. Off the bench, the Rockets have one of the most diverse reserve corps in the league. Josh Smith and Joey Dorsey provide help up front, while Pablo Prigioni and Corey Brewer provide wing help.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Houston Rockets

  • PG – Jason Terry
  • SG – James Harden
  • SF – Trevor Ariza
  • PF – Terrance Jones
  • C – Dwight Howard

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Dion Waiters
  • SF – Kyle Singler
  • PF – Enes Kanter
  • C – Steven Adams

Three Things

1. Dion Waiters – When you talk to Thunder fans about Dion Waiters, you usually hear about 2 things: his streakiness shooting the ball and his on the ball defense. Well, both will be tested against the Rockets. This group of Thunder players is at its best when Waiters is being effectively aggressive. That is, he gets to the basket, but when he gets there, he actually makes the shot or gets fouled. On the flip-side, Waiters will have to stay in front of James Harden for the Thunder to have any chance of containing the Rockets. The Rockets’ attack is almost always initiated by Harden, so staying in front of him is the key to defending the Rockets.

2. Foul Trouble – Steven Adams has struggled in the last few games with staying out of foul trouble. With Dwight Howard and James Harden both on the floor, it will be extremely important for Adams, the only defensive big currently able to play, to stay on the floor. Also, the Thunder wings have to play defense without fouling. Waiters, Westbrook, Anthony Morrow, and DJ Augustin are going to have to do more shuffling and less reaching.

westbrook thunder harden rockets mvp

3. MVP dual – This game matches two of the top three candidates for MVP this season in Westbrook and Harden. While Westbrook has won the last two Western Conference Player of the Month award and is on the Thunder, my vote this season goes to Harden. He has taken a team that many thought would struggle to make it to the playoffs at the beginning of the season and turned them into a powerhouse that is battling for the 2nd seed in the toughest conference in basketball. Westbrook has been great and is extremely valuable to the Thunder, but Harden is just a little bit more valuable to the Rockets.

Happy Easter to all my readers. Thank you for tuning in. 

Five Thoughts from the Clippers Series

durant griffin thunder clippers

With a 104-98 win in Game 6 of their 2nd round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the 3rd time in four years. Before we look ahead to the San Antonio Spurs, here are 5 thoughts from the electrifying series that was.

1. Point Guard Supremacy

If there was a match-up that was going to determine how this series would play out, it was definitely this one. Chris Paul is widely considered to be the best point guard in the league, while Russell Westbrook is its most polarizing. One is a maestro, leading a meticulous concerto of dunks, alley-oops, and 3-point shots, while the other is the Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil incarnate. The match-up basically came down to this: Would Paul be able to control Westbrook’s game. Defending Chris Paul means defending everyone on the floor. Yes, you have to stay in front of him. But it’s when the opponent strays away from one of the other players on the Clippers that Paul does his most damage.

westbrook paul thunder clippers

On the flip side, defending Westbrook is a completely different story. Due to the chaos he causes, a defender never knows how they are going to defend him. The best approach is to lay off of him, but even that has proven to be difficult as Westbrook will look for any opportunity to run in transition and is usually the quickest man on the floor. Add to that the fact that he’s had a couple games of double digit assists while scoring at least 20 points in the playoffs, and you are looking at a monster.

The numbers in the series basically cancel each other out:

  • Westbrook – 27.8 points / 6.0 rebounds / 8.8 assists / 1.8 steals on 49/35/88 shooting splits
  • Paul – 22.5 points / 3.7 rebounds / 12.0 assists / 2.5 steals on 51/46/75 shooting splits

While Paul assisted more and scored more efficiently, Westbrook scored more and grabbed more boards (over 2 offensive boards per game). The difference between the two floor general lied in the chaos they caused. More, specifically, in the free throw attempted. While Paul mainly settled for jump shots, Westbrook consistently challenged the defense by getting into the paint and looking for his own shot. Some may say that’s the staple of a scoring wing, not a prime time point guard. But with the way the rules favor dribble penetration, it may be time to stop looking at point guards as just facilitator and more as attackers. While I think Paul is still the best pure point guard in the game, Westbrook did a lot in this series in changing the way people think of the point guard position.

2. The Emergence of Steven Adams

When the Thunder made Adams the 12th pick in last season’s draft, many people envisioned a season of trips on I-44 between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Adams was expected to be a project that would not pay dividends until, at the earliest, next season. But, as they say, that is why they play the game. Adams started the season as the Thunder’s back-up center and never wavered. He even started 20 games when Kendrick Perkins went out with a groin injury in the 2nd half of the season.

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks, in his infinite quest for veteran intangibles, barely played Adams in the first 5 games of the postseason. After averaging 14.8 minutes per game in the regular season, Adams was only notching 4 minutes a night (and 1 DNP-CD) against, of all teams, the Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol-led Memphis Grizzlies, in those first 5 games. With their backs against the wall and trailing 3-2 in their first round series, Brooks relented against his default settings, and played the rookie significant minutes (22.5/game) in the next two games (both wins).

A look at Adams’ numbers don’t explain his impact. Since Game 5 of the first round, Adams has averaged 21.8 minutes, 5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. But it’s his combination of physicality and athleticism that has the most effect on the game. Usually, teams can do a lot of their damage in the paint when the starting big men are on the bench. In fact, James Harden made a living off of this when he played for the Thunder. Harden would come into the game and immediately begin attacking the other team’s back-up big. With Adams in the game, though, the other team has difficulty in scoring inside.

In the Clippers series, Adams was tasked with guarding all of the LA’s big men (Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Glen Davis). Surprisingly, Adams probably struggled the most with Davis. Griffin wanted no part of backing down Adams in the post and settled for mid-range jumpers. And Jordan struggles with anything not resembling a lob pass. It’s almost as if Adams is a combination of Serge Ibaka and Perkins. Someone with the athleticism of Ibaka, but with the brute strength of Perkins. The only thing missing is the experience, which Adams is gathering in heaps this postseason.

3. Resiliency

durant westbrook jackson thunder

They say great teams win the close games. But, damn, does every game have to be an ESPN Instant Classic? After the “cardiology office visit inducing” series that was the Memphis series, my health didn’t need this series, especially games 4-6. But, that the Thunder made it to the Western Conference Finals speaks to the resiliency of this team.

There’s a comfort level that’s achieved when the core of a team has been together for a number of seasons. That’s what you see with the Thunder in late game situations. Everybody knows their roles and plays them to a T. Now, why they can’t do that in the first 45 minutes of a game? I have no idea. Being that they are still a young team, they probably play the game in a fashion similar to the thought process high school/college students have towards homework. When a student is given an assignment with a due date two weeks from then, 75% of those students will wait until the night before to start working on their assignment. That’s the Thunder in a nut shell right there.

4. Defense definitely wins playoff series (and championships too)

During the regular season, the Clippers averaged a league high 107.9 points per game. They upped the ante during the Golden State series, increasing their average by 3 points to 110.9 points per game. For the Thunder series, the Clippers averaged a paltry 106.3 points per game. Seriously though, that 1.5 point drop (and 4.6 point drop from the Warriors series) may have been the difference between the Thunder winning Games 5 and 6.

The Thunder did a great job defending Griffin and Jordan on the inside in the series. After posting up 12.1 points and 15.1 rebounds per game in the Warriors series, the Thunder limited Jordan to 6.7 points and 9.5 rebounds. Griffin’s points and rebounds went up slightly in the Thunder series, but his efficiency went down.

ibaka adams griffin thunder clippers

With the inside locked down, the only other options for the Clippers were Paul’s penetrations and their plethora of 3-point shooters. The Thunder did a great job of going under the screens and negating the driving lanes for Paul. With Paul not getting into the lane as much, the perimeter defenders were able to stay on the shooters for an extra bit longer. The trio of Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford, and JJ Redick averaged 0.6 less 3-point FGs made in the Thunder series, and Crawford saw his 3-point percentage drop 8.4 percentage points from the Warriors series. All these factors combined made it difficult for the Clippers to do what they did best; which was to score at will.
5. Coming through in the clutch

Many people will look at this postseason run and wonder whether Westbrook had a better postseason than Durant. The numbers suggest this is a very distinct possibility. All things being equal in the Memphis series (when Durant played bad, so did Westbrook, and visa versa), Westbrook has surprisingly been more efficient in the Clippers’ series. But in terms of making the necessary MVP-like plays in the final 3 minutes of games, Durant is still the man. In Games 4-6, in the final 3 minutes of play, Durant scored 16 points on 4-7 shooting (1-1 from long range), 7-8 FT, and only had 1 turnover. Conversly, Westbrook scored 11 points on 2-7 shooting and 7-7 from the line.

The mark of an MVP is not necessarily their stats throughout the game, but how they pull through in the clutch. Durant has proven time and time again that no matter how the first 40 minutes of the game play out, he’s usually there in the final few minutes when the team needs him the most.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Game 7 Recap

butler durant thunder

Have you ever been away from your significant other for an extended period of time without seeing them (be it a job deployment or a self-imposed hiatus)? And then you see them again and they’ve lost 20 pounds, gotten highlights in their hair, and upped their confidence rating. And you are left wondering, “How do I act around this person?”

Well, that’s kind of how the first 18 minutes went for the Oklahoma City Thunder in this game. The Thunder had battled the Grizzlies the same for the past 6 games (the 2 bigs, Mike Conley, a streaky Courtney Lee, and an ineffective “why the hell is he still starting?” Tayshaun Prince, with Mike Miller, Beno Udrih, and Tony Allen sprinkled in between there). But the Zach Randolph suspension in Game 7 kind of flipped the script for Memphis and they came out with an entirely different line-up that threw the Thunder for a loop. Out was Prince (and, of course, Randolph), and in was Miller and Allen. The Grizzlies started small out of necessity and held their largest lead of 11 points with 40 seconds left in the 1st quarter. They finished the first quarter up by 9 at 36-27. That’ right. 36 points for the Grizzlies in a quarter.

The beginning of the 2nd quarter was more of the same, but Memphis’s depth issues started to become a problem near the middle of the 2nd quarter. After two free throws by Gasol at the 8:40 mark of the 2nd quarter, the Grizzlies missed their next 7 shots and turned the ball over twice. By the time Conley made a shot with 4:43 left, the Thunder had tied up the game at 44.

After that point, the Thunder smelled blood and kept on attacking to take a 3 point lead heading into halftime. In the third quarter, it was more of the same as the Grizzlies didn’t make their FG of the 2nd half until 6:35 remaining in the third quarter. By that point, the Thunder were up 78-65 and had all the momentum moving forward. They never let the lead get under 10 points for the rest of the game and ended up winning 120-109.

A couple thoughts on the game:

  • The Grizzlies were forced to play the Thunder’s style and it completely backfired on them from the middle of the 2nd quarter on. The pace was not condusive to the Grizzlies style, but it fit right in the Thunder’s wheel-house.

 

  • The pace also caused the Grizzlies’ turnovers to go up (14), which led to 31 points for the Thunder off of those turnovers.

 

  • If its a Game 7 against the Grizzlies, then Russell Westbrook must be due for a triple double (27/10/16)

 

  • After shooting 12-21 (57%) in the 1st quarter, the Grizzlies went on to shoot 25-62 (40%) for the rest of the game. Gotta love that regression.

 

  • Kevin Durant, since the headline: 69 points and 18 rebounds on 56/45/86 shooting. I’m still not giving you credit The Oklahoman.

 

  • Caron Butler only made one 3, but made 8-9 foul shots to finish with 15 points.

 

  • Reggie Jackson was great in his role – 16 points on 5-6 shooting (2-3 from 3 and 4-4 from the line). Efficiency, for the win!

 

  • It’s onto to Round 2. Oklahoma City, you can all let out a collective sigh of relief.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trailblazers preview (Game 54 of 82)

durant batum thunder trailblazers

  • When: Tuesday, 11 February 2014 at 9:00 PM CST
  • Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR

The Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves in good footing heading into the All-Star break. They are 3.5 games up in the Western Conference and have gotten the tougher part of the schedule out of the way (since Dec. 27, the Thunder have either played back to backs or have had only one day off between games). Also, the Thunder have a certain somebody coming back after the All-Star break.

This will be the last regular season meeting between these two Northwest Division rivals. All 3 previous games have been decided in the 4th quarter, with Portland taking the first two and OKC taking that last meeting.

The Opponent

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Portland Trail Blazers

The Trailblazers are currently 36-15, which is good for 3rd in the Western Conference standings. After a torrid start to begin the season, the Blazers are only 5-6 in their last 11 games. Their biggest issue is defense, where they give up 103.5 ppg. Fortunately for them, they combat that by averaging 108 ppg, good for 1st in the league. They also lead the league in 3-point makes per game (9.4), while making them at a 38.1% clip. Their offense is an inside-out attack, usually starting with LaMarcus Aldridge on a post-up. There, Aldridge either uses his patented fade-away jumper or passes it to a myriad of shooters (Damian Lillard, Mo Williams, CJ McCollum, or Wesley Matthews). Up front, Robin Lopez causes havoc with his energy, especially on the offensive boards.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Portland Trailblazers

  • PG – Damian Lillard
  • SG – Wesley Matthews
  • SF – Nic Batum
  • PF – LaMarcus Aldridge
  • C – Robin Lopez

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding – A lot of Portland’s offense either comes through an Aldridge fadeaway or a 3-pointer. With so many perimeter shots, there’s bound to be plenty of rebounds for the taking. In their last three meetings against the Thunder, Aldridge and Lopez have amassed 21 offensive boards between them.

Serge Ibaka, Robin Lopez

2. Turnovers – In the two losses to Portland, the Thunder are averaging 11.5 turnovers per game. In the lone victory, only 7 turnovers. Now, 11.5 TO’s is below the Thunder’s season average, but if you give a jump shooting team ample opportunities to burn you, they eventually will. Also of note, Portland is a decent transition team.

3. Lamb – With Reggie moving over to the starting line-up, it seems as if Lamb has struggled in adjusting to being the No. 1 option on the second team. He’s had flashes of his early season effectiveness, but lately, there have been a lot of 1-8 and 2-10 games. With such a high scoring team, someone outside of Durant, Ibaka, and Jackson will have to step up.

Liggsanity: Next Man Up

liggs

Last night was the real reason why we cheer for sports. We love watching athletes do things we can only imagine and dream of doing. But we truly relish when an athlete, who may not be as naturally talented as his superstar counterparts, finally gets his opportunity to perform after putting in work in hours and hours of practice. Now don’t get me wrong, every athlete works hard to get where they are at. Kevin Durant puts in just as much time in the gym as Daniel Orton. But we, as fans, probably relate more to Daniel Orton, than to Kevin Durant.

Which is what made last night’s game so special for us fans. Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks constantly preaches about “the next man up.” But with the Iron Man lineup that we have, that saying barely has a chance to be put into practice. When the television broadcast for the game started, it was already a given that Serge Ibaka was going to be out with a bruised sternum. What wasn’t known until basically tipoff, was that Thabo Sefolosha would also be out with a strained neck (hotel pillows suck!). So the quick question was who would be inserted into the starting line-up at shooting guard? Would it be Kevin Martin? Would Jeremy Lamb finally be unleashed?

Scott Brooks

The blueprint to who would start was put into play last season. When Sefolosha missed 23 games due to a leg injury, Brooks started by inserting James Harden into the starting lineup. Harden, who had been the Thunder’s 6th man for 3 seasons, struggled in his role as a starter. At the same time, the Thunder’s bench struggled to score points. Brooks adjusted the next game by inserting Daequan Cook into the starting lineup and keeping Harden on the bench. The transition became a lot smoother after that until Sefolosha returned. With Kevin Martin being the Thunder’s 6th man this season and Brooks not wanting to mess with the team’s rotation too much, DeAndre Liggins got the start.

Liggins was a 2nd round pick of the Orlando Magic in the 2011 draft. After playing in 17 games his rookie season, Liggins was released by the Magic in an attempt to clear cap space and a roster spot for the eventual post-Dwight Howard rebuild. (Why Orlando would get rid of a cheap capable wing defender is beyond me.) Liggins was signed by the Thunder as a training camp invite to try out for the final 2 roster spots on the team. The team had 13 guaranteed contracts, and brought in a couple other players as training camp invites to battle for the remaining roster spots. In 5 preseason games (including 2 starts), Liggins averaged 20.8 minutes, 4.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game. Based on his preseason performances and his propensity for energy and defense, Liggins willed his way onto the team as the final cut.

As a 2nd year player, Liggins was eligible to be assigned to the Thunder’s D-League affifiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, throughout the season. As I’ve written before, the Thunder take full advantage of their D-League usage. Liggins was sent down for a 3 game stint at the end of November and another 3 game stint at the end of December. In 6 games with the 66ers, Liggins has been the jack of all trades, averaging 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Since his last D-League game on December 29th, Liggins has been logging regular minutes off the bench for the Thunder.

d liggs

Liggins took full advantage of his first career start. He played nearly 40 minutes and almost had a double double with 11 points and 9 rebounds. He played suffocating defense on Wesley Matthews and made life miserable for anyone that was around him when he was on the defensive end. Most importantly, he played the entire 4th quarter in a close game without looking nervous at all. In other words, he played like he belonged.

dean

Liggins is just another example of what hard work and perseverance can do for an individual. These are the type of players that the organization is looking for. These are the types of players that relate to us, the fans. Thabo could start tonight against the Phoenix Suns and may not miss another game for the entire season. But for this one game, the Thunder mantra of, “next man up” held firm and true with DeAndre Liggins.

The Anatomy of a Dunk

Dunks happen every day on the basketball court. There’s a 10 foot rim and a lot of tall men. So there are going to be many instances within the flow of the game where these tall men jump up and push the ball through the cylindrical rim. It’s the easiest shot on the court. Most of the time there is no one in the way between the dunker and the rim. But sometimes, in that special moment, you get a situation where the dunker is challenged by someone to prevent them from pushing the ball through the rim. If the dunker succeeds, then he is awarded two points.

But every once and a while, a dunk happens that completely shatters any modicum of normalcy. It adds a blast of color to a black and white slate. It’s a series of actions that in that instant, completely empowers the dunker, while absolutely emasculating the victim. Everybody who attempts to block a dunk knows there’s a chance they might get dunked on. But, in these instances, the psychological impact that is expounded on the victim is so much, that they lose themselves for a little and forget what its like to be themselves.

There have always been 2 elements to every play in basketball. You have the scorer and the defender. But when this type of play happens, you have to encapsulate all the reactions from everyone on the floor, in the arena, and in the viewing audience to get of complete understanding of what exactly took place. The anatomy of the dunk encompasses so much more than the two players involved in the play. You have the reactions from the teammates of the dunker and from the teammates of the victim. You have the reaction of the fans in the stadium. And then you have the reaction of the opposing fans.

These dunk usually become synonymous with a point in time. It could become someone’s seminal play as their career begins to ascend.  It could be the decisive play in a playoff series that completely changes the outlay of that series. When a play like this happen, fans remember them. If the moment has future ramifications, people remember it even more.

Off the top of my head, I can only remember about 5 core-rattling dunks in my life.

In chronologic order:

  1. 1)      1991 Playoffs – Michael Jordan over Patrick Ewing
  2. 2)      2000 Olympics – Vince Carter over Frederick Weis
  3. 3)      2007 Playoffs – Baron Davis over Andrei Kirilenko
  4. 4)      November 2010 – Blake Griffin over Timofey Mozgov
  5. 5)      January 2012 – Blake Griffin over Kendrick Perkins

1991 NBA Playoffs –Chicago Bulls vs.New York Knicks

This is Michael Jordan at the height of his popularity. Tongue wagging, wearing the Number 5’s. Defending his first title. And here were these “bully on the block” upstarts from New York causing trouble and trying to build their own dynasty. They had their enforcer by the name of Patrick Ewing who patroled the paint and protected the rim. When these two forces met, it would change the course of this series and possibly the course of these two players’ careers.

The first thing you notice is the sick spin cycle move that Jordan puts on Charles Oakley and John Starks. I’m going this way, then, NOPE!, I’m going back towards the basket. Next thing I notice is the great screen by Horace Grant. One common theme in these dunks is that the victim is either screened or late in getting to the dunker. As the dunk is coming, you see Jordan and Ewing contiuously rising. But at one point, that bitch named Gravity takes a hold of Ewing, and he starts coming back down to Earth, while MJ is still rising. Then….BAAAAAMMMM!!!!!! And-1.

The Bulls bench doesn’t really react that greatly. Either they got to see that all the time (it being Jordan and all) or they were just tired of constantly cheering for the greatest ever. Just ask the Vice President whether his hands and glutes get a workout every State of the Union Address, having the get up and clap every 5th word. Hubert Davis, of the Knicks, reacted like his children just got eaten by wolves. Horace Grant decided that the shoes weren’t making him “like Mike” so he decided to slap the butt of Mike. And poor Patrick Ewing decided to shove an invisible man.

You love when these dunks happen on the road. You have that, “OOOOOOOOOO” sound from they crowd where they love the play, but feel bad that it was their guy that got posterized. Nowhere better for that to happen than in Madison Square Garden.

2000 Olympics – United States vs. France

Everyone knows the knock on Vince Carter. Great player who had to tools to be an all-time great player. But, he never played with the necessary determination to be one of the greats. He was okay with just being good. But for one summer, he became a beast. He literally took on the attitude that he was not going to be fucked with. He became the shooting guard version of Kevin Garnett. And then he got a steal in the open court against France with only 7’2″ Frederick Weis between him and the basket. James Bond, Jack Bauer, and Jason Bourne together couldn’t have fixed this international incident.

First off Frederick, you’re 7’2″. If you’re going to be in a poster, at least attempt to block the shot. The whole, “I’m going to stand here and take a charge” thing doesn’t really work out too well when the guy in front of you just won the NBA Slam Dunk competition in resounding fashion 6 months earlier. Read the scouting reports Weis! Secondly, other than the time they interviewed him after winning a title, this is the only other time I’ve ever seen KG not know what the hell to do with himself. Its almost like he said to himself, “I’ve got to match Vince’s intensity, so I’m going to chest bump-push him and show him my war face. Then I’m going to mean-mug the already wounded Frederic Weis.” It was classic KG. Thirdly, look at Vince’s face after the dunk. And then go look any picture of the rap group Onyx (especially Sticky Fingaz) and tell me Vince wouldn’t have been a perfect 4th member at that time. “SLAAAAMMMM! Duuh Duuh Duh Duuh Duuh Duuh Let the boys be boys!!!!” And lastly I love the reaction by French guard Laurent Sciarra. He was literally scared for his life and trying his hardest not to get into Vince’s bubble of unkempt rage. The man doesn’t even want to make eye contact with Carter.

As for the fans, they loved it. International fans love when Americans abuse them. They may not say it out loud, but there’s a reason they come out to see the best in the world. As you can tell in the video, even the French announcers love it.

Side note:  I think Vince Carter is the modern day Samson. When he grows his hair out, he becomes one of the best basketball players on the planet. But when he shaves it, he becomes just a good to great player. Who’s his Delilah?

2007 NBA Playoffs – Utah Jazz vs Golden State Warriors

After upsetting League MVP Dirk Nowitzki and the No. 1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round, the Golden State Warriors were riding on cloud-9 heading into their 2nd round matchup with the Utah Jazz. The Bay Area was buzzing with Warriors fever and ORACLE Arena was a house of horror for visitors. After losing the first two games of the series in Utah in close fashion,  the Warriors returned home for their turn in this tango. The house was rocking with the Warrior faithful wearing their golden “We Believe” t-shirts. The Dub’s were up by 20 with 3 minutes to go and looking to put this puppy away. A jump shot or lay-up would have sufficed, but a self esteem-shattering dunk is just what The City ordered.

First thing I notice about this dunk is the crowd. As a season ticket holder for the Oklahoma City Thunder, I can honestly say that this crowd, and the one in Portland, are the only crowds that can compete against OKC’s. Good job Dub’s fans. Secondly, as Baron rises up for the dunk, it almost seems like his body and Kirilenko’s body become one. Almost like Baron is South America and Andrei is Africa and they are finally joined once again. Then the dunk happens and all hell breaks loose. Baron shows us that when he cares, he has a flat belly. And the fan at 0:30 seconds finally has an orgasm for the first time in his life. And Mikeal Pietrus does the internation sign for, “I need a wave cap”. And Matt Barnes walks away and shows some fans what his head would look like with a faux-hawk. And Dick Bavetta shows us how he seduced Charles Barkley. It honestly looked like a club that Stefon talks about on one of his SNL skits (You gotta be an SNL fan to get this one).

I love the reaction that the teammates of the victim have. They usually look away from both parties. They don’t want to feed into the fire that burns in the now powerful dunker. But they don’t want to completely deflate their brethren by letting them know they just saw that. Either way, its comedic gold at its finest.

November 2010 – New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Clippers

We know this won’t last. In a couple season, the post game will develop and the knees will start to hurt a little bit from all the jumping. Once the game develops, the need to jump over people will cease to exist, as the player will play both with his mind and with his body. But until then, hot damn this guy can dunk!!!!!!! He was already on the map, but this one put one of those bold, capital stars next to his name. He was not only on the map; he was to be recognized now.

My first thought, after discussing the Baron Davis dunk, is why do Americans hate Russians? They have beautiful women who become spies, and they make Vodka. What more can you ask for? All kidding aside, whether this was a dunk or not is irrelevant. He gets high enough to just throw the ball into the hoop from a parallel angle. He supplied the arc of the ball, instead of releasing it and letting gravity determine the arc of the ball. Funniest thing about this is the reaction from the ref near the Knick’s bench. He did a pelvic thrust that a porn star would be proud of. Another reaction that teammates of the victim have is that they just stand in place and hardly move. And that’s exactly what Amare Stoudemire, Wilson Chandler, and Landry Fields did. The Knick’s bench actually did a pretty good job of containing the basketball fan within them. All except Kelenna Azubuike, who was inactive, but still had a Tourette Syndrome moment next to Ronny Turiaf.

It can’t be forgotten that Timofey Mozgov actually added fuel to his own fire. When Griffin’s weight was on him, Mozgov pushed him off and in the process, propelled Griffin even higher into the stratosphere to make it look even more impressive. Elevator going up. You know you’ve arrived for all the wrong reasons when you last name is synonymous with being climbed over and dunked on.

One thing I am extremely disappointed in is the crowd’s reaction. I don’t know if they didn’t realize what happened, or didn’t look up from their smart phones in time to see the play, but the react from the crowd is pathetic. You will see this play in the pantheons of great dunks and 95% of you fools are still sitting down. Shame on you Clippers fans. You surely won’t get a chance to redeem yourself from this one…..

January 2012 – Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Oooops, spoke entirely too soon. In the NBA, with the greatest players in the world, you are bound to see great dunks night in and night out. I know I can’t forget Kirk Snyder’s dunk over Von Wafer in which he leaped over him Vince Carter-style. I saw it live and still count it as one of my all time favorite plays. But some players feast on doing this all the time. Names that come to mind are Dominique Wilkins, Jordan, Carter, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Griffin. And sadly, it happened to my team, against my starting center.

As you can tell, I’ve been thinking about this dunk a lot. It was the prompt that made me start writing this article. It was almost identical to the Mozgov dunk, in that Griffin when up against a defender that pushed him up instead of over. I must say that this dunk was a bit more impressive though. Griffin actually reaches the rim, albeit with only a couple fingers.

But what I found completely interesting was Perkins’ reaction. In most plays, Perk will either be jacking his jaw at the refs or at his teammates or at the opponent. Or he’ll be putting on that Perkins Scowl. After this play, NOTHING. Just a face that says, “I admit defeat in this battle, but the war still continues.” As a big man, you’re destined to get dunked on from time to time. But you don’t expect to get posterized.

As far as the atmosphere, good job by the Thunder bench to not ever react at all to the dunk. I don’t know whether they say Griffin assault Perkins or whether they say paint dry. Way to at least support your man, Thunder bench. The Thunder that were on the floor did the customary “don’t look at the two involved in the play and don’t hardly move from where you’re at” bit. But, I do have to give props to the Clippers fans. They did what you are supposed to do after a great play. They stood up and applauded and acted a little bit happy. Baby steps, I guess.

Just A Game

Its funny how life sometimes put things into perspective. A dear friend of mines passed away on Wednesday. Someone that I can proudly say was like a 3rd grandfather to my kids. His wife was my kids’ main caregiver before they started school. And while this gentleman was at work most of the time his wife was running the home daycare, there were those days where he was home from work and would help out with the daily chores of running a home daycare. The kids even had their own nickname for him, just like a regular grandfather. Not only that, but his daughter and my wife were best friends in junior high and high school. In addition, he was also one of my co-workers for about 2 years. Needless to say, there was a bit of history between our family and theirs.

So when the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the lowly Washington Wizards, it didn’t quite register as large a blip as it normally would have on my radar screen. I was still disappointed, don’t get me wrong. Title contenders aren’t supposed to be losing to teams that have a great shot at obtaining the No. 1 pick in the next draft. But at the moment, in that time, a loss to the team with the league’s worst record wasn’t really that important.

Honestly, in the context of an entire season, one loss isn’t really that important if you are either an elite team or a bottom of the barrel team. Barring injuries, I don’t think we will be struggling to hold our post as a home court advantage team in the Western Conference. History is sprinkled with examples of eventual champs getting surprised by that one go-getter team that is galvanized by their home crowd into playing out of their minds and winning that one crazy game. I call it the “Loser’s Game 7” effect. Washington will only have a couple of these games this season: OKC, Miami on February 10th and April 26th, Chicago on January 30th, the Lakers on March 7th, and the Clippers on February 4th. Bad teams don’t get hyped to play other bad teams. The Milwaukee Bucks don’t have their visit to New Orleans circled on any game schedule. Bad teams love being the hunters, if only for that one game.

The Thunder just happened to fall into the lions den on the wrong night. They started off good, but you could tell from the beginning they were playing a bit too loose with the ball. You give any team enough opportunities, and they’ll eventually start to cash in on those. And that’s what the Wizards did. They eventually started to feel good about themselves and started hitting shots, contested and open. They started to look like the team their fans imagined them to be. And for that one night, everything fell into place. The questionable blocking call was called a charge. The FT’s started falling. Hell, the 3 pointers started falling. In the end, the Wiz got one of their biggest wins of the entire season.

And it still doesn’t worry me that much. We are still a young team that is prone to hiccups at times, especially against lesser competition. We still had an opportunity at the end of the game to either tie it or win it outright. I just hope this serves as a lesson to the Thunder. When you are the hunted, you are usually getting the best from each team for the full 48 minutes. That’s something that still may be new to this young Thunder team. Elite teams lose sometimes, no matter who the other team is. The difference, is that they take each loss and use it as a lesson to be learned. And that’s what I’m sure Scott Brooks is doing right now.

As for me, I still did manage to watch the game last night on DVR. In the midst of pain, basketball is my refuge. Always has been. So with that said, I bid adieu to my friend, Hector Carreras. A good father, husband, soldier, pseudo-grandfather to my kids, and human being. An avid ping pong player, I guess the angel that used to play against God wasn’t cutting it anymore. So God had to call in his replacement. Rest In Peace, dear friend.