Tag Archives: playoffs

Jazz vs. Thunder Preview (Game 2)

utah jazz vs okc logo

  • When: Wednesday, 18 April 2018 at 7:00 pm CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
  • TV: NBATV/FSOK
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
  • Line: OKC -4.5 | O/U – 207.5

Five Things For This Game

1. Again, Injuries

After an incredible Thunder playoff debut, Paul George suffered a hip contusion in the 2nd quarter on a hard fall. He dusted the fall off and went on to play most of the game after that. But you could tell the injury started bothering him late in the 2nd half and he had to be taken out with about 2 minutes left in the game to receive treatment on the sidelines. Continue reading Jazz vs. Thunder Preview (Game 2)

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NTTB Rumblings – 18 April 2018

img_4063Nick Gallo (OKCThunder.com) with a preview of Game 2: “One major area that the Thunder has pointed out in the build up to Game 2 is turnovers. Seventeen of them on Sunday led to 20 Jazz points, which helped contribute to 21 Utah fast-break points in the game. On pick-and-rolls, Thunder ballhandlers tried passes over the top and back to the weakside, only to see the ball get clipped by the long, outstretched arms of Jazz defenders.”

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Continue reading NTTB Rumblings – 18 April 2018

NTTB Rumblings – 17 April 2018

img_4063Nick Gallo (OKCThunder.com) on what needs to continue into Game 2: “One of the major bright spots for the Thunder on Sunday, and a development that needs to hold firm, was the play of Anthony on the defensive end and around the rim. After an early adjustment to drop the veteran forward into coverage on pick and rolls, Anthony was able to use his quickness and sleight of hand to make 3 steals and 2 blocks to go with 7 rebounds. On many occasions, Anthony was the last line of defense between the Jazz and a potential layup or a put back, and he held firm with toughness and veteran guile.”

Brad Rock (Desert News) on the Thunder being what the Jazz want to be one day: “So here we go with the country-speak: The Oklahoma City Thunder are what the Utah Jazz want to be when they’re all growed up. Trailing 1-0 in their best-of-seven series, the Jazz aren’t conceding anything. It’s just that OKC is what the Jazz want to be, i.e., a seriously strong team in a relatively underrated city.” Continue reading NTTB Rumblings – 17 April 2018

NTTB Rumblings – 16 April 2018

img_4063Royce Young (ESPN) on Paul George’s performance in Game 1: “And in a matchup against the Jazz, a team centered on a rookie, the Thunder entered with the two best players in the series. That’s normally a pretty good indication of who should win, but with inconsistency being the buzzword that has followed the Thunder all season, nothing was clear. There was always this idea that they were built for the postseason, with top-shelf talent ready to shine when the games mattered most, but the Thunder never established anything steady. They entered the playoffs a wild card — dangerous but unknown.”

Nick Gallo (OKCThunder.com) recaps the Thunder’s Game 1 victory: “The Thunder also couldn’t have scripted a better first possession of the game. A trap down on the baseline led to a desperate Jazz pass back into the middle of the floor, and George was there to pick it off cleanly. George was off to the races and it resulted in a Russell Westbrook 3-on-1 fast break dunk. For the next 5 minutes after that, however, nothing went right for the Thunder. Some mediocre shot selection, some mismanaged transition defense and hot shooting by the Jazz led to a quick 16-4 start for the Jazz, forcing a Thunder timeout.” Continue reading NTTB Rumblings – 16 April 2018

First Round Preview vs. the Utah Jazz

westbrook mitchell

I’ll be honest with you. These last few days have been refreshing. I haven’t had to worry about the Western Conference standings. I haven’t had to worry about not knowing what Oklahoma City Thunder team was going to show up on a night to night basis. I didn’t have to stress about a Paul George shooting slump. Or worry about Carmelo Anthony aging exponentially before our eyes. Or any other plethora of things I’ve worried about this season.

All season long we’ve heard this would be a work in progress. That this process would take time. And with how this team was pieced together over the summer, that request for patience was not a far-fetched one. Many fans view NBA transactions like they view transactions on NBA 2K. If you put Good Player A together with Good Player B, then both players will be good on the same team. But in reality, that’s not always how it works. The process of putting three alpha dogs together and telling them to play as a team is not something that happens instantly. There’s a chemistry that needs to naturally develop, especially when you think of the other variables on the roster.  Continue reading First Round Preview vs. the Utah Jazz

NTTB Rumblings – 12 April 2018

img_4063Nick Gallo (OKCThunder.com) on Russell Westbrook achieving hist0ry for a second straight season: “After accomplishing something that no one had done in 55 years by averaging a triple-double in 2016-17, Westbrook followed it up by doing it again. On Wednesday night, Westbrook became the first player to ever average a triple-double more than once. Even more incredibly, he did it in back-to-back seasons.”

Royce Young (ESPN) with another perspective on the Westbrook feat: “Westbrook grabbed eight rebounds in the opening 11 minutes and hit double figures before halftime, heading to the break with an interesting stat line of 1 point, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. With the game in hand, Westbrook grabbed five rebounds in the opening three minutes of the third quarter. Early in the quarter, a loose ball rebound bounced a few times and Carmelo Anthony ran it down, turning around to yell “Russ!” with a big smile.” Continue reading NTTB Rumblings – 12 April 2018

NTTB Rumblings – 11 April 2018

img_4063Jon Hamm (Bleacher Report) on the Thunder’s wild ride this season: “In true Thunder fashion, clinching the franchise’s eighth playoff berth since 2008 on Monday night came with requisite drama. Sewing up a playoff spot required OKC to battle back from an 18-point first-quarter deficit against the Miami Heat. It was par for the course for a Thunder squad that stumbled to an 8-12 start then spent the rest of the season playing catch up.”

Ben Mertens and Chris Grenham (WTLC) with a detailed breakdown of the Thunder’s playoff scenarios: “I said in previewing the final stretch of the season that OKC doesn’t deserve to be a playoff team if they can’t even beat a mediocre Grizzlies team with nothing to play for. That’s still true, even though OKC has locked up a spot. Beyond improving their seed, OKC needs to win this game just go into the playoffs with momentum, following the nice wins over Houston and Miami. A deep playoff run starts with taking care of this putrid Memphis team.” Continue reading NTTB Rumblings – 11 April 2018

Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves preview (Game 82 of 82)

westbrook thunder hamilton wiggins twolves

  • When: Wednesday, 15 April 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

And it comes down to this. Eighty one games could not decide the future for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New Orleans Pelicans. It all comes down to the 82nd and final game of the regular season. Considering everything that has happened to the Thunder this season, it is quite fitting that fans of Oklahoma City will be on pins and needles until about 9:30 PM CST tonight. It’s a position that is unfamiliar for Thunder fans. Even in their inaugural playoff season, the 8th-seeded Thunder finished 7 games ahead of the 9th-seeded Houston Rockets. There was never any late season drama other than their annual battle with the Spurs for the top two positions in the West. This season, though, the Thunder not only need to win their final game, but also have to depend on another team to extend their season. It almost feels like the Thunder are playing two road games tonight: their game against the Timberwolves in Minnesota and the Pelicans, at home, against the Spurs. Just like in real life, its kind of scary having to depend on other people.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between these two Northwest division rivals. The Thunder won the first three meetings by an average of 13.7 points.

The Opponent

NBA: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves currently finding themselves with a 16-65 record, good for the worst record in the NBA. They are riding an 11-game losing streak heading into this game and claim the best chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the next draft if they lose tonight. The Tiimberwolves have stuck to the tanking script for the past month, sitting veterans with nagging injuries and playing their young players the majority of the minutes. The Wolves are definitely playing for the future, and feature two rookies that could have a significant impact in years to come. Reigning slam dunk champ Zach LaVine has been manning the point in the last 5 games, averaging an impressive 23.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists in that quintet of games. His back court mate, Kevin Martin, is shooting 38.7% from 3-point territory and averaging nearly 20 points a game. Kevin Martin is questionable for tonight’s game. If he misses, look for Chase Budinger to start in his place. On the wing, Rookie of the Year candidate Andrew Wiggins is a developing franchise player in the Paul George/Tracy McGrady mold. Up front, rookie power forward Adreian Payne is just now starting to get significant minutes and Justin Hamilton is one of those “guys you sign to be a 3rd center off the bench” type guys. With so many guys out for this finale, the bench will feature Robbie Hummel, Lorenzo Brown, and Arinze Onuaku. Yeah, I don’t know too much about them either.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • PG – Zach LaVine
  • SG – Kevin Martin
  • SF – Andrew Wiggins
  • PF – Adreian Payne
  • C – Justin Hamilton

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Dion Waiters
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Enes Kanter
  • C – Steven Adams

Three Things

1. Front offices tank, not players – The Timberwolves’ front office has done a good job of positioning itself to continue in its rebuilding process. They’ll like get a top-3 draft pick in this next draft, and have given their young players ample time to develop this season. You know who doesn’t care about Minnesota’s position in the next draft? Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. I, mean, they care, because they are invested in the continued success of their organization. But tonight, they aren’t thinking about Jahlil Okafor or Karl Anthony Towns. Tonight, Wiggins is only thinking about dropping 35 on Andre Roberson. Tonight, LaVine is only worried about getting a triple double against Westbrook.

If the Thunder treat this game like the Timberwolves are the worst team in the league, they may find this to be a competitive game heading in to the 4th quarter. The last thing you want if you are the Thunder is to give the Wolves hope heading into the closing quarter of the game. Minnesota has played their last two opponents (New Orleans and Golden State) close, and will likely treat this game like it is their Game 7. This would be their ultimate “feather in the cap” if they are able to beat the Thunder and ruin their playoff chances.

2. Play through the jitters – Westbrook and Nick Collison have been here before. They’ve been in pressure-packed games that mean something. Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters, Kyle Singler, and Andre Roberson, on the other hand, haven’t. The team with all the pressure on them will be Oklahoma City. How will those players react if their first couple shots don’t fall? How will they react if Westbrook’s first couple shots don’t fall? Let’s just hope that doesn’t come into play.

westbrook waiters kanter thunder

3. Win – The only thing Oklahoma City can control is what it does in Minnesota. They can’t control what the Spurs do. They can’t control how the Pelicans will play. All you can do is win and hope for the best.

Thunder Up!

Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 79 of 82)

westbrook adams thunder evans kings

  • When: Friday, 10 April 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

Four straight losses. And yet, the Oklahoma City Thunder still find themselves in the midst of being able to get the 8th and final playoff seed in the Western Conference. With the way this season has gone, it only seems apropos that it would come down to the final four games of the season for this team. The Thunder are currently tied in the standings with the New Orleans Pelicans, who hold the tie-breaker by virtue of winning the season series 3-1. With that said, the Thunder will need help from other teams to ensure that they do not finish with the same record as the Pelicans. The road ahead is a little bit tougher for the Pelicans, but that could also be a mirage as the two playoff teams they are facing in the next week may be resting their players. The Thunder on the other hand, play a Pacers team on the road that is trying to claw its way back into the Eastern Conference playoffs and division rival Portland, who may or may not be resting their starters in that game. For as much as the Thunder control their own destiny, they still need help. Here’s to being a Minnesota, Phoenix, Houston, and San Antonio fan in the next few days.

This is the 4th and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder lead the season series 2-1, with the victor of each game winning pretty convincingly. Injuries have played a role in each of the games, as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were absent for the first game, DeMarcus Cousins was injured for the second game, and Durant was out again for the third game.

The Opponent

mccallum mclemore miller kings

The Sacramento Kings come into the game with a 27-51 record. The Kings’ season started positively enough as they opened up the 2014-15 campaign 9-5. But injuries and in-fighting between the head coach and the front office quickly changed the course of the season in a negative way. In the end, head coach Mike Malone was fired in mid-December and the Kings never regained any of the momentum they had when they started the season. Since then, they’ve gone on to hire veteran coach George Karl to be their coach for the foreseeable future.  The coaching change hasn’t done much to stem the tide, as the Kings have gone 9-17 since Karl was hired. They score 100.9 points per game (good for 13th in the league), but give up 104.9 points per game (which is 28th worst in the league). The current starting back-court for the Kings is an inexperienced bunch made up of two 2nd year players (Ray McCallum and Ben McLemore). Both have been inefficient in their shot selection and decision making. On the wing, veteran Omri Casspi  has been the Kings’ best player in the last 3 games. There is a possibility that Rudy Gay may play in this game, but he has been dealing with the after effects of a concussion. With DeMarcus Cousins being out with foot injury, the Kings have been shuffling their glut of power forwards into and out of the starting front court (Jason Thompson, Reggie Evans, Derrick Williams, and Carl Landry). Off the bench, the non-starting power forwards, Ryan Hollins, and Andre Miller will provide much of the reserve playing time.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Ray McCallum
  • SG – Ben McLemore
  • SF – Rudy Gay
  • PF – Jason Thompson
  • C – Carl Landry

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Dion Waiters
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Enes Kanter
  • C – Steven Adams

Three Things

1. Trap Game Potential – The Kings are not a very good team, but sometimes, the Thunder have a tendency to play down to their opponents. With so much on the line, I could definitely see a scenario where the Thunder start the game off cold and then try too hard to come back. A lot of the Thunder’s new players have never had to deal with this type of pressure, so a trap game scenario is definitely a possibility.

2. Rebounding – The Kings aren’t good at a lot of things. But they are pretty good at rebounding. And bad teams that can rebound tend to stay around in games they have no business being in contention for. Surprisingly, though, outside of Cousins, the Kings’ other big men aren’t necessarily great at rebounding. The Kings’ small forwards though, gobble up their fair share of boards, so everyone on the Thunder will have to be disciplined on the blocks for the rebounds.

kanter adams thunder

3. Twin Towers – The Thunder’s big men have a significant size advantage (outside of Sim Bhullar) over the rest of the Kings’ big men. This is another game in which both players could possibly get double-doubles against the Kings’ smaller front line.

The Oklahoma City Thunder tank conundrum: The difference between 14 and 18

adams kanter westbrook roberson waiters morrow thunder

With Tuesday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs (and New Orleans’ subsequent defeat of the Golden State Warriors), the Oklahoma City Thunder found themselves in a position they hadn’t been for the past month: outside the top 8 in the Western Conference. With only four games left and with New Orleans holding the tie-breaker between themselves and OKC, the likelihood of the Thunder missing the playoffs has become a very real possibility.

The 8th spot in the Western Conference is almost guaranteed to get the 18th pick in the draft, while the 9th spot in the Western Conference is slotted to be the 14th pick in the lottery, as they would hold the best record of all the non-playoff teams. The 14th worst team in the league has a 0.5% of getting the 1st pick, a 0.6% chance of getting the 2nd pick, and a 0.7% chance of getting the 3rd pick. The team that picks in the 14th spot has never won the draft lottery a.k.a the Number 1 pick. In 1993, the Orlando Magic won the draft lottery with a 1.52% chance of winning it. They had the best record of all the lottery teams and remain the team with the worst odds to ever garner the Number 1 pick. Since then, three more teams have been added to the NBA, so the odds are even lower now.

The possibility of Oklahoma City getting the top pick is damn near slim to none. Same goes for them getting the 2nd or 3rd pick. The question then becomes what’s more important for a championship contending team that has been saddled with bad luck: a higher draft pick or postseason experience for their playoff neophytes? More simply, is there a discernible difference between the 14th pick and the 18th pick?

leonard spurs antetokounmpo bucks

Looking back at the last five drafts, those five draft spots are extremely important for getting good role players, with the possibility of getting a lower tier superstar. The top three players that have been chosen in those spots in the past 5 yeas have been Kawhi Leonard, Eric Bledsoe, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Other players of high value include Nikola Vucevic, Dennis Schroder, Terrance Jones, Marcus Morris, and Jusuf Nurkic. Of all those players, only Marcus Morris was chosen with the 14th pick. Meanwhile, Terrance Jones and Eric Bledsoe were both chosen with the 18th pick.

From the numbers, there are no discernible differences between the 14th pick and the 18th pick. Without all the injuries, the Thunder are a championship contending team. If the team is able to keep Enes Kanter in the offseason, their needs will be peripheral at best. If the team is able to draft the mythical creature known as a 2-way shooting guard, then great. We’ve all seen grainy videos of two-way shooting guards that can shoot from the perimeter and defend their position well. According to lore, they still exist. Another need that could be addressed in the draft is another good shooter. Other than those two things, health is probably the only thing the Thunder need for next season.

Well, health and more playoff experience. Some of the remaining Thunder players that have survived the triage-apocalypse that has been this season, have never been featured players on playoff teams. Dion Waiters, Kyle Singler, and Mitch McGary have never been to the postseason, and Enes Kanter made it to the playoffs in his rookie season with the Utah Jazz, but didn’t play many meaningful minutes as the San Antonio Spurs swept the Jazz in what was a lopsided first round series. The experience earned, even at the hands of a sweep by the Golden State Warriors, will be irreplaceable come this time next season.

reggie jackson kendrick perkins thunder

Think back to when the Thunder first played the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the 2010 postseason. Oklahoma City lost the series in 6 games, but the experience earned in that series fueled their next four postseason runs. The Thunder have a new set of players that have replaced some seasoned vets the Thunder had in their previous postseason runs (Kendrick Perkins, Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher). Those new players need to experience what playoff basketball, at its highest, it like. I’d rather they earn that experience now, than have to earn it next season when the Thunder hopefully are chasing a title and the stakes are a lot higher.

The Thunder are in a position to get the best of both worlds: a solid first round pick and playoff experience. Is there risk for injury if the Thunder make the playoffs? Of course. But there’s a risk of injury any time any of these players gets on a basketball court, whether its in an NBA game or an offseason workout. Missing the playoffs on purpose makes no sense whatsoever, especially when there is only a 0.18% chance of obtaining a top-3 pick. Plus, there’s no way Russell Westbrook will ever stand by and allow the team to lose on purpose. The Thunder will try their hardest in these last four games, and will allow the chips to fall wherever they may fall.