Thunder Locks Up Home Court With Win Over Clippers
Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s 112-108 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
- Get ready for home court advantage, Thunder heads. Congratulations to the Thunder for winning its first Northwest Division title. It’s one measure that proves how successful this regular season has been.
- Here’s what Kevin Durant said about the accomplishment: “The first one means a lot, especially after the few seasons I’ve been through since I’ve been in this league. It’s a big turnaround for us, but we’ve just got to move past it. It’s a great accomplishment but we’re trying to get to something bigger.”
- That was a theme after the game. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he barely mentioned the achievement in the locker room. “Just basically in passing,” Brooks said, adding that he shook each player’s hand.
- Brooks also summed up the significance of the achievement pretty nicely. “It’s great for our fans. It’s great for our city to be division champs. It is definitely a step in our process we started four years ago.”
- Now let me say this. Now that the Thunder has home court advantage, it’s going to be interesting to see what it does with it. This is one of the many questions that have been overlooked with this still-maturing team. While everyone seems to expects the Thunder to just automatically compete with the likes of the Spurs and Lakers in the Western Conference, the reality is we aren’t quite sure how the Thunder will respond in the first round when its not playing with house money. Last year, as an 8-seed playing against the defending champs, there were little to no expectations on OKC. Whatever happened, they weren’t supposed to win anyway. This year, the pressure is now squarely on the Thunder to not only play well but win.
- Lost in all the talk of a potential Thunder-Nuggets series is the fact that OKC now trails Dallas by just one game for third place. This playoff picture isn’t quite painted yet.
- What’s with everyone being so scared of the Lakers? I know a certain segment actually is holding its collective breath for that rematch. But I’m starting to hear a lot of concern over not wanting to move into third to avoid the Lakers in the second round.
- Here’s my question. Does the Thunder have that much better of a chance against the Spurs in round two (if they get out of round one) than it does against the Lakers? I think not. I chalk it up to the same ol’ lack of respect the Spurs get. I’m not saying the Spurs are better than the Lakers. I’m saying I think the Thunder’s chances are pretty similar against both, especially with having to win at least one in their building.
- I thought it was pretty ridiculous that some Thunder fans booed Blake Griffin tonight. He hasn’t done anything to deserve that. It started with his first basket, a dunk 58 seconds into the game. Some said it had something to do with how he acted in the last meeting. What does that even mean? All this talk about how Blake is becoming a “punk” is bogus. The guy gets pummeled on nearly every play. I think he has the right to ask for a call. And I don’t have a problem with staring. That’s not trying to show up anyone in my book. If you don’t like him staring at you, stop him.
- Now that that is out of the way. How good was Griffin tonight? I mean, 35 points on 15 of 20 shooting with 11 rebounds and six assists is not something rookie power forwards should be doing. And what I didn’t notice until Brooks pointed it out was that he didn’t have a single turnover. That’s unreal. For comparisons sake only, my mind is wondering whether Durant or Russell Westbrook have ever had that kind of stat line.
- Three cheers for Westbrook, who played much more patiently tonight and refrained from forcing things. He had a pretty nice game without actually trying to. That’s been my issue with him for sometime now. He’s been trying too hard to get his. Tonight was a clear case that he can get his without forcing the issue.
- Nick Collison’s defensive effort on Griffin was commendable. How effective was it? Well, I’ve already mentioned Griffin’s stat line. But maybe this was one of those performances where the little things like pushing a guy off his spot, or making him hold onto the ball for a second or two longer, or funneling him away from his strong side, actually limited the damage. Either way, the effort Collison gave looked damn good.
- Which Eric would you rather have? Maynor or Bledsoe? I think I know what most of you would say. If I’m right in my assumption, I can’t say I disagree with your opinion. It all depends on what your team needs. However, I don’t think the Eric we’re probably picking is the better player.
- Midway through the second quarter, the Thunder’s bench had outscored the Clippers’ 20-3.
- For the second straight night, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka were huge inside. They combined for 25 boards for the second time in as many games.
- Seriously, though, How many bunnies did Perk miss tonight? He might have had 30 and 15 had he converted from in close.
- Daequan Cook‘s contributions shouldn’t go unmentioned. He provided a nice spark off the bench in the second quarter. He hit two 3-pointers in a 40-second span and had a sweet drive-and-dish to Nazr Mohammed that helped the Thunder turn a 37-31 deficit into a 41-39 lead. Before that, the Thunder was getting creamed by the Clips.
- Am I the only one getting a little concerned about Durant’s second half performances lately? He started 6-for-10 in the opening period tonight. He finished 3-for- 13.
- You know those late-game inbound passes the Thunder struggled with tonight? The thought I had was why not run some misdirection and throw a pass toward the basket. The lane was only wide the heck open. What I didn’t understand and really have never understood is why so many players are running up at the 3-point line and toward halfcourt trying to get the ball. It’s creating a logjam that, in addition to all the grabbing and holding that’s allowed during those moments, makes getting the ball in tremendously difficult.
- This wasn’t a good game for it, but I’d love to see Nate Robinson get some burn in the last four games. I’m sticking to my opinion of him possibly being invaluable instant offense and an incredible energy guy off the bench once the playoffs start. I’d let him get his legs back some in these last four after recovering from knee surgery.
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