IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN SEATTLE VS. VANCOUVER
Steve Kelley (Seattle Times): For the legion of NBA fans still living in Seattle, May is the cruelest month. It's is the month of memories. The month of Jack Sikma and Fred Brown. The month of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. The month of Lenny Wilkens and George Karl.
May is when the Sonics used to own this town. It was the best of months and the worst of months.
In May, the Sonics won Western Conference championships. In May, they began playoff runs that took them to the NBA Finals in 1978, '79 and '96. But May also was the month they lost to the Lakers in the 1980 Western Conference finals and the month they were upset in the first round by Denver in 1994. This May, however, could be the cruelest month of all for the tens of thousands of Seattle fans who still love the game and still wait for its return.
The Sonics are playing the Grizzlies in the Western Conference semifinals. Or, at least, the team that used to be in Seattle and has moved to Oklahoma City is playing the team that used to be in Vancouver and has moved to Memphis.
Imagine what the Northwest would feel like this month if these teams still were a mere 2½ hours apart. Imagine the caravan of fans who would be traveling I-5. Imagine the buzz in this city if Game 2 had been played in Seattle, instead of Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.
THIS SERIES IS GOING TO BE A STREET FIGHT
John Hollinger (espn.com): It took the Oklahoma City Thunder a game to learn it, but learn they did. This isn't going to be some pretty series of fast breaks and 3-pointers like they had against the Denver Nuggets. No, this one's gonna be a street fight.
After the junkyard dogs known as the Memphis Grizzlies pounded them into submission in (Sunday's) Game 1, the Thunder were ready for the rematch. They were the more physical, more aggressive team from the word go, even when it resulted in mistakes – like the offensive foul on their first trip after a bone-crushing screen by Kendrick Perkins on Tony Allen, or the two early fouls on Kevin Durant.
Oklahoma City's reward was a 111-102 win over Memphis that evened their best-of-seven series at a game apiece; the two sides will retreat to a neutral corner for three days before Game 3 in Memphis on Saturday.
THE FINE LINE WESTBROOK WALKS
Fran Blinebury (nba.com): It was going to happen. It always does. The way roll follows rock. The way tick follows tock. You can practically set your Rolex by it, though even by the usual standards, it was a bit early for the alarm to be ringing loud enough to wake up the folks in Tulsa. Your browser does not support iframes.
The Thunder got beat in the opening game of their semifinal series with the Grizzlies and that meant Russell Westbrook got beat like a rented mule. Actually, there are rented mules who would learn to work a cell phone and bray their abuse complaints to PETA if they were ever whipped as often as Westbrook.
He shoots too much. He doesn't shoot enough. He's constantly attacking the basket. He needs to know when to take charge. Westbrook took 23 shots on Sunday afternoon and was roasted, then took 20 shots on Tuesday night and was toasted.
The difference? A win.
"It's funny how perceptions change," said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. "It's really a fine line for Russell."
It's more like a tightrope that Westbrook has to inch across every night while juggling a chainsaw and an NBA franchise.