Amazing photo of Kevin Durant’s jersey hanging from the rubble in Oklahoma. Thinking of all those affected by the devastating tornadoes.
oklahoma city thunder
Showing 12 posts tagged oklahoma city thunder
Two games in, the only thing not up for debate is that we want five more of these.
Below are some thoughts from an impressive Game 2 road win for Miami.
Waited all night for another hopeless shot of Alonzo Mourning and Pat Riley amongst the Thunder crowd. No luck.
Down 0-1, carrying a 2-9 personal record all-time in the Finals, against a team that last lost at home in April, LeBron and the Heat were facing another referendum on the dynasty that was once promised and still yet to be delivered.
As they have throughout the post-seasont, Miami responded. LeBron — with a huge assist from Wade, Bosh and Battier — hit the game clinching free throws, attacked the basket at will, and left no doubts that there is no clear favorite in this two team race.
They’ll write about, dissect and write some more about the non-foul call at the end. But when you start the game on a 18-2 run on this court, it’s hard to say the end result wasn’t earned.
On OKC’s side, that’s two straight games where Westbrook has attempted more shots than Durant. If Durant is more defined by his efficiency, Westbrook represents volume, and there’s still a better equilibrium to be found for the Thunder’s offense. At this point, I’m not sure if Perkins-Ibaka need to be on the court together given the Heat’s size, and the offense definitely seems to flow better with Harden at point with Westbrook and Durant off the ball.
But these are the questions that will linger with each game, each swing in the series. For the Heat, they go home escaping two days of deconstruction and talks of another Finals demise. For LeBron, that’s two impressive games to start these Finals, he’ll need several more to secure that first title.
For the Thunder, it’s another test in a post-season full of them so far. The fourth quarter comeback should encourage them, but equally alarming is their slow starts.
Two games in between two teams with little separating them, we’ll all tied. The Heat punched back tonight. Now, we await the Thunder’s response.
photo via Ronald Martinez/ Getty Images
Keep up with us during the Finals by following us on Twitter @thetickr
Below are some thoughts on Game 1, first shots to the Thunder.
They don’t hand out no trophies or raise banners for an opening Finals win. But that’s not to say the wins don’t all count the same.
First games are more about setting the tone, establishing storylines, reaffirming beliefs and opening new narratives for further discussion. You don’t reach conclusions — as I learned just a week or so ago, when a Duncan-Garnett face-off was more reality than daydream — but you collect the facts, form your arguments, and move onto round two.
It’s obvious to me that the Thunder have reached a new level — if only because even in victory, even as their best player scores 36 points and their point guard puts up a near triple double — I still wonder where Durant went in the second quarter, I still have doubts about Westbrook’s decision making. Three wins from the championship and I’m still expecting more, because there’s still a better game to be played.
For Miami, the dynamic of The Big Three has now shifted. Wade seems like a superstar in decline, Bosh is taking on the new role as the sixth man, LeBron now supported by an array of three point shooters who proved effective for much of this game. James himself played well, but that lackluster fourth quarter line will help rehash the same old storylines — as they should.
Down 2-1 to Indiana on the road? 40 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks. Facing elimination on the road against Boston? 45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists. Now, staring at a 0-2 deficit against a team that’s yet to lose at home in the playoffs? Recent results show that there’s a huge punch coming from LeBron on Thursday.
For all the talk of the Thunder’s youth and the Heat’s talent, one narrative will crumble by the end of this series. The growing pains may continue in Oklahoma City before a title is won, the championship may still prove elusive for LeBron. Neither ending will surprise anyone, just the suspense of which one of them will prevail hangs in the balance. It’s a two week race to see just which way the scale will tip.
One lap in: advantage Thunder.
photo via NBA Through The Lens
I’m still stunned that the Spurs are gone, and still a bit disappointed that the Celtics didn’t pull off an upset that was right there for the taking.
But not too bad that the consolation of all that pain is a Miami-OKC Finals.
More thoughts below.
2006 was probably the last Finals that felt like the series would help chart a new course for the league’s future. That was Dallas-Miami, Nowitzki-Wade, the winner seemed destined to dominate the league for years to come.
Of course, other then endless memories of Wade shooting free throws, or Josh Howard calling a phantom timeout, no dynasty was born from that series. The combination of Shaq and Wade never even won a playoff game together after that — swept in the next year by the Bulls before being dismantled; the Mavericks would collapse several times in the playoffs before getting their championship last year.
This year’s Finals has that similar feel. It’s scary — or tiring — to think that LeBron’s reign on the league may finally be just getting started, a first championship would collapse many of the ongoing narratives of failure.
Meanwhile, a Thunder win would mean they would’ve accomplished a rare feat: going straight from the bottom to very top on a continuous upward trajectory without taking a single step back.
What’s interesting is that before the series begins tomorrow night, much of the conversation has been dominated by the morality of how these two teams have achieved their success and gotten themselves into this position to compete for the trophy.
Tom Ziller of SB Nation cautions that there’s more layers to this matchup than simply good vs. evil — with the Heat as the obvious villains.
Jeremy Repinach wrote at The Classical that there may not be that strong of a link between the Thunder’s success in Oklahoma City and their departure from Seattle.
Meanwhile, Dave Zirin lays out a strong argument that we should all root for the Heat in light of how Oklahoma City landed their franchise.
Of course, all these perspectives does is illustrate the subjectivity on the topics at hand. We can all take our thoughts on free agency, and franchise relocation and stand on our moral high ground with them.
At the most extreme of opinions — the Thunder can do no wrong, the Heat deserve nothing. Or Oklahoma City has blood on their hands even in victory. Or LeBron will never be truly respected because he abandoned a hometown for an easier route to the title.
All of that can, should, and will be debated.
But when we tip off tomorrow night, let’s focus on what actually happens on the court. Let’s appreciate and understand how this series will help shape and even define the careers of two of the best players in the game.
Let those story-lines take center stage in a series that will undoubtedly chart a new course for this league going forward.
photo via NBA Through The Lens
What was KD thinking? Kevin Durant stars in a really bad movie called “Thunderstruck”.
Russell Westbrook sports a teddy bear dress shirt and gold watch during his post-game presser. Not pictured, his red pants.
This James Harden birthday cake is pretty ballin’. (via @JeremieKubicek)
It’s the old vs. new, and everything else. The Spurs-Thunder Conference Finals is going to be great theater.
You’l have to excuse me for borrowing an episode title from “Game Of Thrones” to write about the matchup between San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
The first two rounds have brought a greater appreciation for the Spurs — not just what they’ve managed to do in a shorten season that was suppose to bring their model consistency to a halt — but give us a grander narrative in appreciating Duncan and Popovich, and how admist all the chaos and continue change in this league, they’ve firmly entrenched themselves as contenders, even favorites for the title all these years later.
For the Thunder, they are the new — the incumbent in waiting, the torch bearer for the future, the appropriate alternative to the Heat, just about every prerequisite for being the next it team have been met, provided we separate all that’s happened in Oklahoma City from what came before in Seattle.
And we do because this team provides the possibility of change in the hierarchy at the top — and they’ve done so without the gathering of superstars by choice, but through a construction via drafting and shrewd accumulation of talent.
It’s the old Gods and the new, and the intersection of their respective blueprints, which reflect each others in so many ways.
The architect of the Thunder, general manager Sam Presti, grew up in the Spurs’ organization, and took what he learned from the best and applied it to his current team.
The point guards on these teams have been two of the most overly criticized players in the game. It wasn’t long ago that Tony Parker could do no right in the eyes of Gregg Popovich — now, he is probably the most stablizing force on a team that’s full of them.
The same can be said for Westbrook, who’s made the narrative of whether he can co-exist with Durant or if he shoots too much entirely post-ironic everytime it is mentioned.
Where Manu Ginobili was once the best player off the bench in the league, that title has now been passed onto James Harden — both players similar in their efficiency yet individual in their own unique abilities to create on the court.
All this without mentioning the two stoic centerpieces — Duncan and Durant.
In the grander scheme of things — the Spurs could bookend their five championships with two lockout-season titles. While the Thunder need a Finals appearance if only to continue that progressive storyline towards a championship. Two straight seasons of coming up short in the Conference Finals and there will be more questions than answers, and the team becomes a step closer to being more collective failure rather than champion in waiting in the cruel world of heightened expectations and demand for immediate success.
All of this — gathered into a single series. We’ve finally arrived at the point in the playoffs where the stakes are championship worthy and the changing of the guard is not just a notion, but a reality that may steer the league in a brand new direction.
As always: can’t wait.
Sally Jessy Westbrook in the building. via @ArashMarkazi
3 In The Key: Durant and Westbrook, Steve Nash, Kyle Lowry
1. The Durant-Westbrook dynamic
It seems that we’re headed towards an entire season of whether Durant and Westbrook can co-exist. Last week’s overblown stories about their argument on the bench will not be the last we hear about a fractured relationship, which may be real, may be manufactured, or may eventually be manufactured into something real. But why is there any predisposed expectation that two superstars have to like each other?
Egos are a natural part of being the best, or perceiving yourself as the best. It didn’t matter how much or little Shaq and Kobe got along as long as they were in sync on the basketball court en route to three straight championships. Remember, when the Lakers finally decided to trade Shaq to the Heat, it wasn’t because of their fractured relationship, but because they decided he wasn’t worth the money he wanted in exchange for his declining basketball skills.
And that should be the same for Westbrook and Durant. If they eventually split, it will be because the Thunder come to the conclusion that there isn’t a fit on the court. In the same breath, if the two stars aren’t on speaking terms by the end of the year, I’m sure no one in Oklahoma City will care if they’re lifting the championship trophy.
So let’s keep the focus about how they co-exist on the basketball court, because anything besides that is meaningless.
2. The need for Steve Nash to contend
I’m not sure how many more years Steve Nash will compete at an elite level. Maybe one. Maybe two. Judging by his early numbers this season, maybe none. And that’s why as a basketball fan, I have an urgency to see him on a contender before it’s too late. While he has no plans to demand a trade, from time to time I like to picture Nash on Portland, or New York, and it frustrates me. I don’t want to see him going for a championship in a few years as a passenger, but as a main contributor, as the point guard with the keys to the team.
I’ve always liked the storyline of a veteran player going for his first championship to complete their resume. Look around the league, the main contenders are either teams that have a young core and many years to build towards (Miami, Oklahoma City, Chicago, New York, Memphis, Los Angeles Clippers) or veteran teams who have won titles (Los Angeles Lakers, Boston, San Antonio, Dallas).
And beyond all the reasons why we choose to hate Miami, that’s why it was so fascinating to see the Mavericks win the title last year. There was an urgency to Dirk Nowitzki’s championship run. It was entirely possible that it was Dirk’s last chance at a title. Seeing him make the most of it before the window closed made it that much more thrilling.
Like Dirk last year, or Karl Malone and Gary Payton in Los Angeles, or David Robinson’s first title with San Antonio; whether they succeed or fail, the urgency of the championship chase makes the story that much more fascinating.
I’d like to see Steve Nash star in that storyline before it’s too late.
3. Another elite point guard
Take a look at this game log for a particular point guard from last March and April. Who would you guess after scanning the numbers?
The answer is Kyle Lowry, who I think is the most under-rated player in the league. The diminutive point guard has continued his stellar player into this season and will be in the running for the Most Improved Player award.
The NBA is point guard porn right now, and conversations of elite point guards will have to include Lowry if this keeps up.
Wouldn’t it be cool to go back in time and tell a future NBA Hall of Famer he’s going to dominate for a team that doesn’t exist yet. Well check out the NBA’s new “Where Amazing Happens” ad featuring Kevin Durant, magnificent editing — although it would’ve been pretty cool to see Doc Brown do the explaining?