Reggie Jackson’s Career-High 32 Points Saves The Thunder’s Season

Reggie Jackson’s Career-High 32 Points Saves The Thunder’s Season

At least Reggie Jackson showed up last night, because it didn’t seem as though Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook bothered to do so, at least offensively. Although I have to give credit to the entire squad for the team defense displayed last night. Without it, Jackson’s 32 points probably would have been a moot point as we talked about the Thunder’s 3-1 deficit.

Reggie Jackson beats Tony Allen to the loose ball. Bench player Jackson's 32 points not only led all scorers to take the floor, but also marked a career-high.

Reggie Jackson beats Tony Allen to the loose ball. Bench player Jackson’s 32 points not only led all scorers to take the floor, but also marked a career-high.

To be honest though, the Thunder should count themselves very lucky that they escaped The Grindhouse with the W, considering that the previous 15 games played at FedExForum (I’d been spelling it wrong this whole time. FedExForum is, weirdly, all one word.) all resulted in Grizzlies victories. The last team to win at The Grindhouse before last night’s Thunder victory was the Mavericks back on Feb. 5th.

Marc Gasol's mug on the Grindhouse billboard. Gasol posted 23 points and 11 rebounds to no avail.

Marc Gasol’s mug on the Grindhouse billboard. Gasol posted 23 points and 11 rebounds to no avail.

With that noted, teams rarely outgrind the Grizzlies, especially in The Grindhouse, but that’s exactly what the Thunder did last night. They managed to beat the Grizzlies at their own game, holding them under 20 points in each of the first 3 quarters to help secure a 90-89 OT win. Again, it’s a damn good thing Thunder D showed up last night, because teams that have a mere 90 points after 53 minutes of play are usually on the losing end. Although to be fair, teams that score a total of 80 points in regulation are usually too far behind for overtime to even be a possibility.

Kevin Durant, who managed 15 points all game long.

Kevin Durant, who managed 15 points all game long. At least he pulled down 13 rebounds to claim a double-double.

Durant really seems to be losing his shooting stroke as the series wears on. After shooting 13-for-25 (52%) in the series opener, he’s dropped to 12-for-28 (48.9%) in Game 2, 10-for-27 (37%) in Game 3, and an absolutely abysmal 5-for-21 (23.8%) last night. We can’t expect Jackson to bail him out of these games either. If his play doesn’t pick up, I honestly don’t see how the Thunder expect to move on to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

Tony Allen not only gave the Grizzlies 14 points and 13 rebounds last night, but has been a defensive pest to Durant for the vast majority of this series.

Tony Allen not only gave the Grizzlies 14 points and 13 rebounds last night, he has also been a defensive pest to Durant for the vast majority of this series.

Another thing that is beginning to irk me is how no one can ever seem to find Serge Ibaka at the offensive end. We looked at Durant’s shooting numbers, now we look at Westbrook’s, then we compare them to Ibaka’s.

Westbrook is smiling because he knows full well Jackson bailed out both him and Durant. Westbrook also finished the game with 15 points.

Westbrook is smiling because he knows full well Jackson bailed out both him and Durant. Westbrook also finished the game with 15 points.

Westbrook: 8-of-19 (42.1%) in Game 1, 11-of-28 (39.3%) in Game 2, 9-of-26 (34.6%) in Game 3, and 6-of-24 (25%) last night. Just looking at his numbers alone, you can see his offensive effectiveness trailing off as well.

Serge Ibaka finished with a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double last night.

Serge Ibaka finished with a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double last night.

Meanwhile, Ibaka has posted percentages like 6-of-8 (75%) in Game 1, 6-of-12 (50%) in Game 2, 6-of-10 (60%) in Game 3, and 6-of-11 (54.5%) last night. He’s shot 50% or better in every game so far. Why the hell is he only taking 10 to 12 shots a game? Why does he rarely ever see the ball in the 4th quarter or overtime? It’s not just the Durant & Westbrook show. Ibaka should be considered the third guy in the Thunder’s Big 3.

Mike Conley's 14-point, 10-assist double-double ended up rendered meaningless by game's end.

Mike Conley’s 14-point, 10-assist double-double ended up rendered meaningless by game’s end.

Oddly, three separate double-doubles on the Grizzlies side couldn’t secure a win for them. Marc Gasol had a 23-point, 11-rebound double-double, while Mike Conley posted 14 points and 10 assists. Even bench player Tony Allen posted a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double. But I have to give Thunder D credit for the way they limited Zach Randolph. A man who averaged a double-double over the course of the regular season managed a grand total of 11 points last night. And with only 7 boards, Randolph didn’t even come close to a double-double last night.

Grizzlies fans show love for their main man, Z-Bo, Zach Randolph. All the love showed last night didn't help his game however, as he was held to a mere 11 points.

Grizzlies fans show love for their main man, Z-Bo, Zach Randolph. All the love showed last night didn’t help his game however, as he was held to a mere 11 points.

Game 5 is coming back to The Peake this Tuesday for an 8pm CST tip-off. Now that the series is knotted up 2 games apiece, Game 5 has officially been rendered a pivotal one. They win this, and the Thunder are in the driver’s seat, one win away from advancing to the conference semis. They lose, and they’re backs are against the wall for two straight must-win matchups. I will definitely stay locked into this series. It’s getting every bit as good as I hoped it would.

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Start Playing As A Team, Or Finish The Playoffs From The Comfort Of Your Sofa: What The Thunder Need To Do To Get Back In The Series.

Start Playing As A Team, Or Finish The Playoffs From The Comfort Of Your Sofa: What The Thunder Need To Do To Get Back In The Series.

The Thunder really need to snap out of this current funk they’re in. I really don’t understand their mentality sometimes. They almost act like all they need to do to start getting 3s to fall is keep shooting, and they’ll eventually fall. I blame Scott Brooks for this. They may be a finesse shooting team, but finesse shooting teams generally don’t win championships. And everything seems to be falling apart all at once. What do the Thunder need to do to right the ship and start getting wins against the Grizzlies?

Russell Westbrook drives around Serge Ibaka's pick. Westbrook had a 30-point, 13-rebound double-double, while Ibaka finished with 12 points.

Russell Westbrook drives around Serge Ibaka’s pick. Westbrook had a 30-point, 13-rebound double-double, while Ibaka finished with 12 points.

1) Russell Westbrook needs to stop trying to take games over by himself. This is the Thunder, not Westbrook & Co. He is not much of a traditional PG, because half of the time he fails to even look for open teammates. Why is Serge Ibaka only shooting 10 shots when he was shooting 60% for the game? Because of Westbrook’s inability to get him open looks, and Westbrook’s unwillingness to look for him at times.

Kevin Durant also finished with 30 points.

Kevin Durant also finished with 30 points.

2) Kevin Durant needs to be not only more confident, but more assertive. I’ve never seen such a strong scorer with such a meek personality. Durant needs to start scowling more, and playing, walking, and even talking with more swagger. You’re one of the best in the game, KD! But it means nothing if you don’t believe it yourself.

Ibaka shot 60% on 6-for-10 shooting last night.

Ibaka shot 60% on 6-for-10 shooting last night.

3) Serge Ibaka could stand to be a bit more demanding of the ball. Everyone knows about Ibaka’s defense, but his midrange 18-foot jumper drops more often than not. Sadly, his abilities as a scorer are still vastly underrated.

Westbrook shoots over Tony Allen as Zach Randolph loks on.

Westbrook shoots over Tony Allen as Zach Randolph looks on.

4) Where the hell did the bench go for these past 2 games? If they start showing up, it would certainly help matters. 9 total points out of 5 different bench players won’t help anything.

Westbrook looks to squeeze through Courtney Lee and Marc Gasol.

Westbrook looks to squeeze through Courtney Lee and Marc Gasol.

I don’t care that they forced overtime again last night. The fact of the matter is, they still lost. Westbrook’s 30-point, 13-rebound double-double didn’t help anything, because he only dished out 2 assists total.  Durant’s 30 points were meaningless, and Ibaka’s 12 points should have been a lot more. When you only have 13 assists to the Grizzlies’ 21, it’s obvious which squad is playing as a team, and which squad is playing like a bunch of guys who happen to be sharing the same ball court.

Westbrook at the foul line as Durant looks on.

Westbrook at the foul line as Durant looks on.

In contrast, six different Grizzlies ended the game in double figures. Zach Randolph had a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double, while Marc Gasol dropped 14 points, and Courtney Lee dropped 10. Mike Conley’s 20 points led all Grizzlies scorers, but they just get more from their bench. Tony Allen and Beno Udrih combined for 28 points off of the Grizzlies bench (Allen: 16, Udrih: 12).

Durant goes past Gasol for a lay-in attempt.

Durant goes past Gasol for a lay-in attempt.

Another Saturday 8:30 tip-off is coming. Maybe that’s what we need to get on the right track. The last 8:30 CST tip-off on a Saturday saw us take a 25-point lead at one point. It will be broadcast via ESPN and WWLS The Sports Animal. Lose Saturday’s game, and it’s doubtful they escape this series at all. I guess we’ll see what happens.

Grizzlies “Grind Game” Effective, But Decidedly Unentertaining.

Grizzlies “Grind Game” Effective, But Decidedly Unentertaining.

I don’t see this article being particularly lengthy this time. While the Grizzlies “grind-it-out” style suits them well, and sets them up for wins, it is decidedly boring to watch as a spectator. The Grizzlies basically controlled the pace from start to finish, and save for a couple of impressive made baskets by the Thunder near and at the end of regulation, there was nothing really of note. So I suppose I’ll provide video of the moments that made Thunder fans cheer in that game. (There aren’t many.)

The Thunder celebrate Kendrick Perkins' crazy put-back buzzer-beater.

The Thunder celebrate Kendrick Perkins’ crazy put-back buzzer-beater.

Here’s video of Kevin Durant’s “I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened” 4-point play:

Without that, this “he-really-just-hit-a-buzzer-beater” move by Perkins would not have been possible:

Unfortunately, those two amazing plays simply delayed the inevitable, as the pace slowed to molasses once again for the OT period. The Grizzlies got the grinder they wanted, and tied the series 1-1 with a 111-105 victory.

Kevin Durant's 36-point, 11-rebound double-double couldn't secure the win.

Kevin Durant’s 36-point, 11-rebound double-double couldn’t secure the win.

Durant had 36 points and 11 rebounds. Serge Ibaka also had a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double. Russell Westbrook dropped 25 points. What killed the Thunder was their lack of bench production. 14 bench points were scored by a total of five different Thunder players. Normally we can get that kind of production from just one bench player.

Serge Ibaka's 15-point, 11-rebound double-double kept it close, but failed to secure the W.

Serge Ibaka’s 15-point, 11-rebound double-double kept it close, but failed to secure the W.

Zach Randolph’s 25 points led all Grizzlies scorers. While Marc Gasol and Courtney Lee dropped 16 points apiece, the real damage was done via Mike Conley’s 19-point, 12-assist double-double. And Nick Calathes’ suspension opened the door for Beno Udrih, who scored 14 points off of the Grizzlies bench.

Russell Westbrook's intensity will be heavily required throughout the remainder of the series. Say what you will about Westbrook, but he's the aggressor that Durant isn't.

Russell Westbrook’s intensity will be heavily required throughout the remainder of the series. Say what you will about Westbrook, but he’s the aggressor that Durant isn’t.

Game 3 is coming to us tonight from FedEx Forum, affectionately nicknamed “The Grindhouse” in regards to the Grizzlies’ style of play. And with Saturday’s Game 4 also coming from “The Grindhouse”, the Thunder will either have to figure out how to win through the grind, or break up the grind a bit and start getting out in transition. If they don’t do either in these next two games, the Thunder will find themselves in the unenviable position of staring down a 3-1 series deficit as they come back home, and only 8 NBA teams in history have taken a series in the face of that deficit. The last one to do so was the Suns over the Lakers, and that was 8 years ago. Tonight’s game is featured as the front-end of TNT’s double-header, or you can catch the game via WWLS The Sports Animal.

Thunder Hang On To Take 1-0 Series Lead After Nearly Squandering A 25-Point Advantage

Thunder Hang On To Take 1-0 Series Lead After Nearly Squandering A 25-Point Advantage

It didn’t really surprise me. This is something for which the Thunder have become known. Their regular-season tendency to jump out to a 20+-point lead, only to give away not only said lead, but eventually the game itself to the opposition almost reared its ugly head for their first postseason match-up of 2014. Why it wasn’t surprising was because this happened on a day when the 3 other home teams that played Saturday all found a way to drop their series openers. Once you factor in that two other road teams won yesterday, we all bore witness to history. For the first time since the NBA Playoffs expanded to 16 teams in the ’83-’84 season, 5 road teams claimed Game 1 on opening weekend.

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Kevin Durant tries to find an outlet past Marc Gasol. Durant’s 33 points led all scorers to take the floor. Gasol finished with 16 points.

I was in attendance for the first half, a half that was all Thunder. The Thunder jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead that eventually ended as a 14-2 run. With the Thunder lead 19-10 at the 5:25 mark of the 1st quarter, the Thunder spark a 6-1 mini-run that extended the Thunder lead to 14 (25-11). The 1st quarter ended with the Thunder up 29-16 in a quarter that saw the Grizzlies shoot an ice-cold 17.2% (5-for-29).

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Durant gets fired up as Tony Allen tries to do the same. Allen finished with 13 points off of the Grizzlies bench.

2nd quarter saw more ice-cold Grizzlies shooting, and the Thunder were all too willing to take advantage. After a Tony Allen dunk cut the lead to 11 (29-18), the Thunder sparked yet another run. This run ended up as a 20-8 run, adding more cushion to the Thunder lead (49-26) with 3:29 to go in the first half. After a couple of lay ups by Mike Conley and Zach Randolph cut the Thunder lead to 19 (49-30), the Thunder almost ended the quarter on a 7-1 run that saw them extend the Thunder lead to 25 (56-31). That would have been the halftime score also, but James Johnson ended the half with a last-minute 3-ball that actually marked the first outside-the-paint points for the Grizzlies all game. The score would be 56-34 going into the break, ending a half in which the Grizzlies picked it up a bit, but were still shooting a miserable 25% from the field. This was turning into such a beating, I decided to leave at halftime to beat the traffic.

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Mike Conley can’t figure out why the Grizz are so ice cold. You’d figure his 16-point, 11-assist performance would have had more impact.

That probably wasn’t my wisest decision, as the Thunder came out flat in the 3rd quarter, while the Grizzlies started to heat up. They opened the 3rd with a 8-0 run that ended as a 17-4 run, cutting the Thunder lead to 9 (60-51) with 7:17 to play in the 3rd. Serge Ibaka tried to slow the Grizzlies’ roll with free throws, hitting all 4 attempts to reextend the Thunder lead to 11 (64-53), with 5:51 left in the 3rd. The Grizzlies were still hot at this point though, ending the quarter on a 12-5 run that had cut the Thunder lead to 4 (69-65) to start the 4th quarter.

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Serge Ibaka had 17 points, and finished one rebound shy of a double-double.

Shots began to get traded back and forth in the 4th quarter, allowing the Grizzlies to cut their deficit to a mere 2 points (74-72) with 8:46 to play. Thankfully for Thunder fans, this would be as close as the Grizzlies would come to claiming the lead, as not only did the Grizz go cold again, but the Thunder started heating up again as well. An almost immediate 15-4 run reestablished a double-digit lead for the Thunder (89-75) with 5:30 remaining, and subsequently put the game out of reach for the Grizzlies. They ended the game trading buckets, and the Thunder escaped Game 1 with a 100-86 victory.

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Durant takes flight.

Kevin Durant scored 33 points in the Game 1 victory, but I’d give Player of the Game to Russell Westbrook for his 23-point, 10-rebound double-double. Although Ibaka scored 17 points while being just one rebound shy of a double-double himself.

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Zach Randolph may have posted a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double, but Kendrick Perkins deserves a lot of credit for keeping Randolph and Gasol as quiet as they were.

Randolph’s 21-point, 11-rebound double-double came as no surprise to me, seeing as the man averaged a double-double in the regular season (17.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG). Marc Gasol was good for 16 points. Mike Conley was also good for 16 points, but had 11 assists to go with them, and Allen’s 13 points off of the bench almost provided the spark required to steal Game 1 outright.

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Russell Westbrook, who finished with a 23-point, 10-rebound double-double.

Game 2 tips off tonight at 7pm CST, and will be featured at the front-end of tonight’s  TNT double-header, with Clippers-Warriors immediately following it up. Not near a TV, but can pick up radio signals? You can also catch the action on WWLS The Sports Animal.

Thunder-Grizzlies Postseason Match-Up Marks The 3rd Meeting In 4 Years

Thunder-Grizzlies Postseason Match-Up Marks The 3rd Meeting In 4 Years

Is anyone really surprised that these two teams will butt heads in yet another playoff series? This marks the 3rd time in a 4-year span that these two teams will square off. It’s almost as if these two teams are linked.

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Banner celebrating the Thunder’s 4th consecutive Northwest Division Championship.

2011 was the first meeting. It was the second trip to the playoffs for the Thunder, who were itching to prove they belonged there after pushing the Lakers to 6 games in the 2010 playoffs only to lose at literally the last second due to Pau Gasol’s tip-in. They did so by downing the Nuggets in 5 games to move on to the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Another Gasol by the name of Marc was looking to make an impact for the Grizzlies coming into this series as well. The Grizzlies had just knocked off the Spurs, requiring 6 games to seal the series.

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PG Russell Westbrook: 21.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.9 APG

The series itself didn’t start well for the Thunder either, as the Grizzlies came into Oklahoma City Arena (as it was known at the time, because Chesapeake didn’t acquire the naming rights until July of that year) and took Game 1 in rather convincing fashion, 114-101 in a game were the Thunder were outscored in all but the 4th quarter, which ended in a tie. Game 2 saw the Thunder redeem themselves at OKC Arena with a 111-102 final. However, due to the Game 1 loss, the Grizzlies were now the ones with the home court advantage, and it would require the Thunder taking a game at FedEx Forum in Memphis to reclaim it.

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SG Thabo Sefolosha: 6.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.5 APG

The first attempt at that didn’t go so well, as the Grizzlies took it 101-93. Fortunately for the Thunder, it required an OT period for the Grizzlies to get it done. Game 4 saw 3 overtime periods played to determine a winner, which ended up being the Thunder. The Thunder used a 14-4 3OT period to seal a 133-123 victory to knot the series up at 2 games apiece. This meant that Game 5 at OKC Arena would be pivotal to the series.

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SF Kevin Durant: 32 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.5 APG

The Thunder took that pivotal Game 5 using some super-stingy defense. The end result was a 99-72 victory that finally saw one of the squads build up a winning streak after trading wins each game. That win put the Grizzlies behind the 8 Ball (No. Not the Memphis rapper. Although chalk that up to an odd coincidence.), because now it was win or go home.

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PF Serge Ibaka: 15.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1 APG

Game 6 was the last one of the series to be played at FedEx Forum, and the Grizzlies responded beautifully, taking Game 6 95-83 to force the always-decisive Game 7 back at OKC Arena.

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C Kendrick Perkins: 3.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.1 APG

I really feel the Game 7 of this series instilled much of the confidence and swagger you see in the Thunder today. By taking Game 7 105-90, the Thunder proved to themselves and the rest of the world that they could survive tough postseason tests against top competition.

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PG Mike Conley: 17.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 6 APG

Last year’s postseason was the one where the Grizzlies got their revenge. taking advantage of Russell Westbrook’s absence after an injury suffered when a Rocket by the name of Patrick Beverly (who is now officially Public Enemy #1 in the OKC area) tore the meniscus (the cartilage in your knee that absorbs shock) in Westbrook’s right knee going for a steal after the whistle was already blown. With Westbrook out, despite the Thunder being able to take Game 1 93-91, the Grizzlies went on to win the next 4 straight, taking the series in 5 games.

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SG Courtney Lee: 9.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.5 APG

I was going to go into some numbers for this upcoming series, but if you ask me, John Schuhmann already did great work of that in Sekou Smith’s Hang Time Blog on NBA.com.

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SF Tayshaun Prince: 6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.6 APG

Numbers Preview: Thunder-Grizzlies

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PF Zach Randolph: 17.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.5 APG

And you can get great analysis of the individual match-ups here:

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C Marc Gasol: 14.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.6 APG

SportVU Preview

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Nick Calathes. Rookie reserve PG for the Grizzlies who will most likely miss the entire postseason after being served a 20-game suspension yesterday for failing a drug test.

As far as this postseason series goes, I wouldn’t count on a sweep. As a matter of fact, if you ask me, don’t be surprised to see this series go to 7 games once again. Both teams feature stout defenses and improved perimeter shooting. I still see the Thunder taking this series, I just don’t see it being the walk in the park some Thunder fans are trying to make it out to be. My prediction: Thunder in 7. (I just see them needing all 7 games to finally put away a Grizzlies team that can be rather pesky. Never sell your competition short.)

Andre Drummond’s 6th Foul Kills Chance At Pistons Upset

Andre Drummond’s 6th Foul Kills Chance At Pistons Upset

I noticed we didn’t bother to rest our starters for the finale. I suppose Scott Brooks had the same mindset I did: Better to go into the postseason on a winning note than to play it safe and risk going in on a 3-game losing streak.

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Banner celebrating the Thunder’s 4th consecutive Northwest Division Championship.

The 1st quarter was close pretty much the entire way, as the largest lead established for either team was the Thunder’s 6 (17-11 with 6:11 on the game clock). Although the Pistons only led by 3 at most in quarter #1, it ended with the Pistons up 2 (30-28).

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Kevin Durant pops one over Andre Drummond as Kyle Singler’s attention is elsewhere. Durant ended the game with 42 points to lead all scorers to take the floor. Drummond had 22 points and 13 rebounds before his 6th foul ended his night. Singler was good for 20 points.

The 2nd quarter was where the Pistons started to take control. The Thunder never led in the 2nd quarter, and the Pistons used a nice run to start pulling away. Up 3 (35-32) with 7:59 to play in the half, the Pistons used an 13-5 run to establish their largest lead of the game (48-37) with 4:57 to go until halftime. Fortunately, the Thunder were able to end the quarter on a 17-7 run to pull within a single point at the break (55-54).

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Durant goes one-on-one with Singler.

The 3rd turned into more back-and-forth, as once again, neither team could establish a double-digit lead at any point in the quarter. Despite the Thunder starting the quarter on a 5-2 mini-run to reestablish a Thunder lead (59-57) with 9:17 to play in the 3rd, Greg Monroe scores the next 5 Pistons points, only being interrupted by a pair of Kendrick Perkins free throws to reestablish a Pistons lead (62-61) at the 8:03 mark of the 3rd. And despite a Kevin Durant driving lay up off of a Reggie Jackson assist tying the game at 72-all with 4:24 remaining in the period, the Pistons ended the quarter on a 15-7 run to reestablish an 8-point lead (87-79) heading into the final 12 minutes of the season.

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Greg Monroe and Singler challenge Durant at the rim, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope looks on. Monroe was good for 22 points, but Caldwell-Pope had a career night with 30 points of his own.

It wasn’t looking good for the Thunder in the 4th either. The Pistons lead was still 8 (105-97) with a mere 5:40 left in the game. Unfortunately for the Pistons, the Thunder turnaround was sparked by Andre Drummond committing two quick personal fouls on Durant. Those two quick ones added up to 6 fouls for Drummond, forcing Pistons interim head coach John Loyer to sub in Jonas Jerebko. This allowed the Thunder to end the game on a 15-6 run that was just enough to squeeze by the Pistons, earning them a 112-111 final that gives the Thunder a 59-23 record that will officially lock in the #2 seed. At 29-53 (29-52 before the meeting), the Pistons had long been eliminated, simply looking to play spoiler on the final night of the regular season.

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Serge Ibaka stuffs Monroe at the rim as Reggie Jackson watches. Ibaka posted a 10-point, 15-rebound double-double, while Jackson was good for 15 points off of the Thunder bench.

Durant ended the game with an astounding 42 points, marking the 14th time Durant has scored 40 or more this season. That stat leads the NBA. Russell Westbrook was good for 22 points, while Serge Ibaka posted a 10-point, 15-rebound double-double. Jackson was good for 15 points off of the Thunder bench.

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Russell Westbrook with the aggressive lay-in. Westbrook finished his night with 22 points.

Piston’s rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored a career-high 30 points, while leading all Pistons scorers. Andre Drummond was good for a 22-point, 13-rebound double double, as fellow Twin Tower Monroe was also good for 22 points. Kyle Singler’s 20 points rounds out the scoring. The bad news for the Pistons was that, despite playing a 9-man rotation, all 4 Pistons bench players combined for a grand total of 11 points. That’s bad, because that means one of our bench players outscored their entire bench by himself.

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More Westbrook aggression.

With the #2 seed locked, we officially draw the Grizzlies in the 1st round of the playoffs. Tomorrow, I will be posting a special series primer for the 1st round. Stay tuned.

0-For-2 Not The Result They Were Looking For In Back-To-Back

0-For-2 Not The Result They Were Looking For In Back-To-Back

Now, as it pertains to this dismal back-to-back, the loss to the Pacers didn’t really hurt too much. I thought we played them hard, and we weren’t “exposed” in the loss, or anything like that. And the game had plenty of that 4th quarter drama that makes games exciting.

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Luis Scola lays it in through heavy traffic as Russell Westbrook and Caron Butler try to block from behind. Westbrook was good for 21 points against the Pacers. Butler scored 13 against the Pacers and 19 against the Pelicans. Scola was good for 10 from the Pacers bench in this one.

With 8:16 to play, the Pacers were clinging to a 11-point lead (85-74). That’s when the Thunder sparked a 15-4 run to tie the game at 89-all with 2:46 to play. Needless to say, the crowd in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse were beginning to brace themselves for yet another disappointing finish, which has become a bit of a recurring theme for the Pacers in this late-season stretch. The Pacers, however, had other ideas. They were able to catch the Thunder prematurely resting on their laurels, and broke out a 9-2 run to take a 98-91 lead with 22.4 seconds remaining. They finished with a 102-97 final that jumped their Eastern Conference-best record to 55-26, while dropping the Thunder to 58-22.

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Paul George catches Kevin Durant not in position to defend. George finished with a 20-point, 12-rebound double-double. Durant was good for 38 points against the Pacers, but only managed 25 against the Pelicans.

Kevin Durant was good for 38 points in that contest, while Russell Westbrook chipped in 21 points. Serge Ibaka dropped 11 points, and Caron Butler drained 13 points from the Thunder bench.

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David West with a risky pass over Serge Ibaka. West’s 21 points led all Pacers to score. Ibaka was only good for 11 points against the Pacers, but exploded for a beautiful 22-point, 16-rebound performance in a loss to the Pelicans.

David West’s 21 points led all Pacers to score. While Paul George had a 20-point, 12-rebound double-double, I don’t see how you can name anyone other than Lance Stephenson Player of the Game after his 17-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double. Another thing that really helped the Pacers was the bench combo of CJ Watson, Ian Mahinmi, and Luis Scola combining for an eye-popping 41 points (Watson: 20, Mahinmi: 11, Scola: 10).

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Ian Mahinmi comes off of the Pacers bench to throw one down. Mahinmi finished with 11 points.

Now the Pelicans loss is the one that has me shaking my head. The Thunder had blown out this same team 116-94 a mere three days ago. Granted, Westbrook took to the floor for last Friday’s affair, and didn’t for this one, but that should not have made a difference. This was a Pelicans team that had dropped 8 straight contests heading into this one.

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Although Paul George put up good numbers, even he couldn’t take Player of the Game away from Lance Stephenson, who went off for a 17-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double.

Oddly enough, however, some analysts thought the Thunder would have taken that game had it not been for the Austin Rivers ejection. Here’s the incident that sent both Rivers and Nick Collison to their respective locker rooms for the remainder of the game:

What this video fails to show you, however, is the shove by Collison on Rivers as they were switching ends. That’s why Collison got ejected as well. But the reason Rivers’ ejection is so important is because it opened the door for Tyreke Evans, who just completely went off on the Thunder.

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Ibaka with the lay-in through heavy traffic as Alexis Ajinca jumps with him, and Darius Miller looks on. Anjica and Miller finished with 10 points apiece.

Another odd story here is that Evans didn’t even think he was going to play in that game. A bone bruise in his right knee, suffered during Friday’s Thunder game, almost had him sidelined for this one as well. Pelicans head coach, Monty Williams, didn’t even think he would be suiting up. Evans got clearance to play literally 90 minutes before tip-off. The end result was a 101-89 beating that made the Thunder look like a tired team simply waiting for the playoffs to arrive.

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Durant scores 2 of his 25 as Luke Babbitt looks on, and Tyreke Evans trails. Babbitt had a solid 12-point bench performance, but it was Evans who did the damage, going off for 41 points to lead all scorers.

Durant dropped 25 points for the game, yet was not the leading scorer. Serge Ibaka’s highly impressive 22-point, 16-rebound double-double wasn’t even enough to secure the victory. Caron Butler even dropped 19 points off of the Thunder bench.

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Butler’s 19 points off of the Thunder bench weren’t enough to seal the win.

The problem is, all those impressive stats were completely negated by Evans’ masterful 41-point explosion. He didn’t really get a lot of help either. Darius Miller and Alexis Ajinca only dropped 10 points apiece, and Luke Babbitt’s 12 points from the bench marked the only other double-digit performance from any Pelicans players.

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CJ Watson looks to drive past Ibaka. Watson dropped a rather impressive 20 points off of the Pacers bench.

Now the Thunder were looking towards hosting the Pistons for the regular season finale. Would they enter the playoffs on a 3-game losing skid? The Pistons postgame will answer that question very shortly.

Thunder Surmount Slow Start To Win 10th Straight Over Pelicans

Thunder Surmount Slow Start To Win 10th Straight Over Pelicans

The Pelicans tried as hard as they could to hang. They even had the score tied 17-all with 4:17 to play in the first. Unfortunately for them, that’s when the bottom fell out.

Nick Collison lays it up as Reggie Jackson looks on. Jackson finished the game with 11 points.

Nick Collison lays it up as Reggie Jackson looks on. Jackson finished the game with 11 points.

A 22-8 run pushed the Thunder lead to 14 (39-25), and they never looked back. The Pelicans never did shave the Thunder lead into single-digits after that, and the Thunder took a 116-94 victory that jumps their record to 58-21, while dropping the Pelicans to an abysmal 32-47.

Kevin Durant slams it home as Austin Rivers watches. Durant's 27 points led all scorers, while Rivers' 18 points tied him for leading Pelican scorer with Darius Miller.

Kevin Durant slams it home as Austin Rivers watches. Durant’s 27 points led all scorers, while Rivers’ 18 points tied him for leading Pelican scorer with Darius Miller.

Kevin Durant’s 27 points led all scorers to take the floor. Russell Westbrook came in as the #2 overall scorer with 24 points. Serge Ibaka had an impressive 16-point, 10-rebound double-double, while Reggie Jackson sank 11 points off of the Thunder bench.

Alexis Ajinca challenges Russell Westbrook at the rim. Westbrook's 23 points was good for 2nd leading scorer overall, while Ajinca dropped 12 off of the Pelicans bench.

Alexis Ajinca challenges Russell Westbrook at the rim. Westbrook’s 24 points was good for 2nd leading scorer overall, while Ajinca dropped 12 off of the Pelicans bench.

Austin Rivers and Darius Miller tied for leading Pelicans scorer, as both finished with 18 points. Tyreke Evans dropped 13 before leaving the game with a bruised knee, and Alexis Ajinca and James Southerland combined for 22 points off of the Pelicans bench (Ajinca: 12, Southerland: 10).

Serge Ibaka throws it downover Greg Stiemsma. Ibaka finished with a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double.

Serge Ibaka throws it down over Greg Stiemsma. Ibaka finished with a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double.

At this point, one more win was still required before the Thunder locked in the #2 seed. My next postgame will take a look at the Pacers-Pelicans back-to-back, and we’ll see if they locked it in. Stay tuned.

Thunder 2 For 2 In California Back-To-Back

Thunder 2 For 2 In California Back-To-Back

A couple of streaks ended Tuesday night, as the Kings held Durant to just 23 points. Granted, he didn’t play one minute of the 4th, and seemed like he was happy the media focus was about to disperse back throughout the entire squad, instead of the brightest spotlight being squarely on him.

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Kevin Durant dunks as (from left) Ben McLemore, DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, and Travis Outlaw all look on. Durant’s 23-point performance ended his streak, but he did drop 27 against the Clippers. Cousins had a 24-point, 14-rebound performance, while Outlaw also added 24 points. McLemore and Thompson were both good for 11 apiece.

“I don’t like all the attention when it’s a team game. I’m glad it’s over.”

Serge Ibaka battles Thompson for the loose ball as Durant and Caron Butler look on. Ibaka scored 19 against the Kings, and 15 against the Clippers. Butler didn’t do much in the Clippers game, but went off for 23 points against the Kings.

Another bright spot for the Thunder is that Kendrick Perkins returned for the Spurs affair, and now Thabo Sefolosha is officially back as well, as he was cleared to play just in time for the Kings contest. Now our starting five is finally healthy, and just in time too.

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Reggie Jackson throws down. Jackson only had 9 points against the Clips, but scored 13 against the Kings.

A Thunder 2-game losing streak also snapped when the Thunder found victory at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, using a 16-0 run to start the 4th to create the breathing space necessary to win. They were only up 8 (85-77) to start the 4th, and found themselves up 101-77 with 6:24 to play. After that, it was all the Kings could do to pull back within 20. Once the final buzzer sounded, the Kings still took a 107-92 pasting that jumped the Thunder to 56-21, while dropping the Kings to a horrid 27-51.

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Jeremy Lamb shoots the fadeaway over Jared Cunningham. Lamb didn’t do much against the Clippers, but dropped 10 points against the Kings.

Durant was good for 23 points, while Serge Ibaka posted 19, and Russell Westbrook added 13. While Jeremy Lamb posted 10 points off of the Thunder bench, Caron Butler had the hot hand in this contest, scoring 23 points off of 8-for-10 shooting, including 6-for-6 on his 3-ball attempts from off of the bench.

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Butler fires one over the outstretched arm of Derrick Williams.

DeMarcus Cousins posted a 24-point, 14-rebound double-double, while Travis Outlaw added 24 points of his own. Jason Thompson and Ben McLemore were good for 11 points apiece as well. The Kings got almost nothing from their bench, as 4 bench players combined for a total of 15 points.

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Cousins tries to score around Ibaka.

The Clippers, on the other hand, were (and still are) sitting in the #3 seed for the Western Conference, knowing full well that their playoff appearance is guaranteed at this stage. As of Wednesday night, they were still an outside threat to potentially steal the #2 spot from the Thunder, so this game was all about the playoff seeding.

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Durant and Blake Griffin square off. Griffin finished with a 30-point, 12-rebound double-double.

As of tonight, however, the #1 spot is officially going to the Spurs, as the Thunder are 3 1/2 games back with only 4 games remaining, counting the Clippers victory. The Spurs, however, only have 3 games remaining, meaning even if they lose out, the Thunder would still be half-a-game back for the #1 seed.

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Serge “Air Congo” Ibaka

Oddly, the Clippers managed a maximum lead of 1 on the Thunder for the whole game, while the Thunder had their’s pushed to 17 at one point. Although this particular 4th quarter nearly went the Clippers’ way. The Thunder were up 94-79 with 7:08 to play, when the Clippers sparked a 16-0 run to pull within a single point (94-93) while taking just over two minutes off of the clock. The Thunder lead was only 2 (102-100) with just over 1 minute remaining, yet free throws were the only made baskets in that final minute. Seeing as the Thunder made 5 free throws to the Clippers’ 1 in that time frame, the Thunder escaped Staples Center with a 107-101 victory that puts the Thunder at 57-21 while dropping the Clippers to 55-24. With the Clippers now 2 1/2 games behind the Thunder, and with only 4 games left on the Thunder schedule, the Thunder only need 2 more victories to secure the #2 seed.

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Russell Westbrook takes advantage of a wide lane to the rack, as Griffin defends. Nick Collison, Darren Collison, DeAndre Jordan, Durant, and Chris Paul watch. Jordan’s 10-point, 12-board performance allowed him a double-double as well. Chris Paul ended his night with 25 points.

Westbrook went off in his home city of L.A., dropping 30 points and pulling down 11 boards. Durant was right behind him with 27, and Ibaka dropped 15. We didn’t get our usual bench production in this one though, as 5 bench players combined for 26 total points.

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Durant dunk mode!

Two double-doubles by Clipper starters weren’t enough to seal the win here (Blake Griffin: 30 points, 12 rebounds. DeAndre Jordan: 10 points, 12 rebounds.), even after adding Chris Paul’s 25 points. Although Darren Collison deserves credit for a decent game off of the Clippers bench, scoring 12.

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Cousins making Westbrook’s shot a bit tougher.

4 teams are still vying for 3 remaining playoff seeds (the Trail Blazers have since clinched), but tonight’s opponent, the Pelicans, are not among those teams. They’re simply looking to play spoiler coming into OKC, as that’s really all they can do. The Thunder took the first contest in this series 109-95 back on Dec. 6th, and a win tonight will claim the season series outright for the Thunder, despite another match-up to take place this coming Monday. Tonight’s affair tips at 7pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.

Michael Jordan’s Streak Falls, But So Do The Thunder As Suns Fight For Playoff Lives.

Michael Jordan’s Streak Falls, But So Do The Thunder As Suns Fight For Playoff Lives.
PJ Tucker squares off with Kevin Durant. Durant's 38-point, 11-rebound performance wasn't enough to secure the victory. Tucker finished with 22 points.

PJ Tucker squares off with Kevin Durant. Durant’s 38-point, 11-rebound performance wasn’t enough to secure the victory. Tucker finished with 22 points.

Kevin Durant’s streak of 25+-point games is officially at 41, eclipsing Michael Jordan’s streak, and posting the longest such streak of the last 50 years.

Marcus Morris throws down 2 of his 10 points.

Marcus Morris throws down 2 of his 10 points.

That stated, it didn’t help them secure the win against a scrappy Suns team who were on the outside looking in as one of the 5 teams battling for the remaining 4 playoff spots in the Western Conference. Their 45-31 record was identical to the Grizzlies’ record coming in, but the Grizz won every head-to-head against the Suns this season, giving them the tie-breaker edge.

Markieff Morris puts one over Caron Butler. Markieff ended his night with 10 points.

Markieff Morris puts one over Caron Butler. Markieff ended his night with 10 points.

This was a fairly close game most of the way, given there were 10 ties and 9 lead changes. Although the Thunder could only establish a 5-point lead at best, while the Suns pushed their lead to 14 at one point. What cost the Thunder in this game was their inability to score in the game’s final 2 1/2 minutes. A Durant 3-pointer was the only made Thunder bucket in the last 2:39 of the game. The Thunder were actually up 112-111 until the scoring drought, which allowed the Suns to finish the game on an 11-3 run that sealed the win. The final was 122-115, which moved the Suns to 46-35. Coupled with the Grizzlies’ 112-92 loss to the Spurs that same evening, it moved them 1 game ahead for the Western Conference’s final playoff seed. The Spurs win also essentially locked them into the #1 seed. It wasn’t technically official, but the Thunder are simply being asked too much to overtake the Spurs for the #1 spot this late in the season.

Gerald Green pops over Derek Fisher. Green finished with an astounding 24 bench points.

Gerald Green pops over Derek Fisher. Green finished with an astounding 24 bench points.

Durant’s 38-point, 11-rebound double-double was impressive, but ultimately failed to get the W. Russell Westbrook contributed 33 points, Serge Ibaka posted 11 points, and Reggie Jackson was also good for 11 from off of the Thunder bench.

Reggie Jackson tries to blow by Eric Bledsoe. Jackson finished with 11 from the Thunder bench. Bledsoe posted 18 points.

Reggie Jackson tries to blow by Eric Bledsoe. Jackson finished with 11 from the Thunder bench. Bledsoe posted 18 points.

The thing is, 6 different Suns players scored in double figures, and 3 of them were bench players. Goran Dragic’s 26 points led the Suns’ scorers, followed by PJ Tucker’s 22, and Eric Bledsoe’s 18 from the staring 5. The bench saw Gerald Green drop an impressive 24 points, while the Morris brothers, (Markieff and Marcus) managed 10 points apiece.

Bledsoe and Goran Dragic celebrate with Ibaka and Westbrook in frame. Dragic's 26 points led all Suns scorers. Westbrook's 33 points were to no avail, and Ibaka finished with 11.

Bledsoe and Goran Dragic celebrate with Ibaka and Westbrook in frame. Dragic’s 26 points led all Suns scorers. Westbrook’s 33 points were to no avail, and Ibaka finished with 11.

Sorry I’ve been running so far behind on these. I’ve had a lot on my plate lately, and it’s all I can do to find the time to smash these out these days. Coming up shortly, I recap the California back-to-back. Stay Tuned.