Thunder-Clippers: A Look Ahead

Thunder-Clippers: A Look Ahead

If you thought the Thunder-Grizzlies series was a nail-biter, you may not be ready for Thunder-Clippers. People who are sans fingernails from the Thunder’s 7-game showdown with the Grizzlies more than likely won’t make it to the end of this series without experiencing cardiac arrest at some point.

Russell Westbrook 2014 Playoff averages: 25.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 8 APG

Russell Westbrook 2014 Playoff averages: 25.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 8 APG

Make no mistake, these two teams are very evenly matched. If you’re looking for proof of that last statement, look no further than the 2-2 season-series split between both squads. The first matchup was played back on Nov. 13th, and was most notorious for the Serge Ibaka-Matt Barnes double ejection.

I honestly agree with one commenter’s assessment of it. They should have thrown out double Ts and moved on. It was only a little shoving, it’s not like a punch was even thrown. Either way, Ibaka’s ejection proved costly for the Thunder, as the Clippers took that matchup 111-103.

Former Clipper Caron Butler looks to be taking Thabo Sefolosha's starting SG spot for the forseeable future. 2014 Playoff averages: 7.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1 APG

Former Clipper Caron Butler looks to be taking Thabo Sefolosha’s starting SG spot for the forseeable future. 2014 Playoff averages: 7.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1 APG

Matchup #2 gave us a bit of Thunder revenge a mere eight nights later. An out-of-sync Clippers defense allowed 51.9% shooting from the Thunder, and the Thunder went on to a convincing 105-91 outcome. The thing that stuck out to me about that game was towards the end, when Steven Adams goes to shake the hand of former Thunder player Byron Mullens, and Mullens doesn’t even bother to acknowledge him. Adams, crafty big man that he is, decided to remedy the situation in his own way:

Adams: "Good game... or not. Whatever. At least I'm still The Man."

Adams: “Good game… or not. Whatever. At least I’m still The Man.”

The third matchup was played Feb. 23rd, exactly one week after the All-Star game. The Thunder struggled mightily following the All-Star break, but I thought they played the Clippers well here. The defense did everything you can do short of fouling, but Clippers bench player Jamal Crawford was not going to be stopped in that game. I couldn’t believe some of the shots he was making through the defense the Thunder had on him. He had basically no space, hands all up in his line of sight, and he was still draining jumpers, some of them all-net, which was a big factor in getting the Clippers a 125-117 victory. Here’s video of Crawford’s 36-point performance. Your eyes will pop out of your head as you see some of the shots he was hitting.

Less than a month ago, April 9th, saw the last regular-season meeting between the two squads. It was a game the Thunder controlled pretty much the entire way, but a 4th quarter surge by the Clippers nearly stole the victory. the Thunder were able to hold them off at the end for a 107-101 victory.

Kevin Durant 2014 Playoff averages: 29.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.4 APG

Kevin Durant 2014 Playoff averages: 29.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.4 APG

As it pertains to this playoff series, the Thunder are staring down the NBA’s highest scoring team of the regular season (averaging 107.9 points a game). Therefore, the Thunder D will need to be on top of their game at all times. One defensive slip up, and a large enough Clipper run, and the Thunder will see games get away from them. This is a Clipper team that does not let up, and they seem to love the run-and-gun style just as much as the Thunder. The Thunder, on the other hand, counter with the league’s leading scorer in Kevin Durant. According to NBA.com, here are five things to keep an eye on as this series progresses:

Serge Ibaka 2014 Playoff averages: 13 PPG, 7.1 RPG, .6 APG

Serge Ibaka 2014 Playoff averages: 13 PPG, 7.1 RPG, .6 APG

1) The play of Kevin Durant: He was struggling immensely in the Grizzlies series before a disparaging headline and possible elimination forced him to stop thinking, and start having fun. He went from averaging 28 points on 40% shooting in the first 5 games, to 34.5 points off of 56% shooting in the last 2. He can’t think about things too much. He needs to just go out on the court loose, and treat it like a day at the park. When he just let’s his game flow naturally, he’s at his best. Overanalyzing things has a tendency to hurt an athlete’s overall performance, because then hesitation in said athlete becomes increasingly noticeable. Hesitation in this league can prove very costly. Trust me. This is coming from one of the most notorious overanalyzers on Earth. This is actually the reason I time-crunch assignments in my college courses. Waiting until the last possible second to get my assignments done prevents me from overthinking them, and turning in an incoherent essay with my thoughts all over the place because, “Oh, I just thought of this as well”. Because in all honesty, if certain facts failed to pop in your head as you write something, the thoughts that you omitted are more than likely not that relevant to your topic anyway. But, as you may have noticed, I’m beginning to digress here.

Kendrick Perkins 2014 playoff averages: 4.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, .7 APG (Perkins: "You really thought I was gonna smile in this photo?")

Kendrick Perkins 2014 Playoff averages: 4.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, .7 APG (Perkins: “You really thought I was gonna smile in this photo?”)

2) Chris Paul’s sore right hamstring: Sore hamstrings are already tough to deal with on their own, but as Mike Conley proved in Game 7 of the previous series, a sore right hamstring is even tougher to deal with when you’re tasked with guarding Russell Westbrook. While Conley was good for 20 points in that game, he had no answer for Westbrook’s blinding speed. Westbrook’s 27-point, 16-assist, 10 rebound triple-double put him in some elite company. Paul should still get his numbers, as he posted a 22 point, 14 assist double-double in Game 7 vs. the Warriors. Although now Paul is going to try to accomplish what Conley could not, and try to limit Westbrook’s numbers on a bad hamstring, which is far easier said than done.

Chris Paul 2014 Playoff averages: 17.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 9 APG

Chris Paul 2014 Playoff averages: 17.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 9 APG

3) The Ibaka-Griffin matchup: Let’s face it. We all know Blake Griffin is a beast. Oklahoma is familiar with Griffin, seeing as he played his high school and college ball here in the state. Griffin is used to dominating his opposition down low, but Ibaka is not a man who can be dominated very easily, if he can be dominated at all. Plus it seems as though tensions really ratchet up in the post when those two are battling down there.

J.J. Reddick 2014 Playoff averages: 14.3 PPG, 2 RPG, 2.3 APG

J.J. Reddick 2014 Playoff averages: 14.3 PPG, 2 RPG, 2.3 APG

4) Will Westbrook continue to facilitate?: Westbrook’s first 5 games against the Grizzlies saw him take 25.6 shots per game, as he averaged 25.4 points per game on 34% shooting. He actually averaged more points in the final 2 games at 26 off of 51% shooting. His shots per game fell to 18.5 as his assists climbed to 10.5 a game. As long as he can maintain a balance between facilitating and aggression, he’ll help give the Thunder the best possible chance to win.

Matt Barnes 2014 Playoff averages: 8.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 APG

Matt Barnes 2014 Playoff averages: 8.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 APG

5) How much do these teams have left?: NBA.com asked this question in regards to the Clippers, but I honestly still feel as though it applies to the Thunder as well. Both teams just came off of brutal and highly physical 7-game tests. Granted, the Thunder really seemed to find their stride in their last 2, while the Clippers were trailing for the majority of their Game 7 against the Warriors, so I can see why NBA.com wasn’t as quick to ask that about the Thunder. But these two teams matchup very well, and this series is expected to be just as physical as their previous ones. One key injury could easily derail either squad.

Blake Griffin 2014 Playoff averages: 23.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG

Blake Griffin 2014 Playoff averages: 23.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG

I’m noticing that when people are asked to pick a winner, the majority will say either the Clippers in 6, or the Thunder in 7. I’m leaning more towards the Thunder in 7 myself. If the Clippers win, they’ll have to get it done in 6, because if a Game 7 in OKC is forced, I just don’t see the Clippers having anything left for it. The reason? I just feel like they’ll expend most of their energy trying to close out Game 6. Failure to do so would leave that team way too drained to compete in Game 7. The Clippers could potentially take a game or two here in OKC, but it certainly won’t be the deciding Game 7 if it comes down to it.

DeAndre Jordan 2014 Playoff averages: 12.1 PPG, 15.1 RPG, 1 APG

DeAndre Jordan 2014 Playoff averages: 12.1 PPG, 15.1 RPG, 1 APG

Game 1 comes to us from The Peake, and tip-off is scheduled for 8:30pm CST. The game will be featured at the back-end of TNT’s double-header, and you already know you’re going to want to catch this one. I have a feeling this series could produce even more drama than the last one.

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Let the Memphis Conspiracy Theories Begin

Let the Memphis Conspiracy Theories Begin

Blaming refs, blaming league officials, blaming any outside force they can think of is exactly what almost all fans do once their team has been eliminated from the postseason. Hell, the conspiracy theories out of Memphis had already started before Game 7 even tipped.

Kevin Durant led all scorers with his 33 points. Here he is with that scowl I like to see from him. Get mad, KD!

Kevin Durant led all scorers with his 33 points. Here he is with that scowl I like to see from him. Get mad, KD!

I was seeing ignorant drivel on my Facebook feed to the likes of:

“They only suspended Z-Bo because they can’t afford to have their MVP ousted from the 1st round.”

“That wasn’t a punch! That was a shove!”

“The Grizz would have won if the refs weren’t playing for OKC.”

The last statement made me laugh. If that were the case, why did the Grizzlies take 34 free throws to the Thunder’s 30 in Game 7? Why did they take 28 free throws to the Thunder’s 25 in Game 6? Why did the Grizz take 26 free throws to the Thunder’s 19 in Game 5? Why did they take 23 free throws to the Thunder’s 20 in Game 4? The refs gave the Grizz chance after chance. It’s not the NBA’s fault that the Grizzlies couldn’t cash in at the line.

Russell Westbrook's 27-point, 16-assist, 10-rebound triple-double proved historic.

Russell Westbrook’s 27-point, 16-assist, 10-rebound triple-double proved historic.

And to the idiots saying Zach Randolph only pushed Steven Adams and didn’t punch him, this tape proves otherwise.

And some sad Memphis fans still willfully put blinders on and called it a push on the video. The butthurt in the comments section is very strong. I guess I’d be disappointed too if my team had a chance to eliminate a #2 seed in Game 6, only to suffer a monumental 2-game collapse and blow the series. Quit making excuses for a thug like Randolph! He has a history of pulling this crap, and that history is what likely prompted the decision to suspend him. If you can’t hold your emotions in check, you’re in the wrong league. This is not Rucker Park, or The Cage on West 4th St. No blood, no foul does not apply to the NBA. This is a league of professionals, and anyone who fails to conduct themselves in a professional manner suffers the consequences. It doesn’t really matter anyway, because what’s done is done. Hell, I’m done with the Randolph issue. Let’s take a look at these Game 7 numbers.

Serge Ibaka dropped 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

Serge Ibaka dropped 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

The Thunder used a total team effort in Game 7 to advance. Kevin Durant’s 33 points led all scorers to take the floor. Russell Westbrook’s 27-point, 16-assist, 10-rebound triple-double marks his 2nd Game 7 triple-double for his postseason career, making him only the 2nd player in NBA history to accomplish the feat, with Rajon Rondo being the 1st. The stat line also makes him the 3rd player in NBA history to score at least 25 points, dish out at least 15 assists, and pull down at least 10 rebounds in an NBA playoff game. Oscar Robinson was the first to accomplish this feat, and Chris Paul (who the Thunder will see in the next round) has accomplished it on two separate occasions. Not only that, but Westbrook’s 16 assists ties a postseason franchise record that was set by Nate McMillan back in ’87, when they were still the Seattle Supersonics. Serge Ibaka was good for 12 points, and Caron Butler scored 15 as he once again started at SG in place of Thabo Sefolosha. While you figure Sefolosha would be a little miffed at being benched, it looks like he took it in stride. I’m sure he feels like any lineup changes that result in an NBA Championship are more than welcome. I know that’s how I’d feel about it if I were in his position. But to conclude, Reggie Jackson came off of the bench to drop 16 points. With a 120-109 victory, those 16 points were the difference between an 11-point victory and a 5-point defeat. When at least one bench player scores big, the Thunder put themselves in a much better position to win.

Caron Butler scores 15 starting in place of Thabo Sefolosha for the 2nd straight game.

Caron Butler scores 15 starting in place of Thabo Sefolosha for the 2nd straight game.

Marc Gasol’s 24 points led the Grizzlies, but Mike Conley deserves some credit for dropping 20 points while playing on a bad hamstring. Courtney Lee dropped 16, and Tony Allen was good for 15 points starting in place of Tayshaun Prince and playing with an eye injury. Beno Udrih came off of the Grizzlies bench to score 12.

Reggie Jackson was good for 16 points off of the Thunder bench.

Reggie Jackson was good for 16 points off of the Thunder bench.

I will bring you the Thunder-Clippers series preview tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the series victory. Stay basketball-hungry, my friends.

Thunder Respond To Being Pushed To The Brink With Best Postseason Performance So Far

Thunder Respond To Being Pushed To The Brink With Best Postseason Performance So Far

I’ve noticed this all through the regular season. It’s the reason the Thunder gave up so many 20+-point leads during the regular season, and is the reason the Thunder experienced a 3-2 deficit in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. There is so much hype surrounding this current Thunder squad that they have a tendency to buy into it themselves at times. It’s understandable. You hear over and over again how good your team is, how good the individual players making up the squad are, and how the GM is building a solid winner, and you can’t help but let some of it go to your head. Buying into hype isn’t always a bad thing. You have to have a certain level of confidence when you hit the court, or a loss is as good as guaranteed. The problem is that you can buy into the hype too much, and start taking things like NBA Championships as a lock before you actually obtain it. This is why the Thunder don’t always play up to their potential. Sometimes they act as if an NBA Championship is a mere formality, treating it as though it’s a guarantee at season’s end.

All three major Thunder contributors are pictured here. Westbrook dropped 25 points for the game, Reggie Jackson was good for 16 off of the Thunder bench, and Kevin Durant's 36-point, 10-rebound double-double marked his best peformance of the series to this point.

All three major Thunder contributors are pictured here. Russell Westbrook dropped 25 points for the game, Reggie Jackson was good for 16 off of the Thunder bench, and Kevin Durant’s 36-point, 10-rebound double-double marked his best performance of the series to this point.

The thing about the NBA is that, especially in today’s NBA, nothing comes easy. Sure, back in the older days, some things were pretty much a formality. Red Auerbach’s Celtics teams winning NBA Championships throughout the late-50s & mid-60s became a formality. And a few decades later, Michael Jordan’s Bulls teams in the 90s were pretty much a lock for a title, much to the chagrin of legends John Stockton and Karl Malone. But even though the Heat have taken the last two titles, I’m not sure if you can call them a lock this year. One key injury could completely derail that team.

Zach Randoplh tries to back down Kendrick Perkins. Perkins' defense was a major contributor in Randolph only scoring 16 for the game.

Zach Randolph tries to back down Kendrick Perkins. Perkins’ defense was a major contributor in Randolph only scoring 16 for the game.

Last night’s Thunder performance was “night-and-day different” from the last 4 outings. They were spacing the floor much better on offense, there was great ball movement, much better shot selection, and they played like a team with something to prove. ¬†One thing I’ve noticed about this Thunder team is that they sometimes need a good, solid hit to the mouth before they start taking things seriously. It’s a lot like when I did amateur boxing. I was always one of those guys who didn’t really get moving until I took a good one to the chin. Then I was like, “Oh yeah. I’m in a fight right now. I’d better pick it up.”

All of the major Grizzlies contributors are in frame here. Marc Gasol was held to 17 points total, while Tony Allen dropped 13 bench points, and James Johnson contributed 15 additional bench points.

All of the major Grizzlies contributors are in frame here. Marc Gasol was held to 17 points total, while Tony Allen dropped 13 bench points, and James Johnson contributed 15 additional bench points.

And pick it up is exactly what Kevin Durant did in the face of a disparaging headline from The Oklahoman that referred to him as “Mr. Unreliable”. From my standpoint, I don’t see why The Oklahoman issued an apology. As it came to this series, they weren’t wrong. Some people took it as an attack on Durant’s character or entire body of work in the NBA. I actually find it sad that The Oklahoman had to clarify that the headline was only in reference to his performance in the Grizzlies series, which even Durant failed to disagree with, saying:

Johnson decides fouling Durant just isn't worth it.

Johnson decides fouling Durant just isn’t worth it.

“That’s what they’re supposed to write. I didn’t come through for the team.”

Honestly, I love the looks on their faces. They play better when they have something to prove.

Honestly, I love the looks on their faces. They play better when they have something to prove.

And if the headline is what it took to wake him up, then so be it. I personally think Durant plays better when he has a chip on his shoulder anyway. Most players do. Give fantastic NBA players something to prove, and they’ll more often than not, do just that.

Point Guard vs. Center? You know Westbrook isn't afraid of the challenge.

Point Guard vs. Center? You know Westbrook isn’t afraid of the challenge.

Hell, Durant put up a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double playing with that chip on his shoulder. If disparaging headlines gets Durant to play this well, maybe the next headline should read, “KD Pushes Down Little Old Ladies Just Trying To Cross The Street. Is The NBA Stardom Going To His Head?” Heck, he might go off for 50 points after reading that one. The headline wasn’t even about Russell Westbrook, but it seemed to help his play too, as he took a step back in the 1st quarter to let Durant make his case. That ended up netting Durant 14 points in that one 12-minute period. (Interesting note: The Thunder are 5-0 in the postseason when Durant scores 14 or more in the 1st quarter.) But even in taking that step back, Westbrook still finished his night with 25 points. Reggie Jackson’s 16 points off of the bench were a major help as well.

Beno Udrih tries to run with Jackson.

Beno Udrih tries to run with Jackson.

And in a good coaching move, Scott Brooks opted to start Caron Butler over Thabo Sefolosha. In fact, Sefolosha never saw the floor. Yet, the defense was as good as I’ve seen all series long, and Butler’s presence gave this Thunder starting 5 a 4th scoring option. This lineup change alone is most likely how the Thunder were getting such good floor spacing last night, because all three perimeter players were 3-point threats. You can’t pack the paint in that scenario. And speaking of paint performances, hats off to Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams for the way they frustrated the Grizzlies’ paint offense last night. Ibaka’s 4 blocks were actually outnumbered by Adams’ 5 from off of the Thunder bench. You give Adams a couple more years of development, and I think he ends up filling in the missing piece to a Thunder title run.

It wasn't even Steven Adams' house. He told Tony Allen to get that mess out of here anyway.

It wasn’t even Steven Adams’ house. He told Tony Allen to get that mess out of here anyway.

And the Grizzlies’ offense in the paint found themselves increasingly frustrated at the Ibaka/Adams block party that was taking place last night. Marc Gasol was held to 17 points, while Zach Randolph managed 16. Neither had a double-double to speak of, which is rather unusual when you talk about that big man duo. Tony Allen and James Johnson were able to combine for 28 points off of the Grizzlies bench to no avail (Johnson: 15, Allen: 13).

Westbrook takes the wide-open shot.

Westbrook takes the wide-open shot.

I said in the series preview not to be surprised if this went to 7 games. This series has gone¬†almost exactly as I envisioned it, with the only difference being that I had the winners of Games 5 and 6 switched. Oddly, last night was the first Game 6 loss by the Grizzlies in franchise playoff history (They are now 4-1 all-time.). That’s the most likely reason you heard a few Thunder fans lose faith in the squad’s ability to extend the series. Plus, this 2-game losing streak at the Grindhouse comes off of the heels of a 15-game Grindhouse winning streak. Now, even though the series just turned into a winner-take-all matchup, I feel like it’s the Grizzlies’ back against the wall after they just got handed the most lopsided defeat of the series. Game 7 comes to us from The Peake tomorrow night at 7pm CST. So far, it looks like TNT has acquired the rights to broadcast. I’ll let you know if anything changes TV-wise. One thing that is certain, however, is that the matchup will definitely be broadcast via WWLS The Sports Animal. You know you don’t want to miss this one.

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.

JLH_3455

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).

JLH_3517

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.

JLH_3490

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 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.

One Streak Dies As Another Is Matched In 1-1 Texas Back-To-Back. NBA Northwest Division Championship Still Clinched Due To Blazer Loss To Suns.

One Streak Dies As Another Is Matched In 1-1 Texas Back-To-Back. NBA Northwest Division Championship Still Clinched Due To Blazer Loss To Suns.

The Rockets put a damper on what might have otherwise been the definitive Thunder back-to-back.

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“Air Congo” takes to the skys. Serge Ibaka had an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double against the Spurs, and went off for 27 points against the Rockets.

The big story was streaks. Thursday the Spurs brought their 19-game winning streak to The Peake to see if they could make it 20 straight wins. They looked like they were well on their way early.

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Nick Collison pokes a potential rebound away from Boris Diaw as Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Reggie Jackson, and Patty Mills look on. Durant was good for 28 points against the Spurs, and a 28-point, 12-rebound double-double against the Rockets. Jackson dropped 14 points against the Spurs and 17 against the Rockets. Leonard was good for 17 against the Thunder, while Mills’ 21 off of the bench led all Spurs scorers.

The Thunder were up 6-5 with just under two-and-a-half minutes elapsed when the Spurs sparked an 15-3 run to establish a 20-9 lead with 4:16 to play in the 1st. The Spurs lead was 10 (22-12) with 3:15 left in the 1st when the Thunder ended the quarter on a 10-2 run to pull within 2 (24-22) at the end of 1.

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Jackson skys over Marco Belinelli.

The 2nd quarter was all back-and-forth, with the Spurs only able to add 1 to their lead by the halftime buzzer (51-48).

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Russell Westbrook attacks Tim Duncan head on. Westbrook was good for 27 points against the Spurs, while Duncan scored 17 points for the Spurs.

The 3rd quarter looked to be more of the same, as the Spurs were up 4 (56-52) an even two minutes in. That’s when the Thunder sparked another run, this one a 15-4 run that gave the Thunder some breathing room (69-60) with 4:13 left in the 3rd. The Thunder would take a similar 9-point advantage (81-70) into the 4th quarter.

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Durant shoots through the triple-team of Duncan, Leonard, and Danny Green. Green ended his evening with 11 points.

The Thunder were obviously aware of how dangerous this Spurs squad can be, so they did not let up. They started another run, this one started by a Kevin Durant running jumper with 4.9 seconds left in the 3rd. It turned into an 11-2 run that put the Thunder up 16 (89-73) with 8:35 to play. The thing about the Spurs is, they don’t go away quietly. With 7:13 left, and the score 91-77 in the Thunder’s favor, the Spurs hit on an 8-0 run to pull within 8 (91-83) while only shaving one minute off of the clock. The Thunder would then score the next 6 points to give them the breathing room they needed (97-83), and they would finish with a 106-94 victory that puts the Thunder at 55-19, while dropping the Spurs to 59-17. This doesn’t hurt the Spurs too bad though. They almost have the #1 seed locked up in the West at this point.

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Durant puts Belinelli and Leonard on a poster.

Durant dropped 28 points while Russell Westbrook added 27. Serge Ibaka had an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double, and Reggie Jackson dropped 14 points off of the Thunder bench.

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Durant defends Duncan.

Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard posted 17 points apiece, while Danny Green added 11. But their leading scorer came from off of the bench, as Patty Mills was good for 21 points.

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Durant celebrates the continuation of his streak, and the destruction of the Spurs’.

This game was followed up by a road trip to the Toyota Center in Houston, TX for one more showdown with the Rockets. The Rockets had a lot to play for Friday night. They were in the midst of a 3-game losing skid, yet a win would punch their postseason ticket for sure, as playoffs would be clenched. Unfortunately, they were going to have to try to get that done without Dwight Howard, who would be out with a strained left ankle.

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Durant squares off with Chandler Parsons. Parsons scored 23 points against the Thunder.

You could tell they were playing with competitive fire too, as they jumped out to a quick 14-4 lead in less than three minutes. The Thunder answered back with a 7-0 run that pulled them to within 3 (14-11) with 5:42 on the clock, but the Rockets shot right back with a 9-3 run that pushed the lead back out to 9 (23-14) with 3:28 to play in the 1st. Thankfully, the Thunder were still able to close the gap to 4 (27-23) after 1.

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Durant lays it in as Caron Butler and Terrence Jones watch from behind. Butler posted 13 points off of the Thunder bench, while Jones had a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double.

The Thunder had pulled within 3 once again at the 9:23 mark of the 2nd quarter, only to be pushed back once again by an 11-0 run that established a 14-point Rocket advantage (43-29). That was when the Thunder started a huge run that went into the 3rd quarter.

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Butler goes for 3.

It was a 34-14 run that allowed the Thunder to finally take the lead (63-57) with 7:29 remaining in the 3rd. The Rockets had cut the lead to 2 (73-71) with 4:29 left in the quarter when the Thunder hit on an 8-2 mini-run that pushed their lead to 8 (81-73) with 2:52 left in the period. Down 8 (84-76) with 2:02 left in the 3rd, the Rockets sparked a run that went into the 4th quarter.

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Jackson tries to get around Omer Asik. Asik didn’t score double digits, but pulled down 12 rebounds in Dwight Howard’s absence.

It became a 15-2 run that took the lead back (91-86) with 9:55 to play. The Thunder would respond with a 10-2 run that took the lead back for them (96-93) with 6:47 left on the game clock. The Rockets then responded with the run of the game that mattered, as an 11-2 run established a 104-98 Rockets lead that they would not relinquish. They defended their house via a 111-107 victory that jumps them to a playoff-clinching 50-25, while dropping the Thunder to 55-20. The Thunder are now 3.5 games behind the Spurs with 7 games remaining. The good news is that the Trail Blazers lost to the Suns 109-93 that same evening. With the Blazers 7 games behind the Thunder, 7 Thunder games remaining, and the Thunder holding the tie-breaker edge via the better in-conference record, the Thunder are officially the NBA Northwest Division Champions once again.

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Despite the loss, KD and MJ are now on equal footing in the scoring department. Now KD just needs the rings.

Durant gave a solid 28-point, 12-rebound double-double effort. He is now tied with the one and only Michael Jordan for the longest 25+-point streak of the last 50 years. Ibaka exploded for 27 points, while Jackson was good for 17. Caron Butler and Jeremy Lamb even combined for 25 off of the Thunder bench (Butler: 13, Lamb: 12).

James Harden, Terrence Jones, Nick Collison

James Harden throws down. Harden’s 39 points led all scorers.

Although former Thunder 6th man James Harden led all scorers Friday night with his 39-point outing. Chandler Parsons dropped 23, and Terrence Jones had a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double. Omer Asik pulled down 12 rebounds filling in for Howard as the Rockets used a mere 8-man rotation for the game.

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Ibaka attempts to shoot over Asik.

Durant looks to bring Jordan’s streak down at the US Airways Center tonight against the aforementioned Suns. The season series is currently deadlocked at 1-1, with the Thunder taking the Nov. 3rd meeting 103-96, and the Suns returning the favor 128-122 exactly one month ago. The Suns will be especially dangerous tonight, seeing as 5 teams are currently fighting for 4 remaining Western Conference playoff spots, and the Suns are one of those 5. And despite having an identical record as the Grizzlies at 45-31, their 0-3 record against the Grizzlies this year currently has them on the outside looking in. Tonight’s game tips off at 8pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA TV.

Thunder Easily Handle Basement-Dwelling Jazz

Thunder Easily Handle Basement-Dwelling Jazz

This is another one that should be very short and sweet. This, like the Kings game, was another in which the Thunder never trailed. But, unlike the Kings game, the Jazz couldn’t even manage to tie this one at any point. The Thunder were already up 11-0 by the time the Jazz scored their first bucket at the 7:34 mark of the 1st quarter. Yes. The Jazz were actually held scoreless for nearly 5 1/2 minutes, and were held to a total of 9 1st quarter points as a team. The Thunder led by as much as 28 (84-56 with 4:04 remaining in the 3rd quarter).

Russell Westbrook contorts his body as Enes Kanter defends. Both Gordon Heyward and Derrick Favors aren't in position to provide help. Westbrook finished with 19 points, as Kanter posted an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double. Hayward added 16 points, and Favors pulled down 13 boards.

Russell Westbrook contorts his body as Enes Kanter defends. Both Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors aren’t in position to provide help. Westbrook finished with 19 points, as Kanter posted an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double. Hayward added 16 points, and Favors pulled down 13 boards.

With the lead still 28 (86-58), and 3:31 left in the 3rd, the Jazz sparked a 19-3 run to pull within 12 (89-77) with 26.7 seconds left in the 3rd. That’s when the Thunder decided they’d had enough, and sparked a 17-7 run of their own to push the lead back to 22 (106-84) with 5:49 to play, effectively shutting down any chance at a Jazz comeback. Once all was said and done, the Thunder had taken a 116-96 victory that jumps their record to 53-19, while dropping the Jazz to a dismal 23-51.

Kevin Durant shoots over both Hayward and Alec Burks. Durant scored 31 for the game, while Burks added 10 from the Jazz bench.

Kevin Durant shoots over both Hayward and Alec Burks. Durant scored 31 for the game, while Burks added 10 from the Jazz bench.

Kevin Durant’s 31-point performance now has him two games away from tying MJ’s mark of 40-straight set back in the ’86-’87 season, which is made even more impressive when you factor in that Durant was 1 assist shy of a double-double. Russell Westbrook dropped 19 points, while Serge Ibaka posted 17. Caron Butler scored 15 off of the Thunder bench.

Durant drives past Richard Jefferson. Jefferson ended his night with 17 points.

Durant drives past Richard Jefferson. Jefferson ended his night with 17 points.

Enes Kanter posted an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double for the Jazz, while Richard Jefferson added 17 points, and Gordon Hayward added 16. Derrick Favors only had 8 points, but pulled down 13 rebounds, and Alec Burks was good for 12 points off of the Jazz bench.

Durant and Caron Butler celebrate. Butler dropped 15 off of the Thunder bench.

Durant and Caron Butler celebrate. Butler dropped 15 off of the Thunder bench.

Tonight, the top two teams in the Western Conference square off, as the Thunder welcome the Spurs into The Peake to take a crack at their current 19-game winning streak. Keep in mind, the Thunder are currently 4 games behind the Spurs for the top seed in the West. The Thunder already snapped an 11-game Spurs winning streak back on 11-27, and are 3-0 against them this season. This will easily be the toughest test to that winning streak. It’s a game with playoff seeding implications, so TNT is featuring it as the opening game of their double-header, starting at 7pm CST. You can also catch the action via Fox Sports Oklahoma, and WWLS The Sports Animal.

Thunder Now 11-0 Against The Kings In The OKC Era

Thunder Now 11-0 Against The Kings In The OKC Era
Caron Butler, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, and Jermy Lamb obscured by Durant's left arm in the background. Durant was good for 29 points, Westbrook for 18, and Lamb hit 13 off of the Thunder bench.

Caron Butler, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, and Jeremy Lamb obscured by Durant’s left arm in the background. Durant was good for 29 points, Westbrook for 18, and Lamb hit 13 off of the Thunder bench.

This postgame should be very short and sweet. There’s not much to go over in this one. The Kings never could take the lead in this affair, and only managed to tie the game twice, the last of which was a 4-4 tie at the 9:57 mark of the 1st quarter. The Thunder at one point pushed the lead to 32 points (85-53 with 10:07 to play) before settling for a 94-81 victory that pushes the Thunder’s record to 53-19 while dropping the Kings to a dismal 25-47. Although the Kings didn’t have anything left to play for anyway, seeing as they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention for several days now.

Durant heads to the rack, only to be cut off by Jason Thompson. Travis Outlaw looks for a blindside steal. Thompson's 10-point, 14-rebound performance from the Kings bench was the only double-double for either team. Travis Outlaw dropped 17 points off of the Kings bench himself.

Durant heads to the rack, only to be cut off by Jason Thompson. Travis Outlaw looks for a blindside steal. Thompson’s 10-point, 14-rebound performance from the Kings bench was the only double-double for either team. Travis Outlaw dropped 17 points off of the Kings bench himself.

Kevin Durant dropped 29, marking the 37th straight contest with 25 or more points. Three more games of that production will tie Michael Jordan’s streak of 40 games. If he beats, or even ties that streak, I don’t see “King James” taking the MVP from him this season. Russell Westbrook was good for 18 points himself, and on-again, off-again Jeremy Lamb was on for this one, scoring 13 points.

Hasheem Thabeet defends against an attempted Ray McCallum lay-in as Quincy Acy looks on. McCallum's 18 points rendered him the Kings' leading scorer. Acy didn't double in points, but was good for 13 rebounds.

Hasheem Thabeet defends against an attempted Ray McCallum lay-in as Quincy Acy looks on. McCallum ended the game with 13 points. Acy didn’t double in points, but was good for 13 rebounds.

Kings starters Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum scored 18 and 13 points respectively, but the Kings got more production from their bench. Jason Thompson had a 10 point, 14 rebound double-double (the only double-double on either squad), Travis Outlaw dropped 17 points, and Quincy Acy pulled down 13 rebounds.

Ben McLemore tries to turn the corner on Lamb. McLemore's 18 rendered him the Kings' leading scorer.

Ben McLemore tries to turn the corner on Lamb. McLemore’s 18 rendered him the Kings’ leading scorer.

Again, not much here. The Utah game has already been played, so that postgame will be coming up very shortly (as in sometime this evening, hopefully before the Spurs game starts). Stay Tuned.

Thunder Follow Up Nuggets Blowout With Mavericks Letdown

Thunder Follow Up Nuggets Blowout With Mavericks Letdown
The leading scorers for their respective squads. Kevind Durant posted 27 points against the Nuggets, and 43 points against the Mavericks. Ty Lawson was good for 25 points against the Thunder.

The leading scorers for their respective squads. Kevin Durant posted 27 points against the Nuggets, and 43 points against the Mavericks. Ty Lawson was good for 25 points against the Thunder.

The Nuggets game was the blowout I’d expected, seeing as they really had nothing to play for anyway. One more loss was going to render their elimination from the playoffs mathematically official, and they had way too many injuries to overcome a Thunder team that has been learning to overcome injuries on the fly themselves since All-Star Weekend. Danilo Gallinari was out with a torn ACL in his left knee, JaVale McGee was out with a left tibia stress fracture, Wilson Chandler was out with a strained left groin, JJ Hickson was out with a torn ACL in his right knee, and former Thunder guard Nate Robinson was out with a sprained ACL in his left knee. On top of all of that, recent trade-deadline acquisition Jan Vesley wound up sitting out due to a left rib cage contusion (bruised ribs).

Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka give Randy Foye a hard time at the basket as Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, and Kenneth Faried look on. Jackson posted a 16-point, 11-assist double-double, while Ibaka dropped 15 points, and Steven Adams added 10. Foye and Faried were both good for 11 points, but Faried also grabbed 11 rebounds as well.

Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka give Randy Foye a hard time at the basket as Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, and Kenneth Faried look on. Jackson posted a 16-point, 11-assist double-double against the Nuggets, and was good for 11 points off of the bench against the Mavs. Ibaka dropped 15 points against the Nuggets, and added 10 against the Mavs. Steven Adams scored 10 against the Nuggets. Foye and Faried were both good for 11 points against the Thunder, but Faried also grabbed 11 rebounds as well.

The Nuggets’ largest lead was 13-10 at the 6:58 mark of the first quarter. The Thunder would then use almost the rest of the 1st to set up a 31-9 run to create serious breathing room at 41-22. The Nuggets ended the 1st with a 2-pointer with 2/10ths of a second left. This became a 12-0 run that pulled the Nuggets within 7 (41-34). The Thunder then used a 14-4 run to push the lead back to 17 (55-38). with 6:25 until halftime. The Thunder would claim a 117-96 victory that lifted them to 52-18, while dropping the Nuggets to 32-39, effectively eliminating them from the playoff race. The win also allows the Thunder to claim a 3-1 season-series victory.

Ibaka rises through the defense of Timofey Mosgov and Quincy Miller, who were both good for 12 points apiece against the Thunder.

Ibaka rises through the defense of Timofey Mosgov and Quincy Miller, who were both good for 12 points apiece against the Thunder.

Kevin Durant led all scorers with 27 points, while Serge Ibaka was good for 15 points. Reggie Jackson posted his second career double-double starting in place of the resting Russell Westbrook (16 points, 11 assists), and rookie big man Steven Adams scored 10 points starting in place of the injured Kendrick Perkins. Caron Butler provided fire from the Thunder bench with his 23 points, and bench big man Nick Collison was good for 10 points of his own.

Big man Nick Collison lets the rebound come to him. Collison was good for 10 points against the Nuggets.

Big man, Nick Collison lets the rebound come to him. Collison was good for 10 points against the Nuggets.

All of the Nuggets’ starting five scored double figures, led by Ty Lawson’s 25 points. Quincy Miller and Timofey Mosgov scored 12 points apiece, Randy Foye dropped 11, and Kenneth Faried’s 11 points provided a double-double performance when coupled with his 11 rebounds.

Caron Butler drives past Foye. Butler exploded for 23 bench points against the Nuggets, and an additional 10 against the Mavs.

Caron Butler drives past Foye. Butler exploded for 23 bench points against the Nuggets, and an additional 10 against the Mavs.

The Mavericks’ victory on Tuesday Night allowed them to claim a 2-1 season-series victory over the Thunder, which makes them the only team to do so this season. Others have split their season series with the Thunder, but the Mavs have been the only team to claim their’s outright. This victory also allowed them to claim a half-game lead over the Suns in the Western Conference, so the Thunder might be okay with not getting the #1 seed if the Mavericks end up with the 8th and final playoff spot.

Durant streaks past Shawn Marion. Marion was good for 11 points against the Thunder.

Durant streaks past Shawn Marion. Marion was good for 11 points against the Thunder.

It was a good game all around. The largest Thunder lead was 9, while the largest Maverick lead was 10. There were 10 ties and 16 lead changes as well. The Mavs just broke the Thunder in the overtime period, outscoring them 17-8 to win 128-119. This win put the Mavs at 43-29 at the time, while dropping the Thunder to their current 52-19 record. Although last night’s loss to the Clippers puts the currently 43-30 Mavs a half-game behind the Suns for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Thunder are now a full 3 games behind the red-hot Spurs, who have won their last 15 consecutive games. The Thunder and the Spurs both have 11 games remaining on their schedule, and with the Mavs 10 games behind the Thunder at the #9 spot, this means that both the Thunder and Spurs have their playoff tickets punched. It’s simply about seeding at this point.

Durant goes "Air Jordan" as Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis trail. Calderon finished with 22 points, while Ellis finished with 17.

Durant goes “Air Jordan” as Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis trail. Calderon finished with 22 points, while Ellis finished with 17.

Durant once again led all scorers with 43 points. This marks the 36th straight 25+-point performance, putting him 4 behind the great Michael Jordan for largest such streak. Westbrook dropped 23 points in limited action, while Ibaka added 10. Jackson, Butler, and Derek Fisher even combined for 34 points off of the Thunder bench (Fisher: 13, Jackson:11, Butler:10).

Ibaka slams as Dirk Nowitzki, Calderon, and Samuel Dalembert spectate. Nowitzki's 32-point, 10-rebound double-double did the damage, while Dalembert added 10 points of his own.

Ibaka slams as Dirk Nowitzki, Calderon, and Samuel Dalembert spectate. Nowitzki’s 32-point, 10-rebound double-double did the damage, while Dalembert added 10 points of his own.

Dirk Nowitzki was “The Man” in this game however. 32 points and 10 rebounds saw to that. Jose Calderon dropped 22 points, including the 3 that forced OT. Monta Ellis posted 17 points, Shawn Marion dropped 11, and Dalembert added 10. Vince Carter and Jae Crowder even combined for 26 points off of the Mavs bench (Carter: 16, Crowder: 10).

Vince Carter runs into both Butler and Derek Fisher on the way to the rim. Fisher dropped 13 points off of the Thunder bench, while Carter dropped 16 off of the Mavs bench.

Vince Carter runs into both Butler and Derek Fisher on the way to the rim. Fisher dropped 13 points off of the Thunder bench, while Carter dropped 16 off of the Mavs bench.

The Thunder begin the first of a three-game home stand tonight, as they welcome the Kings. The Thunder are currently 2-0 in the season series, as they claimed a 97-95 victory on Dec. 3rd, and a 108-93 victory on Jan. 19th. The Kings are already mathematically out of the playoffs, and have been for some time now. All they can hope to do is play spoiler and split their season series at this point. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.

Russell Westbrook looks to get the ball past Calderon. Westbrook scored 23 points in limited action.

Russell Westbrook looks to get the ball past Calderon. Westbrook scored 23 points in limited action.