If Thunder D Doesn’t Bother To Show, The Clippers Will Make Them Pay For It

If Thunder D Doesn’t Bother To Show, The Clippers Will Make Them Pay For It

I said it in the series preview, and I’ll say it again. If the Thunder defense does not bring their A-Game against the #1 offense of the regular season, the Clippers will light them up. Don’t believe me? Look at the Clippers point totals from the first 3 quarters of Game 1: 39, 30, & 35.

Russell Westbrook's 29 points led the Thunder, but Chris Paul's 32 points and 10 assists wrapped up a win for the Clippers.

Russell Westbrook’s 29 points led the Thunder, but Chris Paul’s 32 points and 10 assists wrapped up a win for the Clippers.

Honestly, how do the Thunder expect to win games if their defense goes AWOL for the first 36 minutes? Chris Paul’s 32 points led all scorers to take the floor, but it wasn’t just the point total that was so astounding. It was the fact that his 32 points came off of 12-for-14 (85.7%) shooting, including 8-for-9 (88.9%) from beyond the arc. That’s just insane efficiency. He definitely had the hot hand in that game. Not only that, but his 10 assists gave him a double-double. Blake Griffin added 23 points, J.J. Redick added 12 off of 5-for-8 (62.5%) shooting, and Jamal Crawford added 17 from the Clippers bench, shooting 6-of-11 (54.5%). The only two double-digit scorers for the Clippers that shot under 50% were Griffin, who’s 23 points came off of 7-for-16 (43.8%) shooting, and Matt Barnes’s 10 points off of 4-for-10 (40%) shooting. Either way, every player to score double-digits for the Clippers shot 40% or better. That type of efficiency from Thunder opponents rarely translates to a Thunder win.

Kevin Durant's MVP status and 25 points weren't enough Monday night.

Kevin Durant’s MVP status and 25 points weren’t enough Monday night.

Plus, where was the bench scoring for the Thunder? The Thunder rarely, if ever, win games without at least one person coming off of the bench to score double digits. The starters who scored double-digits were actually quite efficient in their scoring. Kevin Durant’s 25 points came off of 9-for-19 shooting (47.4%), Russell Westbrook’s 29 points came off of 9-for-14 shooting (64.3%), and Serge Ibaka’s 12 points came off of 6-for-9 shooting (66.7%). But no bench players reached the double-digit plateau. Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III each scored 8, but that was in garbage time, when the game was pretty much already decided.

Serge Ibaka shoots over Griffin. Sadly, it loos as though Ibaka's offensive abilities will continue to be underrated.

Serge Ibaka shoots over Blake Griffin. Sadly, it looks as though Ibaka’s offensive abilities will continue to be underrated.

Tonight’s game will have another 8:30 pm CST tip-off, and the Thunder will look to have their recently named MVP player go off tonight. The thing is, he will need help from his teammates, especially on the defensive end. The Thunder do not want to head to Staples Center down 2-0. Tonight’s game will be featured at the back-end of TNT’s double-header, and will also be broadcast via WWLS The Sports Animal.

(Side note: This may be my final post, as I’ve been picked up as a staff writer for Mark Bruty and Thunderous Intentions, which is part of the Fansided network. I still have to go through the initial setup, but I’ll let everyone know when and where they can catch me next. For those of you who have been loyal readers to this point, I sincerely do appreciate your support.)

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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.

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 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 Cap off Road Trip With A Pair Of Revenge Victories That Were Dutifully Earned

Thunder Cap off Road Trip With A Pair Of Revenge Victories That Were Dutifully Earned

The Cavaliers and Raptors were both enjoying a 1-0 season-series lead over the Thunder before Thursday Night. Then the Thunder evened both series in back-to-back road wins. But that’s not to say they didn’t have to fight hard to secure both wins.

Kevin Durant going one-on-one with Matthew Delavedova. Durant posted a 35-point, 11-rebound double-double against the Cavs, while dropping 51 points and adding 12 rebounds against the Raptors.  Delavedova posted an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double from the Cavs' bench.

Kevin Durant going one-on-one with Matthew Dellavedova. Durant posted a 35-point, 11-rebound double-double against the Cavs, while dropping 51 points and adding 12 rebounds against the Raptors. Dellavedova posted an 11-point, 10-assist double-double from the Cavs bench.

The game in Cleveland was essentially over with the Thunder up 95-71 with 6:34 to play. That’s what Scott Brooks thought as well, allowing both Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, the only two full-time starters active for that game, to sit. That’s when the Cavs sparked a 16-0 run to pull within 8 (95-87) with 2:17 on the game clock, prompting both men to return to the floor. It was a good move, as Ibaka immediately dunked off of a Durant assist to stop the run. The only other Thunder points scored were 5 free throws from Durant, as the Thunder ice the game 102-95, jumping the Thunder to 50-18 which at the time pulled them within a game-and-a-half of the Spurs. The loss dropped the Cavs to 26-43. Although not completely eliminated from playoff contention for the Eastern Conference, they’ve gone 1-1 since, putting them at 27-44, which is still 5 1/2  games behind the current 8th seed in the East.

Serge Ibaka shoots over Spencer Hawes. Ibaka posted a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double against the Cavs, and dropped 13 points on the Raptors. Hawes was good for 20 points.

Serge Ibaka shoots over Spencer Hawes. Ibaka posted a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double against the Cavs, and dropped 13 points on the Raptors. Hawes was good for 20 points.

Durant and Ibaka were both good for double-doubles in Cleveland. Durant posted 35 points and 11 rebounds, while Ibaka chipped in 16 points and 11 rebounds. And the guards did well filing in for Russell Westbrook. Reggie Jackson had 13 points as the fill-in starter, while Derek Fisher and Jeremy Lamb combined for 22 off of the Thunder bench (Fisher: 12, Lamb: 10).

Jeremy Lamb gets past Dion Waiters. Lamb dropped 10 points against the Cavs, while Waiters' 30 points led his team in scoring.

Jeremy Lamb gets past Dion Waiters. Lamb dropped 10 points against the Cavs, while Waiters’ 30 points led his team in scoring.

Although you don’t get a good push like that at the end without somebody racking up numbers. Dion Waiter’s 30 points led the Cavs, followed by Spencer Hawes’ 20. Tristan Thompson pulled down 10 boards, although he was only good for 5 total points. Oddly enough, one of the better performances came from the Cavs’ bench, as Matthew Dellavedova quietly posted an 11-point, 10-assist double-double.

Durant throws it down.

Durant throws it down.

Now I’m almost positive the game in Toronto would have given every Thunder fanatic an aneurism if the heart attack didn’t happen first.

Riggie Jackson drives past Kyle Lowry. Jackson dropped 13 against the Cavs, and posted his first career double-double against the Raptors, with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Lowry finished with 25 points himself.

Reggie Jackson drives past Kyle Lowry. Jackson dropped 13 against the Cavs, and posted his first career double-double against the Raptors, with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Lowry finished with 25 points himself.

Granted we got the win in the 2nd OT,  but the Thunder had a chance to end it in regulation. They attempted to drive the lane for the lay-in only to realize they waited too long, and Fisher didn’t get the ball out of his hands until the buzzer had already sounded. Although his attempt got nowhere near the bucket anyway.

Not only that, but the Thunder had a chance to seal the win in the 1st OT as well. All they had to do was play perimeter defense, as they were up 107-104 with less than 10 seconds to play. Leave it to the Thunder to leave Kyle Lowry wide open for the 3-ball that forces a 2nd OT.

Ibaka goes over Amir Johnson as Steven Adams successfully boxes out Jonas Valenciunas. Johnson posted a 25-point, 12-rebound double-double, while Valenciunas added an additional 13 rebounds.

Ibaka goes over Amir Johnson as Steven Adams successfully boxes out Jonas Valanciunas. Johnson posted a 25-point, 12-rebound double-double, while Valanciunas added an additional 13 rebounds.

The Thunder almost bit the dust and gave the Raptors the series sweep in the 2nd OT. Greivis Vasquez was on fire until he picked up his 6th foul with 2:04 remaining. Yet the Thunder were still down 8 (118-110) with only 49.3 seconds left on the game clock. Durant decides now is the time to heat up, hitting a 3-ball off of a Lamb assist to pull the Thunder within 5. Lowry bricks a 3-ball attempt at the other end, then Fisher drops 3 points, pulling the Thunder to within 2 (118-116) with 15.7 seconds to play. Durant then ends up fouling John Salmons. With a chance to ice the game at the line, Salmons bricks not one, but both free throw attempts, leaving it a 2-point game with 8.8 seconds left. That’s when Durant decided to add to the 2014 NBA MVP resume. Still down two, Durant almost has the ball poked away from him, only to recover it. Realizing there’s not enough time left to drive the lane, Durant launches a prayer that ends up answered with 1.9 seconds left. This win puts the Thunder at 51-18 for the season, while dropping the Raptors to 38-30. As of today though, the Spurs 13-game winning streak still has them up 2 full games for the top spot in the West. And although Toronto’s record is good enough for the Eastern Conference’s 3rd seed, it wouldn’t even get them 9th place in the West. I know I already posted video highlights, but you know you want to see that Durant game winner one last time.

Durant finished with 51 points and 12 rebounds. Ibaka added 13 points, and Westbrook was good for 15 points before a knee-to-knee collision with Lowry resulted in a sprained knee. Although the good news is that an MRI showed no further damage. Honestly, I think even the “sprain” was an exaggeration. He will probably still be rested on back-to-backs, but he’s not expected to miss any additional time. Although his exit paved the way for Jackson’s first career double-double, as he finished with 25 points and 12 boards.

Jackson, Durant, and Russell Westbrook watches as Johnson again tries to impede Ibaka's progresswith Lowry down low. Westbrook had 15 points before leaving the game after a knee-to-knee collision with Lowry.

Jackson, Durant, and Russell Westbrook watches as Johnson again tries to impede Ibaka’s progress, with Lowry down low. Westbrook had 15 points before leaving the game after a knee-to-knee collision with Lowry.

Amir Johnson had a 25-point, 12-rebound double-double for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry also scored 25, and DeMar DeRozan’s 33 points led the Raptors. Jonas Valanciunas grabbed 13 boards, but only managed 8 points. Vasquez dropped an eye-popping 21 points from the Raptors bench before fouling out.

Greivis Velasquez with the perimeter D against Derek Fisher. Fisher dropped 12 against the Cavs, while Greivis hit 21 points against the Thunder before fouling out late in the 2nd OT.

Greivis Vasquez with the perimeter D against Derek Fisher. Fisher dropped 12 against the Cavs, while Vasquez hit 21 points against the Thunder before fouling out late in the 2nd OT.

Another back-to-back is in store, as the Thunder host the Nuggets tonight, then travel to Dallas to try to get their win back against the Mavericks tomorrow. The Nuggets will be looking to split the season series with the Thunder, as they try to make it two in a row after winning 101-88 on Jan. 9th. Before that, the Thunder had claimed victories of 115-113 on Nov. 8th, and 105-93 on Dec. 17th. Although the Nuggets don’t have much left to play for. Even though they aren’t mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, they’re back 9 1/2 games from the 8th seed with only 10 games left on the schedule. One more loss, or even one more Mavs victory will probably seal their fate. Expect the Mavs to fight much harder, as they are currently a mere half-game ahead of the Suns for the Western Conference’s 8th and final playoff spot. The Mavs will be looking to claim their season series over the Thunder outright tomorrow, as a 115-113 Thunder victory on Nov. 18th, and a 109-86 Mavs victory the Sunday before last has the series knotted up 1-1. Tomorrow’s game against the Mavericks will be featured as the front-end of TNT’s double-header. Tonight’s game has the same 7pm tip-off time, but will be brought to you by the usual suspects: Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.

Gerald Green Drops 41 As Thunder D Churns Out Another Shameful Performance

Gerald Green Drops 41 As Thunder D Churns Out Another Shameful Performance

I usually go into quarter-by-quarter recaps, but I can’t do it here. I’ll end up stewing yet again.

Gerald Green's 41-points on the Thunder marks a career-high.

Gerald Green’s 41-points on the Thunder marks a career-high.

The Thunder defense in the last 15 minutes of the game made me absolutely sick. It’s easy to watch Gerald Green drop 41 points when standing around and watching is exactly what you’re doing. Hell, Green had 25 points in the 3rd quarter alone. He’s had some 30+-point games already this season. You disrespect Green by not defending him, and he will obviously make you pay for it. It’s fairly obvious that the Thunder failed to do their homework on this man.

Goran Dragic looks to drive against Serge Ibaka. Dragic ended the game with 22 points, while Ibaka posted 18 for the Thunder.

Goran Dragic looks to drive against Serge Ibaka. Dragic ended the game with 22 points, while Ibaka posted 18 for the Thunder.

Green wasn’t the only one taking advantage of their “deer in the headlights” stupidity that evening. Goran Dragic poured in 22 points, and Channing Frye added 11. I guess letting three starters combine for 74 points wasn’t enough of an embarrassment, so they went ahead and let the Morris brothers combine for 39 off of the Suns bench (Markieff: 24, Marcus: 15).

Markieff Morris dropped an impressive 24 points off of the Suns bench.

Markieff Morris dropped an impressive 24 points off of the Suns bench.

The most telling stat of the game is how the Thunder had given up 101 points by the start of the 4th quarter. And sadly, the Thunder had a 16-point lead in the 3rd at one point. The game ended with a128-122 final that drops the Thunder to 46-16, while lifting the Suns to 36-25.

Russell Westbrook goes for 2 of his 36 points through heavy Suns traffic.

Russell Westbrook goes for 2 of his 36 points through heavy Suns traffic.

It’s not like we were hurting too bad offensively. Russell Westbrook’s 36 points led all scorers, as he seemed to be the only one who could hit any shots at all down the stretch. Kevin Durant dropped 34 points, but was having real trouble getting decent looks towards game’s end. Why? Because unlike the Thunder , the Suns were actually playing defense. Serge Ibaka dropped 18 points, but was having the same troubles as Durant in the 4th.

Kevvin Durant was still good for 34 points, despite the loss.

Kevin Durant was still good for 34 points, despite the loss.

Although I will admit I liked what I saw out of new acquisition Caron Butler. He dropped 14 off of the Thunder bench, doing so via 4-of-8 from downtown, and adding two free throws.

Caron Butler finished with 14 points off of the Thunder bench. His 14 included 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.

Caron Butler finished with 14 points off of the Thunder bench. His 14 included 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.

You can blame poor shot selection down the stretch, as with 2:22 to play, the game was tied at 118-all. Leave it to the Thunder to brick an unnecessary 3-ball, and give up 2 points at the other end. No big deal. 2 points would still tie the game. So they opt instead to go for another unnecessary 3, and give up the 2 points that sealed the deal for the Suns. The deal was sealed because with the way our defense looked like swiss cheese, a 4-point lead with only 45.9 seconds to play proved to be insurmountable.

Markieff's brother, Marcus Morris, goes for 2 of his 15 points over Jeremy Lamb.

Markieff’s brother, Marcus Morris, goes for 2 of his 15 points over Jeremy Lamb. His 15 also came off of the Suns bench.

Though most of the blame needs to be shouldered by the defense as a whole. I don’t see how they expect to win if standing around and watching opposing players drain shot after shot is what “Thunder Basketball”  is turning into. An NBA Finals trip will certainly be a pipe dream if they can’t fix their defensive issues. This is the 3rd out of the last 5 games where the Thunder have given up 110 or more.

Channing Frye backs down Ibaka. Frye finished with 11 points.

Channing Frye backs down Ibaka. Frye finished with 11 points.

Although the next game is against the Lakers this Sunday. This is the team that allowed 142 points from the Clippers (Although to be fair, the Clippers managed 125 against a Thunder defense that was actually playing pretty tight that day.). If the Thunder can’t get it done at Staples Center against a mightily struggling (mainly due to the sheer number of injuries their squad has taken) Lakers team, then they should find themselves very concerned at that point. Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Nick Young are all listed as out, while Jordan Hill is still day-to-day himself. Although it’s becoming obvious that the absences of Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins are affecting this Thunder squad significantly, especially defensively. The Thunder-Lakers match-up is scheduled for a 2:30pm CST tip-off, and will be broadcast via WWLS The Sports Animal, and ABC.

4th Quarter Lakers Collapse Allows Thunder To Avoid Major Upset

4th Quarter Lakers Collapse Allows Thunder To Avoid Major Upset

To be honest, it was perfectly understandable why the Thunder looked sluggish and a bit off for the first 3 quarters. You’re talking about a team with the NBA’s best record taking on a team with the NBA’s 5th worst record. (And whoever thought the Lakers would be considered a “bad team”?) It’s just hard to get yourself geared up for games you’re expected to dominate.

Derek Fisher squares off with Kendall Marshall. Marshall finished with an impressive 14-point, 17-assist double-double, as Fisher ended his night with 12  points off of the Thunder bench.

Former Laker, Derek Fisher squares off with Kendall Marshall. Marshall finished with an impressive 14-point, 17-assist double-double, as Fisher ended his night with 12 points off of the Thunder bench.

It’s weird how, at one point, Thunder-Lakers became a huge rivalry that everyone in OKC really began to focus on, mainly due to the opening round Game 6 heartbreaker that finished the Thunder’s first-ever postseason run of the OKC era. OKC fans really held a grudge on that one, as the “[expletive deleted] the Lakers!” t-shirts and banners appeared in full force the following season.

Kevin Durant drives past Wesley Johnson. Durant's 41 points led all scorers, as he also pulled in 12 boards. Johnson's 19 points tied for leading scorer with Chris Kaman.

Kevin Durant drives past Wesley Johnson. Durant’s 41 points led all scorers, as he also pulled in 12 boards. Johnson’s 19 points tied for leading scorer with Chris Kaman.

What’s even weirder is how this season has unfolded thus far. The Lakers are now so injury-riddled that they had a grand total of two guards available for last night’s game. One of them, Steve Blake, was even playing with essentially one arm due to an elbow injury. It’s actually gotten to the point where a lot of Thunder fans’ animosity towards the Lakers is beginning to turn into pure pity for their situation.

Steve Blake shoots, as Thabo Sefolosha gets to the perimeter too late. Blake finished with 13 points.

Steve Blake shoots, as Thabo Sefolosha gets to the perimeter too late. Blake finished with 13 points.

What’s even weirder is how the Trail Blazers have stepped up their game to the point where Thunder-Blazers is starting to look like the more enticing rivalry. Before the season started, the Thunder had beaten the Blazers in 8 consecutive games. This year’s season-series ended in a 2-2 split. And yet, the most surprising stat to take out of that series is how every team that won had to battle back from a double-digit deficit to claim the victory. If these two teams lock horns again in the playoffs, it could end up being the NBA Playoffs’ most competitive series.

Serge Ibaka narrowly misses blocking Johnson's shot from behind. Ibaka posted 10 points in last night's contest.

Serge Ibaka narrowly misses blocking Johnson’s shot from behind. Ibaka posted 10 points in last night’s contest.

You could tell the Thunder just weren’t really charged up for this one. The Lakers started the game on a 9-2 run, then the Thunder scored 6 unanswered points to pull within 1 (9-8) with 6:51 remaining in the 1st. Then the Lakers hit another run of 13-5 that brought their lead to 9 (22-13) with 2:51 to play in the 1st. The score was a mere 24-17 for the Lakers after 1. Yes, the Thunder managed 17 total points in the 1st quarter.

Shawne Williams pops one over Durant. illiams finished the game with 15 points.

Shawne Williams pops one over Durant. Williams finished the game with 15 points.

The Thunder had managed to pull within 4 (28-24) with 9:27 to play in the half, when the Lakers started yet another run, this one a 9-1 run that established a 12-point Laker lead (37-25) with 7:10 left on the clock. The Thunder then opened up a 14-7 run to pull within 5 (44-39) with 2:34 to go until halftime. Unfortunately for the Thunder, the Lakers were able to bring their lead back to 9 (54-45) at the break.

Kaman over Ibaka as Regie Jackson loks on. Jackson was good for 16 points last night.

Kaman over Ibaka as Reggie Jackson looks on. Kaman posted a 19-point, 12-rebound performance, while Jackson was good for 16 points last night.

It looked like the Thunder were starting to get their act together in the 3rd, with both teams trading buckets throughout the vast majority of it. The Laker lead was still 10 (77-67), when the Blazers pulled off a mini-run of 5-0 to establish what would be their largest lead of the game (82-67) with less than a minute to play in the 3rd. It was around this point that Perry Jones was forced back to the locker room with a limp. He did not return. As promising a scorer as he is from the 5 position, most NBA analysts don’t expect his knees to hold up any longer than 4 years tops. Last night’s injury (which is still unspecified at this point) didn’t help that perception. The Thunder then pulled off their largest run yet, starting as a 5-0 run to end the 3rd, and pulling back within 10 (82-72) to start the 4th quarter.

Ibaka returns the favor on Kaman.

Ibaka answers back on Kaman.

The Lakers opened the 4th with a 3-pointer, and then subsequently disappeared, as the Thunder run that started at the end of the 3rd turned into a 25-5 run that established the Thunder’s first (and largest) lead of the game (92-87) with 5:45 to go in the 4th. The Lakers did not plan on going away quietly, however, as they used a 5-0 run to tie the game at 92-all with 4:53 to play. The Thunder had managed to pull their lead back to 5 (103-98) with 1:33 left in the game. Chris Kaman scored the next 4 points to bring the Lakers to within 1 (103-102). He was even fouled on his last made bucket where he shook Serge Ibaka straight out of his shoes, so he had a chance to hit the “and 1” to tie the game. Now, I’ve never known Scott Brooks to be an Xs and Os guy, but it is definitely beginning to look like where he likes to focus his strategy is on lineup tinkering, and mind games. As Kaman went to the line, Brooks basically pulled the NBA equivalent of “icing the kicker”, initiating a last-minute substitution to give Kaman extra time to think about his potential game-tying free throw. Kaman paced to half-court, and on his way back to the line was looking a bit irked when the substitution was taking longer than he expected. By the time Kaman finally took the free throw, the frustration had clearly taken its toll, as an over-adrenalized Kaman put too much on it, and bounced it off of the back of the rim and out. That forced the Lakers to foul, allowing a former Laker by the name of Derek Fisher 2 free throws to extend the lead to 3 (105-102). Blake was then forced to the line, and subsequently missed his first attempt. Although it looked as though he were intentionally trying to miss the second shot, it dropped, cutting the Thunder lead to 2 (105-103). When another intentional foul resulted in 2 made Kevin Durant free throws, the door on the Lakers’ comeback chances was finally slammed shut with 11.6 on the game clock, and the resulting 107-103 score would end up as the final. This win puts the Thunder at an NBA-best 43-12 for the season, while dropping the Lakers to an incredibly dismal 18-35. This marks the Lakers’ 7th consecutive home loss, which sets a new franchise record.

Durant looking like one of the slam dunk contestants.

Durant looking like one of the slam dunk contestants.

Durant had a 43-point, 12-rebound double-double last night, marking the 8th game this year he’s dropped 40+. That currently leads the NBA. He also now leads 2nd place Carmelo Anthony in terms of points scored by 361 points, marking the first time the leading scorer outpaced #2 by 350 or more in the past 41 seasons. To put that in perspective, the Sonics earned their lone NBA Championship within that span. Reggie Jackson was good for 16 points last night, as Ibaka dropped 10 of his own. Fisher and Jeremy Lamb combined for 23 points off of the Thunder bench (Fisher: 12, Lamb: 11).

Jeremy Lamb lays one over Jordan Hill. Lamb finished with 11 points from the Thunder bench, as Hill ended his night with 10 off of the Laker bench.

Jeremy Lamb lays one over Jordan Hill. Lamb finished with 11 points from the Thunder bench, as Hill ended his night with 10 off of the Lakers bench.

All but two of the dressed players for the Lakers finished in double digits, seeing as there was no one to really sub in. Kaman had a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double, as Wesley Matthews chipped in 19 points of his own. Kendall Marshall played serious facilitator last night with his 17-assist, 14-point double double. Shawne Williams added 15 points, while Blake was able to manage 13 points with mostly one arm. Jordan Hill contributed 10 points off of the Lakers bench.

Fisher going for that celebratory high-five.

Fisher going for that celebratory high-five.

Now we head into NBA All-Star Weekend, and there isn’t another Thunder game on the schedule until they play host to the Heat on Feb. 20th. The first Thunder-Heat contest was one of the more odd ones this season, as the Heat jumped out to an insane 22-4 lead early, only to wind up losing by a score of 112-95. If the Heat can’t get it done in OKC, they’ll wind up losing the season series outright, as this is the final game of the season between these two squads. And the good news is that Russell Westbrook looks like he should be ready to go by tip-off, which is scheduled for 7pm CST. This game will actually be on the front-end of the TNT double-header for a change, and also will be nationally broadcast via ESPN Radio. Local radio coverage will be provided by WWLS The Sports Animal.

Aldridge’s Second-Half Cool-Off Dooms The Trail Blazers As 13-Point Lead Slips Away

Aldridge’s Second-Half Cool-Off Dooms The Trail Blazers As 13-Point Lead Slips Away

I’m not sure what it is with these Blazer games, but I get this feeling that, despite last night’s win, the Blazers are a team the Thunder may want to avoid outright in the playoffs. This is the one team I’ve seen repeatedly this season that the Thunder just can not blow open a double-digit lead against.

This pic has nearly every significant contributor on both teams in frame. Brook Lopez gets a piece of Reggie Jackson's shot as (from left to right) Jeremy Lamb, Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nick Collison, Nicolas Batum, Kevin Durant, and Damien Lillard watch. Durant poted a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double, as Jackson finished with 17 points. Lamb's 19 from the bench made him the game's second-leading scorer behind Durant. Lopez was good for a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double, as Aldridge claimed a 12-point 12-rebound double-double of his own. Batum's 18 points led the Blazers, as Lilliard chipped in 16, and Matthews contributed 11.

This pic has nearly every significant contributor on both teams in frame. Robin Lopez gets a piece of Reggie Jackson’s shot as (from left to right) Jeremy Lamb, Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nick Collison, Nicolas Batum, Kevin Durant, and Damian Lillard watch. Durant posted a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double, as Jackson finished with 17 points. Lamb’s 19 from the bench made him the game’s second-leading scorer behind Durant. Lopez was good for a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double, as Aldridge claimed a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double of his own. Batum’s 18 points led the Blazers, as Lillard chipped in 16, and Matthews contributed 11.

At the 9:19 mark of the 1st quarter, it was 4-all. That’s when a 15-2 run for the Blazers established a 13-point lead (19-6) with 4:03 to play in the 1st. With the Thunder still down 11 (22-11) and 2:06 left in the 1st the Thunder established an 10-3 run that went into the second quarter. The score at the end of 1 was 25-19.

Aldridge pops one over Serge Ibaka. Ibaka claimed 11 boards last night.

Aldridge pops one over Serge Ibaka. Ibaka claimed 11 boards last night.

The run ended with 11:32 to play in the half, bringing the Thunder to within 4 (25-21). With 7:27 on the game clock, and the Blazer lead at 5 (39-34), the Thunder sparked another run, this one a 7-0 run to give them their first lead of the game (41-39) with an even 5:00 until halftime. The Thunder lead was 43-41 with 3:44 in the half, when the Blazers ended the 2nd on a 14-2 run that reestablished a 10-point halftime lead for the Blazers (55-45).

Aldridge with the tough shot over Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

Aldridge with the tough shot over Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

Oddly enough, there were really no large runs in the 3rd by either team. The 3rd just featured the Thunder slowly, but surely chipping away at the Blazer lead, until it was completely eliminated heading into the 4th quarter (80-all).

Lamb with the drive to the hoop.

Lamb with the drive to the hoop.

The 4th quarter was a pretty tight one the whole way. With the score 84-80 in the Blazers favor, and 7:46 to play, the Thunder spark a 7-0 run to give them what was at the time their largest lead of the game (87-84). Then the Blazers subsequently pull off a 5-0 run to take back the lead (89-87) with 5:45 left in the game. The rest of the game was pure “grind-it-out” basketball. Every time the Blazers scored, the Thunder would immediately answer at the other end. And the Thunder’s last answer sealed the deal for them, as a Jeremy Lamb 3-pointer claimed a 1-point Thunder lead (96-95) with 1:38 left. The only other points came off of two Reggie Jackson free throws, and the win was academic. This puts the Thunder at 42-12 for the season, while dropping the Blazers to 36-16. This win also ends the season series in a 2-2 split.

Jackson serves Batum.

Jackson serves Batum.

Kevin Durant does it again with a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double. Jackson added 17 points himself. And although Serge Ibaka didn’t double in points, he claimed 11 boards. Lamb’s 19 points off of the bench was actually good for second-leading scorer to take the floor, which is very impressive for a bench player.

Durant shoots over Batum.

Durant shoots over Batum.

All five Blazers starters hit double-figures in scoring, and two even double-doubled. LaMarcus Aldridge is almost always good for a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds), but he ended his night on 5-for-22 shooting, including a dismal 0-for-9 in the second half. Robin Lopez had a better night with his 17 points and 14 rebounds. Nicolas Batum’s 18 points led the team, while Damian Lillard dropped 16 points, and Wesley Matthews added 11. Even CJ McCollum was good for 15 points off of the Blazer bench.

Collison defends Lillard, but look closely, and you'll see CJ McCollum in the background. He was good for 15 points off of the Blazer bench.

Collison defends Lillard. But look closely, and you’ll see CJ McCollum in the background. He was good for 15 points off of the Blazer bench.

Next the Thunder travel to the famed Staples Center in Los Angeles to square off against the Lakers. The Thunder took the last meeting in OKC by a score of 122-97. This poor Lakers squad has been riddled with injuries all season long, and it’s quite honestly hard for me to see them beating the Thunder when they’re so short-handed. They currently have seven players on the injured list (roughly half of the entire squad): Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Pau Gasol (strained right groin), Jordan Farmar (hamstring soreness), Xavier Henry (right knee bone bruise),  Nick Young (left knee fracture and bone bruise), Jodie Meeks (sprained right ankle),  although Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) is currently listed as probable. The game will be featured as the back-end of TNT’s double-header, with expected tip-off at 9:30 CST. Not near a TV, or on the road? No problem. WWLS The Sports Animal has your game action covered.

Thunder Squander Another 17-Point Lead Due To “Magical” Dunk

Thunder Squander Another 17-Point Lead Due To “Magical” Dunk

I think Aaron Afflalo described it better than anyone: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dunk game-winner with no time on the clock. That’s kind of hard to do even if you try to set it up.”

Aaron Afflalo shoots over Kevin Durant's defense. Durant's 29 points led all scorers, as Afflalo contributed 16 points to the Magic's final score.

Aaron Afflalo shoots over Kevin Durant’s defense. Durant’s 29 points led all scorers, as Afflalo contributed 16 points to the Magic’s final score.

I can’t knock Jeremy Lamb too much here. He was the lone defender on a 3-on-1 fast break. He can’t be expected to hold off Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, and Maurice Harkless all by himself. That’s simply asking too much. Heck, Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha tried to get back as well, they just started back too late to catch up to the fast break, and Tobias was too far ahead of Jackson to be stopped by the time Jackson jumped to meet him.

Tobias Harris shoots over Serge Ibaka as Nikola Vucevic and Reggie Jackson look on. Harris' 18 points led the Magic, while Vucevic added 10. Serge's 26 points made him the second leading scorer overall, whie Jackson finished with 12 points of his own.

Tobias Harris shoots over Serge Ibaka as Nikola Vucevic and Reggie Jackson look on. Harris’ 18 points led the Magic, while Vucevic added 10. Serge’s 26 points made him the second leading scorer overall, while Jackson finished with 12 points of his own.

I don’t know how they blew this game after a 15-2 Thunder run to end the 1st quarter had the Thunder up by 13 after 1 (36-23).

Durant throws it down "nasty-style".

Durant throws it down “nasty-style”.

Then another Thunder run of 8-2 at the top of the 2nd opened the Thunder lead to 17 (47-30) with 9:00 to play in the first half. With the Thunder lead still at 17 (49-32) at the 7:14 mark, the Magic opened up an 8-2 run of their own to pull within 11 (51-40) with an even 5:00 left on the game clock. Despite that, the Thunder were still able to extend their lead to 14 (65-51) at the half.

Air Ibaka.

Air Ibaka.

A Serge Ibaka dunk started the scoring in the 3rd, extending the Thunder lead to 16 (67-51) with 11:12 to play in the 3rd. Then, almost on cue, the Magic open up a 13-5 run to pull within 8 (72-64) with 6:25 left in the period. As a matter of fact, 8 was the Thunder lead heading into the final quarter (88-80).

Reggie rebounds.

Reggie rebounds.

I think here is where it starts getting obvious how the Thunder managed to blow this game. They simply let the Magic hang around too long instead of going for the kill early. I can’t stand watching the Thunder when they hit a big lead sometimes, because they seem to have a tendency to start treating the game like nothing more than a shootaround. They just start jacking up jumper after jumper. The thing is, when they stop falling, the other team gets an opportunity to cut into the lead you’ve built. The second they realize their shootarounds are letting the other team back in the game, they need to take the ball to the rack for an easy bucket, and hold the opponent at bay.

Detriot Tigers pitcher, Justin Verlander and his girlfriend, Kate Upton, were in attendance at last night's contest.

Detroit Tigers pitcher, Justin Verlander and his girlfriend, Kate Upton, were in attendance at last night’s contest.

I’ll put it like this: If Kevin Durant had driven to the bucket on his final play, instead of trying a jumper, the Magic never would have had an opportunity for the rebound and last-second dunk. Their love for jump shooting has a tendency to do them in at times.

Harris skys for the jam with no one to stop him.

Harris skys for the jam with no one to stop him.

The Magic opened the 4th on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 88-all with 9:13 to play. They even managed to stack up a 4-point lead (97-93) with 6:07 remaining. The Thunder were able to reestablish a 3-point lead (102-99) with 1:56 remaining. And those would be the last Thunder points scored, as the Magic scored the game’s last 4 points to win by a score of 103-102. This puts the Magic at 15-37 for the season (although they are 12-14 at home), while dropping the Thunder to 40-12. This also means that this season series ends in a 1-1 split.

Glen Davis hugs Harris after "the dunk heard 'round the world", as Durant reflects on his decision to jump shoot instead of drive to the rack.

Glen Davis hugs Harris after “the dunk heard ’round the world”, as Durant reflects on his decision to jump shoot instead of drive to the rack. Davis finished with 14 points.

Durant’s 29 points led all scorers. Heck, even Ibaka’s 26 points were the second highest of any player on the court last night. But when Jackson is the only other significant contributor with 12 points, it becomes obvious why they lost. 5 players off of the Thunder bench managed a total of 23 points, which they can usually get from just one or two of their bench guys.

Victor Oladipo for the lay-in as Steven Adams tries to defend from the back end.

Victor Oladipo for the lay-in as Steven Adams tries to defend from the back end.

The difference for the Magic was that all but one of their starters hit double figures. Harris’ 18 points led the Magic, but Afflalo dropped 16 of his own, flanked by Glen Davis’ 14, and Nikola Vucevic’s 10. Oladipo provided significant bench scoring for the Magic, finishing with 14 points.

Another angle of Davis' celebratory hug.

Another angle of Davis’ celebratory hug.

Shake it off, Thunder. The Knicks are coming to town this Sunday for a “High Noon Showdown”. They can’t overlook this squad, seeing as they’re itching to return the beating the Thunder gave them on Christmas Day, when Carmelo Anthony’s absence contributed to the Knicks’ 29-point slaughter. And as far as I can tell, Melo will be suiting up to play, unlike Russell Westbrook, who torched the Knicks when he became the 5th player in NBA history to log a Christmas Day triple-double. Will the Knicks be able to take advantage of Westbrook’s absence, as the Thunder did Melo’s on Christmas Day, and end the season series in a 1-1 split? You won’t have to wait too long to find out. Tip-off is scheduled for Noon CST, and will be broadcast via WWLS The Sports Animal, and ABC.

No Joe Johnson Buzzer-Beater Was Salvaging This Game For The Nets

No Joe Johnson Buzzer-Beater Was Salvaging This Game For The Nets
Kevin Durant lays it in as Shaun Livingston, Deron Williams, and Paul Pierce look on. Durant's 26 points led all scorers to take the floor. Livingston's 16 points led the Nets. Pierce ended his night with 10 points, and Williams finished with 14 off of the Nets bench.

Kevin Durant lays it in as Shaun Livingston, Deron Williams, and Paul Pierce look on. Durant’s 26 points led all scorers to take the floor. Livingston’s 16 points led the Nets. Pierce ended his night with 10 points, and Williams finished with 14 off of the Nets bench.

It started off decently enough for the Nets. They even had a 10-9 lead at the 7:41 mark of the 1st quarter. Even though this would be their final lead of the game, the score was still close at the 4:57 mark, when a Shaun Livingston dunk brought the Nets to within 1 (17-16).

Joe Johnson is challenged by Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha posted 14 points last night.

Joe Johnson is challenged by Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha posted 14 points last night.

That was when the bottom fell out for them, as a 28-5 Thunder run that extended well into the 2nd quarter brought the Thunder lead to 24 (45-21) with 6:15 to play in the first half.

Serge Ibaka dunks for 2 of his 25 points.

Serge Ibaka dunks for 2 of his 25 points.

The game was never even close after that. The Thunder even broke out to a 32-point lead (73-41) with 8:03 left in the 3rd quarter. The game ended with a 120-95 final that left no doubt in anyone’s mind who wanted it more. This is the 10th straight win for the Thunder, as they move to 38-10, while dropping the Nets to 20-24.

Reggie Jackson with the reverse lay in. Jackson was also good for 14 points.

Reggie Jackson with the reverse lay in. Jackson was also good for 14 points.

Kevin Durant’s streak of 30+ scoring games snapped at 12, as he scored but 26 points in just over 30 minutes of action. Serge Ibaka was on fire last night, going 12-for-12 and scoring 25 points. Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha dropped 14 points apiece. Meanwhile, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones combined for 23 points off of the Thunder bench (Lamb: 12, Jones: 11).

Perry Jones with the fadeaway. Jones dropped 11 off of the Thunder bench.

Perry Jones with the fadeaway. Jones dropped 11 off of the Thunder bench.

The only two starters to show for the Nets were Livingston (16 points) and Paul Pierce (10 points). Deron Williams, Jason Terry, and Mason Plumlee all did well off of the Nets bench however, combining for 37 points (Williams: 14, Plumlee: 13, Terry: 11).

Jeremy Lamb passes between Jason Terry and Mason Plumlee. Lamb was good for 12 points off of the Thunder bench, while Terry (11 points) and Plumlee (13 points) combined for 24 off of the Nets bench.

Jeremy Lamb passes between Jason Terry and Mason Plumlee. Lamb was good for 12 points off of the Thunder bench, while Terry (11 points) and Plumlee (13 points) combined for 24 off of the Nets bench.

Another back-to-back is in effect, as the Thunder travel to Verizon Center in our nation’s capitol to take on the Wizards. The Thunder narrowly escaped Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 106-105 victory when these two teams met on Nov. 10th, so you know the Wizards are itching to defend their house, and split the season series. Tip-off is scheduled for 6pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.