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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Durant, who managed 15 points all game long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Durant also finished with 30 points.

Kevin Durant also finished with 30 points.

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

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

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

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

Westbrook shoots over Tony Allen as Zach Randolph loks on.

Westbrook shoots over Tony Allen as Zach Randolph looks on.

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

Westbrook looks to squeeze through Courtney Lee and Marc Gasol.

Westbrook looks to squeeze through Courtney Lee and Marc Gasol.

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

Westbrook at the foul line as Durant looks on.

Westbrook at the foul line as Durant looks on.

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

Durant goes past Gasol for a lay-in attempt.

Durant goes past Gasol for a lay-in attempt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Durant takes flight.

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

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

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

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

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

Thunder Shake Slow Start & Use Explosive 3rd Quarter To Drop The Bucks

Thunder Shake Slow Start & Use Explosive 3rd Quarter To Drop The Bucks

If you were tuned in from the beginning of last night’s game, the 1st quarter bore witness to some of the sloppiest basketball seen all season. The score quickly became 4-0 in the Thunder’s favor just over a minute into the game, then you just started seeing brick after brick by both squads. It’s like they were in some type of masonry race where the first brick wall thrown up won the contest. The Thunder shot an abysmal 2-of-10 to start the game, but it paled in comparison to the problems the Bucks were having. They were already coming off of a loss the night before to the Bulls, where they had missed their last 11 shots. Last night, the streak stayed alive for much of the first quarter, as the Bucks missed their first 10 shots to start the game. They finally scored their first basket at the 6:37 mark of the 1st quarter, only to be quickly answered by two Kevin Durant free throws. At the 6:19 mark of the 1st quarter, the score was 6-2 in the Thunder’s favor. Another full minute was shaved off of the clock before two more Durant free throws put the score 8-2 in favor of the Thunder. The Bucks were able to start a mini-run of 4-0 at the 4:49 mark, but a Thabo Sefolosha tip-in started a Thunder run. Serge Ibaka chipped in two free throws at the 3:47 mark to put the score at 12-6, then another full minute ran off of the clock before a Sefolosha dunk at 2:45 put the Thunder up 14-6. Another full minute expired before the Bucks scored again to put the score at 14-8 with 1:20 to play in the opening quarter. The Bucks were able to score one more time before the 1st quarter ended to put the score at 14-10 in favor of the Thunder. This was a very notable start to the game for a number of reasons. The 38 first-half points by the Thunder were the lowest totaled in any half all season. But, on the plus side, the 10 first quarter points allowed were the fewest the team has allowed in any quarter since the relocation to OKC.

Serge Ibaka tries for a steal against Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ibaka's 17-point, 17-rebound double-double marked his 16th of the season. Antetokounmpo finished the game with a 13-point 11-rebound double-double of his won.

Serge Ibaka tries for a steal against Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ibaka’s 17-point, 17-rebound double-double marked his 16th of the season. Antetokounmpo finished the game with a 13-point 11-rebound double-double of his own.

In the 2nd quarter, at the 10:11 mark, the Thunder sparked a 15-4 run that extended the lead to 12 (29-17), with 6:52 to play in the first half. The Bucks immediately responded with a 6-0 run to pull within 6 (29-23). Durant responded with a 3-ball off of a Reggie Jackson assist, only to be met with a Khris Middleton step-back jumper off of a Giannis Antetokounmpo assist. The Thunder then respond with a 5-1 run that extended their lead back to 12 (38-26) with 2:28 left in the half. These would be the last Thunder points of the first half, as the Bucks end the first half with a 9-0 run to pull within 3 by halftime (38-35).

Kevin Durant tries to finish for an "and 1" possibility. Durant ended his night with a 33-point, 10-rebound double-double, as Luke Ridnour contributed 16 points from the Bucks bench.

Kevin Durant tries to finish for an “and 1” possibility. Durant ended his night with a 33-point, 10-rebound double-double, as Luke Ridnour contributed 16 points from the Bucks bench.

At the 10:28 mark of the 3rd, with the score 44-39 in favor of the Thunder, the Bucks sparked a 10-3 run that gave them a 2-point lead (49-47) with 7:47 remaining in the period. But at the 5:26 mark, the Thunder responded with a 30-13 run to end the quarter with the Thunder up 15 (77-62). The 39 points the Thunder scored in the 3rd quarter out-totaled their first half scoring production by an entire point.

Jeremy Lamb tries to finish the finger roll around O.J. Mayo. Lamb finished with 17 points from the Thunder bench, while O.J. Mayo dropped 16 points off of the Thunder bench.

Jeremy Lamb tries to finish the finger roll around O.J. Mayo. Lamb finished with 17 points from the Thunder bench, while O.J. Mayo dropped 16 points off of the Thunder bench.

The run to end the 3rd would extend to a 32-13 run in the 4th, as a Jeremy Lamb finger roll off of a Derek Fisher assist put the Thunder lead at 17 (79-62). It was already running through the back of my mind, and I’m sure it was resonating in your head as well: The Thunder have built another double-digit lead at home, so how will they go about squandering this lead? Make no mistake, the Thunder really seemed like they thought about that possibility themselves. At 10:37 left in the game, with the score 81-64 in the Thunder’s favor, the Bucks sparked a 17-7 run to pull within 7 (88-81) with just 6:51 left to play. Luckily for the home crowd, this marked the point the Thunder stopped playing around. They proceeded to end the game on a 13-4 run, resulting in a 101-85 final that jumps the Thunder’s record to 27-9, while dropping the Bucks to a dismal 7-28.

Thabo Sefolosha skys over Mayo and Ilyasova. Sefolosha was good for 14 points last night.

Thabo Sefolosha skys over Mayo and Ersan Ilyasova. Sefolosha was good for 14 points last night.

Durant and Ibaka earned double-doubles last night. Durant hit 33 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, while Ibaka dropped 17 points and grabbed 17 boards. This double-double is Ibaka’s 16th of the season, which is significant because he logged 15 double-doubles total last season. Durant scored 30+ for the 20th time this season, which leads the NBA.  Sefolosha scored 14 for the evening, and Lamb and Fisher combined for 27 bench points (Lamb: 17, Fisher: 10).

Derek Fisher shoots over Ersan Ilyasova. Fisher finished the game with 10 points from the Thunder bench.

Derek Fisher shoots over Ilyasova. Fisher finished the game with 10 points from the Thunder bench.

Antetokounmpo was the double-double man for the Bucks (13 points, 11 rebounds), and Brandon Knight dropped 13 points of his own. But the lead scorers for the Bucks combined for 38 points from off of the bench, as O.J. Mayo and Luke Ridnour put down 16 points apiece.

Brandon Knight finishes at the rim as Sefolosha and Ibaka look on. Knight finished the game with 13 points.

Brandon Knight finishes at the rim as Sefolosha and Ibaka look on. Knight finished the game with 13 points.

To be honest, the Thunder were lucky that their slow start was met by an even-slower Bucks start. They need to figure out what to do to have more “3rd quarters” against their opponents. They’ll have a couple of days to battle plan before they head to Fed Ex Forum to take on the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday night. The first contest at Fed Ex Forum on Dec. 11th, 2013 resulted in a 116-100 Thunder victory, as the Thunder took advantage of the absence of Marc Gasol. They will get the opportunity to do so again, as Gasol is out indefinitely with a left MCL sprain. Although the Grizzlies will now once again be able to take advantage of the Russell Westbrook knee injury that allowed them to end the Thunder’s season last year. Other injured players include the Grizzlies’ Quincy Pondexter,  who is out indefinitely with a tarsal navicular stress fracture in his right foot, and the Grizzlies’ Tony Allen, suffering from a sprained left wrist that has him listed as day-to-day. This contest will air this Tuesday at 7pm CST, and will be brought to you via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.