Preview & Chat: The Oklahoma City Thunder

Kurt —  March 24, 2009
Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder

strong>Records: Lakers 55-14 (1st in the West) Thunder 20-50 (12th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.6 (1st in league) Thunder 103.4 (28th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (6th in league) Thunder 109.1 (20th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Thunder Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic

Lakers Coming In: Are the playoffs here yet? Are the playoffs here yet? Are the playoffs here yet? Are the playoffs here yet? Are the playoffs here yet? Are the playoffs here yet? Are the playoffs here yet? Are the playoffs here yet?

I know the Lakers could use the last dozen games to make sure the bench is right again, get Bynum back, and build momentum, but I’m about as patient as Lisa and Bart Simpson in the back seat of a car.

The Thunder Coming In: If you were going to have a really crappy year, 2007 was the time to do it. That year the then Sonics (now Thunder) drafted Kevin Durant with the #2 pick overall. Last year they got Westbrook at #4. I bring this up because I feel for the Kings and the Wizards and OKC this year — Blake Griffin is a legit top pick, but after that the drop-off is huge and whoever drafts second needs to pray Ricky Rubio decides to come over this year.

The Thunder have been winning their way out of the highest of picks recently, having gone 5-5 in their last 10 games — and half of those were without Durant, who was injured. Credit this year for the Thunder doing this year what last year’s Sonics did not — just turn the thing over to the kids. Let Green and Westbrook and Durant learn the hard way, but get burn and learn. As evidenced by recent games, they are learning.

Durant is back and deserves props for learning how to adapt to being “the man” on an NBA team. And that is an adjustment. Look at O.J. Mayo, who started out fast and was a leading rookie of the year guy. Not lately, not for a month or more. Maybe part of it is conditioning, you play so many more games in the NBA than college. But part is that defenses adjust, and these are smarter defenses with more active defenders than Mayo or any rookie has ever faced. And they are focused on him. There is an adjustment period. Durant this year has figured it out, and it’s another step in his evolution.

What I love about Durant on offense is his versatility. Name another NBA player who could be as good as the ball handler or setting the pick in the P&R? He can shoot the J, post up or attack the rim off the dribble, and he is running on the break well. He is a complete player. And his line in the last meeting with the Lakers: 32 points, 11-20 from the field, 2-4 from 3, 8-9 from the line, 10 boards, 6 assists, 3 steals.

Keys To The Game: The Thunder will not be a pushover, this is a team that has beaten the Spurs and Mavericks this month already. And if you remember the last meeting between these two last month, it was one of those games where the Lakers starters built a big lead and the bench gave it all back. Phil left everyone in there to figure it out. The game stayed close for a few until Kobe returned — 5 of 6 from the floor in the fourth, got to the line 7 times, was a +13 for the quarter. Game over.

One key tonight will be for the bench to extend the lead rather than give it back. The key is no turnovers and not chucking up threes. OKC came back on the bench because the Lakers were doing those things, allowing the Thunder’s athletes to get out and run. The Lakers need a more half-court game.

The Lakers need to crash the boards and not give up second chance points either. Odom and Gasol, this is on you.

The good news is that the one position the Thunder do not defend well is the two guard. The Lakers should not need Kobe to go Mamba, but if it is needed this is a team that will have a hard time slowing him.

Where you can watch: 5 pm start out West on KCAL 9 and online at your favorite locations.

Kurt

Posts

110 responses to Preview & Chat: The Oklahoma City Thunder

  1. Aren’t the Thunder defending the two guard better now that they have Thabo?

  2. Gerrit – I’d agree with you…Thabo is a prototype for the type of long defender Kobe has trouble with

  3. Long defenders will give Kobe trouble when he settles for what they want him to shoot: jumpers, difficult long jumpers.

    The LA D-Fenders sign Mickael Gelabale. Its not ground-breaking. Just putting it out there.

    “Name another NBA player who could be as good as the ball handler or setting the pick in the P&R?” Lebron James, lol. I couldn’t name another so I guess you can attribute that to Durant’s greatness.

  4. A quick statistical note on Thabo’s defense. Based off his numbers at 82games.com, shooting guard is his worst position on offense and defense. When he’s playing SG, his PER is 11.9 and his PER against is 21.3 for a net differential of -9.4. That’s pretty bad. Compare that to his SF PER of 18.7 and PER against of 13.2 for a differential of +5.5. Even at PF his numbers are better than they are at SG. Does this mean he’s not a good defender? No, but it does imply that SG’s (who may be smaller, faster, or just better offensive players than SF’s as a group) give him much more problems than the SF’s.

  5. 1. I was looking at the season numbers, plus what Kobe did to them, and Thabo, last game.

  6. Kyle Weaver seems to play well against us for some reason. Stu usually says the guy can’t shoot and then he is raining three’s upon us.

  7. #3

    I remember Gelabale having a decent game against the Lakers a few years ago. He had a major knee injury, ya? Great last name, so much fun to say.

    Hopefully the great play from our bench carries over into tonights game, would be nice to get some rest early in this road trip. Keep the strong OKC crowd out of it early and it should be an easy win.

  8. Thabo has the potential to be great defender, but he’s not there, yet. It takes more than being a long defender to really give Kobe problems.

    The guys that provide issues for Kobe are long defenders who study the game and know all the tricks of the trade:

    Prince
    Bowen (before he lost 8 steps)
    Posey
    Battier (well…formerly)

    Thabo is still young – and I think he will be a terrific defender soon enough, but he’s not going to stop Kobe at this stage in his career.

  9. Returning to commments from the previous post: Chad Ford compares Gonzaga’s Matt Boulding with… Deron Williams. Boulding seems like he might be a solid pro (good head on his shoulders, leader, hits the three, runs the team well) and I’d be happy to have the Lakers draft him but seems a little bit of a strech to compare him to Williams.

  10. 8. Chris, I agree with you. Saying Thabo is long is like saying any other player in the NBA has potential, or else they wouldn’t be in the NBA. The real difference makers who can somewhat contain Kobe are the ones who are saavy and experienced. But ultimately it’s Kobe who decides whether he’s going to be contained.

  11. to say the bench needs to have another strong game, is an understatement.
    the bench REALLY needs to have another strong game!!!
    just like our economy needs to see the stock market continue the up-trend, and real estate needs another month of positive sales numbers… it’s all the same thing.
    it’s about belief, in itself.
    it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.
    it is doable, and a game tonight against a team like the Thunder is the perfect time/place for them to come out focused, aggressive, play smart ball, take care of the ball, hustle for the loose balls, no turnovers.
    all that, and a little good fortune and it begins to turn around.
    same goes for the economy.

  12. Farmar is a gym rat and (having run two very good clubs) has a good bball IQ. What I wonder about sometimes is his ego. When your ego gets in the way of the current situation on the floor you better be a Kobe Bryant, or you are going to have things stuffed down your throat.

  13. #11:
    Very interesting, thanks for the link. And it makes sense that being friends promotes success in a team sport like basketball.

  14. Just wanted to throw this out there: Do you guys think Ariza is capable of limiting Kobe to the same level as Bowen, Battier, Prince, etc.?

  15. #15

    Not yet, but I think he’d definitely be useful in a practice situation mimicking those type of players. Trevor has the skills to be one of the best defenders in the league, but I don’t think he’s there yet.

  16. There are times when Ariza shows flashes at being a shutdown defender (usually when he’s being matched up against a smaller PG and can use his length to compensate for his lack of quickness relative to his man), but i think he gambles too much for the steal and is often left flat-footed against bigger opponents.

  17. #15 – This is a great question and illustrates my point about Thabo:

    A few years ago, when Ariza was with Orlando, I remember him guarding Kobe, and giving him some difficulty in the 3rd Q – but in the fourth quarter, Kobe was able to go at him (if I’m remembering correctly).

    Guys who are as good (and as well studied) as Kobe can size up a defender during the course of a game and figure out the things the defender is trying to do and come up with counters (that’s why Kobe is so good in the 4th Q).

    It takes an elite defender with a high bball IQ, who can come up with counters to counters during the course of the game to contain Kobe (of course, it helps if that defender can get away with hacking and shoving, too, like Posey in the Finals last year).

    Do you remember in the Denver series last year when in Game 1, in the 4th Quarter, it seemed like Kobe was forcing all kind of ridiculous shots against K-Mart when the Lakers were up big? This is what was really happening:

    Kobe realized that K-Mart was going to be guarding him a lot during the series, and K-Mart was a player who he was no familiar with…SO, he realized he was up big, so he used the 4th Q to experiment on offense and see what worked, so he could use it for the rest of the series – contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t gunning for stats.

  18. I think back to Ariza’s late game steals against LeBron. He is clearly athletic and can use his reach and quickness to disrupt players. I think that going against Kobe will help Ariza more then Kobe. Hopefully Ariza can learn some tricks on how to defend highly skilled players.

  19. I think Ariza is a very good gamble defender. He gets alot of steals, knocks the ball away, etc. But his one on one defense straight up leaves a little to be desired so far, but he is young and I am sure will improve in that department.

  20. To piggy back on what Chris said in #18, Kobe has always found ways to dissect individual defenders once he gets enough reps against that guy. I remember epic battles with Doug Christie, Bruce Bowen, Ruben Patterson, etc, etc. And over the years as he saw those players more often, he laid waste to them the way I do an In-N-Out cheeseburger (animal style). And while he has not quite reached that level yet with guys like Pierce or Posey or Battier, I do think we’ll see him get more and more efficient against those players as well.

  21. RE#21

    I forgot about Pierce! Pierce actually defends Kobe really well – part of the issue in the Boston series is Kobe was facing Pierce AND Posey.

    I actually think he’s getting pretty close to having Battier figured out (he destroyed Battier the last time they played Houston).

  22. Kobe only has so-called trouble with long defenders when he is determined to pump fake fadeaway on them. When he’s not settling and driving as much as shooting, he owns them. Guys with long arms that stay down on pump fakes do better, because their arms are long enough to still disrupt the pump fakes. But when Kobe makes it a point, no one in the NBA can defend him.

    I notice Kobe seems to have the left drive available a lot this year, but hasn’t taken advantage much. I wonder if this is by design (I wouldn’t put it past him), or is does he feel he can’t explode left?

  23. *long enough to disrupt the shot (not pump fakes).

  24. “Where you can watch: 5 pm start out West on KCAL 9 and online at your favorite locations.”

    What are your favorite sites to watch online?

    Thank you :D

  25. With regards to effectively defending Kobe, don’t forget to add the Artest Clause: Don’t make it personal ;)

  26. Looking at the Thunder’s young roster, I think they should run the triangle.

    Durant could use that excellent spacing to create so much havoc. Really, is there a more ideal pinch post player than Durant? They can run the offense through Jeff Green, a great passer, or Kristic, also a highly skilled post player. Add in Westbrook and his ability to get to the rim, and that’s a tough match up, much tougher than a pick and roll offense.

    Which always makes me wonder, why don’t more teams run the triangle?

  27. Are the Lakers really the only team that runs the triangle?

  28. #29,

    I need some help on this one, but I was under the impression Phil Jackson was the only NBA coach to use the Triangle.

  29. Yeah, Kurt needs to do a post on this triangle that the Lakers run and do any other teams run it?

  30. beyondblue – my guess would be because the Phil Jackson / Tex winter coaching tree is still concentrated on the lakers. Maybe when Rambis, Shaw, etc get their own head coaching gigs will we see more triangle teams?

  31. 30-I remember the Mavs ran it when Cleamons was their coach…to much less success. I do agree with your point, I think OKC running the tri would give great space to Durant, but taking it one step further, it probably would free up more space for a number of great wing players, i.e. LBJ, Wade, Melo, etc.

  32. anyone else think that that NBALP feed is having some audio issues? You can’t hear anything that’s going on the court – only the announcers…

  33. 35

    I’m having the same problem.

  34. Strong start. OKC’s offense is completely stagnant aside from Green’s effort play against Odom.

  35. Good start to the game. Hopefully they keep it up.

    If Lebron ever learned some post moves he would be awesome in the triangle.

  36. i’m watching the game online at http://www.taghoops.com/2009/01/game1.html for any of those who can’t watch from the other sites

    so far the lakers are playing pretty good D! that’s nice to see

  37. kwame.a

    I totally agree. I thought of OKC because you always here the Triangle “does not need a true point”, which made think of Westbrook. Add that to the unselfishness of Green, I think of them as having the personnel for the Triangle.

    I remember watching Green at Georgetown. Running the Princeton offense, he was a devastating passer out of the high post. I don’t think OKC uses his skills enough, and especially since Pau has joined the Lakers, it has been amazing to watch a good passers in the Triangle.

  38. kobe’s attacking the paint more too.

  39. @35, yeah, this sucks, i want to hear shoes squeaking

  40. 38

    I think he would need to improve his triple-threat moves and his midrange jumper as well.

  41. The OKC broadcast station obviously haven’t learned to adjust the volume yet. The analysts are too loud, and I can’t hear dribbling, whistles or shots, and I can barely hear the squeaks from the sneakers. Thinking about watching this on mute.

  42. 35, 36, 31….

    Haha. I posted before I read. Me too….

  43. Although Lebron would be awesome in pretty much any system;)

  44. Lebron already is awesome. I was just saying that the triangle would look pretty good running through Lebron on the wing and in the post.

  45. Pau on his way to another triple-double? 8-3-4 right now…

  46. That was one of the more solid first quarters we’ve seen in a while. Will be interesting to see how the second unit maintains the lead as the game goes on.

  47. 48- WIth Garnett having been out for awhile and Duncan injured and struggling somewhat as well, is Pau 1st team All-NBA?

    Wade
    Kobe
    LBJ
    Pau
    Howard

    I know it leaves Paul out, but if they only pick 2 guards I feel Paul is unfortunately the odd man out. Aside from LBJ is there another forward playing as well as Pau has this year?

  48. kwame: What about Dirk?

  49. hey guys, remember when Chucky Atkins was our starting PG? good times!!!

  50. 49

    I would still go with Timmay because of his impact defensively and on the glass, but you can make a strong case for Gasol. This isn’t exactly a banner year for All-NBA forwards (outside of that guy in Cleveland).

  51. kwame,

    Dirk would be a better selection. Still, I don’t think the coaches will take Duncan off.

    First team: Wade, Kobe, LeBron, Duncan, Howard.

    Second team: Paul, Roy, Nowitzki, Garnett, Yao.

    Third team: Parker, Harris, Durant, Pau, Shaq.

    Jefferson would go in over Shaq, but he’s been injured too much. I don’t know who to take out for Williams. Parker and Harris have been consistently good all year.

  52. Robert Swift = Side Show Bob?

  53. No way – varejao is side show bob. Hands down

  54. beautiful play from Lamar just now. Mbenga was fronted in the post, with Krstic cheating off him to cover Mbenga’s back. Lamar cut to the free throw line, got a pass, then lobbed it over the top to Mbenga. Beautiful play.

  55. My All-NBA teams would be:

    Wade
    Kobe
    LeBron
    Duncan
    Howard

    Paul
    Roy
    Dirk
    Pau
    Yao

    Parker
    D Williams
    Pierce
    KG
    Shaq

  56. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Unbelievable three second call there on DJ.

  57. I don’t take Duncan off first team. I think he’s only played 4 less games than Pau, and he hasn’t really struggled this year.

  58. are the all-NBA teams position-specific? for example, will they only name true PGs to the 1 spot?

  59. 56. That was the fastest 3 second call ever. Usually you have to be in the paint or at least 5 seconds before they call that.

  60. Joel-Your list looks about right (and what it probably will end up being), although I feel that Pau has an argument to be on the first team (over TD) and Pierce to be on second team (over Dirk)

  61. 57-Im not positive, but I think it is just 2 guards, 2 forwards and 1 center.

  62. 58

    It’s just like the ASG starting 5: 2 guards, 2 forwards, and a center.

    Kobe was a bit too determined to take the jumper over Sefalosha the last couple possessions. That last one was an airball waiting to happen.

  63. wiseolgoat,

    Two guards, two forwards, one center for each team. All-Defense and All-Rookie are chosen without respect for position though.

  64. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    58. Seriously, that three second call was made just as DJ was releasing the shot.

    I wonder if Kobe got hit on the arm on both of those jumpers.

  65. we should run more plays for Lamar. He’s on fire right now.

  66. Odom isn’t even missing FTs right now.

  67. to be fair, the only one not on fire is Kobe.

    of course, as i say this, kobe cans a 3!

  68. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    I swear, DJ defends the rim as well as any backup center from The Congo in the league :))

  69. 27. Regarding the triangle: I think the main reason teams don’t run it is this is a serious, multi-year commitment. As we have seen, it takes players a year or so in the system to really know it, and you need to get high IQ players to run it. It is going to take you a few years to build that, even if you have a few quality players to start with.

    Some players — Kobe, LeBron, Duncan, Wade, maybe Durant, and a handful of others — will work in whatever system you want. They are that good. The key is the role players you get, you have to get ones that fit your system. West was great at this as a GM, Mitch has been good.

  70. BCR,

    There is NO WAY Jefferson would make any team this year, nevermind over Pau.

  71. wondahbap,

    I know, hence why I said I didn’t put him over Shaq because he’s been injured for far too long.

    Given that the Celtics will finish with a worse record than us and Garnett’s numbers are down for the year, Pau might squeak past him into the second team though.

  72. wow – that failed pau gasol one man fastbreak was living proof that the lakers are just messing around at both ends of the court at this point.

  73. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Looks like we’re going to see a lot of DJ and Powell, if that really was the 5th foul on Lamar. I’m watching online, and the former Sonic announcers didn’t say whether or not that was a foul or a jump ball. Lamar is letting the inconsistent officiating get to him.

  74. the dude – that was clearly a foul. not sure why Lamar went for the tie-up there when it was clear durant had the ball.

    Fish is eating westbrook’s lunch at both ends of the court

  75. would it be bad to ask kobe to stop shooting so much?

    He’s on my fantasy playoff team… 5 of 17 sure is not good for my fg%

  76. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    That was awesome

  77. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Come on Pau, secure the ball. Powell is having one of his best games as a Laker.

  78. that was the worst break ever at the end of the quarter…

  79. An uncharacteristic five turnovers for Pau, although he’s sniffing at a triple-double (12 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists).

  80. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Wow. Hilariously bad drive and shot by Sasha. If this were a five-point game, it would have been merely bad.

  81. hey Dude i bet we’re the only ones on still wasting our time watching this game!

  82. these road games are making us look good again. 7-0 within reach? Go LAKERS!

  83. i want to see if they put morrison in this garbage time

  84. Don’t yu just love these NBA Playoffs commercials showing LeBron travel his way to a dunk against the Celtics. it’s so blatant, but yet they don’t even care that is one of the greatest concerns of the critics of the NBA (and/or LBJ). Slo-mo was not the way to promote that one.

  85. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    83. There are a few others I think :D
    DJ has been awarded two steals by the former Sonic statistician when all he did was pick up the ball after a different Laker poked it away. Unique stats-keeping here in the state north of Texas. The statistician also doesn’t automatically award a turnover on a fumbled pass to the passer.

  86. Wow, this is an ugly performance by our garbage time crew.

  87. *that it’s one of the greatest concerns of NBA critics.

  88. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Worst jump hook ever by DJ. hahaha

  89. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    And there’s the second highlight dunk of the night by Shannon.

  90. Is it just me or are the Lakers running the handoff/high screen and cut/alley-oop (whatever you want to call it) a lot lately in the last few games – you know, the one between Walton/Gasol and Farmar usually? They already did it once this game and they just ran it for Shannon Brown too.

  91. Any news of whether Sheed or Rip are supposed to be back thursday?

  92. Shaww,

    Hamilton might be back, but Wallace is definitely out. So Pau against Kwame and Maxiell for the night.

  93. Shannon Brown’s two highlight dunks of the night. (my fav is the second one)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GrMu0rZEgc

  94. Ahhh, Kwame… He’s just like Pau. oh wait.

  95. Regarding the point on committing your personnel to the triangle system overtime, I agree. But if you look at the Lakers personnel from 2 years ago, the 2006 season and the current roster you will see that only 6 players (Farmar, Kobe, Sasha, Luke, Odom and Bynum) have remained and of course Fish came back from his GS/UTA adventure.

    Since then players have come and gone. And now we have Shannon, Morrison, Ariza, Pau (fantastic in the triangle), DJ and Powell who have not been in the system for a long time. That is half of the team with less than year and a half experience in the triangle max.

    Also some of our guys (Farmar and Sasha) do not really want to play the triangle, especially Farmar. His game is suited for transition a la Kidd and Baron Davis (long way to go to get there, but still)

    I am wondering if Lakers are slowly (by no means completely) shifting away from the triangle and trying out some new things to accommodate the skills of their personnel

  96. Relating to a recent discussion about Kobe taking more jumpers this year, in part because of how he was defended in last year’s finals, I noticed recently that on the rare occasion that he does drive to the hole he gets defended really well or gets his shot blocked. I looked up ‘blocks allowed’ from his game log and from the last 10 games or so, against decent teams he’s averaging about 2-3 blocks allowed per game. This sure does seem like a lot more than usual, because usually you just see KB being deceptive to get around defenders or exploding past / jumping over them. It could just be because of the small sample size. But maybe he’s lost some explosiveness or is just not picking his angles well. The former would be disturbing. I hope this won’t be an issue come playoff time.

  97. Let me first of all admit that my attention was wandering for a lot of the game. I was half asleep anyway and the game was not exciting enough to keep me awake. That said, lasting impressions are:

    1. Durant is good. I hope he doesn’t end up like Garnett did, buried in a <0.5 team for the best part of his career. The rest of the Thunder owes him some success.

    2. Pau Gasol’s one-man fast break would have been so much more awesome if he’d made that lay-up. Dunk it Pau! Dunk it!

    3. Shannon Brown can still jump. We need to get him in the slam-dunk contest for next year. As an extra plus he’s built like a rottweiler, solid, quick muscle, and he’s aggressive. Good combination.

    4. Morrison didn’t seem comfortable on the court. He moved stiffly, and there was no flow to his game. Maybe it’s nerves, or maybe he’s still trying to figure out his place on the team and what he’s supposed to be doing out there. Also, I agree with the comments above re: our garbage crew, that they could have done a lot better. Whether it is a lack of on-court experience or anything else, they don’t seem to improve at the same rate as our bench has.

    5. I never thought I’d hear the words “Kobe Bryant” and “safety blanket” in the same sentence.

  98. PG play: 7 Assists 0 Turns

  99. On thing we tend to forget, because Kobe has played with it so long – Kobe’s injured finger(s) on his shooting hand. This may be one reason for both the crossover reduction issue and the blocked shots at the rim – because he does not have as much flexibility to control the ball. Remember, Kobe has smaller hands than Jordan, Magic, or Lebron, and his control has to be much more learned and practiced because of this.

  100. 100. I tend to get really excited and anticipatory for Adam Morrison and the garbage crew. This compounds my disappointment with the bench unit when they fail to maintain or extend leads. Maybe it’s the lasting aura of the #3 pick, or the highlight potential of Shannon B. I get more giddy when Morrison is in a position to make a shot than Kobe or LO. But we know how that usually ends up.

    It’s hard to pinpoint why Morrison plays in such lackluster fashion. His injuries may have slowed him down, but the devil’s advocate in me says maybe he was always this slow, maybe he got by in college with length and the opponent’s lack of size. At this rate of playing time, though, I don’t see Morrison developing much.

    102. I don’t think the injured finger has much if any effect on Kobe any more. As far as I know scar tissue has developed. He’s played like himself with it and has had spectacular finishes with it as well as precise shooting. He’s also had his small hands his entire career (and, uh, life) so I don’t think that explains the recent denials at the rim either.

  101. Maybe I had too much to drink… but that espn Wednesday dunk contest video made me really angry. Never has espn tried so hard to replace useful sports analysis with entertaining tv personalities. They failed miserably. That video is so awful, I’d rather never see the dunks than have to listen to those clowns give their thoughts on them.

  102. 102-That’s a great point. His injury really has become a non-story, whereas some people playing with a common cold is a major story. Another reason I feel his ‘blocks against’ stat has been higher this year (and maybe this is pure homerism) is that he has gotten less calls around the hole. I think a good chunk of the shots of his that were ‘blocked’ around the hole, were actually plays where he was fouled.

  103. Satisfying win last night, the kind of win he should be having against these kinds of teams.

    Two troubling trends: Kobe continues his poor shooting and “volume” scoring. And Sasha continues to slump. It’s not just that Sasha misses open shots, it’s that he forces things, trying to create on his own when he should be moving the ball around. He’s looking more like a black hole than a machine right now because once he gets the ball no teammate touches it again that possession.

  104. I didn’t see too much of the game, but from the pieces that I did catch I had a couple of thoughts. First is that Kobe was taking too many jumpers. But I thought, towards the end when he was still taking them, that he was shooting jumpers to try and find his range and rhythm rather than *settling* per se. We were up big and I got the feeling that he thought his misses would not impact the greater goal (winning).

    #106, I would not say that Sasha is slumping, but I would say that he continues his great inconsistency. In four of the last 5 games (prior to OKC) Sasha shot 2-3, 4-4, 2-4, and 2-3 (in the other game he was 1-6). In four of the five games prior to the set I just mentioned, he was 1-4, 1-3, 3-7, and 2-6 (in the other game he was 5-9). Last night he was 1-6. Last season, Sasha was (overall) a consistent player shooting a great percentage from 3 and providing good defense on most opponents. This year he is far from that, and swings wildly from good game to bad or sets of good games to sets of bad ones. One other point- Earlier this year I mentioned that Sasha is one player, based off his skill, who’s primary shots should be taken from 3 point territory (I made that point in reference to Ariza and how most his shots should *not* be 3 point shots, but rather shots at the basket off slashes and backside cuts). I bring this up because last night, Sasha shot six times and and only one of them was from behind the 3 point line. Now, like I said I didn’t see a lot of the game, but this implies to me that he was not playing to his strengths. That he was taking shots off the dribble or trying to attack the basket. Maybe someone who watched the entire game could verify that this was actually the case. But if it was, he needs to not do that as much and shoot more spot up jumpers rather than trying to create *better* shots for himself by creating off the dribble, because for him those aren’t better shots, they’re worse.

  105. re: Sasha – Perhaps after his breakout season last year, other defenses have now adjusted to taking way the spot-up shooting aspect of his game. I thought the Thunder did a good job closing out and taking away the 3 after it was kicked out to him, leaving him no choice but to take the ball to the hole. The first time they did that he had a nice driving layup, but subsequent forays to the hoop were progressively more and more out of control.

  106. On second note, I believe that Hamilton and Wallace are both not expected to play tomorrow. So Detroit’s starting lineup will be Stuckey-Afflalo-Prince-McDyess-Brown.

    If there’s anything to worry about, it’s McDyess. He’s been playing out of his mind this month (14.2 pts, 12.7 rebs), so Odom and Gasol have to control the glass. Pau also needs to dominate Kwame so I can get the horror story of him playing well against us at Staples Center out of my head.

  107. Wow, huge win for Orlando. Still think it’s an uphill proposition for them to beat Boston even with home court, but it’s going to be an interesting rest of the season.