The run-up to Heat Week II is now complete, as the Thunder have vanquished four inferior opponents in a row and seven of their last eight. This gives the Thunder a 7-1 record in the month of March, bolstering their record at an ideal time as the Trail Blazers and Nuggets lay chase. It is a good thing too, because the Heat recently vanquished the Lakers (infamously leading to the whole Kobe post-game shoot-around incident), the Thunder-killing Grizzlies by 33, and they just destroyed the Spurs by 30. I do like the Thunder's chances though, especially if they can get out early, like they did against the Cavaliers and Wizards.
I like how a huge man like Kendrick Perkins can be described as doing "all the little things." The biggest impact I think we'll see though is not in what shows up in Perkins' own box score, but in everybody else's.
"We didn't have to leave our men on the wings to go help him in the post on the defensive end. We could stay home on 3-point shooters. That's one thing we had a problem with, (opponent) 3-point shooting. He made it easier for us by just holding his man up and forcing them into Serge (Ibaka) for the blocks." - Kevin Durant on Perkins' influence
Young notices a couple of the little things that were evident in the game. Most particularly, Westbrook has been playing with a ton of confidence guarding the perimeter, snagging those cross-court passes almost every game. In one sequence, he took it full force at John Wall, and Wall wanted no part of it.
The SB Nation's Wizards blog captures a few choice quotes from coach Flip Saunders on their enigmatic big man, JaVale McGee. I imagine that they probably view him in a similar vein as the Sacramento Kings view DeMarcus Cousins - supremely talented, but not quite straightened out yet. There is hope though; you never know when the big man finally "gets it," and morphs into a force of destruction like LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph.
Mayberry's post-game nuggets. He provides some good insights as to how Kendrick Perkins' debut went. Perk logged 20 minutes of action, and it was probably good that it was against the Wizards because there was little resistance with which to contend.
More links after the jump.
If you were watching the game mid-way through the 3rd, you probably saw the sequence involving Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant unfold. I'll try to have the video up later, but in the meantime here are some great photos of the moment. Even then, they don't truly capture the stretch Durant makes to snag the pass and throw it down.
Here is a nice bit of mutual admiration between Durant and the fans of Cleveland, even after the Thunder laid waste to their team. Players can't simply make themselves more likable, but I think we're seeing with Durant that his demeanor goes a long way toward winning fans, even in "hostile" cities.
Heat center Zydrunas Ilgauskas apparently has an infection in his foot and missed his second consecutive game on Monday. If he does not play on Wednesday, I do wonder if it neutralizes Perkins' effect somewhat, since the Heat would become even smaller and faster.
Here is a great grab by DT's Royce Young, featuring some sweet post moves by Serge Ibaka. He isn't quite Hakeem Olajuwon yet, and he's going against JaVale McGee who has a tendency to fall for pump fakes, but even so, his body control is exceptional. Ibaka's offensive play against the Heat could be critical, since Dwyane Wade and LeBron James will have to be staying at home on defense. It will open up the middle for some good opportunities for Air Congo.