You feel that? That warm tingly feeling that is reverberating in your soul? That feeling comes from watching the Lakers lose. I've had it for their last five games (thanks, Denver! thanks Portland!) but none as strong as last night. I still don't think the Thunder can beat the Lakers in the playoffs yet; there are still lessons to learn. But last night, that was...nice.
Two games left in the season, and still things to play for...
Lakers recap coming later today
I think what was most impressive about Kevin Durant's offense was that he got 31 off of only 15 shots, three of which were 3-pointers. What that told me was that Durant was committed to not falling into the same trappings that marginalizes his offensive game, and he did it against his personal nemesis, Ron Artest. Great scorers learn how to score against their fiercest opponents, and that is what Durant did last night.
Young points out how the Thunder responded to the Lakers' challenges in the second half. Those moments were huge. OKC had led much of the first half but the Lakers kept it close. When LA finally took a bit of a lead, the Thunder could have reverted to their bad habits. Instead, they re-focused and went on big runs to reclaim the lead.
SB Nation's great Laker blog comments on the game here. I think this commentary is probably the best validation, because he acknowledges that last night wasn't a fluke game. The Lakers were trying to shake off a losing slump, played really well offensively, and still collapsed in the final three minutes.
What a difference a year makes. I think we've seen a great deal of maturation in the Thunder in these past few months, including the knowledge that they have the talent to compete against anyone, as well as the dangers of complacency.
I think the easy answer is, "yes." More importantly though, it is how Kendrick Perkins has blended into the tight-knit Thunder team. My best assessment, having no inside knowledge, is that Perkins assumed the role of defensive leader, and everybody wants to follow him.
More links after the jump.
I'm certainly not asking you to sympathize with Derek Fisher and the Lakers, but I thought this quote of his after the game sums up the NBA experience as good as anything:
"That's why grown men cry when you finally win that championship, it's because you remember when you lost five games in a row and things looked really bad."
People are starting to get excited for the playoffs, even though they might not have a true "home team." Please NBA, don't let this feeling go away.
I'm on board with this one. One of the reasons why I personally cannot tolerate Major League Baseball anymore is because of its glacial pace that seems to be getting worse. Basketball is all about speed, so to disrupt the best thing about it is a blow to the game's fundamental appeal.
Buried at the end of this story is a good perspective on what it means to have confidence in the NBA. It is practically impossible to maintain an hedge hell-bent on beating everyone over 100 games in a season, and the challenge for championship contenders is to figure out how to get it back at the right moment.
Ziller takes a look at how the overall playoffs are shaping up. There won't be any surprise entrants, but teams are still fighting for position.
In which they compare the Hornets to a band who once wrote a song with this title: "The History of Blank Pages and the Conscious Decision to Discontinue the Tradition Our Gender Has Been Plagued With."