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Loud Links: 04|24|10

Game-changers: Tough tandem Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison |
Hit ’em and get ’em. It’s a basketball adage focused on fundamentals, instructing defenders to put a body on an opponent before chasing down rebounds. Thunder coach Scott Brooks stresses the strategy, but his team has abided by the adage in the most unconventional way. With two players. Nick Collison hits ’em. Serge Ibaka gets ’em. Together, the odd couple has given the Los Angeles Lakers fits whenever they’ve checked in off the bench throughout the first three games of this first-round series. "They’re great opposites," Brooks said. "Serge is a guy that’s going to go after every ball above the rim, and Nick is a guy that’s going to take every charge down the lane. It’s good to have two guys that complement each other very well."

Lakers have big problems - San Bernardino County Sun
"We've just got to make some adjustments, but that's what the playoffs are all about," Bryant said. "My shooting (is disappointing). I shot extremely poorly. "Durant's length had something to do with it. He caught me off-guard." Bryant said he wouldn't be surprised to see the 6-foot-9 Durant guarding him instead of Artest to start Game 4, rather than only in the fourth quarter. Durant and Artest had been matched up for the first two games plus the first three quarters of Game 3. "Sure, sure," Bryant said. "I would (do it)." Asked for his impressions of the 21-year-old Durant, who is in the playoffs for the first time, Bryant said, "He's a very intelligent basketball player on top of being physically skilled and doing all the things he can do. He has a high basketball IQ."

Lakers' challenge for Game 4: How low can they go? - Los Angeles Times
Gasol spoke to reporters with his arms crossed and an irritated look, a rare occurrence for the always-pleasant 7-footer. He didn't even play along with a lighter story that the hotel where the Lakers were staying was allegedly haunted. Did he believe it to be true? "No." Had he heard stories of it being haunted? "Yes." And he still wasn't buying it? "No." Bryant, on the other hand, had some fun with it. "I had a good conversation with Elvis last night," he said, seemingly fine after missing 19 of 29 shots in Game 3, including eight of 10 in the fourth quarter.

Kevin Durant comes of age in Thunder's victory |
If the playoffs are indeed where stars are born and legends are made, we just witnessed Kevin Durant take his first step toward forcing his way into an elite fraternity. In what he deemed a must-win game, Durant dominated the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter to lead his Oklahoma City Thunder to a 101-96 win on Thursday night. Durant scored 12 of his game-high 29 points in the final frame, climbing out of another cold shooting night at just the right moment to pull the Thunder within 2-1 in the best-of-7 series.

With a Push From Kevin Durant, the Thunder Steps Forward -
The N.B.A.’s elite can blame themselves for Kevin Durant’s evolution. He takes from here and there. He mimics and copies. At 21, Durant does not have much experience of his own to draw on. Instead, he copies Carmelo Anthony’s rip move, Dwyane Wade’s craftiness in luring fouls and Kobe Bryant’s resilience. "I still feel as though I’m not in that group," Durant said. "Those guys are above me as far as doing the things they do."

Durant is respectful of the N.B.A.’s pecking order and mindful of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s collective youth. It still strikes him as odd that he won this season’s scoring title, averaging 30.1 points a game, over more established players. Before the season, he said, he thought that people who predicted he would win the scoring title needed to be examined.

Thunder: Playoffs 101 - Hoopsworld
Currently in the middle of the first-round playoffs, Oklahoma City has three games under their belt, including one win and two losses, all competitvely played, against the reigning champions. "I was concerned that some guys didn't have another level, but they do," shares Brooks. "We know that we have to play great basketball, not perfect basketball, but you have to play really, really good basketball." "You're always a little worried that they're going to be a little amped or juiced up, but once the tip goes up, it's basketball."