So far, so good on the Thunder's jaunt through the lands of sub-mediocrity. Tonight the path to Heat Week II continues as the Thunder head to my former stomping grounds in Washington DC to deal with the Wizards. In their last meeting, the Thunder played way too fast and loose, and were taken to overtime against a team that shouldn't be taking any good team to overtime. Let's hope they can slam the door early, like they did against the Cavaliers.
Mayberry writes about the drastic difference that a post-LeBron experience has had on the city of Cleveland. I wonder if, and I'm just thinking out loud here (metaphorically speaking), the Cleveland fans continue to go to the games, despite the sheer awfulness of it, just so that they can continue to feel the pain of knowing what betrayal looks like. Ok, yeah, that's just stupid now that I actually wrote it. But still...
The two worst things that came out of the Cavs win: a) Nick Collison hurt his ankle, but hopefully he will be back in time for the Heat; and b) Durant sat out the entire 4th quarter, which meant his league-leading scoring average took a hit.
First, Russell Westbrook's personal assessment:
"Why would I shoot a floater when I can dunk on you?"
Respectfully, that's a pretty good retort. However, what separates Westbrook from becoming unguardable at this point is his lack of a consistent shot 10 feet and in (and for that I'd argue it's almost purely his shooting mechanics). He either pulls up from about 18 (iffy) or he tries to go strong to the rim. If he had either a pull-up or a floater that he could make consistently, then there isn't going to be a team in the league that can check him consistently.
More links after the jump.
The Thunder would be looking at a first round match-up with the Nuggets if the season ended today. Truthfully, I'd like this match-up much better than against the other three low seeded teams, the Trail Blazers, Hornets, and Grizzlies (no!). The Nuggets have done a good job turning things around after having their season held hostage by Carmelo Anthony. However, this is the problem they will have in the playoffs - their best offensive player is J.R. Smith, and he is as streaky as they come. If you game plan him out of the mix, or if he has a cold streak, then the Nuggets will not be as potent. He can put the scare in a team for a game or two, but not a seven game series.
Ziller writes about how, even though the first and second tiers are set in the West, there is still much jostling for position. For the Thunder, they are locked in to #4, so everything that improves for them will have to be in terms of internal team chemistry once Kendrick Perkins starts to play.
David Aldridge examines the familial ties between the impending March madness and the NBA. Stories like this immediately remind me of my aging life, so let's just move on.
Rhode takes a look at the Thunder's remaining games, which is the easiest of any playoff team. As he notes, the final two weeks will be difficult, featuring four back-to-back games. That stretch will likely determine whether the Thunder can hang onto the #4 spot. It will also help the team get used to the grind of the playoffs, when there will be little down time to rest.