I believe this win against the Heat is the Thunder's signature win of the season. I think this is so because of the way the complexion of the team has changed over the past 10 games - everything that the Thunder had paid lip service to early in the year - strong defense, limiting turnovers, taking good shots, they are now doing on a regular basis. The Heat win validates the transformation.
Mayberry's post-game nuggets. He notes that one of the things that Kendrick Perkins has brought to the defense is an intolerance for mistakes and an ability to communicate to his teammates. I think we're going to see collective defensive statistics rise with Perkins in the game.
Young writes about how the entire complexion of the team has changed. If there is merit to Malcolm Gladwell's concept of thin slicing, if you thin sliced last night's game it would be understandable if you mistook the Thunder for a team like the Spurs. Heat players felt the pain of getting banged up, and the Thunder made them work hard for everything they got.
Mayberry offers his write-up for the game, noting that the win was all about 48 minutes of defense. I think that it was one of the only games this season where we truly saw the team commit itself to almost every defensive possession. Early on in the season, we would frequently see the defense break down and guys would just quit on the play, content to let it slide. As a result, games became much harder than they should have been. Not last night though; the Thunder beat up the Heat, and the Heat knew it.
The Heat shot under 40% for the game and the "Big Three" of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh shot a combined 4-24 in the second half. Aside from a few highlight real plays, the physical beating the Thunder put on the Heat stars really took hold late in the game. By the end, Wade was the only one who was still consistently attacking the rim.
More links after the jump.
A good point is made here about the depth the Thunder now have in their front line. The team can continue to rotate in and out Serge Ibaka, Perkins, Nick Collison, and Nazr Mohammed, and all four of these men can play center or power forward. None of them are perimeter players, and they all play physical styles. Over the course of 48 minutes, the physicality took its toll on the Heat.
An important note that the Thunder didn't even play all that well offensively. It further means that when a team can count on its defense, it creates a greater margin for error for everything else.
Powell looks at a key juncture in last night's game, when Wade blew his top after not getting a foul call on a contested layup. I do think it was a call that Wade usually gets, but at the same time, watching it in real-time I didn't think it was a gimme. What I think came out of the play though was a frustration that the Heat were expecting to be off to the races against the Thunder, and instead they kept getting knocked to the floor. As one famous guy once stated, if you fall down seven times, you stand up eight.
Speaking of getting back up, here is a clip of the legit screen that Juwan Howard laid on Durant in the 1st quarter. I'll bet seeing stars here made the step-back jumpers in the 4th especially sweet.
This headline, and its very premise, crack me up. It is as if to day that for the past 30 years, 6' power forwards and 6'5" centers have ruled the day. It's just kind of absurd on its face. Look at the champions of the past 15 years - Lakers, Spurs, Heat, Celtics, Pistons, Rockets...all of them have featured either dominant big men or big men who played integral roles in the team's success.
Here is today's opinionated screed against the NBA's age restrictions. Expect to see at least two to three of these stories per day over the next few weeks. Here is the common argument:
The result is our most gifted players using college as a layover to the NBA. This hurts the college game and punishes its signature tournament. Watching the NCAAs reminds us what we're missing.
I borrow Commissioner Stern's words when I say that this is a college basketball problem. It is not the NBA's problem. Nobody is forcing schools to recruit players that they know will be looking to the pros after one year. The coaches want continuity? Then recruit players who will stay for four years. In some years, things will come together and the random mature team will make a deep run. But that isn't what schools want - they want the big names and the big money that comes with it. I'm sorry for harping on this, but I just find the dis-ingenuousness absurd.
As opposed to the story above, this one is actually really well done. The reporter lets his subjects tell the story, rather than editorialize on what he thinks should be the right way to do things. The subjects are the college coaches, and how they feel about having veteran teams vs talented players. I think guys like Bill Self and Eddie Sutton realize which path is most likely to give them deep tournament runs, but often times they just can't keep themselves away from the talent.
Do you think the dunk and the tribute transcended the game? Or do you think the physical beating the Thunder handed out was more important than this moment? All told, it was a pretty nasty move.
It might seem strange that straight-to-the-pros superstar LeBron James would be touting a stay-in-school program. However, I don't think it is; rather, it is a look at high school drop out rates, not college. Keeping kids in school through high school is 12-13 years of hard commitment to a goal, and the dedication does yield benefits.