The Thunder faithful received quarter last night. The three game skid ended, the team recorded a blow-out win, and the new-look Thunder had a much stronger approach to both defense and sharing the basketball. Indiana is not a great team nor a good team, but they are a competent team that is vying for a playoff spot. In other words, it wasn't a signature win, but it was a win to feel good about. They are, however, not a strong offensive team, so the Thunder's defensive mettle will truly be tested on Friday, when the Thunder travel to Atlanta to play the Hawks.
The remarkable shift from being a soft interior team to one that stops all who may dare enter is not merely because of an upgrade in defensive talent. It also has to do with the fact that guys are now being asked to play the position they are best suited to play. Serge Ibaka deffending Roy Hibbert? That isn't going to go so well. Ibaka going up against Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough? Yes, please.
Royce Young is worried about the ankle of Kevin Durant, but notes that with a defensive game plan like we saw last night, the burden he must shoulder on a nightly basis will be made much easier as he heals up. In fact, Royce later reported that the injury was not serious. He points out, and I agree, that James Harden was a terror in the first half (just look at that image at the top). He was the most important player on the court when it mattered most. In fact, the announcers kept wondering what he was seeing on the court that allowed him to drive to the rim so easily. Whenever he saw it, he attacked and finished at the rim.
Mayberry's post-game nuggets focus on both the defensive effort and the concerns about Durant's ankle. If Durant can't go, then the offensive burden will likely fall on James Harden and Russell Westbrook. I think that can work against the Hawks' perimeter players, as long as the Thunder big men can replicate their efforts last night against Al Horford.
Here is an interesting observation - the Thunder's recent moves up the ante on Coach Scott Brooks' job security.
More links after the jump.
It looks like Corey Brewer, recently bought out by the Knicks, will be signing with the Mavericks. The Mavs had a portion of their mid-level exception remaining, so can offer him more money over a longer term. The Tunder had been in the running briefly, but as one commenter pointed out, his presence would have been redundant with Thabo Sefolosha already occupying the position of "perimeter defender." Perhaps Brewer is a slight upgrade in that department, but because Sefolosha has been with the team all season, he would likely still have been a better overall contributor.
"I'm out for the year."
/intestines fall out
"I'm just playin'"
/intestines put back in place
I don't actively follow the college game or its elite players, so I don't have much to add here. Sometimes though when there is no blue chipper to headline the draft, the real value is found later on in the middle rounds. Teams may be forced to draft for need rather than eye candy.
Thunder players continue to work to connect themselves to opportunities that make a difference in the world, both locally and globally. This story reports that Thabo Sefolosha has been named as international spokesman for IMBEWU, a Swiss foundation that establishes youth sports programs in South Africa.
Bob Ryan reports on how Nenad Krstic is settling into his new role with the Celtics. I'm sure that hearing that you're going to be traded evokes all kinds of anxieties; however, going to the best team in the East helps ease that burden, I'm guessing.
The Thunder's D-League team acquired Matt Bouldin off waivers, after Bouldin had spent the first half of the season playing in the Greek league.
Not Thunder related, but I think this is my favorite opening paragraph of the day:
It took Luke Harangody eight minutes to feel like an official member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He got hurt.