I think we can put aside for the time being that the Thunder are a shoe-in for the NBA Finals, yes? While I agree that they're probably from a talent standpoint favorably comparable to any other team in the West, the fact remains that they are still young and inexperienced, prone to relax when it seems like things are in hand. In games 1-3, the Thunder controlled the 4th quarter with their defense. In Game Four, they relaxed, allowed 33 points, and lost by three. Russell Westbrook is about to learn a hard lesson in expectations on the national stage, but don't forget how difficult the Thunder made it on themselves by playing poor defense in the 2nd half.
There are definitely positives that can be taken from last night's game, as Mayberry writes. For all of the bad play that was present, the Thunder still had numerous opportunities to tie the game in the final minute. The problem was that the team still didn't have the discipline to self-correct, and in the end it cost them.
Young rightly examines the missed opportunities in the first half, pointing out that the Thunder could have gone into the half with a lead had they played better in the final minute of the 2nd quarter.
The Inside the NBA crew discusses the shot selection in the 4th quarter. I particularly like Kenny Smith's perspective, because it underscores the delicacy in which Scott Brooks needs to handle his enigmatic point guard.
Head on over to the SB Nation's Stiffs to get their take on how the game unfolded. I give them much credit - there was ample opportunity to take the hatchet to Russell Westbrook and his play, but they stay above the fray and focus on what the Nuggets did right this time out.
Hollinger offers his insights about the Thunder, and specifically, Russell Westbrook. He was paying close attention to the game, frequently tweeting that he was impressed how the Thunder were hanging around despite playing so poorly. Instead of bashing Westbrook, here is Hollinger's "half-full" comment:
He played admirably well in the first three games before unleashing his inner World B. Free in this one, and it says something for both his talent and his team's that he scored 30 points and the Thunder nearly won despite myriad poor decisions.
Here are Mayberry's post-game comments. He is right to specify that it is only one game, but I'd be willing to bet that the players feel like it was two.
More links after the jump.
Here is another Nuggets perspective, but the writer does give high praise for the way Serge Ibaka has shown up in the last two games.
The Nuggets were much more intentional about playing physical in the paint last night, and specifically Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari did a much better job driving to the rim.
I got the same vibe that this writer did - for three quarters, Kevin Durant seemed a bit off in his approach. However, once he broke out of it I'd be willing to wager there were quite a few people in Denver who got a little nervous as Durant turned it on late in the game.
This is a great piece on our need for projection onto the athletes for which we cheer.
For all our sakes I really hope the Grizzlies' Tony Allen doesn't turn into Ron Artest 2.0, because I've thoroughly enjoyed watching him work this season. That said, this hair cut is pretty epic.
Nuggets coach George Karl has some kind words for his former protege. It is worth noting that Scott Brooks has made major strides in his play calling, particularly in late-game situations.
Sir Charles, once one of the more feared men in the NBA, has always had, in the words of Tommy Boy, a little bit of a weight problem. He's addressing his issue with CrossFit, which in my opinion is one of the cooler fitness programs available. The caveat is that when you step into their gyms, you need to be prepared to see normal looking people doing hyper-normal things, like the short girl in the red top is doing here.