The Thunder are moving on. It sounds strange, doesn't it? Even though the final series score was 4-1, I hope that all who watched it unfold realize that the discrepancy between OKC and Denver was quite small and if not for a missed call here and a made free throw there, the outcome could have been completely different. Let's take a look at how the playoffs last night were seen around the league.
Tramel remarks at Durant's final sequence last night. Durant would not let them lose. Sometimes, that statement is actually true.
Young makes the astute observation that the second best Thunder player last night missed all of his shots and only had one point. If Durant was the light-bringer on offense, Serge Ibaka served the same role on defense.
SB's great Nuggets blog weighs in on how their season ended last night. At the end of the day, it's hard to argue that free throws were not the single biggest factor between winning and losing. I remember in one of their series previews something to the effect of, "if we can just make our free throws..." Unfortunately, I think they learned the hard way that, if the team isn't making them in the regular season, it won't get any better when the stakes are raised.
John Hollinger has finally come around. Without caveat, he could merely sing the praises of Durant's finest moment as a pro.
Durant is keeping Andrew Sharp up at night. Knowing Kevin, he'll probably tweet Sharp an apology for that sometime this afternoon.
Durant's epic performance, which should help define his young career so far, does as much for his teammates as it does for himself. It makes them believe, no matter what the circumstances, that with him they always have a shot. That's some sweet mojo right there.
More links after the jump.
Um, ok. So we have the "Serge" Protector. I'll leave that alone for a while. But I still love this quote:
"Our team is about work, and Serge is a worker. "He works every day. He doesn't want anything, and he wouldn't take it. He wants to earn it...He is as happy as anybody; he had one point." - Scott Brooks
In which the Thunder kids are compared to that classic 80's movie about teen angst and growing up. This piece is actually kind of perfect.
An honorable concession - the Nuggets probably could have beaten any of the three higher seeds, but the Thunder were too much.
If the Thunder are the Breakfast Club, then naturally the Nuggets are the cinematic projection of a mid-90's mediocre film about a dystopian society and identity theft.
Two striking quotes here:
"He's hands down the best player in the league when he plays like that' - J.R. Smith
"[Nuggets will] wake up and realize we had one heck of a season" - George Karl
Regarding the former, Smith is now converted believer. Regarding the latter, doesn't that quote really embody the whole concept of George Karl the coach? It is as if to say, "We went as far as we could. That was pretty neat." And he gives no consideration as to whether the team could have gone on farther.
Dwyer concludes that the Thunder simply managed to do everything that matters in winning games just a little bit better. And he'll miss having Denver around.
Tramel passes out final grades from last night's game. You will never guess how he graded Durant.
Head back over to the Stiffs to read a recount of their crazy season. I know it was fun to root against that franchise while the Thunder played them, but objectively speaking, their team is of the type that really needs to succeed in the NBA, for the benefit of everybody. Because when you have teams in the league that play like that, everything about the NBA tastes sweeter.
Pelton makes the astute observation that George Karl tried everybody in guarding Durant, and none of it mattered.
OKC didn't feature the only exciting game last night. With the Spurs staring a series defeat to an 8th seed in the face, Gary Neal of all people stepped up and sat the Grizzlies back down. It was a crazy win and further supports the fact that Gregg Popovich is arguably the best late-game coach in the league.
I'm sticking this one last so it doesn't dampen what should be an enjoyable moment. That Photoshopped image should be enough to make even Clint Eastwood queasy. Still, very well written.