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Loud Links 4|29|11

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The Thunder will not be playing any more games in the month of April, so if we take a quick look back we can see that they finished the month at 9-4, which included a win over the Lakers and six wins over a Nuggets team that many pundits argued would be the most likely to stage an upset in the first round. The Thunder's future opponent is still undecided, so let's hope that the kids are getting rested up, healed up, and psyched up in their downtime. 

Eric Maynor: The Anti-Westbrook | Hoopsworld

This is a great read that helps understand the dynamic between Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor. If you think you already understand what Westbrook is about, be prepared to have your presumptions altered by the way he speaks about his backup PG.

Thunder's Sweetheart Status Could Change Quickly | NewsOK

Nick Collison gets it right - there's always a story line. And it's easy to root for a team that is not your own right up until that team is about to bounce you out of the playoffs. 

The More Things Change... | Roundball Mining Company

The Nuggets' Truehoop blog signs off on their season in poetic style. Even though I'm happy the Thunder won, there is still a part of me that wishes the Nuggets had drawn a different opponent in the first round. I personally don't think the Nuggets' season was disappointing, especially since a season is about memorable moments as much as anything, and their post-trade run was indeed memorable. But George Karl has essentially reached the status of a college football coach - he keeps churning out 8-9 win seasons and going to mid-tier bowl games which nobody in the front office really cares whether or not he loses in the end. Well, as we've seen from the Stiffs and Roundball, there are great many that DO care. Very much so.

Did Kevin Durant Commit a Backcourt Violation? | NewsOK

Hopefully this press release from the NBA resolves the debate.  Durant never established both feet in the frontcourt, so he was still technically in the backcourt when his left foot came down across the line. Nuggets fans will still have plenty of legitimate gripes about the reffing, but this incident shouldn't be one of them. 

Durant's 9-Point Run Announces Playoff Arrival | Daily Thunder

Here is further reflection on Kevin Durant's late 4th quarter fury. In short, the Thunder were out of options. If Durant didn't do what he did, they would be heading back to Denver tonight.

Random Playoff Musings | The Painted Area

Very early in the season, I wrote about how shoddy OKC's interior defense looked. Seems like a post from an entirely different era now.

More links after the jump.

Ibaka's Impact Hidden Bonus in Thunder's Big Trade | AP

As we've seen in the past month, the biggest benefit that the Thunder have gained in Kendrick Perkins is not merely Perkins, but in extracting Serge Ibaka's potential out of his freakish physique. Perkins has challenged him both mentally and physically, and Ibaka has morphed into a dominant force. I still contend that it is Ibaka, not James Harden, that is best suited to be the #3 scorer on the team.

Charles Barkley: Westbrook Appeared to be Pouting | NewsOK

The TNT crew engaged in a little bit of armchair psychology in watching Westbrook play on Wednesday. Barkley thinks that Westbrook has been effected by the news clippings, while Kenny Smith is more apt to conclude that he is a victim of his own personal expectations. I'd tend to agree with the latter.

Westbrook Answers a Late Night Phone Call from Stephon Marbury | Negative Dunkalectics

I'm still terrified to even think about Russell Westbrook in the same sentence as Stephon Marbury (or Steve Francis, or Allen Iverson), but at least there might be some hypothetical lessons to be transferred in a random phone call from China.

What Chris Paul Accomplished | Ball Don't Lie

Chris Paul is heading home, and for that we should be sad. I don't think I've ever seen a player as small as him raise the collective level of his team the way Paul did against a Lakers team that should have won that series 4-0.

Looking Ahead to Boston vs Miami | Sports Illustrated

If you care much about the Eastern Conference, then this is the series that everyone has been waiting for since the first month of the season.