Tonight is the night, in a sense. Yes, the Thunder still have the Lakers remaining this year and that game will be a true test of where the Thunder are, but tonight begins a three game stretch that will test the Thunder's resolve this season. I find myself in a funny place, actually. From a pure drama standpoint, it doesn't get much better in the regular season than two teams fighting down to the wire for a higher playoff seed. From a Thunder enthusiast standpoint, however, I sure do wish the Thunder hadn't thrown away the last two games.
It was not conceivable a week ago, but it is now - the Thunder could find themselves in 2nd place in the West by this week's end. The margin for error has shrunk to almost nothing. But hey, this is as good a tune-up for playoff intensity as any.
Young points out an important observation about how young teams such as the Thunder learn, or are supposed to learn, from their mistakes. The big question is, have they?
I agree with the sentiment offered - if the Thunder do not focus themselves soon, the Nuggets will run them out of the gym. What I like about how Denver is playing is that they're taking on the position of underdog and then they simply keep attacking until the game is over. Underdogs topple giants because despite the deficiencies on paper, they never stop. Honestly, if I wasn't pulling for the Thunder, I'd probably gravitate to the Nuggets.
The Nuggets have caught everyone off-guard, including the team themselves. I honestly cannot recall a time when a team completely remade itself on the fly and the new pieces fit together so easily. It is intimidating because it seems so unfamiliar.
Here is my thought process - what exactly do I expect to see tonight? What would make me the most hopeful for a Thunder playoff win?
More links after the jump.
You may not be amenable to the idea of liking Phil Jackson, but there is no question that when he talks, he has something interesting to say and reasons for saying it. Here, he speaks admirably of his friend and former partner, Tex Winter, who will be voted into the Hall of Fame.
If you're bored of the run-of-the-mill playoff reviews, well then, have you considered looking at the teams through the lens of irrelevant bands? These guys have.
Mayberry fielded a few questions yesterday. Of those, the most interesting is what is going to happen to James Harden in the off-season. Will he move to the starting line-up? Will the team keep Thabo Sefolosha there? I think the way to think about this situation is, what do they want Harden to be? Do they want him to be the 3rd scorer on offense? Do they want him to be the facilitator? If they want him to give additional scoring to the starting line-up, then I think the Thunder will have the same problem they had earlier this season. Harden is way too deferential to demand the ball for scoring opportunities with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in front of him. The starting five is much better served in seeing Serge Ibaka fill that scoring role.
Sam Smith weighs in on the MVP race and examines Derrick Rose's credentials. It is well written and continues the theme about what we think we want an MVP to be. I'll throw this out there - if everything came down to pure statistics, then one day we will see Vince Carter in the Hall of Fame. How do you feel about that?