Round 1: Complete. Grade? Eh, I'd give the Thunder a B+ for last night's performance. There was a myriad of things that the Thunder didn't do well or could have done better, but that is in essence playoff basketball. The opposition attacks your weaknesses, and you have to figure out how to overcome them. To me, what was most important was the way the Thunder played in the second half. For a few moments, it looked like they were ready to swoon just like in the last two games. However, the team was able to refocus and pull themselves together. They scored 53 points in the second half and won both quarters. At least for a day, the panic has subsided.
Mayberry's post-game notes. The Thunder's magic number for clinching the Northwest Division is now one, and they also halted the Nuggets' 10 game home winning streak. It is also the first time Kevin Durant has beaten the Nuggets. It does not seem like much, but just like when Durant beat LeBron James and the Heat, these are the necessary baby steps that a franchise player must take if he is to become a champion. To lead a team all the way down that road, you simply cannot skip the steps.
Young saw the same thing I did - the Thunder were about to come apart at the seams, and Eric Maynor righted the ship. The Nuggets had their largest lead of the game, and all Maynor did was oversee a 15-0 run that put the Thunder in the driver's seat.
Here is the SB Nation Nuggets' site, offering their analysis of last night's game. We'll be hearing more from this awesome blog, to be sure. One small thing he noted though was that the Nuggets' gunslinger J.R. Smith was held to only 3-7 shooting (he's a guy that can easily get 20, and sometimes even 30), and this fact underscores a big part of the Thunder's success. OKC did a terrific job in closing out on the Denver 3-point shooters.
That photo with Nene and Kendrick Perkins staring each other down says it all, both in regards to last night's game and where we're headed for the next game and series. Perkins knows that, in the words of Preston "Bodie" Broadus,
"You either step up, or you step the **** off."
More links after the jump.
Here is a look at the way Durant has learned how to use a little bit of psychological warfare to give him slight edges in games.
Amidst all the hullabaloo involving the MVP "debate" is a rising level of discourse that rolls back and forth between absurd and mean. I think that people don't often want to acknowledge or even realize internally that the opinions they form about who they think is an MVP is as subjective as anybody else's. If it wasn't, then I ask you, how is it that Shaquille O'Neal has only won a single MVP trophy? Anyway, This is a nice little look at the tension that grows, with a special look at Rick Reilly's recent story about Jimmer Fredette. I think the writer's point is valid about Reilly, even though it still remains true that Reilly's Fredette screed is a complete abomination.
Here is an argument for Nuggets coach George Karl as coach of the year. I think I'd probably agree with this one. The easy choice is Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, but Karl is in a unique place because of the Carmelo Anthony drama, the remaking of his team on the fly, and most importantly, how he has overcome throat cancer in the past year.
In which the boys compare the "whole is not quite as good as its parts" Knicks to an album named "Phuerton Skeurto."
It looks like Arron Aflalo, missing last night, will also be out for the Nuggets rematch this week.