At last, we got a relatively easy playoff game to sit back and leisurely enjoy without fear that we'd be completely worthless at work the next day. The Thunder did all the little things right last night and as a result pushed the Grizzlies to the brink of elimination. Close out games are not easy (see: last round) but we can definitely see that the Thunder have turned a corner in this series.
Mayberry writes about how the Thunder defense finally gave four quarters of effort. Indeed, the high water mark for Memphis was 20 points in the 4th quarter. Defensively, the team never let up.
Young writes about how the Thunder emerged from that game with a certain look to their disposition. I think it is the look of men that know that they have turned a corner in their development and are starting to reap the fruits of some hard lessons.
As we have learned about the Thunder and their own set of shortcomings, so to Grizzlies fans and analysts are coming to terms with theirs. It is the great distillation of the playoffs - eventually, all of a team's weaknesses are exposed and laid bare.
Mayberry's post-game nuggets. A subtle shot across the bow:
Hey, NBA world. Conley took 16 shots tonight. Randolph took only nine. You gonna freak out and over-blow that, too?
This is a good look at the long-term perspective on the strategy that the Thunder have employed. Fighting it out with Randolph is a fatiguing endeavor, but at the end of the day, the Thunder's biggest advantage is that they just have more bodies available to bang with him, and that strategy is starting to completely marginalize Randolph's effectiveness.
Jeff Clark takes a poll for the final time this season - if the Celtics had to do it over and not trade Kendrick Perkins, would their season, ending last night the hands of the Heat, ended any differently?
More links after the jump.
Remember the superhero "Heroes," the promising TV show that featured a guy who could absorb the powers of others? That's kind of what the Thunder are doing now. They're actually learning how to defeat teams by absorbing the facets of what those teams do best, and then doing it a little bit better.
Credit to the reporters for getting Shane Battier to go on the record and drop the word "ubiquitous" in one of his responses.
Tramel tries to get in on the naming game, but it's hard to argue with this one. Nick Collison has been brilliant in guarding Zach Randolph, using every bit of his strength, experience, and resolve to make Z-Bo check out early in Game Five. If the Thunder can close this series out, then Collison is one of the top three reasons why.
If you subscribe to ESPN Insider, then you can find out the answer to Hollinger's clever Sphinx-like riddle.
Fellow blogger and editor at Sactown Royalty penned this post yesterday, so it may not seem relevant given last night's blow-out. But as I stated above, every team's weaknesses get laid bare, and OKC still has some 4th quarter issues that it needs to iron out.
It may seem like this is a harsh piece on Kevin Durant, but in reality it is emblematic of every young star as he finds his way through the NBA. As George Bernard Shaw once wrote, "youth is wasted on the young."
Pelton isolates the right element from last night's game. Once the second wave of Thunder players hit Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies were cooked. He as I was surprised though that Lionel Hollins stayed with his starters for so long; hopefully that will prove to be another OKC advantage on Friday.
This is an excellent piece of work on Lakers assistant Brian Shaw, who is on the short list of potential replacements now that Phil Jackson is retiring. Shaw has endured some athletic highs and some crushing personal lows.
SB Nation's very own Tom Ziller and Andrew Sharpe engage in a bit of tete-a-tete with regards to what it means to consider a player "soft." In essence, whether or not a player is soft comes down to a matter of personal opinion. Except of course when you're talking about Vince Carter.
LeBron James will likely always be a divisive topic in the NBA for a bundle of reasons I probably don't even need to list. Let it be said though that, even if you don't like him as a player or person, that an NBA moment definitely happened on the court as he and the Heat closed out the Celtics. This post by Windhorst gives good insight as to why it matters.
Stein writes about the latest negotiations regarding the CBA.
The league also would like to propose new rules that make it hugely advantageous for marquee players to stay with the teams that draft them.
The new rules would grant teams the ability to offer even more years and dollars to a designated "star" player than current rules allow, heeding the clamor from various small-market teams for such a measure after last summer's free-agent defections of LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami...