Time heals wounds, but the scars will still remain. I am most curious to see how the Thunder decide to play tonight. Will they play as a young team unafraid of their fate? Or will they play as a team resigned to defeat? My deepest hope - that they don't pull a Laker finish.
Tramel argues that guys like Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison have to be viable scoring options when the game gets tight, and I think he's right. However, I disagree with his assessment of the late Thabo Sefolosha 3-pointer. I liked the play, but wondered why Daequan Cook wasn't in his place. If your big play is to go to a corner 3, then why not have your best corner 3 shooter take the shot?
Young breaks down the painful details of what happened. Like most collapses, it was a blend of a lot of little things, some controllable and some not, that snowballed. Probably the most disconcerting thing though is the posture that the Thunder get when they're up by double-digits with a few minutes to go. They seem to decide, "We got this. Now we just need to run out the clock." Unfortunately, this isn't college basketball. This isn't college football. There is no bleeding the clock. Even if they simply held the ball for 24 seconds and took the shot clock violation, they still could have been caught by a competent team.
In the other conference, the Bulls too are staring at a 3-1 deficit. Chicago actually had the best record this season and the league MVP. Unfortunately, Derrick Rose has had the same struggles carrying that crown that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have. It is a heavy crown indeed.
The Thunder dominated the boards in Game Four but also had 25 turnovers. Some more of the former and a lot less of the latter give OKC a very good shot at winning tonight's game.
Young writes that, whatever reason is used for the Game Four collapse, youth should not be one of them. I think this is correct because it is not the age of the players that contributed to the loss, but the age of their basketball knowledge. An older team filled with players who have never faced that kind of pressure are just as likely to fold under the pressure as well.
More links after the jump.
Whitaker writes a solid piece on Serge Ibaka, where he came from, and how he has grown to love playing in Oklahoma City.
Dirk Nowitzki answers a few questions. I think this is the money quote, and a bit part of what separates the Mavericks from the Thunder:
"I don't remember actually calling a play the last couple of minutes."
In other words, the Thunder lost the ability to function in the final few minutes, unable to even run a set play, while the Mavericks essentially created plays on the fly. That's what decades of experience and playing together teaches a team.
Consider this - of the four remaining teams left, three of them feature a current or former league MVP. That is a very good thing - we want the players we deem to be the best to be still playing when the championship is on the line. of course, the fourth team, the Thunder, has Durant, the kid who is probably closest to Derrick Rose in terms of how his game has evolved so far. The talent, maturity, leadership, and accountability are all off the charts. And yet, there are still holes, and those holes get filled once piece, season, and post-season at a time.
A look back at the trade that brought Jason Kidd to Dallas. Would the Mavs have done it again? What do you think?
The NBA Players Union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, stating that the NBA has failed to negotiate in good faith. While this complaint is probably just the opening jab, it does look like a similar approach to the tact that the NFL PA used in setting out to prove that the owners always had an intention of a lock-out.
As great as the Bulls have been this season, they and rookie coach (and coach of the year) Tom Thibodeau have struggled in many of the ways the Thunder have.
As it stands today, teams who are down 3-1 have won the series 8 times out of 200, which comes to a 4% success rate. So in other words: