"If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon." -Montgomery Scott
"If it has a tip-off, points scored, and a final buzzer, then it must be a basketball game." -Common Sense
But we all know that what transpired today wasn't much of a basketball game. It was more of a show, put on because money makes the world go round and tanking is a thing. The Kings had absolutely no intention of winning this game. One of their best players was out, and they're locked in the midst of a tight race for valuable lottery position. A win would be nothing but devastating for their future, so they had no real incentive to try for one.
That being said, the King players did try. But they were doomed from the start. Without Isaiah Thomas, the Kings match up horribly with the Thunder. Namely, Demarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay can't really get much going. They're both big players who like using size to their advantage in isolation situations. The Thunder usually have a longer player to match up with them, as well as a weak-side defender willing to help defend any shot at the rim. Cousins and Gay aren't particularly deft passers, so the result is usually a lot of missed King shots.
It's hard to say much positive about anything that happened with the Kings tonight, but their bench lineup is as close as you'll get. The team managed a few semi-dangerous second quarter runs, using some really excellent ball movement to space the floor and take advantage of the Thunder's lax perimeter D. But as soon as the Thunder's stars came back in to face the Kings starters, the game was basically over. The Kings went back to iso-ball, and the Thunder effortlessly got easy opportunities at the rim.
By the time the third quarter rolled around, the Thunder were basically showboating. Westbrook went for a steal on nearly every possession, and far too many plays were ending with easy shots at the rim. Before you knew it, the Thunder had pulled their stars, and we were watching Travis Outlaw lead a hapless team.
Anyway, what was interesting tonight? Well, Jeremy Lamb got his first regular minutes due to Jackson's injury, and had a solid amount of offensive responsibility while this game actually mattered. He was great at working within the offense to find ways to score, and had an incredible shooting night. A couple of his tougher attempts barely rimmed out, but for the most part, there really wasn't much to complain about.
Still, it doesn't matter what I think. Coach Brooks talked to the media after the game about Lamb's role specifically:
"I thought he did a good job of getting himself open. Setting himself up to get open. That's what we've been working on, setups. And I think he was good tonight."
"Nick and Jeremy have a very good relationship on the court, I thought they had good opportunities to get us some open looks."
Brooks went on to say that the minutes would always be there for Lamb, even if not as plentiful as in the past. I'm not sure how much stock I'd put in his words, especially after Lamb was a near DNP-CD at Chicago and Toronto. It's quite possible that Lamb's short stint in the doghouse was simply part of his maturing process, but it's hard to tell at this point. Honestly, I'm just glad to see that Brooks is still fond of his game and that he'll have a chance to contribute in the playoffs.
That's all for now. KD was great, Russ was great, and Ibaka was a defensive beast. To Utah on Sunday!
- We have clinched the playoffs. Woo!
- KD's streak of consecutive 25 point games now stands at 37. Three away from tying Jordan!
- Hasheem Thabeet returned to action today after spending the past two games on the inactive list.
- Reggie Jackson sat out tonight with a mid-back sprain, and is listed as day-to-day. My inkling is that this was more precautionary than anything.
- Reggie Williams was signed to a second ten day contract earlier in the day, after that of Mustafa Shakur expired. He saw floor action for the first time this season, and scored his first points in nearly as much time.He looked like a decent dribble-drive threat, but it's hard to tell from such limited action.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, the basketball machine
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, who had a very minor funny bone injury today
Thunder Blunder: Perry Jones, who had one of the worst Garbage Time stints I've ever seen
Thunder Plunderer: Jason Thompson, the rebounding fiend
Next Game: Versus the Utah Jazz, Sunday, March 30th, 2 PM Central Standard Time.