North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma City Thunder

2013 NBA Playoff Picks, Round One

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Every year I like to make wild and baseless predictions on the NBA playoffs. Usually they’re on Twitter or something, but I wanted to write a few words on each series this time.

Eastern Conference

1. Heat vs 8. Bucks

Probably not a series that’ll last more than five games. It’s cool how the Bucks snuck into the playoffs while being six games under .500 while out west, while two .500 teams were left out of the playoffs. I expect this one to be over in a hurry. Heat in four.

2. Knicks vs. 7. Celtics

Is Boston/New York a NBA rivalry? I don’t think so, but ESPN and some other places are really hammering at it so who knows, maybe a bunch of people will whip themselves into a petulant frenzy over this series. Again, this is another one that could be over quick: Boston is an aging team that’ll rely a lot on Kevin Garnett and they’re missing Rondo, easily their best player. But New York is also banged up (they’ve got five probables for game one), missing Amare Stoudemire and will be relying hard on Carmelo Anthony. If Boston can keep him under control (and I can see that happening), Boston might be able to squeak this out. Still, I think this is the Knicks series to lose. Knicks in six.

3. Pacers vs 6. Hawks

The Pacers are a tough, defensively minded team that plays an agressive, physical style of basketball. They had the closest thing to a full-on brawl I saw this season and don’t look now, but Roy Hibbert is quickly becoming one of the better young centers in the NBA. And Paul George is a beast, too. Meanwhile, I’m not big on Atlanta: Josh Smith is a gunner (last year in the playoffs he was taking something like 18 shots a game) and Al Horford is another good young center (I’m looking forward to seeing him and Hibbert go at each other, actually) but I like the Pacers a lot in this series. My gut tells me it’ll be ugly, but compelling. Pacers in five.

4. Nets vs 5. Bulls

Two fun-to-watch teams who match up well. First, their SRS are right around each other and second, their defences/offensive ratings make for an interesting match: Chicago’s offence is 23rd in the league, Brooklyn’s defence is 17th; Brooklyn’s offence is eighth, Chicago’s defence is sixth. I do think Chicago has it’s flaws (they’re missing Derrick Rose for sure and maybe Joakim Noah) but they have bright spots, like Carlos Boozer (who I wrote about in January) and Jimmy Butler. The Nets, meanwhile, are great inside (Brook Lopez) and out (Deron Williams) and might make quick work of Chicago. On paper, this could be a close series but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nets tore things up early and often. Nets in five.

Western Conference

1.Thunder vs 8. Rockets

Are the Thunder the best team in the NBA? Well, no, that’s Miami, but they’re a close second. In most years, Kevin Durant’s 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game (not to mention nearly 19 Win Shares) would be enough for serious MVP consideration. It’s only because Miami has been so damn good that he isn’t. I do like some of the subplots to this series – James Harden takes on his old team, will Jeremy Lin explode in the postseason, etc – but let’s be real here: the question is only how many games it’ll take the Thunder to win four and they’ll do it quickly. Thunder in five.

2.Spurs vs 7. Lakers

One the fun end-of-year stories was seeing the Lakers go on a late tear and make the playoffs. It’s too bad it was derailed when Kobe Bryant went down last weekend. True, they still have Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. But San Antonio has Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan. Without Bryant, this one will be over in a hurry. Spurs in four.

3.Nuggets vs 6. Warriors

This’ll probably be the most fun series of the first round: the Nuggets are a blast to watch, score like it’s nobody’s business and have one of the most enjoyable players in the NBA, JaVale McGee. Golden State scores a bunch, too (seventh in the NBA for points-per-game) and Stephen Curry is jacking up 18 shots per game (I expect this will only go up, too). This series will be worth staying up late for and I expect at least one wild shootout. But who will win? I’m going with what I want to see and that’s more McGee. Nuggets in seven.

4.Clippers vs. 5. Memphis

Remember when the Clippers were lob city and everyone loved to watch their sweet jams? And then Blake Griffin started becoming a little unbearable and the team started flopping often and everyone I know turned on them. They’re still a good team on both ends of the floor and Chris Paul is a dark horse for the MVP (one could make a case for him over Durant) but they’re awfully hard to cheer for. Memphis, though, is a legitimately fun team: Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are fun to watch and Ed Davis was my favorite Raptor (and I hope he tears shit up in the postseason). And for what it’s worth, they have the best defensive numbers in the NBA. I think they have a great shot at this one: if they can contain Paul, the Clippers are a lot less dangerous. Grizzlies in six.

A special night from a special player

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This season, there hasn’t been a player I’ve enjoyed watching more then Kevin Durant, Not just in the NBA, but in all of sports.

I’ve enjoyed him more then John Wall, Phil Kessel and Drew Brees.

I’m far from alone on this, as a variable cult of personality has sprung up around KD. His fans range from The Basketball Jones – who graced him with the fantastic nickname Durantula – to Bill Simmons, who devoted a running diary to a random Thunder game a few weeks back.

It’s been quick for Durant, too. It’s sometimes hard to believe that he’s only in his third season in the NBA. He’s a fantastic scorer, he’s a heck of a playmaker and he’s begun to get to the line with ease.

Which is what made Tuesday night’s game against the Jazz so amazing. Despite being clearing fouled at the end of overtime, he didn’t get a call and the game ended with Durant looking at least a little annoyed.

An ugly end to an otherwise great game, though.

All throughout the fourth and into overtime, the Thunder and Jazz were playing at an incredible clip – both teams combined for nearly 280 points. To use a cliché, the game had everything: a two greats in a scoring duel, both kinds of comebacks – a 13-point comeback for the Thunder in the fourth, and Williams returning from getting his wind knocked out – a crazy finish.

The craziest part of the match wasn’t even a play that counted. With the game tied and something like a second left, Durant threw up a 40-foot shot that was just too strong, bouncing off the back rim. When you consider that Durant had to catch, spin and shoot, all within a second and with a man tight on him… and he still managed to not just draw iron, but that his shot was right on line. That’s something special from a player that’s special.

So was overtime. Williams had five points in the period, all in the last minute of play. The Thunder’s James Harden hit a big three and almost immediately Utah’s CJ Miles made a three point play to tie the game up. Right up until the buzzer, both sides were trading baskets.

It wasn’t at the same pace as the rest of the game – it was a lot slower – but that wasn’t a surprise. Both sides looked gassed.

Like I wrote, this one had it all and it was a lot of fun to watch. Hell, it was maybe the best regular season game I’ve seen since that Suns/Mavericks game in late 2007.

A little while ago, I made a case that Durant should be the NBA’s MVP. After Tuesday’s game, I’m more convinced then ever. Even while losing, Durant stole the spotlight. He had 45 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He was 12-of-12 from the line, too. Not a bad night for the NBA’s leading scorer.

In the last three and half minutes of regulation, the Thunder came back from being down by 11. Durant scored 12 points and assisted on the game-tying three.

That’s the kind of performance I’d expect from a MVP. And while Durant may not win it this year, he’s certainly putting the league on notice that LeBron James isn’t alone at the top.

Written by M.

April 7, 2010 at 10:06 pm