When the doors opened at the TD Garden and the crowds began to file in, the hype surrounding this game with the locals was one of a quiet confidence. The Thunder has had a miserable start to the season and all were looking forward to adding more pain to their suffering.
Boof is here with another cracking write up! Fresh off the back of our joint venture with the Hoops Podcast, the boys will be contributing articles for the site as well so keep an eye out for more great content
NBA teams are like recipes from a cookbook, the good ones are simple and subtle yet have plenty of flavor whereas the bad ones can be confusing and taste like something that expired weeks earlier.
We are down to the point in the season were the remaining teams need every little piece of the recipe to come together and perfect that ideal meal.
In the Western Conference right now it looks like a complete mismatch, it’s a cook off going on between Heston Blumenthal and a burger flipper at your local McDonalds.
The Spurs have long been the Masterchefs of perfecting a rotation and having all of the key ingredients play their part without overpowering the entirety of the meal.
This showcase has somehow, beyond the realms of possibility, gone to another level this postseason. At times you feel sorry for the team on the other side of the court but as a fan you are left sitting in your chair watching on with your jaw to the floor.
Yes the Thunder have been weakened by injuries, losing Ibaka is like making a shepherds pie without the base. They have lost their foundation and without it they have simply fallen apart and look like a complete mess.
Now they face their biggest challenge yet, yes bigger than the NBA Finals from two years ago, they find themselves in a 0-2 hole and have the advantage of being at home, they will not won’t to disappoint their home audience.
In order to showcase their abilities and get this meal back on course to being a winner, they need the rest of their ingredients to evolve into pieces they are not used to being. The big men have to stand up and take the burden on and prove that they are not simple burger flippers but master class workers.
In the Eastern Conference you find a complete different story, it’s a battle of two 3 Michelin Star teams. Something that even right before the Playoffs began seemed like mission impossible as the big teams were all falling into the post season.
As we prepare ourselves for an epic game three battle, we dissect the two courses we have already devoured and dined on. The beauty of having such a spotlight on these games is that when somebody isn’t delivering as they normally would you can notice the ripple effect on the rest of the team.
Picture one of your favorite meals and the herbs and spices that may go into it, now remove one of them and the difference is monumental.
Both the Pacers and the Heat are missing ingredients from the first two games and whichever team can find the salt shaker or locate a different herb from their cupboard to replace the original will go a major way in deciding who wins the battle.
In Game 1 the Heat severely missed one of their key ingredients in Chris Bosh, the big man went an awful 4-12 from the field and a shattering 0-5 from deep. He ended the game with a +/- of -16 and the Heat showed that without his input and impact they are not what we expect. Let’s not get carried away, his second game wasn’t a thing of beauty but he showed a lot more effort and ended with a (-4) however the Heat won.
Game 2 for the Pacers wasn’t a complete disaster however there is evidence that the kitchen wasn’t far away from burning down. Paul George was the only starter who had major struggles from the starting group but the root of the problems lay beyond the main foundations, the bench was a complete shambles.
They (Mahinmi, Watson, Scola & Butler) combined for a total of 9 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist.
Most chefs will tell you that the best pieces of any meal consist of the hidden parts that nobody gives attention to; in basketball this is your bench. The players who hardly ever garner attention but make as much of an impact as the key players, if the Pacers bench can’t contribute to the recipe the Pacers team along with the fans will be left with a sour taste as they rue yet another lost season.
Which team will work their magic with the cookbook they possess and produce the better tasting dish?
The NBA’s worst kept secret is out! Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant has officially been named the league’s Most Valuable Player for the first time in his 7-year career.
Second in 2013 and 2013, KD finally won the majority claiming 119 first place votes, a long shot from 2nd placed LeBron James who finished with 6. You can see the full breakdown of the votes HERE. Durant’s season has been impeccable, averaging 32 points, 7.4 rebounds 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting over 50.3% from the field and 39% from downtown. He led the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating, win Shares, minutes played, points, field goals, field goal attempts, free throws, free throw attempts and usage rate.
Durant’s acceptance speech was filled with emotion, thanking his teammates individually, ending with Russell Westbrook stating “People think you’re just this emotional player but you’re so much more. You’d run through walls for me, and I love you, man”. He also thanked his ever-supportive mother claiming her to be “the real MVP”. When all was said and done, there were very few dry eyes left in the house as KD was presented as the MVP.
The job however, is far from done with the Thunder falling to the Clippers at home in Game 1 of the Western Conference semi finals yesterday. They’ll face off again tomorrow and attempt to recapture everything that makes the Thunder so watchable, with the MVP leading the charge.
This weekend past, I clicked into my ‘Podcasts’ app on my iPhone to see which of my favourite NBA Podcasts had been updated with new episodes. It was then that I noticed the brilliant CRTSDE podcast had posted a ‘Mini-sode’ which had regular B.G discussing his new project ‘The Backpack Baller’. At first, I thought it may have been a story involving a backpacking traveller trekking the world while taking in as much hoops as possible. How wrong I was!
In fact, B.G (Brad Graham) has put together a book, actually, a much needed book about Superstar Kevin Durant.
I got to throw a few questions Brad’s way about this amazing project, including what areas the book touches on, and what it’s going to take to make it happen.
Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the last part in the trilogy that is the NBA’s Greatest Rivalries. We’ve hit some ones so far but in reality there are still some big dogs to go through yet. Enjoy. (more…)
No NBA superstar is more polarizing than Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook. The Thunder point guard is undeniably talented, and unquestionably one of the best players in the NBA. However, that hasn’t stopped him from having what seems like an army of detractors.
Every player in the league has their critics. This is certainly not new news. But Westbrook has a disproportionate number of vocal knockers compared to his contemporaries, and more importantly, to his talent level.
The bottom line is that every player has their weaknesses; no one is perfect. But why does Russell seem to have his weaknesses dissected with such ferocity, and so frequently?
Personally, I believe it’s simply because his weaknesses are so clearly on display, and so easily identified. Other players either hide their weaknesses better, or they simply aren’t as profound as Westbrook’s.
In fact, Westbrook’s biggest strength – apart from his amazing athleticism – is also his biggest weakness: he’s emotional. Plain and simply, Westbrook’s greatest attribute is that he plays the game with intense passion. Yet Westbrook’s biggest concern is that he plays the game with intense passion.
Passion is a wonderful asset for a professional athlete. It means you care, and it drives you to train harder, and to play harder. It ensures that you compete with commitment, and that you give your maximum effort at all times.
These are not bad labels for an elite level basketballer, and when it comes to Westbrook, they’re all apt and accurate. One criticism you could never level against Westbrook is that he’s lazy or doesn’t care. The guy competes in every game. He’s passionate, no question.
But passion is a double-edged sword.
Passion needs to be controlled. It needs to be channeled in the right way. It needs to be harnessed. For if you play on emotion alone, it means you’re not playing with your head. It means you’re not making rational decisions. It means you’re not thinking.
And so we get to the real issue with Westbrook: for stretches of some games, he plays on passion and emotion, rather than on intelligence and using basketball IQ.
Which invariably means he takes ill-advised shots. Or gambles on passing lanes. Or argues with referees instead of getting back on D. Or gets into a verbal altercation with a teammate. Or concentrates on trash-talking instead of calling a play.
Or misses a wide open Kevin Durant in the corner. Or tries to dunk over three defenders. Or calls a time-out when his team doesn’t have one. Or jacks up a three-pointer with 22 seconds on the shot clock. Or sulks on the bench when his coach subs him out. Or reaches for a low percentage steal and instead picks up his fifth foul.
I could keep going, but I think we all get the picture.
The biggest concern about some of the examples I just used is that Westbrook plays point guard. He’s the general. The floor leader. The initiator of the offense. The coach on the floor. Whatever cliché you want to use, the fact is that the point guard is relied upon to lead his team, and it’s a bit of an issue when your leader is a wild and emotional hot head.
Though some of Westbrook’s harshest critics say he’s dumb, that’s not fair or accurate. Westbrook’s mistakes come from not thinking, rather than being dumb; and there’s a subtle but important difference. Someone who is dumb cannot be smart. But someone who doesn’t think, can think.
Westbrook simply needs to get better at controlling his emotions, and using them in a positive way. By doing so, he will cut down on his mental errors, lose the ‘dumb’ tag, and be an even greater asset for his team.
The good news is that we’re not talking about a complete headcase here. Westbrook is no Dennis Rodman or Metta World Peace. During his career, he’s shown improvement each year, and he’s not some nutbag who can’t be controlled.
Most importantly, Westbrook is still just 24 years of age. He’s got plenty of growth and maturity left in him, both on and off the court. Combine that with him getting more experience, and it’s not hyperbole to believe that Westbrook hasn’t even scratched the surface of his emotional potential as an NBA player.
It’s also worth pointing out that for all his weaknesses, he’s still one of the top ten players in the league.
As mentioned, his athleticism is breath taking, and he might be one of the top two or three athletes in the NBA. His pull-up jumpshot – always the sign of a good player – is fantastic. His playmaking has improved each year, as has his outside shot. He can be a lockdown defender at times. And though he’ll never be a classical point guard, he’s been the playmaker in one of the most potent and efficient offenses in the NBA.
He’s a great, great player.
Oh, and he also plays with passion too.
So, the results are in and as you may have guessed LeBron James was a unanimous pick for this years All-NBA First team, while Kobe Bryant earned a record tying 11th selection.
A panel of sports journalists and leading broadcasters all voted for James (119 votes), and Kobe tied up with HOF’er Karl Malone.
Below are all 3 teams that were selected, do you agree with the selections?
All-NBA First Team
It’s been some time since our last roundtable, so this week we’ve decided to bring in a couple of new contributors as well as a familiar face or two to discuss some of the recent hot topics in the NBA. We’ll be looking at everything from the Warriors playoff hopes, the Thunder’s challenge without Westbrook, The Knicks chances of taking the East, the Boston Celtics troubles, injures and Jason Collins’ recent news. To kick things off we welcome back Tom Read from the #BelieveTheHype podcast, as well as SidelineAgenda.com contributor and all round sports nut Alex Young, and Houston Rockets/NBA social media commentator Terry Goldfain to the party along with regulars from NBA Nation Australia Nick Caro and Sam Monaghan. Lets go!
Thunder star forward Kevin Durant was ejected late in the 4th quarter of Oklahoma City’s blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets late on Thursday after arguing an illegal screen call on team mate Kendrick Perkins. OKC were down 104-90 at home late in the game when a frustrated Perkins committed the charging screen on Nets’ Gerald Wallace. Durant, clearly unhappy with his team’s performance and the ensuing call, gave the official a verbal spray and bought himself a double technical. Durant was clearly unhappy with the way the Thunder had played throughout the game, especially in the case of guard Russell Westbrook who jacked up 19 shots and had 6 turnovers. Durant has a great reputation in the league, and this ejection is the first of his NBA career.
Watch the video below
It came as somewhat of a shock to many on Sunday. Oklahoma City, last year’s runner up and this year’s high hope trading their reigning Sixth Man of The Year and ultimate play maker off the bench. There were predictions of a trade involving said Sixth Man, but few saw it unfolding as dramatically as it did. In the dwindling hours of Sunday afternoon, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! sports broke the news of a trade that could ultimately change the course of the Western Conference and indeed the NBA as a whole. Fans, teams, officials and players have been left to ponder a decision which may impact the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Championship hopes for at least this year. Here, we take a look at the trade which has seen ‘The Beard’ himself, James Harden accept an offer to join Jeremy Lin at the Houston Rockets, and leave a title hopeful Thunder in his wake.
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