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Monday Bolts – 3.26.12

Monday Bolts – 3.26.12

ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that the Thunder gave Derek Fisher $2.3 million for the rest of the season after he became a free agent. That’s a lot of money for Derek Fisher.

Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com: “The Thunder jumped out to a scorching start, nailing 10 of its first 11 shots from the floor and they never looked back. Durant gave LeBron everything he could handle and shifted the MVP debate back in his favor. The scoring output from the Thunder bigs was a welcomed surprise for Scotty Brooks. The Thunder couldn’t have made a bigger statement in a March tilt.”

Read John Schuhmann’s outstanding film breakdown of OKC’s offense: “Now, is there a problem with a low-assist offense in the postseason? Maybe… All offense drops off in the playoffs. The average playoff team over the last 15 years has scored 1.8 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did in the regular season. And overall, there’s no correlation between a team’s regular season assist rate and the amount their offense regresses in the postseason. But the 24 playoff teams who had a regular season assist rate of less than 55 percent saw their offense drop-off slightly more (2.4 points per 100 possessions) than the average. Three of those 24 teams made The Finals: the 2005-06 Mavericks, the 2008-09 Magic, and the 2010-11 Heat. All three lost when they got there.”

Me at CBSSports.com on last night’s game.

Berry Tramel: “It wasn’t just Durant passing to Perkins, though five of his eight baskets came off Durant feeds. But Westbrook fed Durant, Collison and Perkins for dunks. Perkins fed Ibaka. Ibaka fed Perkins. Think of those odds. Entering the game, Perkins had 16 dunks and Ibaka 20 assists all season.”

Dwyane Wade’s halfcourt shot was ridiculous.

Matt Moore for PBT: “Sunday night can be passed off as just another game all they want. But it wasn’t to OKC and they played like it. Durant played like an MVP, the Thunder role players stepped up, and the Heat literally threw away their chances at the game. Championship teams get to play the “we’ll be fine, we’ve been fine before.” As usual, Miami’s playing that card without having it.”

Darnell Mayberry: “Once upon a time the Thunder had to hide Durant on a much less capable offensive player rather than throwing him in the deep end against James. Not anymore. The two stars now go head-to-head for the majority of the night each time they step on the floor, and Sunday showed us that, surprisingly, it’s Durant’s defense that gives him the edge in the individual matchup. Durant defended everyone from James to Dwyane Wade to Shane Battier, all with enormous success. Of James’ eight made field goals, only one came off an isolation play against Durant — and it was a tough fadeaway jumper five minutes into the game. And for all of James’ physical gifts, he struggled mightily to muster anything inside against the much leaner Durant, be it out of post-ups or drives. Oh yeah, Durant also showed once more that James has no answer for him at the other end, finishing with a game-high 28 points with nine rebounds and eight assists.”

Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: “If you have all that, you have a 103-87 loss, one that left the Heat with much to consider and correct before the teams’ April 4 meeting in Miami, to say nothing of a potential NBA Finals matchup in June. On this night, young, hungry Oklahoma City looked like an impassioned and organized unit easily outclassing an assemblage of confused, careless individuals. “They kicked our butts,” Spoelstra said. Immediately. Thoroughly.”

From Elias: “Kevin Durant scored 28 points in the Thunder’s 103-87 win over the Heat. It was Durant’s lowest, yes lowest, point total in six games against Miami since the start of the 2009 calendar year. That’s the most games of 28 or more points against the Heat during that time. The runner-up is … wait for it … LeBron James (4), and the only other forwards besides James with even half as many 28-point games versus Miami since Jan. 1, 2009 as Durant are Dirk Nowitzki and … Chris Bosh.”

NBA.com power rankings: “With their offense clicking (and assisting!), the Thunder took out the Heat in impressive fashion on Sunday. But that was just the first of four title-contender tests in an 11-day stretch. They visit the Lakers on Thursday, host the Bulls on Sunday, and then visit Miami next Wednesday. Stay tuned.”

Matt Moore for CBSSports.com: “That’s what an MVP performance looks like. Not just the scoring and knocking down the biggest shots in the biggest moments, but distributing (8 assists) and getting after it on defense. Not Durant’s finest game of the season, but a gem that may have had the most impact on his season. The Thunder can now believe they can hang with a probable Finals contender, dominate, even, and that their home crowd can lift them to the highest levels. This wasn’t a fluke, heartwarming win, it was a statement of arrival. And Durant was the messenger.”

Thundor is challenging Shaq: “I want to do a free throw contest (with Shaq) — 10 free throws each and we can distract each other. If I make more than him, then he has to donate some money to charity. If he makes more than me, then he can pick my paint job for the next game.”