Monday Bolts – 6.11.12
Anthony Macri for ESPN.com: “One of the things that Miami’s defense tends to do very well is contest every catch and force players to make one-on-one decisions against closeouts. They choke off passing lanes and their length forces teams into difficult shots, especially when Bosh is healthy and contributing big minutes. His presence allows the Heat defenders to press up and get into the feet of their opponents, and offenses tend to back away from this kind of pressure. Oklahoma City, however, may be able to thrive in this situation. The one-on-one ability of their “Big Three,” especially the always-in-control Harden, could become a difference-maker in this series. Miami closes out so hard that the Thunder’s ability to take advantage of the tendency to over-pursue could make a huge difference.”
Paul Forrester of SI.com: “The Thunder seem to have all the pieces in place to play for championships for many years: young stars in Durant, Westbrook and Harden, an improving, 22-year-old power forward in Serge Ibaka, a defensive-minded center in Kendrick Perkins and unselfish role players such as Nick Collison. But it won’t be long before small-market Oklahoma City is forced to confront the question of whether general manager Sam Presti will be able to keep the team together, especially if it means having to pay the luxury tax. The Thunder might have to become a taxpaying team to retain both Harden and Ibaka, who are set to be restricted free agents in 2013, unless they agree to contract extensions after this season. Are the Thunder willing to spend like a big market?”
Thunder aren’t thinking about Durant vs. LeBron.
Thabo on his future: “I’m under contract with the Thunder for two more years after this. I have not looked beyond that, actually. I’m just happy to be where I’m at today with this great organization, but at the same time it’s a business, you know. I’ll try to enjoy it as much as I can while I’m here and make the best out of it – for me and for the team.”
Sean Deveney of Sporting News on KD vs. Bron: “Given their ages and experience levels, there’s no doubt James will be under far greater scrutiny and pressure than Durant. That type of pressure rattled James in the Finals last year, his first with the Heat and the one that followed his regrettable proclamation that the Heat would bring “not three, not four, not five” championships to Miami. At the same time, the lack of pressure on the Mavericks made the game easier for them as that series went on.”
Via Kevin Arnovitz, a look back at the draft concerns around KD.
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com on matchups: “Defensively, Westbrook is going to wreak havoc. He’s also going to allow some points. If he’s up on Wade he may get too eager and overplay, allowing Wade to shoot his runner, which is bad. And more than one team has found that Mario Chalmers can score at the rim this year. The Thunder may be surprised by what Chalmers brings if he gets past Westbrook.”
Dave Zirin of The Nation: “Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon don’t deserve anyone’s cheers. I don’t just want the Thunder to lose. I want LeBron James to make them wish they’d never left the Emerald City. That is why no matter how much you dislike the ill-fitting “Dream Team” in South Beach, or swoon at teh sight of Kevin Durant, anyone who cares about the sacrosanct relationship of teams to their cities and decries the way pro sports is used as an instrument of corporate looting, should know who to root for and who to root against. Without equivocation, all true NBA fans, in the name of Slick Watts, should sound three words this championship season: “Let’s go Heat.”
It is extremely frustrating and silly that Seattle has become a storyline again. I don’t see at all what this is accomplishing.
Kurt Helin of PBT with keys to the series: “Kevin Durant has to be the finals MVP. There are people trying some revisionist history, suggesting Durant should have been the regular season MVP. No. LeBron was more efficient on offense and had far more defensive responsibilities than Durant. The right guy won. But both of them would trade a regular season MVP for a finals MVP. Without blinking. Durant needs to be that here — he needs to score, do it efficiently and do it when his team needs it during games. He needs to make some defensive plays. He has been this team’s MVP for years and now he needs to be that on the biggest stage in basketball. If he wants to take the next step, this is it.”
Sekou Smith of NBA.com: “Thunder coach Scott Brooks has fostered a system that in this postseason has found ways to nurture the needs of his three biggest stars without any of them having to suffer. Durant, Westbrook and Harden have all had their moments and have found ways to be effective with and without the ball in their hands. And when they are clicking simultaneously, they’re basically an unstoppable force … as the Mavericks, Lakers and Spurs found out in succession in the Western Conference side of the bracket. The one added bonus the Thunder have going for them is their bigs, both Ibaka and Perkins, are capable of forcing the issue inside on both ends of the floor. They’re just good enough on the offensive end to beat you if you concentrate the entire focus of the defense on the perimeter.”
Tom Ziller of SB Nation on coaches: “Coaching in the NBA is thankless right up to the moment at which excellence becomes irrefutable. Rivers is a perfect example: he was the reason the Celtics would lose in the 2008 playoffs … until they won the title. Then he became widely accepted as a virtuoso. Then he repeated his feats (with earning another ring), and now he is pretty close to legend. Will Brooks or Spoelstra ever reach such grand heights? One will get a tremendous boost, because being able to hold up that O’Brien trophy will vindicate all questionable decisions, will silence all whinging from the crowd. These days that’s how we know whether a coach is good or not: whether he has a ring. It’s imperfect, but it’s what we’ve got in this attention-deprived sports world.”