Darnell Mayberry: “Three things are all you need to know about this game. They are what defined this contest and ultimately made it more competitive than it perhaps should have been. Ball movement. Missed shots. Small ball. In short, the Thunder didn’t move the ball well at all in the first half, which led to an out of tune offense and one missed shot after another. Following that first-half fiasco, the Thunder finally played small, allowing it to defend better, pick up the pace and generate easier baskets. That, in a nutshell, was the ballgame.”
From Elias: “Oklahoma City won its ninth straight game and, as usual, Kevin Durant led the team with 35 points and Russell Westbrook led them in assists with nine. It’s the third time in NBA history that a team won nine consecutive games and one player led them in scoring while another led them in assists in all nine games (outright or tied). The Thunder also had a nine-game streak during the 2009-10 season (with Durant and Westbrook of course) and the Jazz had a 13-game streak in 1994-95 with Karl Malone and John Stockton.”
Mason Ginsberg of Hornets 24/7: “The Thunder won this game at the free throw line. Over the teams’ first two match-ups, the Hornets earned 46 free throw attempts, nine more than the Thunder’s 37. OKC made up that gap and then some tonight, doubling New Orleans’ 16 attempts with 32 of their own. The net result was a 12-point advantage from the charity stripe for the Thunder, which clearly was a major factor in their 4 point margin of victory. Durant attempted two less free throws by himself than the Hornets’ entire team.”
Incredible Thunder art from Ray Tennyson. Seriously, awesome stuff.
KD is Sporting News’ quarter MVP: “There are four obvious contenders for the top-player honors this year: reigning MVP LeBron James, Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, Clippers point guard Chris Paul and Durant. Currently, Durant holds the edge because his numbers have been astounding—he is averaging career highs in shooting, rebounding, assists and blocks—and because his team has been able to be one of the best in the NBA even after losing a star like James Harden.”
Why doesn’t anyone shoot free throws underhand like Rick Barry? Long feature from Kevin Fixler of SB Nation: “Barry may be the shot’s biggest pitchman, but in fact, he was not even the last to make regular use of it. That distinction goes George Johnson, a teammate of Barry’s on the 1975 championship team. A 6’10” center, Johnson entered the league shooting 55 percent with the standard method, but after accepting Barry’s counsel and making the switch, as high as the mid-70s the last time he logged significant free-throw attempts. He ended his career a member of the Seattle SuperSonics in 1986. Apart from two tries by former Denver Nugget Chris Andersen, precipitated in 2002 by a wrist fracture, the technique is the proverbial dodo of the NBA, and sometimes things are even said to go the way of the underhand free throw.”
Did you see the ref trying to block Kris Humphries’ free throw? You need to see the ref trying to block Kris Humphries’ free throw.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “Those numbers will be hard to sustain, but you could make the argument that the Thunder are shooting better because they’re sharing the ball more. Last year, they were the only team that assisted on less than half of its field goals. This year, they rank 13th in assist rate, recording assists on more than 59 percent of their buckets. Most of that increase comes from Westbrook, whose assist rate has gone from 25 assists per 100 possessions used in 2009-10 to 18 last season and now back up to 26 this season. Turnovers are still a big problem for the Thunder, but they make up for them somewhat by getting to the line more than any team except the Lakers. And then they make their opponents pay by shooting the highest free throw percentage in NBA history, 83.4 percent. They’ve attempted 64 fewer free throws than the Lakers, but have made 54 more.”
David Thorpe of ESPN.com on PJIII: “OKC has worked to get off to solid footing in 2012 to ensure the transition away from James Harden was smooth, and it has worked out great. Except for its rookies, of course. Jones has talent to help the team, and it is fair to guess that at some point he will start getting more looks from Scott Brooks as Brooks tries to find some more energy from his bench (which is rolling now, but it’s a long season).”