Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thunder survive Warriors in OT

The Warriors will miss the playoffs this season, but they got a taste of playoff atmosphere tonight at Oklahoma City. The Warriors played a solid game against the current four seed of the rugged Western conference, but lost in overtime.

Monta Ellis had rough shooting night against one of the NBA's top on ball defenders in Thabo Sefolosha. Ellis went 9-30 on the night, but hit the biggest shot of the night. It was a clutch three pointer that made overtime possible.

The Warriors played a great game, other than some costly turnovers at critical moments down the stretch. David Lee had 24 points and 15 rebounds. Steph Curry had 35 points, shot five of eight from three, and grabbed six rebounds. Ekpe Udoh had 12 points and created multiple fast breaks from blocked shots. The NBA.com box score said he had three blocks, but he had at least five. At least. Udoh is legit. Since Biedrins went down and Udoh's minutes have increased, the rookie out of Baylor has done nothing, but prove he belongs in the NBA. Udoh stays down and anticipates as well as anyone in the league.

The Warriors have added two solid players through the draft over the past two years in Curry and Udoh. The Thunder has done well in added talent through the draft. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green (now in Boston, traded for Kendrick Perkins), and James Hardin.

The Thunder are deep and beat the Warriors with superior bench play (and doubling up the Warriors on free throws). The Thunder shoot the most free throws in the NBA thanks to Durant and Westbrook. Both players are very good and still getting better, but I have a problem with the way they draw fouls.

Durant has studied Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Martin. All of the afore mentioned players will try to draw a shooting foul by sweeping the ball low and intentionally making contact with the defender's arms. This play has become common in today's NBA and it's a shame. It's bad for basketball and is not called in the college game. NBA officials need to gather up in the off season and stop calling this play. If officials ignore this pathetic plea for free throws, players will stop doing it.

It's not Durant's fault for being clever enough to find an advantage, but the NBA needs to make the change. Westbrook is almost unguardable. If he had a consistent perimeter game, he would be (Example A: Derrick Rose). The Warriors did well to dare him to shoot, but Westbrook still found a way to get in the lane and cause damage. Westbrook is very good, but sometimes out of control and throws himself into the bodies of defenders. A player should not be rewarded for being out of control. It doesn't have to be a charge, but a no call is fair. David Lee got his nose blodied on one of Westbrook's drives and was whistled for a blocking foul.

Are the Thunder for real?

I'm not a subscriber to the Thunder hype going into the playoffs. Russell Westbrook is too turnover prone and I think that will hurt them in close games, especially on the road. Perkins is not the player he once was. Perkins blew out his knee in the playoffs last year and is still not completely back from the injury. He also lacks chemistry with the other Thunder players. Also, I don't think the Thunder will get the foul calls in the playoffs that came during the regular season.

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