HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —Eric Maynor was forced to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder’s run through the Western Conference and to The Finals like the rest of us, from the sidelines in street clothes. A knee injury cost the Thunder point guard his chance at making a significant on-court contribution to the cause.
But he’s back now and seemingly better than ever, working as the Thunder’s resident wild card after a summer spent growing what’s already in the fold as opposed to adding new pieces to what Thunder fans hope is a championship-ready roster.
Derek Fisher was used in this same position last season, and proved to be particularly valuable in the postseason. He was only keeping the spot warm for Maynor, who reportedly faces a serious challenge for playing time from Reggie Jackson.
If what Maynor showed last night, however, is any indication, Jackson might spend more time watching Maynor work instead of stepping into his shoes.
Does he believe that? Or is it his defense mechanism for trying to cope with that which he can not — or does not — comprehend?
It’s more than just missed shots young fella, so much more. (Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and the rest of the relentless Mavericks’ veterans had a little something to do with it, no?)
But in your defense, there were plenty of us that struggled to make sense of what we saw last night. Lots of us will have a tough time explaining this one away, as no doubt you and your Thunder teammates will for years to come.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook didn’t have to be great down the stretch to win this game. They’d already been great, Durant especially, for most of four quarters. That gave Oklahoma City a 15-point lead with less than five minutes to play, and from that point, greatness was no longer required. Mediocrity would have worked. Hell, below-average play would have gotten the job done.
But Durant and Westbrook were neither mediocre nor below average. In the final minutes, they were awful.
And Dirk Nowitzki was not.
And that’s how it happened. Durant missed shots. Westbrook missed shots. Nowitzki didn’t miss a damn thing. That put the game into overtime, where it continued. More misses from Westbrook and Durant. More turnovers. More Nowitzki. In the final 10 minutes of regulation and OT, Westbrook and Durant were 1 for 12 from the floor and 0 for 2 from the line, and they committed three turnovers. Nowitzki? He scored 14 points in those 10 minutes.
That’s how Dallas won, taking a larcenous 112-105 victory for a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Now we know why experience matters. Now we know why you’ve got to pay your dues.
Now we know why young teams, no matter how good, no matter how talented, now matter how athletic, no matter how blessed, eventually get derailed in this meat-grinder known as the NBA playoffs.
The old Mavericks beat the young Thunder 112-105 in overtime for the simplest of reasons.
The tortoise kept running. The hare, not so much. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s too soon for anyone to panic.
It’s much, much too soon for that.
But it’s fair to cast a critical eye at the Oklahoma City Thunder six games into this season and wonder what’s going on with the team that so many of us (we’re smack dab in the middle of the mix here at the hideout) expected to play like an elite team from the start.
Marquee matchups haven’t been kind to the Thunder this season. Utah thumped them by 21 points and Boston did what they wanted with them Sunday. They were also handled by the Clippers and if not for a Jeff Green layup at the buzzer in Detroit the Friday before Halloween, they’d be 2-4 instead of 3-3.
The blowback is inevitable when you come into the season atop the media darlings list, get Sports Illustrated cover spreads ahead of Miami’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and then play middle of the pack ball once the season starts.
Thunder star Russell Westbrook isn’t particularly worried:
“It’s the fifth game, sixth game, no need to panic,” he said. “Last year, they thought we weren’t going to make the playoffs. So you can’t believe whoever they is. We’re going to get it right.”
Perhaps he knows something we don’t know?
That said, we’re not the only ones that have noticed that something is awry with the Thunder early on here. The folks who see them up close and personal on a regular basis suggest that things are out of whack in Kevin Durant‘s playground.
It’s all a jumbled mess, which for the second straight Sunday night at the arena formerly known as the Ford Center describes the team formerly known as the NBA’s newest hot thing.
The Celtics took apart the Thunder 92-83, just like Utah did a week ago. So while it’s early, six games into an 82-game wagon train, if the Boomers are to surpass or even match their spirited dash of last season, better to start sooner than later.
This is what we figured we’d see last season. Promising but erratic pups who figured to be on the wrong side of the playoffs.
The 50-win breakout of last season is what we figured we’d be seeing now, a team blooming into something to be feared.
Sunday night was a first-half blowout. Even if it was against Boston, the class of the league … even if it was without Jeff Green, the Thunder handyman … even if the Thunder rallied and made the fourth quarter bearable … how can all that be written off?
OKC is 3-3 and has been blasted out of its own building twice and has shown only occasional flashes of last season’s defense.
Either the injured Nick Collison is one of the league’s most valuable players and departed defensive coordinator Ron Adams should have been coach of the year, or the Thunder has everything mixed up.
Maybe we all had it mixed up after that monster season last year and that spirited playoff series against the Lakers … or maybe we should all just calm down and let this team adjust to being the hunted and not the young hunter …