Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Issues At Bay

The Oklahoma City Thunder are a pretty good basketball team when they have that Russell Westbrook guy out on the court. When he's on the bench things get a little ugly.

No player on the Thunder bench had positive +/- in Sunday's game. Westbrook led the team with a +14, but when he's out of the game the Thunder have trouble getting anything going offensively.

Something has to change for the Thunder to drastically alter the momentum in this series. Part of that is shortening the rotation. Just like last year when Billy Donovan staggered Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, he must do the same thing against the Rockets.

Victor Oladipo hasn't had a good series. He's been streaky and his confidence doesn't seem to be very high. But, for Oklahoma City to comeback he must become their second best player. The backup point guard situation is a mess. Neither Norris Cole or Semaj Christon can run a second unit effectively. So why not stagger the minutes between Westbrook and Oladipo?

Let Oladipo run the second unit as point guard, a position he ran frequently during his tenure with the Orlando Magic. This would allow the second unit to have some sort of playmaking ability with Westbrook on the bench, and hopefully an opportunity for Westbrook to breathe a little while he's there.

Also Taj Gibson has to play more. I understand what Billy Donovan is trying to do. The Rockets are littered with three-point shooters, so he wants to counter it by going small and matching their quickness (Oklahoma City's three-point defense is a whole different story). Gibson is rugged defender with the capability of knocking down shots in the post, or from 15 feet away.

In the one game they won, Gibson took 20 points on 13 shots.

The Thunder's season could end tonight, but with the right adjustments they could push the pressure against the Rockets

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bricks Lead to Brink

I'll just say it. That was one of the worst five minutes of basketball I've ever seen. Stupid fouls, missed calls, turnovers, both teams looked like they just started at the YMCA league.

The worst, which most Thunder fans will agree with, is the foul Jerami Grant committed on Houston forward Nene.

With about 20 seconds to go Steven Adams went to the line with a chance to cut the deficit to just three. But, after making the first free throw Adams went to half court to set up a play of his own. Westbrook began nodding his head and made his way to the three point line, waiting for his opportunity.

Adams return to the free throw line, takes one dribble and throws the ball off the front of the rim. The Thunder center skies for the rebound and throws a pass to a waiting Russell Westbrook. BANG.

The Thunder were down just one point, 108-107. Any way the Rockets played it, OKC would have an opportunity to tie the game unless they really screwed up.

Spoiler: They screwed up.

The Rockets inbounded the ball, where the Thunder immediately should've fouled. They denied the ball to their best free throw shooter (Harden), which was a success. The only poor free throw shooter the Rockets had on the floor was Nene, but he was on the other end of the court.

It didn't really make sense to waste time hoping for a miracle steal, the Thunder needed all the time they could get. But the Thunder did not foul...at least not yet. No, Oklahoma City decided to wait and foul Nene as the big went up for a layup. They screwed up.

The only way the Thunder could eliminate themselves from the game at that point was allow a three point shot, or foul on an and-1. Fouling on the inbounds would have gotten rid of both of those possibilities.

Nene made the following free throw, eliminating the Thunder from the game and placing their season on the line Tuesday night.

There's still a chance the Thunder could pull it out (they themselves blew a 3-1 lead last year), but chances are slim. Russell Westbrook needs to pull one last rabbit out of his hat, or rather some teammates that'll contribute when he's not on the floor.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Westbrook Saves Thunder Again In 114-106 Victory Over Magic

                                          Photo by Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel 
Well...that was something. Russell Westbrook just did the impossible for the second game in a row and did it while having one of the best games of his career.

The Thunder were down by as many as 21 points in the second half and were down double digits entering the fourth quarter. All hope seemed to be gone, but Westbrook strutted toward the scorers table at the seven minute mark looking as confident as ever.

Westbrook scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to help storm a comeback and give the Thunder a chance with 15 seconds remaining. Nikola Vucevic was at the free throw line and had a chance to seal the game. The Magic were up three points with one free throw remaining.

As the free throw went up, Westbrook positioned himself for the rebound and it fell right in his hands. Ten seconds left Westbrook is racing down the court and pulls up a deeeeeeeep three point shot in front of two defenders.

I could hear the frustration of Thunder fans as the shot went up. Twitter was preparing to slaughter Westbrook for his shot attempt. But, the miracle shot went in.

The shot forced overtime and Westbrook was not going to let his team down. The Thunder never let him from the opening tip of overtime. Russell finished with 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. It is the most points ever scored in a triple-double game. It was Westbrook's 38th of the season and now only needs three to tie Oscar Robertson's record of 41.

The Thunder moved to 43-31 behind an MVP performance from Westbrook.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Thunder Fall to Rockets in Shootout

The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Houston Rockets in a high scoring affair 137-125.

Russell Westbrook finished the game with his 36th triple-double of the year, ending with 39 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.

If the box score was any indicator, offense wasn't really an issue throughout the ballgame for the Thunder. Oklahoma City shot 50 percent from the field in the game and 36 percent from three, but the offensive firepower the Thunder brought to the game was overshadowed by an incredible shooting performance by the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets shot 63 percent from the field and and scorching 51 percent from downtown. While bad defense no doubt played a part in the high percentage, Houston also just couldn't miss. On contested jumpers the Rockets shot 73.8 percent (credit to the guys at Thunderous Intentions for finding this data). Now when a team is just hitting tough shots, there is really nothing you can do about it.

The Thunder now sit at 41-31, tied in the loss column with the 5th seeded Clippers. With 10 games to play there is still a lot at stake with Oklahoma City.

First off is seeding. The Thunder would love to jump the Clippers and have a first round matchup against the Jazz. Oklahoma City matches up well against Utah and might be favored to win the series. If the Thunder stay at #6 then they would play the Houston Rockets. I don't think it's impossible for the Thunder to beat the Houston Rockets in a seven game series. Playoff basketball is a different animal and anything can happen, but the Rockets three point shooting will give the Thunder fits. Enough talk on that though, that'll be for another day.

The second thing at stake for the Thunder, or Russell Westbrook, is the MVP award and Westbrook's triple-double count. Westbrook is most likely going to finish the season averaging a triple-double, but will that along with carrying Oklahoma City to a possible 5th seed be enough to snag the award? Most polls that have been conducted so far by some media members have James Harden winning MVP and Westbrook finishing second. But, anything can happen in the NBA.

The Thunder will take on the Mavericks tonight at 7:30 in Dallas.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Westbrook's Historic Night Pushes Thunder Past 76ers

Image received from footwearnews
On Wednesday night, Russell Westbrook became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double while going perfect from the floor and the free throw line.

Westbrook finished with 18 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds to give the Thunder a 122-97 victory over the 76ers. Enes Kanter came off the bench and destroyed Jahlil Okafor in the post to the tune of 24 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes of play. Victor Oladipo chipped in 18 points and Doug McDermott 13 points.

From the opening tip the Thunder were just too much to handle for the inexperienced Philadelphia team. The Thunder won the first quarter 29-22 and never relinquished their lead.

Westbrook now has 35 triple-doubles on the season, placing him only six behind Oscar Robertson's record of 41 with 11 games to play.

The Thunder are just 1.5 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the 5th seed in the Western Conference. If the playoffs started today the Thunder would play the Houston Rockets in the first round, a matchup they are capable of winning. If they were to advance, Oklahoma City, barring a miracle performance from the Denver Nuggets, would play the Golden State Warriors.

The Thunder's next game will be against the Houston Rockets on Sunday in a potential first round matchup.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Blogging For Dummies

The Learning Curve

What I've learned about writing for a blog is to not stick to a general formula. Every post you make is going to be different, so it's ok if one is shorter than another, designed a different way, and written a different way. Looking at the same format while scrolling through a blog can get boring. Switch it up. Put videos, tweets, pictures, anything to spice up the post you're making. Make things stand out, put bold headlines

The Journey of Blogging

At first my blog was as generic as it gets. A basic template took over my blog for the first couple of weeks. But as I started to settle in, my blog started to take form. I put a nice picture as the background and my blog posts became more detailed and fun. While the look of my blog is not the fanciest (I'm still trying to figure things out) I think it is an appealing look over what I had for the first couple of weeks. My first blog posts had no pictures or videos, but after a couple of weeks I began to add videos and tweets to make my posts for alive.

Can't Live Without You

Blogging and sports are becoming a unit you can't take apart. Blogging has given big sports media industries the ability to hire reporters who can be in the thick of things without having to relocate at all. Almost every single sport and team has a specific blog talking about them. The blogs people have created now are a resume to show future employers and are a big advantage over other job seekers. Blogging in the sports industries can blossom into a long  career of sports writing and give you the chance to cover a team you love.

Changing For the Better

Blogging in this class has affected my writing style dramatically. Writing for sports is a little different than writing about other things in the news world. It still has to be in inverted pyramid, but it's mainly chronological. This class has made me read even more sports articles to get different techniques on writing. I want to make sure I'm up to date on the latest sports lingo and include it in my blog posts. Overall I think I have become a more well-rounded writer capable of writing about various topics.

Lessons Learned

I've learned the importance of originality. Nobody wants to read a blog that is an exact copy of another blog. People want to see different outlooks on situations and see different topics. If you're not original you're not going to make it far in the writing industry. If you're stringing out the same content week by week you can guarantee you're employer will be looking for someone else to take you're place. While that's a stressful thing to take in, it also makes me push harder.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thunder Storm Pass Nets

The blizzard outside the Barclay Center seemed to effect both teams sluggish defensive effort. Throughout the whole week the game was in question. A storm moving through the east really made the game questionable, but the game would take place.

The Oklahoma City Thunder rolled past the Brooklyn Nets 122-104 as Russell Westbrook collected his 33rd triple-double of the season.

If the final score wasn't an indicator, this game had absolutely no defense. At halftime the score was tied at 62-62.

Russell Westbrook was once again a force to be reckoned with. Most people thought that come February the triple-doubles would dwindle down. But Westbrook is playing with the same energy he did opening night. Westbrook finished with 25 points, 19 assists and 12 rebounds, now placing him only eight triple-doubles behind Oscar Robertson's all time record.

Victor Oladipo had another great game, scoring 21 points on 9-15 shooting. When Oladipo has to be held out because of back spasms he said it worked wonders for his wrist, which he injured near the end of December. His productivity has backed his statement.

Now with these two having such a great game you would think they would top the plus-minus for the team, but that isn't the case. In fact, the top three players in regards to plus-minus for the Thunder all came off the bench. Alex Abrines was a +23, Domantas Sabonis was a +17 and Enes Kanter was a +14. With Kanter back the Thunder bench is finding their rhythm that the unit once had in January.

The Thunder will be in Toronto tomorrow night to take on the Raptors.