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Friday, May 13, 2016

Golden State Versus Oklahoma City Preview

Western Conference Finals

#1 Golden State (73-9) vs. #3 Oklahoma City (55-27)

Season series: Golden State, 3-0

Oklahoma City can win if...the Thunder's dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continue to play at an All-NBA First Team--if not MVP--level while the Thunder's platoon of big men dominate the paint.

Durant (28.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.0 apg) and Westbrook (25.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 10.5 apg) were both magnificent as the Thunder eliminated the 67-15 San Antonio Spurs, 4-2. The Thunder won four of the last five games of the series, including two victories in San Antonio (where the Spurs went 40-1 during the regular season).

Thunder big men Steven Adams (11.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg, .703 FG%), Serge Ibaka (11.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, team-high 12 3FGM) and Enes Kanter (8.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg) had a major impact versus San Antonio at both ends of the court.

Golden State will win because...the Warriors feature a three-headed monster (two-time MVP Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson) plus a deep and versatile supporting cast.

Injuries kept Curry out of action for three of the five games versus Portland but when he played he was terrific, averaging 34.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 9.5 apg. He scored 17 points in overtime of game four (his first game in two weeks), breaking Clyde Drexler's record for most points in a playoff overtime session (13, set in 1992).

Green leads the Warriors in playoff mpg (37.6), rebounds (10.4 rpg), assists (7.0 apg), steals (1.6 spg) and blocked shots (2.3 bpg) while ranking third in scoring (17.7 ppg, 3.7 ppg better than his regular season average).

Thompson leads the Warriors in playoff ppg (27.2 ppg in 10 games; Curry is averaging 24.8 ppg in four games) while shooting .474 from the field overall and .475 from three point range.

Shaun Livingston filled in capably for Curry when Curry was hurt, 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala remains an excellent two-way performer and Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Leandro Barbosa and Marreese Speights continue to make timely contributions.

Other things to consider: The Thunder blew more fourth quarter leads than any team in the NBA during the regular season, though that statistic is a little deceptive since several of those "leads" were two points or less. Still, it was reasonable to expect that the 67-15 San Antonio Spurs would be more poised than the Thunder and execute more efficiently--but that did not prove to be the case at all; the Oklahoma City-San Antonio series was bookended by blowouts (one by each team) but during the meat of the series the Thunder not only executed better than the Spurs but, as San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich repeatedly mentioned, the Thunder played with more toughness, energy and effort. The Thunder outrebounded the Spurs by nearly eight rebounds per game and those extra possessions more than nullified San Antonio's advantage in the turnover department. When San Antonio went small in the second half of game six, Thunder Coach Billy Donovan--who made some great strategic moves throughout the series after the Thunder were routed in game one--correctly stayed with his big lineup and the Thunder bludgeoned the Spurs to death in the paint. Golden State cannot match up with Oklahoma City's size, so look for the Warriors to use progressively smaller lineups during this series; if the Thunder try to go small, this will work in Golden State's favor (even though the Thunder do have a good small ball lineup) but if the Thunder stay big, keep their turnovers to a minimum and attack the paint then they can pose a lot of problems for the Warriors.

In my Spurs-Thunder series preview, I laid out the blueprint for a Thunder victory--but I could not quite convince myself that the Thunder would pull it off, so I picked the Spurs. Perhaps this Warriors-Thunder preview will be "deja vu all over again"; I have spent a lot of time describing how the Thunder could win, yet I am picking the Warriors. The Thunder are a very dangerous team; if they stay healthy and if they play correctly, they absolutely can win the championship. Perhaps the best way to summarize my take is this: The Thunder are a championship caliber team in a "normal" season but the Warriors are a historically great team, the kind of team that is only seen once every 15-20 years. The Thunder are capable of beating the Warriors but the likelihood is that Golden State will prevail. If these teams played a seven game series 100 times under the same conditions, I would probably expect Golden State to win 60 times.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:24 PM



At Friday, May 13, 2016 4:01:00 PM, Blogger HP said...

Donovan's trust in Kanter and Waiters, and the way he's helped them improve to a "passable" level defensively has unlocked OKC's best lineup and allowed them to play at a higher level than they did all season.

The separation between GS/SA and OKC during the regular season wasn't smokes and mirrors, it was real, but it was because OKC didn't have what you'd call a real "closing" lineup where all players on the floor where dangerous. They used to run Adams, Ibaka, Durant, Roberts/Waiters and Westbrook, which wasn't really optimal offensively seeing that Ibaka isn't neither a great roll man, nor able to post, nor able to effectively punish teams with open shots.

The lineup that Donovan has developed and paid off in this series, which is Adams, Kanter, Durant, Waiters and Westbrook, features Adams as the roll man and has Kanter as a versatile scoring big who can punish any extra attention paid to either the ball handler or Adam as the roll man. Waiters can shoot and can do some creation if necessary, and most of all: Kanter, Adams and Durant are a big (all of them over 6'10) front court that can punish normal teams on the boards cover the paint just by sheer size.

GS's small ball of death lineup with Green at center was the most dangerous line up in the entire league this season: 147.8 offensive rating, 95.7 defensive rating, and 52.1 net rating. So to see that lineup clash with OKC's big lineup will be the most interesting thing about this series.

I see the Warriors winning in 6 games, though i could also see the Thunder's two superstars and their opposing line up philosophy getting them to a series victory in the same amount of games.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 6:06:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I expect GSW to hammer OKC, but then I've been wrong before. OKC was able to out-work SA with superior athleticism, but GSW is much more athletic than SA (if not as much as OKC). They have more options to throw at Durant/Westbrook than SA did (SA basically only had Leonard and Green, who are good, but can't play 48), while GSW has Thompson, Iguodala, Green, Livingston, and Barnes all as options (Curry will also probably see some time on Westbrook, but I don't think he's a particularly effective option defensively against Westbrook's size/firepower). GSW can make sure they've got an elite or near-elite defender on both guys at all times, without having to hide a Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili type on the other end; GSW's top eight guys are all defensively above par.

Going big is definitely OKC's best option, but even then I'm not sure they can play strong enough defense against Golden State's historically great offense. OKC played by far their best D of the year against SAS (Westbrook exempted, and he's gonna be hard to hide in this series), but SAS was not the offensive juggernaut that GSW was. OKC's speed rendered several of SA's key guys- Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, kinda Alrdridge- less effective in a way I don't think they'll be able to replicate against GSW's younger legs.

GSW in 5. 6 if there's one of those games where OKC shoots twice as many free throws and are randomly hot from 3.

At Saturday, May 14, 2016 5:23:00 PM, Blogger Keith said...

I assume I can't be the only one who wants to see the Thunder pull this off? I like Curry and the Warriors a lot but the story line of the underdog Thunder knocking out the juggernaut Warriors is hard to resist.

The Thunder have two MVP players and as discussed here, a height/strength advantage. An undermanned Cleveland team pushed the Warriors to six close games last year in the finals on that basis.

It seems unlikely for an upset but completely possible. I'm curious if Durant and Westbrook can pull it off.

At Saturday, May 14, 2016 11:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, would you predict GS to hammer SA if SA had advanced? GS could kill OKC, but look how they struggled vs a weak POR team both with and without Curry, who played awesome when he played.

OKC was tied or ahead in the 4th quarter in each regular season vs GS this season. A lot of their struggles start and end with Westbrook/Durant struggling. Their role players do need to play well. But, if Westbrook/Durant play like top 5 players that they are, OKC will be fine and their role players will feed off of that. I'm not so sure GS has more options to throw at Westbrook/Durant. Curry can't guard either one. Barnes would be mostly a non-factor. Iggy/Thompson would be the 2 guys who guard either well. A few other guys could slow either down occasionally. But, Leonard/Green are quite comparable to Iggy/Thompson defensively. Westbrook's too quick and explosive for any GS defender, but a taller defender on him would cause some trouble probably.

Breaking down players individually H2H seems relevant, but that rarely happens in the playoffs. Players' weaknesses get exploited more in the playoffs, but it's a team game. GS is more talented and deeper. But, if Westbrook/Durant play like the best 2 players in the series, OKC should won. I could careless if Kanter is supposedly a subpar defender on paper overall. That's not exactly happening in the playoffs and GS scores on everyone. But, if Kanter is smart and plays hard, his production will be enough for OKC. OKC should score at will vs GS small-ball lineup, but I don't see the same happening for GS. GS will be quicker, but they're not going to get many easy shots from point blank.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 12:52:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

I think SA matched up fairly well with GSW (though hiding Parker defensively would have been tricky), but I was also expecting more out of Duncan, who until this year tended to amp up his intensity in the playoffs. I would have picked SA and I would probably have been wrong.

I hesitate to put much stock in the regular season for matchups like these; Toronto owned MIA in the regular season but that series has been neck-and-neck, for example. That said, OKC lost all three of those games, so...

I don't think OKC has an adequate answer for Curry defensively, but I do think that GSW can make sure that Durant/Westbrook see 48 minutes of quality defense, which SA couldn't (Green and Leonard are great defenders, but they are not tireless). I think that OKC's "death lineup" puts OKC in an untenable position defensively in any game where GSW is making its 3s, and GSW is usually making its 3s. I also think that Ibaka's value is somewhat reduced against GSW, as they're not a team that's particularly reliant on scoring at the rim where he feasts as a weak-side shot-blocker, but they are a team full of speedy shooters who pull him away from the hoop and can beat him off the dribble.

Kanter played surprisingly good post-up defense against LMA, but GSW does not rely on many front court post-ups. I expect them to attack Kanter relentlessly in the PnR, and I expect him to get torched in those scenarios.

I expect Curry to have a monster series. I expect Westbrook to post gaudy statlines on limited efficiency and make many costly defensive mistakes, particularly in crunch time. I expect Durant to win a game more or less on his own at some point, and Westbrook is capable of winning one as well if his shots are falling at a higher than usual rate, particularly if the refs are buying his flailing at the rim that night. I do not know where OKC gets the other two wins they'd need, and I trust the team with a 90 game record of playing well in crunch time over the team with a 5 game record of playing well in crunch time.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 6:35:00 AM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

Anon, this might be unfair but I feel like the Spurs lost that series more than OKC won it. I think OKC is going to have to step it up another level to challenge GSW. I'm no Spurs fan but I think they went away from their game the last series and you have to give OKC credit for enabling this, but I still think the Spurs are the better team.

I will likely be proven wrong but I just haven't seen enough out of OKC to challenge the GSW. The difference is, even though they didn't show it last series, I had seen the Spurs rolling and thought peak vs peak Spurs were better than OKC.

It is interesting, before when we were arguing about Duncan's legacy there was this idea that he had done a lot with very little help. There are times when I agree with this, but then throughout his career there are times when the Spiurs have very puzzling losses. I can't explain why but for better or worse it puts Pop a bit down for me when compared to Jackson. Jackson had a lot of talent yes, but in general when he was meant to win he won. I can't say the same for Pop. His team came out of nowhere some years, and then crashed other years when they seemed on top.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 11:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just don't see it why OKC has no or little chance, especially after dominating SA over the final 5 games of their series. I can't remember a team with 2 top 5 players who wasn't a legit contender. OKC had some troubles during the regular season, and they underachieved. It seems like they're playing as they should've been the entire year, and if that remains, they can beat anyone. As I often say, it boils down to star play if both teams are fairly equal, which I feel is close. Most of the other players are just valuable pawns. If POR can play GS as tough as they did, then OKC can certainly do as much and more.

Again, only 10 years in nba history have reached 67 wins before this season, and 8 of the 10 won the title. Only 07 DAL failed to reach the conf. finals(2016 SA now joins them). What OKC did was one of the top 3-4 upsets in nba history(maybe #1), so yes, it seems like you're being a bit unfair to OKC, Andrew.

Nick mentioned before how SA/GS went 40-1 at home or only have lost once at home all year. OKC just went 2-1 in SA in the series. I only see GS marginally better than SA. GS would've exploited their athleticism edge over SA similarly as OKC did. OKC will probably lose, but they have a great chance.

Kind of agree about Pop. But, he puts the gameplan down, and then it's up to the players. Duncan's had many underachieving playoffs, too. I don't hold much weight on this season, since he hasn't helped SA much this year, but if someone still thinks he's elite, then yes. Never know what you're going to get with Duncan and SA. It is a bad finish to his career, though. Leonard's still young, but if he's the #2 guy in the nba now, his early legacy is pretty bleek as the #1 guy on his team.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 1:19:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I think a big part of why we disagree here has to do with valuation of players.

I don't think Westbrook is quite a top 5 guy. Durant is, especially when he plays D like he played against SA (I'd probably have him #4 this year behind Curry, Lebron, and poor lonely Paul George), but I've never seen him play D like that before and it'll be interesting to see if he can maintain it against the more potent GSW offense. Kawhi, for all his praise and reputation, is an opportunistic offensive player who posts good scoring numbers on mostly high-percentage, easy shots created by the Spurs system; short circuit that system as OKC did, and he's not going to find another way to punish you offensively the way a Curry or Durant might.

I disagree that Leonard it the #2 guy in the NBA (that's Lebron), and I think there's even a decent case to be made he's the #2 guy on his own team behind LMA.

This will be an unpopular position, but I think Klay Thompson is better than Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is a better passer and rebounder, but Thompson is a much more dangerous and efficient scorer, and an infinitely better defender. He doesn't come with the downsides that Westbrook does on either end, even if his peak box scores are perhaps less impressive. I also think Green may be better than Westbrook, though the margin there is much smaller. His defensive value and versatility are difficult to quantify, and the extra dimension he adds to GSW's already stellar offense with his passing is extremely valuable.

At the very least, GSW has 3 All-NBA level players to OKC's 2, as well as a much stronger bench. They also clearly have the best player in the series, though I suppose there's a possibility that Durant or Westbrook elevate their game enough over six or seven games to match him.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 3:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, possibly, your evaluation of players continues to be quite puzzling. Or maybe more accurately, the conclusion of those evaluations is very puzzling. Lillard/Irving being 2 examples. I think you overrate Dragic's defense while underrating Lillard/Irving's defense, but for arguments' sake, let's say your defensive evaluations between the 3 are correct. Lillard/Irving should still be thought of as much better. David mentioned likewise not too long ago, and while he talks up individual defense at times with certain players, the way he reports overall suggests individual offense is much more important, which is what I've been saying for awhile now. A guy like Leonard doesn't become an elite player without a great offensive game.

Westbrook has been top 5 for several years now, and I see him and Durant at least equal now. Westbrook should have at least one first team all-nba before 2015. Maybe another one first team if healthier last year, but still top 5 last year. For 2016, Curry, Durant, Westbrook, Leonard, and James were clearly the top 5 players in the league. Leonard is clearly the best defender amongst these 5, and his offense is more than enough good. George is good, and maybe top 10. Leonard is barely less productive than George, but much more efficient. They are similar players very close offensively at worst, but Leonard much better defensively. I'd take Leonard. I see Curry better than Westbrook for the regular season, but just barely. Whoever wins that battle, that team will probably win the series.

Leonard was #2 in MVP, and I see him leading his team to more success than James did for his team this year, relative to their casts. Doesn't mean Leonard is necessarily the 2nd best player in the league, but he's definitely up there. I still don't trust James in the playoffs, and pre-star Leonard outplayed James in the 2014 finals.

No surprise you're disrespecting Westbrook with a Klay Thompson is better comment. SA had pretty much the same as GS compared to OKC, and see how that went. Curry might be the best player in the series going in, but 'clearly? I think not. Curry will have to play lights out for GS to have a chance of winning. Heck, Curry had to play lights out just to beat POR. POR could've easily been up 3-2. Every series is different, but it's hard to see this series not going at least 6 games.

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 11:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Odd game 1, but Westbrook is the best player for the game, was huge in the 2nd half, and OKC wins. GS big 3 all had solid games, too. OKC had contributions from everyone. OKC only wins rebound battle 52-44(GS can live with this if they clean up the rest of the game better), but wins TO battle 11-14(GS has to win this).

Crappy defender Westbrook gets 7 steals, one less than GS total. Finally, Donovan plays Westbrook 40+ minutes. Maybe he wants him rested, not getting hurt some or some other reason, though he took several hits in game 1, but Westbrook needs to play more minutes. Durant and Ibaka's passing has to improve. And OKC needs to stop passing to Ibaka or Adams after a defensive rebound. Durant misses 20 shots, only 1 more than Westbrook's FGAs. Maybe Durant was trying to prove a point that he's still better than Westbrook, not sure. I like it though. Durant/Westbrook need to keep shooting a lot. Westbrook not shooting much in 1st half, but that's usually not a good sign for OKC. While the other 6 who played all shot respectably, they were missing a lot of easy shots or shots that they should make more often as were Durant/Westbrook. They still managed 108 though.

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 2:24:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I didn't see the game (only the last four minutes or so), so I can't comment too much, but looking at the box score a few things jump out:

1) All the stars had weirdly bad offensive games (at least by their standards).

2) If Curry averages 7 TOs per game, it's gonna be hard for GSW to win.

3) Steals aren't a great metric for how good someone is defensively, but 7 is certainly a lot, and Westbrook deserves credit for that. I'm not sure who he was mostly guarding, so I don't know how much credit he deserves for Curry's mediocre night, but if he was the primary defender then good on him; if he played defense of that caliber (assuming Curry wasn't just missing shot she usually makes) consistently, then I'd think more highly of him.

4) It seems like Donovan's coaching, and OKC's D, took a big step up in the playoffs. Maybe it's small sample size noise, but if it's not that's a pretty great season-long Rope-a-Dope, and this team might actually be a real threat.

I still think GSW wins in 5 or 6, but perhaps OKC will continue to surprise me.

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 4:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other things that jumped out to me were Waiters dominating Green defensively. Green tried to postup Waiters once with lots of difficulty and actually got a shot from about 6 feet, which he then ended up airballing 2 feet short. Curry and Thompson made several ridiculous shots each. This stuff happens sometimes with them since they're such great shooters, but even in GS 60-point first half, OKC was contesting almost every shot and making it tough on GS. Eventually, this caught up to GS. OKC's size was a factor, but all of their bigs are very mobile. If they weren't, it wouldn't be as much of a factor.

Looking at the box score, I'd say all the stars had solid offensive games, which I'd say watching the game as well, though Durant/Westbrook shot low percentages. Green and Thompson were well above average. Curry's shooting was a little off, but his 26, 10, 7, 3 statline is amazing. Westbrook struggled in first half, but he took over the game in the 2nd half. Durant offered enough support, and finished with a solid game. As we saw in the SA series, OKC's defense was key to their success, as was the case in game 1 vs GS.

I agree steals aren't necessarily a good metric defensively, but I seem to remember you using steals as a big argument sometimes. I wouldn't be surprised if Westbrook's defensive advanced stats weren't good for game 1. While he wasn't perfect defensively, he made many huge plays and Curry was frustrated some. Westbrook can make it very difficult for Curry with his strength and athleticism.

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 5:47:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Wow, if Waiters can single cover Green that's a huge wrinkle for OKC.

I meant Curry was having a bad game based on his scoring total and his turnovers, mostly. Thompson's #s- particularly efficiency- seemed low to me, as he's been on fire all playoffs, and Draymond's rebounds and assists both struck me as low. I didn't see the game, though, so it's possible some or all of these I'd interpret differently in context.

I agree that OKC's D has been huge this postseason, though I remain skeptical they can keep it up.

At Monday, May 23, 2016 11:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, do you think OKC has a chance now?

I understand if you would choose SA or GS over them, as I also thought. But, not a 'chance?' POR had a chance vs GS, which had 4 competitive games in the 5-game series. A couple plays here or there, POR's up 3-2 or possibly win the series in 5. GS might still win it in 6 or 7 vs OKC, but I'd take OKC now after 3 games played. Durant/Westbrook setting the tone. If Curry and Thompson both don't go off every game, GS looks to be big trouble.

Westbrook's probably been the best player in the playoffs so far, and he's outplayed Curry through 3 games, which is the key matchup in the WCF. Also, OKC easily won the rebound battle in games 1/3, while GS easily won it in game 2.

OKC getting into Green's head, or maybe Green's doing it to himself. OKC's size making it really tough on Green and GS overall. He should've been ejected with the kick to Adams. And he should be suspended for a game. The kick in game 2 was probably incidental, but now it's happened in back-to-back games, and the game 3 kick looked bad.

At Monday, May 23, 2016 12:14:00 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Very impressed by the Thunder's win last night. They have a chance to go up 3 - 1 tomorrow night too as well at home. That's not always a guarantee of clinching the series and the Warriors could still take back home court advantage, but for a team competing for the title of "Best Ever" and with their win total it's rather embarrassing.

I don't understand what's gotten into the Warriors. Maybe the Thunder are just that good right now. But they seem like they got drunk off their own record breaking, hype, and instant success a little bit and weren't ready for the actual challenge the Thunder are presenting.

At Monday, May 23, 2016 2:06:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

OKC certainly looks like they have a chance now, but I remain somewhat skeptical. It seems like Curry was not 100% last night (perhaps that elbow is bothering him more than he admits), and I just think their defense has been such an aberration vs their usual performance that eventually it'll have to regress to the mean somewhat. This sort of sudden postseason improvement is nearly unheard of (though if memory serves one of the Shaq/Kobe Laker teams had a similar defensive renaissance one year, but I think that had more to do with "Shaq actually trying" than "the entire team elevating to previously unseen defensive levels.")

I also hesitate to read too much into one game, especially one like that, where it seemed like a close game until OKC was galvanized by Draymond's low blow; those kind of moments can swing a game, but the momentum rarely carries over. The Spurs had a similar blowout over OKC and look where that got them.

Westbrook is shooting 41%, playing terrible defense (though the rest of his team is doing a mostly great job of cleaning up his mistakes), and his team posted identical margins with him on and off the court vs San Antonio. He's had an excellent playoffs in terms of passing and rebounding, and OKC's offense doesn't really work without him, but I don't think he's been the best player on his own team, let alone the entire playoffs.

On the other hand, I am not surprised that you are indifferent to Westbrook's defensive shortcoming, and to KD's defensive progress.

If Draymond is suspended for Game 3, I think OKC has very good shot of winning the series. If he isn't, I think GSW will win in 6.

At Monday, May 23, 2016 3:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, if there's one thing I've learned here, it's that you have almost no idea what you're talking about when it comes to defense, especially pertaining to players you don't particularly like. Westbrook's probably not a great defender, though he can be at times, but he is hardly a terrible defender. I don't believe nor see this terrible defense argument pertaining to him. He's routinely given elite performances throughout the playoffs. He's leading his team to perhaps 2 playoff series wins over top 15 teams in nba history. It'd be super hard for SA to beat GS or vice versa, and OKC is currently 6-3 vs both in the playoffs. Even if GS wins the WCF, I highly doubt even they could've beaten both SA and OKC, along with CLE. CLE still has a huge advantage only having to face one team from the west. OKC has beat the other top 3 teams in the league to win the title.

Curry might be banged up, but would other players be given the same pass? He's a small player who's dealt with injuries most of his career. This is only natural. With the type of player he is, a little tweak is going to cause him more trouble than most other players. Thompson/Green both had subpar game 3's, too. Maybe OKC was saving themselves a little in the regular season, especially since they had no chance to finish in the top 2, I don't know. They have several tough guys in their rotation. All they're doing is playing tough and a little smarter. They've cleaned up their late-game messes. And their 2 stars are both playing awesome.

Game 3 was just one game, true. But, game 3's are swing games often. And it isn't just one game either, because OKC won game 1 at GS, a game GS was up 13 at halftime. OKC also was blown out in game 2, which is actually the outlier game so far in the series. GS could end up winning still, but they're in big trouble right now.

GS done great with Green so far, winning 1 out of 3. GS up 8 before Green's kick. I can't remember the biggest margin and I stopped watching in the 4th, but I think the margin reached 41 at one point. It was an extreme blowout. GS almost stopped playing at times and lacked toughness.

At Monday, May 23, 2016 4:32:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I don't have the energy for another extended back and forth with you, so I'l respond briefly then let it lie till the end of the series.

* You are opinion of my conception of defense is duly noted. Most stats, top analysts (David excluded in the specific case of Westbrook, though I think we generally agree on most other defensive evaluations), NBA history as a whole, and my own gambling record seem to back up my understanding of defense adequately enough for me to feel confident in it. You are likewise entitled to your opinion.

* if Curry is banged up- and it's not clear that he is, but *if* he is- it would fulfill my earlier caveat that OKC could not beat GSW without a little injury help. I don't think that's the main reason they lost game 3, or even in the top 3, but it could matter further on in the series. If Curry continues to miss open shots, GSW can't win, whether it's because of injury, OKC's defense, or some combination of the two. It is not a question of "would other players be given the same pass" it's a question of "GSW is a much more beatable team if their best player is shooting 3-11 from 3".

* I think it is unlikely OKC will be as successful in transition going forward, and if they are then Steve Kerr is not as good of a coach as I thought he was.

* 8 =/= 41, which is kinda my point. OKC went on something like a 20-4 run immediately after, and effectively won the game in the second quarter.

* I do not disagree that GSW lacked toughness in game 3. That is something to watch moving forward as well.

* I believe Westbrook has been OKC's second best player, and they would certainly be out of the playoffs by now if not for him. I also believe Kevin Durant has been better- and more importantly, more consistent- on both ends of the ball, though he is turning it over a bit too much.

* I do disagree that OKC was "saving themselves" in the regular season, and they didn't play particularly good defense agains Dallas, either. They've been a great defensive team for all of nine games, and that in spite of Westbrook continuing to be something of a liability on that end (though he's had stretches of controlled, admirable play). I do not know the explanation for this, but I do know that it is surprising and unusual. I am fascinated to see if it continues, but much like Cleveland's record-setting 3-point binge, I suspect it will eventually drift back to Earth.

At Wednesday, May 25, 2016 1:58:00 AM, Blogger HP said...

So this has been amazing to watch, and from what i can tell it's mainly because of two things:

Thunder have out small-balled the Warriors. OKC's small line-up of Westbrook, Waiters, Roberson, Durant, Ibaka has outscored the Warriors 91-35 in the past two games. That's just... wow. If you take the Warrior's death line-up away they're just a very good team, not an all-time great one. Oh and well, the second thing is...

Curry isn't Curry. Don't know if it's conditioning form coming back, movement, or just a combination of lingering things affecting him physically, but Curry doesn't look neither is playing up to par. And while it could b attributed to the Thunder, who really have done a good job, Curry destroyed them when they faced off in the reg season so i doubt it's just the Thunder's personel being tough for him to handle.

It's not over yet, but this is something really, really big. The Thunder are on the verge of beating back to back a 67 win team who only lost once at home... and a 73 win defending champion. Wow.

And for anybody thinking the Cavs beating them twice matters... this is a much different Thunder team from the one we saw in February.

At Wednesday, May 25, 2016 1:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OKC absolutely dominated GS in games 3/4. Curry is off, sure, but he's playing. It'd be extremely hard for him to match Westbrook's level if he was 100%. Kobe was almost always dealing with multiple serious injuries, and he was never given a pass. If he was shooting poorly, he'd find other ways to lift his team. GS is absolutely stacked team and the top regular season team ever. I don't buy any injury excuse for Curry. With the way Durant/Westbrook and OKC are playing, I seriously doubt OKC wouldn't be up 3-1 even if Curry was 100%. Almost every player deals with injuries. Can they find a way to lift their team? There's still time for Curry, though, but it's running out. He's a small player who's had injuries. Maybe if he was 6-8, he'd have less injuries, be able to deal with them better, and be able to find other ways to help his team when his shooting is off, but he isn't 6-8.

Even a 75-80% Curry, GS would've won well over 60 games. Role players are usually more streaky than the stars, but Roberson is continually given amazing chances to succeed, and he can make layups/dunks. I like what I see from Waiters, but still only 10ppg on 46% shooting for the series. Kanter/Foye have been quiet. Adams is banged up. GS is very frustrated and whining a lot. They got a break with no suspension for Green, who probably should've gotten at least 2 games. Typical inconsistent nba during the playoffs. Even if Curry was 100%, which almost nobody is this late in the season, and GS would beat OKC has more than proven they're a legit contender. More over 82 games GS is better, but OKC just has to be better over 7 games. Durant/Westbrook are taking over, and OKC has cleaned up their late-game play. These 2 things alone would've been enough to win the regular season series vs GS. Now, they're clicking on all cylinders for the last 2 games, and GS is getting dominated.

At Wednesday, May 25, 2016 7:29:00 PM, Blogger Awet M said...

I haven't read the comments above, but after watching the last two games, I noticed a few things:

* Steph Curry's gait is bad. He has yet to run a full sprint once. Is he too hurt to play at all-world level, but not too injured to suit up? Also, his right arm looks dead when he runs.
* If GSW gets eliminated, this will have a retrospective diminishing of the 2015 championship, because the Warriors did not face the strongest teams of the West: San Antonio, Oklahoma City, or the Clippers, and they beat a decimated Cavaliers team in the Finals.
* Perhaps its due to the new State Farm commercial they are filming. Seth Curry is subbing for Steph until the shoot is over. :)

At Wednesday, May 25, 2016 9:05:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

After seeing 2.5 of 4 games, here's basically what i think right now, in order of importance.

* Donovan is out-coaching Kerr right now. I don't think Kerr is playing smart defense by having Draymond assigned to/ignoring Roberson, or having Kerry spend so much time on Westbrook. It's fine to take a step or two off Roberson but ignoring him entirely turns him into an actual offensive contributor, which you don't want, and taking your best rebounder away from the rim to help on Durant/Westbrook is part of why you're getting butchered on the glass. Curry is doing well on Westbrook (Russ shot 3-10 against him last night) but it may be a contributing factor to his poor offensive production. Stick Klay on Russ to start, let Curry wander a few feet of Roberson, and use Draymond on Adams so you can switch PnRs if you have to/get less murdered on the glass. There are other coaching things going on, too, but those are big.

* Slow the game down. GSW isn't athletic enough to win a track meet with OKC, but they're a much better executing half-court team. Make Durant and Westbrook beat your set defense, and run all your fun weird little Steph/Draymond sets to get open looks. OKC is killer in transition, but barely above average in the half-court. Stop jacking up (as many) transition threes that fuel their break when you miss them.

* Curry sure seems hurt. Could be just tired, but as Awet noted he just physically doesn't look right.

* Hurt or no, they need at least two of Steph/Klay/Draymond to play at something approaching their regular season levels.

* OKC's role players continue to play the best ball of their careers, specifically Waiters, Adams, Ibaka, and Roberson. Not much GSW can do about that, maybe, but it's certainly a factor, and a weird one.

* KD for DPOTP.

At Wednesday, May 25, 2016 9:09:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Westbrook putting up 36-11-11--a stat line rarely reached at this level of the playoffs--might possibly deserve at least a token mention.

At Wednesday, May 25, 2016 9:16:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Westbrook is playing well, but offensively he's playing basically as expected. He's putting up 27/12/6.5 on 42% shooting. I was mostly just listing the things that were surprising to me/might explain the series going so much differently that expected; Westbrook having awesome passing and rebounding numbers isn't a surprise.

That said, of the 2.5 games I've seen, he's played way better than usual (for him) defense for about 1.5 of them, and that probably should have rated a mention. Curry's missing open stuff, too, but Westbrook's holding him to truly awful numbers on contested looks and not compromising the defense or blowing rotations at anything near his usual rate.

That said, Westbrook isn't guarding Curry all *that* much (Westbrook's man, Curry or otherwise, is only taking 7.5 shots per game; Curry is averaging more than double that), so it's hard to give him all the credit for Curry's misfiring.

At Wednesday, May 25, 2016 9:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awet, what GS does in 2016 should have no bearing on diminishing their 2015 title. They've done extremely well and overachieved these past 2 years. Maybe if OKC was healthy last year, but they weren't. SA lost in 1st round, while LAC lost in 2nd round. But, each team GS faced in the playoffs last year had key injuries. GS deserves a lot of credit, but I would say they do seem better suited for regular season success than postseason success.

I wouldn't say Donovan is outcoaching Kerr, but Donovan deserves a lot of credit so far. Having Adams on Curry for a few possessions worked, but I wouldn't say that's smart coaching, it just turned out well. Maybe worth it to experiment. GS is so good because of their pace. Maybe slowing it down would work, but I doubt it.

KD's playing great defense, but he still might be the worst defender in OKC's starting lineup currently.

OKC figured out their regular season problems starting in the SA series. I'm not sure how they did, but they did. They should've been playing like this all season long. Westbrook's dominating everyone. At one point, he was guarding Speights, I think, in the post, and Speights missed from 2 feet. Speights still should've scored, but Westbrook made it very hard for him.

Curry's lucky he's loved by almost everyone and not hated by anyone. He's getting the benefit of the doubt some players have never seen.

At Wednesday, May 25, 2016 11:00:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"KD's playing great defense, but he still might be the worst defender in OKC's starting lineup currently."

He's been either the best or second best behind Adams*. He's been beyond incredible.

* As previously discussed, I tend to count rebounding as its own separate thing. If you count rebounding as part of defense, he's 2nd or 3rd best.

At Thursday, May 26, 2016 3:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


David nick and the other commentator. I still think the warriors can win this series. Even tho they been dominated. I think they need to get in a bunker mentality. And come out swinging

Russell Westbrook is best player in playoffs. Curry and Thompson can't guard him. he also finding players and dictating the pace.

Okc too big and athletic to play small against. When they switch on the screen the warriors can't get loose from them. They are blocking altering and tipping a lot of passes

Curry is playing hurt. But he is also shooting his team out of games he was 6-20 last game. What happen to dRaymond green. The warriors moving and cutting offense. They seem a little too flustered.

Donovan a good coach and made good adjustments. He stayed big. And he also
Putting gsw in tough spots on defense by durant coming off screens and the moving and cutting of Roberson and Adams.

Adams Roberson waiters is killing Barnes iggy Livingston combo. Adams is athletic can finish later shots and can pass. Roberson long good defense and finished around basket. Waiters hitting shots and playing under control

They should never again have steph curry out there on Westbrook..He making steph look like the second coming of james harden

At Thursday, May 26, 2016 11:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes you count rebounding separate, sometimes you don't. I agree it's kind of separate, but at the same time, it is a vital part of defense and offense for that matter.

KD has been great defensively, I'm not saying otherwise. But, Adams, Roberson, Ibaka, and Westbrook have been great, too. While you are very quick to discredit Westbrook and not credit him fully for Curry's lackluster play, you'd be bashing Westbrook completely if Curry was going off, even if Westbrook was guarding him less than half the time.

Westbrook has been better than his average self. But, even if not, his play has been absolutely amazing. I'm convinced nothing he does will impress you, other than maybe if the rest of his starting lineup is out for the season and he leads his team to the title.

Mostly good points, Marcel. The thing that jumped out to me is that it seems like Curry is trying to make a point to keep shooting even though he can't make hardly anything. He has offensive weapons all around him, yet he insists to keep shooting, and shot his team to another loss. Thompson was going off, too. Bogut shot 100% and Barnes was 67% in game 4 as well.

At Thursday, May 26, 2016 5:24:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Westbrook is playing great. He's easily their second best player. You and David has a tendency to act like anything regarding him shy of absolute deification is condemnation.

As for Curry, he's shooting 27% percent on shots with no defender within 10 feet, of which he's taking about 4 per game, so yeah, I think it has to do with more than Westbrook.

At Thursday, May 26, 2016 8:20:00 PM, Anonymous mrtokez said...

Nick, you are in no position to claim extremes regarding anyone's attitude towards Westbrook. Especially when you like to throw in your little underhanded comments such as "easily their second best player" when anybody with a pulse can see that he is playing on the same level as Durant by any measure (accounting for positional differences of course, so please spare me your useless stats). The only reason some of these other commentators on this site take exception to anything you say about Westbrook is because of your refusal to acknowledge the fact that WB is playing lights out right now and instead prefer to passive-aggressively judge his defense. Flip flopping around with your opinions doesn't justify your wrong predictions. It just makes you look like a hater, and that's ironic because you supposedly stand for everything against that. Isn't it strange that every player you laud and support is no longer even involved in the playoffs? If i remember correctly, you confidently stated that no team stands a chance against the spurs or the warriors; not even a fully healthy cavs squad. Come on now, at some point you have to take a step back and realize that you're flat out wrong. As for this 27% on shots with no defender within 10 feet, care to share with us where you got that from? How can you be so sure that it has nothing to do with Westbrook? In your crusade to discredit everything WB does, are you really going to deny the possibility that Curry can't handle defending and maneuvering around a bigger and stronger point guard? That chasing WB around or playing defense against him doesn't affect his game over the course of several matchups? Curry was assigned Westbrook duties for parts of the game and cannot handle getting bodied in the paint. So yeah, I think it has a lot more to do with Westbrook than you think. I think it's very strange as of late that you accuse Dave and some others on this board of resorting to methods outside of solid unbiased analysis when you yourself are oblivious to the reality of what's going on right now in this series. But I digress, let's watch the series pan out, there should be plenty of opportunities for Curry to redeem himself, since he so eloquently shouted "I'M BACK" after lighting up the blazers in an overtime game in his first game back. This point guard that you yourself claimed to be light years ahead of even the next best in line (WB, the point guard thats demolishing your baby Curry).

Durant is also playing some amazing ball. Those two are akin to kobe/shaq the way theyre meshing right now, so theyre more 1A and 1B to me than best and second best,

Curry and the Warriors are eating some really big portions of humble pie, and if they aren't it's time they begin. Even Curry, America's NBA darling, made silly comments about his tainted ring last year. Something along the lines of "I'm sorry we beat the teams in front of us and I'm sorry for us staying healthy, and we will rectify the situation this year." C'mon now.

I know you're tired of talking about Kobe so I won't start, but I fully expect you to start talking about how horrible Curry was and how he failed his team when it mattered most.

At Thursday, May 26, 2016 8:45:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"As for this 27% on shots with no defender within 10 feet, care to share with us where you got that from?"


"How can you be so sure that it has nothing to do with Westbrook?"

Um.... because he's not within 10 feet of him? If Westbrook is secretly telekinetic and changing shots from 10 feet away, then he probably is the best player in the NBA.

I've openly admitted I was wrong about the Spurs, and if OKC wins this series I'll admit to being wrong about that too. Not something I have much of a problem with; if I knew everything, basketball (and life) would be boring.

Curry's certainly underperforming, but given the information we have it seems more likely that he is underperforming at least partly due to lingering knee or elbow injury, but I agree that the Warriors in general and Curry specifically, if they lose this series, are not quite as good as I (and most other people) thought they were (or at leas that the Thunder are better, which I think is already safe to say). It will not change the fact that Curry was far and away the best point guard in the regular season.

I'm sorry you don't like that I disagree with you about Westbrook's defense, but I'm far from alone in that. Zach Lowe, Coach Nick of Basketball Breakdown, JVG, and other "respected" basketball figures often kill him for the same things I do. I've said many times over the course of this season that I think he's the second best point guard in the league right now- if that makes me a hater, then fine, I'm a hater... but so is literally everyone who voted Steph Curry as the unanimous MVP.

Alternatively, you're oversensitive about the players you like, which is why you freak out whenever someone critiques Harden, Westbrook, or Kobe.

You have a bad habit of assuming anyone who disagrees with you- whether me, David, or anyone else who indulges you- has some sinister agenda, as opposed to just, you know, having a different opinion, which I'd say is the much more likely explanation.

At Thursday, May 26, 2016 9:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, you aren't consistent with your arguments overall usually, especially regarding players you really like or really dislike. While I can see an argument for KD being better than Westbrook for the playoffs, I strongly disagree with it. That's fine if you think KD has been better, but almost everything I hear from you concerning Westbrook is negative. Westbrook is absolutely playing like an MVP and dominating Curry and anyone else on GS, and SA for that matter. Regardless, I feel they're both very close. MVP voting can be dubious, but Westbrook overtook KD this year, that's saying something, especially since he's not well-liked.

I'm glad you understand that Curry's struggles have more to do than just Westbrook, because that's what I've been saying all along about our defense works. But, how about giving some credit where credit is due? Also, would you not be condemning Westbrook completely if Curry was playing awesome? I doubt you'd be saying it's more than just Westbrook's 'supposed bad defense' contributing to Curry's awesome play, given everything you've said about Westbrook in the past.

Agree about the FG %'s, mrtokez. There's a lot more going on that just looking at some statsheet saying Westbrook was 3-10 vs Curry, and that's that. Everyone knows Westbrook's % is low, but even a 100% Curry couldn't come close to stopping him by himself.

Curry might have some injuries, but this is exactly what I'd expect late in the playoffs from a small player whose team is dependent on him leading them. I and most everyone else seem to forget that Curry was playing amazing after he came back until the OKC series. Thank you for reminding me. OKC and Westbrook deserve lots of credit for Curry's struggles.

I don't think Nick loves Curry, though maybe he does, he just doesn't care at all for Westbrook. He's been deflecting off of Westbrook ever since OKC upset SA, saying stuff like KD was so awesome on both ends and OKC's cast played so much better than they have been all year, while continuing to say Westbrook just did what was expected of him. It's unfortunate for all the disrespect. Sure, almost everyone on OKC has stepped up, which happens on almost every title team, but so has Westbrook quite a bit. It's gone from OKC had absolutely no chance to compete with SA or OKC to all these contingencies like Curry is a bit banged up or SA-playoff Kanter going for 8 and 7 was better than 16 and 15 SA-regular season Kanter.

I didn't realize those quotes from Curry, but that's not good if he's saying that stuff. Kobe/Shaq were a different animal than Durant/Westbrook, but they're on their game so far in this year's playoffs. I feel like they've underachieved so far for their careers team-wise, and they've had a lot of help around them, too. Maybe they will cash in for their first title this year.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 12:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tonight, Marv said that Kerr said it's more about timing and Westbrook's size affecting Curry. I'm sure whatever ailments Curry has is affecting him, but it's getting way overblown. Westbrook and OKC's defense/size overall is greatly affecting him. He's a shooter first and foremost, and no matter how good of a shooter you are, your shots won't always fall.

Let's break down Curry's playoffs: dominates game 1 vs HOU, misses games 2/3, awful in game 4, misses game 5. He misses games 1-3 vs POR, then does great in games 4/5. He does well in games 1/2 vs OKC, struggles in games 3/4, has a great game 5. Injuries may be a contributing factor, but I don't see it and don't buy it. He's fine. I think GS cast is doing great overall, but while Thompson/Green are clearly AS-caliber players, they certainly aren't first-option players that can lead a team to a title. GS needs their big 3 and the rest of their cast performing at a high level consistently. Without 6th man Iggy, GS doesn't win last year. Except on very rare occasions, small players never lead teams to titles. And the those few times when it happened, their casts were amazing and/or made it through a weak conf. to face a hobbled team (04 DET). And only Thomas did it back-to-back.

Curry's shooting is down a bit, but he's still had 26/6/5 for the series. Credit to him, but he's a distant 3rd best player, maybe 4th behind Thompson, in the series so far.

GS is still an amazing team, as was SA, whether they win title or not. Curry may have been best PG during regular season, but not far and away. And Westbrook is clearly outplaying him in the playoffs so far. Yea, well, people killed Kobe about his defense when he was deservedly earning 1st team all-defensive selections. I'm sure Westbrook has some bonehead plays, but find me a player who doesn't. Westbrook's still the nba's whipping boy. When someone dislikes a player, then everything that player does often gets overblown and nitpicked. That's what I dislike and call attention to. I don't freak out. I constantly ask you to at least get your facts straight about Kobe, etc. and to be consistent with your arguments as I do with David about that HOU player, who I actually don't even like, for the 100th time. I don't see the point to denigrate players(whether uplift other players or not) and take exception to players who constantly get hated on, disrespected, and unfairly treated compared to others, which is one reason why I like Kobe and Westbrook. Conversely, I don't want to hate on anyone, but don't care for some players who get overrated. It's interesting how eerily similar you talk about Kobe/Westbrook compared to how that HOU player gets talked about here. Depending on who likes/respects certain players greatly affects how they talk about them.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 1:44:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


Yes, in explaining why a team I thought would lose won, I focused on the things that were different than I expected. Clearly, that means I have a bias against the player who played exactly how I expected him to.

Now, if somebody asked me, "Did Russell Westbrook play well against the Spurs," I would certainly say yes. If they asked me how he played defensively, I would probably say "poorly, but he made up for it on offense."

I don't especially feel one way or the other about the Warriors, although I do find their brand of basketball more aesthetically pleasing most nights than OKC's. Always been a sucker for ball-movement.

It would be silly for me to "condemn" Westbrook if Curry was playing his usual level of ball, but I would rightly criticize Westbrook (or anyone) If Curry was playing markedly better than that (say, shooting 60% or averaging 40 ppg)... unless it was one of those rare cases that happens sometimes in the playoffs where a great player just overcomes great defense (Hakeem vs. David Robinson in '95, for example). It is usually easy to tell which is which.

It is, however, fair to criticize any supposed star player who is a net negative on either side of the ball. Since coverage/perception of the NBA invariably leans towards offense, this really only applies to great offensive players who are below average defensive players. Westbrook is one of those, as are Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Tony Parker, Kevin Love, the regular season version of Dwyane Wade, and most egregiously James Harden. I would easily take two way players like Durant, Lebron, Kawhi Leonard (though he played somewhat poorly against OKC), etc. over Westbrook most nights. It doesn't help that Westbrook's otherwise stellar offensive game has a somewhat large wart on it in terms of his frankly egregious shot selection (mostly on 3s).

Curry is an odd case in that he is a good-not-great defender, but is- past couple games excluded- the league's best offensive player by such a wide margin as to make him an easy pick for MVP.

You seem to have little respect for or at least a completely alien (to mine) understanding of defense, so it is not odd that we often disagree about those types of players. What is odd is that you take it so personally.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 1:44:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

On the positive side, I have said many times in this thread and others that i think Westbrook is presently one of the two best passers in the league, and the best rebounding guard in the league. I do not presently believe that either of those things are enough to elevate him above the guys I listed above, and I am not sure that they elevate him over a few other players who are more balanced than he is (though to his credit he has outplayed some of those players, particularly Draymond Green, in the playoffs this year).

Back on the negative side, you make a good point that defense isn't just one guy. Given that he shares the court with four excellent defenders, and is backed up by mediocre ones, that makes Westbrook's often terrible defensive numbers more egregious; if he were even a league-average defender, he ought to have great numbers just by virtue of playing most of his minutes with those players (Tony Parker and Harden have both benefitted from this at points in their careers).

Westbrook's poor defense is not "supposed." His men, for the season, shot about 2% better than their usual percentages against him. He did, to his credit, record the first positive defensive On/Off average of his career this season, and I was a vocal supporter of his improved D earlier in the season before he slipped back into bad habits. To his credit, over the last few games he's posted excellent DFG% numbers, but how much of that is due to his work and how much is due to whatever's contributing to Curry whiffing three fourths of his open looks is something of an open question. Given Westbrook's defensive history, I'm inclined to lean towards the latter, but perhaps I'm mistaken and he is forcing the reigning MVP to miss open shots from several yards away with the power of his stare.

In the playoffs, however, smart teams have attacked him and his team has been 4 points better defensively without him on the court, the worst such number on his team (naturally, they've been way more than that better offensively, because he's a very impactful offensive player). On/Offs are noisy over that sample size (particularly with the number of blowouts OKC has been involved in), but they reflect both what the eye-test shows (Westbrook not getting back in transition, blowing rotations, taking bizarre routes around picks, and biting on nearly every ball fake) and his career norms up to this point.

Pattern recognition =/= being a "hater", here or in similar conversations about Harden, Lillard, et al. I root against OKC as a team- I live in Seattle, after all- but have no special antipathy for any one member of their roster over another. I just don't think Russell Westbrook plays good defense, and his numbers back me up on that more often than not, as does the eye-test.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 1:56:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Now, fruitless arguing out of the way, it will be interesting to see what happens in Game 6. I'm pretty sure whoever wins that one is winning the series- GSW's role players look so much better at home- but much of what worked for GSW tonight will be difficult to replicate on the road.

* I don't think they'll be able to keep the rebound margin that close.

* I don't think they'll get that sort of production from their bench.

* They definitely won't get that sort of production from Bogut again.

* I don't think the zebras will be as friendly.

On the other hand, some of what they did, they should be able to continue doing:

* Curry's shot is still off, but OKC had no answer for his driving game and probably won't.

* Klay seems to have found his rhythm, at least relative to the first few games of the series.

* No longer completely abandoning Roberson helped, as did putting Green back on front court guys to help box out.

* Most importantly, they were able to cut off OKC's transition attack for the most part. OKC is not a great half court team (though Durant is good for a few rabbits out of his hat per game and Kanter's post-up game is very strong, and the Westbrook/Adams PnR has become almost unsolvable) relative to GSW, but they are deadly on the break.

Other interesting things to watch:

* Does Curry's longball come back? He averaged over 5 a game over the regular season but is making just over 3 this series (and on 8% lower shooting) .

* Does Draymond Green come out of his coma? OKC had Westbrook on him most of the night and Green didn't even try to post the much smaller player. You'd think between the size-advantage and the home-court refs, posting Westbrook every time to wear him out/get him in foul trouble/probably make some easy hook shots would make sense, but I don't know that he shot on him even once out of those sets, or even attempted to back him down, seemingly looking only to pass.

* Which star PG will have the most eyebrow-raising number of turnovers?

* Will Steve Kerr figure out that if he puts Ezeli in earlier in the quarter and pulls him before the 2 minute mark that OKC won't just be able to hack him into obsolescence?

* Refs: Good, evil, or neutral? There've probably been ten playoff games swung by the zebras this playoffs, and it'd be a shame if this was one of them.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 3:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess you just see things a lot differently than I do, which I've known for awhile. I have no doubt you'll continue to criticize Westbrook given any chance, and I'm not surprised you're not giving him much credit for dominating througout the playoffs, including Curry. If individual defense was anywhere near as important as you say it is, then we'd see more one-way or great defender/so-so offensive players leading teams deep into the playoffs and possibly the finals/winning finals. We'd see Bruce Bowens, Shane Battiers, Raja Bells, Rudy Goberts leading teams to the playoffs. I'm all ears if you can find me a team that could make the playoffs with Bruce Bowen as their best player.

Westbrook doesn't get the job done the way you want him to, but guess what, who cares? There's more than one way to succeed. It's like the Kanter-doesn't-boxout stuff. It doesn't matter, he's a great rebounder, even though you don't recognize it. Ideally, being efficient would be nice, but efficiency remains one of the most overrated-looked at aspects of the nba.

All of those supposed one-way players you mentioned are all much better than someone like Dragic, except probably current old Parker, but not prime Parker. For as great as Leonard supposedly is, he has one playoff series win with amazing casts in 2 years. I give him credit for a fairly complete player and for regular season success, but he deserves lots of blames for his playoff failures these past 2 years.

You see defense very differently or weight it much higher than most people. The way I hear the real or even non-real(mostly) nba experts talk about players and how they're voted on, pretty much comply with how I view players. Lillard/Irving are 2 great examples. I think defense is very important, but Lillard/Irving are still great players, who are AS-caliber when healthy. I second David or whoever when they say nobody would take Dragic over either of them. And when you say stuff like a 1x all-defense selection player was not only just better, but considerably better, than a 12x all-defense selection player on defense, especially when the 1x player played in a much worse defensive era, then you need considerable evidence other than just your own personal views to support that claim.

You can cite all the advanced #'s you want, doesn't often mean anything. There's so much going on, and so many switches going on. Westbrook stopped Speights in the paint again last night, or maybe it was Green, or both, can't remember for sure.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 5:08:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Look, I'm not gonna crunch the numbers again, be we went through this a few months ago; there's a reason All-Defensive players win a lot more titles than top scorers.

It would be almost impossible to win a title with Bruce Bowen as your best two-way player. It would be similarly difficult to win one with James Harden or Damian Lillard as your best two way player. Generally having someone who is awesome on both ends is the way to go.

I don't recall suggesting that Bell was considerably better than Kobe defensively, or as good for as long, only that he was a comparably skilled defensive player for your Amare comparison. At their peaks defensively, I would say Raja and Kobe were extremely close as defensive players; Kobe was more athletic, Raja was a little better at getting into offensive players' heads (on account of Raja being kinda a jerk on the court) and provoking offensive fouls and techs. I think Kobe was a great defender for about 9 or 10 years, I think Raja was a great one for about 4 or 5. I think Kobe continued making All-D teams past the point when he deserved to on the strength of reputation, and Kobe himself has occasionally referred to his later-career self as "designated hitter" who primarily focused on offense and tended to relax on D. To his credit, that version of Kobe could usually turn it on in 4th quarters defensively, but I still would not put him on All-D teams above a Bowen or Bell who played hard on that end for 48 minutes night in, night out. I'm also not interested in further debating the point, but I hope that clarifies my position.

"You see defense very differently or weight it much higher than most people."

Totally agree. I also think I'm right about that, and while OKC may yet make a monkey of me, about nine times out of ten betting on the better defensive team has paid off for me.

"All of those supposed one-way players you mentioned are all much better than someone like Dragic, except probably current old Parker, but not prime Parker."

You are entitled to your opinion, but none of them- unless you take the position that Westbrook is better than Durant, which I dispute- have won as many games as their teams' best player as Dragic has. They have all had more help than he has, though. No interested in getting into another extended argument about this one, ether.

"You can cite all the advanced #'s you want, doesn't often mean anything"

I mean... they're not advanced? They're literal things that happened. PER, VORP, win shares, etc. are "advanced" stats that we all agree are wonky. Stuff like DFG% or On/Offs are just reporting of what happened on the court. They're no more advanced than "traditional" stats.

Also, come on. You have eyes. Watch Westbrook on D for a whole game, count how many times he doesn't get back in transition, how man times he completely blows a rotation, how many times he's weirdly loitering in the paint guarding no one on D, or how many times bites on a ball-fake and goes flying out of the play. I don't have official numbers here, but I'm betting he's top 5 in all of those categories.

The difference between him and Irving et all on that end is that at least Westbrook is usually trying (minus the transition issue, which drives me nuts about Wade as well). When he plays focused and under control he's actually a good defender; he just usually doesn't play focused and under control.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 5:43:00 PM, Blogger jackson888 said...

My own 2 cents... disclosure first... picked warriors and thunder for the conference finals and either of them for nba champion. I believe curry, westbrook rightly belong on this year's all nba 1st team, along with durant who should have been selected in lieu of leonard.
Held my tongue when david predicted spurs over thunder only because i see okc overwhelming sa with their defense. Size, length and athleticism. I thought okc over a long series will figure teams out and impose themselves defensively. I also thought kd and russ should be able to carry them offensively enough to let their defense win games. Not much has been said about coach donovan, but i was really amazed with his game planning and how he got his team to execute them while always recognizing tweaks and changes where needed. The short version is i believe length and athleticism will overcome brilliant offense patterns.
I am seeing the same happening right now in the west finals. Again, coach donovan game planned very well. And okc is overwhelming gsw with their defense. But i see a turning point game 5. Warriors finally realized they need to grind out wins and successfully did so. It is very hard to consistently shoot over long and athletic defenders, and curry realized that. It is also very hard to overcome instincts, but curry did. Coach kerr made some subtle changes that paid off big time.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 6:09:00 PM, Blogger jackson888 said...

Iggy handled the ball more than dray. Dray got to do what he does best, the defensive dirty work without having offensive failures and turnovers hanging over his mind. This is great for his psyche as dray is such an emotional player. Warriors finally won even with curry and thompson not shooting as well as they normally do. Brilliant move by coach kerr. Also, it should also be noted that he still played 11 players (no garbage time in this game) on a win or go home game! How many coaches will just shorten their rotation to 7 or 8 players when facing an elimination game. He really did show thd team how much he trusts each and everyone of them. Apparently, strenght in numbers is not just their marketing slogan.

Some tidbits... playoffs expose each and every player's strenghts and weaknesses...
Draymond can't dominate on the block yet. Game 5, 3 isos in the 1st q resulted in a miss and 2 turnovers on single coverages. Warriors stopped going there thereafter. I can't remember how many times dray had russ 1 on 1 on the block after the pnr action and cannot score on russ during this series. And that is just on russ...
Russ is just relentless offensively. While i honestly think russ is competent defensively, especially when i see him holding down dray, he just misses out on many coverages. And this is not counting the times he just doesn't get his hands up to challenge a jump shot well within his reaching range. Just gets on my nerve because he doesn't even want to provide even the minimum distraction to a jumpshooter. Gets on my nerve because i really appreciate his skillset. It is those far too many instances over a series why some over react and 'denigrate' him...
Curry cares about defense all the time. Slides his feet to challenge a jumpshooter by at least lunging sideways with hands up. This is the playoffs! Every shot counts. Really appreciate superstars who exert that effort.
KD's defense is underrated.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 6:23:00 PM, Blogger jackson888 said...

I am hoping the warriors prevail over the thunder only because i like the warriors' more aesthetically pleasing game. I believe they have a better chance just because of steph's supernova abilities and the warriors being slightly more athletic than the spurs. And i like seeing the 73 win team go all the way...

At Friday, May 27, 2016 6:34:00 PM, Blogger jackson888 said...

Iggy handled the ball more than dray. Dray got to do what he does best, the defensive dirty work without having offensive failures and turnovers hanging over his mind. This is great for his psyche as dray is such an emotional player. Warriors finally won even with curry and thompson not shooting as well as they normally do. Brilliant move by coach kerr. Also, it should also be noted that he still played 11 players (no garbage time in this game) on a win or go home game! How many coaches will just shorten their rotation to 7 or 8 players when facing an elimination game. He really did show thd team how much he trusts each and everyone of them. Apparently, strenght in numbers is not just their marketing slogan.

Some tidbits... playoffs expose each and every player's strenghts and weaknesses...
Draymond can't dominate on the block yet. Game 5, 3 isos in the 1st q resulted in a miss and 2 turnovers on single coverages. Warriors stopped going there thereafter. I can't remember how many times dray had russ 1 on 1 on the block after the pnr action and cannot score on russ during this series. And that is just on russ...
Russ is just relentless offensively. While i honestly think russ is competent defensively, especially when i see him holding down dray, he just misses out on many coverages. And this is not counting the times he just doesn't get his hands up to challenge a jump shot well within his reaching range. Just gets on my nerve because he doesn't even want to provide even the minimum distraction to a jumpshooter. Gets on my nerve because i really appreciate his skillset. It is those far too many instances over a series why some over react and 'denigrate' him...
Curry cares about defense all the time. Slides his feet to challenge a jumpshooter by at least lunging sideways with hands up. This is the playoffs! Every shot counts. Really appreciate superstars who exert that effort.
KD's defense is underrated.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 6:36:00 PM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

Regarding the comments KD and Russ made on Curry's defence: However you feel about his defence or Russ' defence is anyone else detecting an undercurrent that other nba players don't like curry or think he is very over rated? The players voted harden the players mvp last year which surprised me, but may have been more of a protest vote against curry than an endorsement of harden in retrospect.

You can see OKC have a real chip on their shoulder. Seems to have worked for them so far, I wonder if curry will respond. As much as I think he is a great player, I haven't seen him carry his team in the way Lebron has deep in the playoffs. Last year there were flashes but iguodola was the finals mvp not curry. Exploding on the Blazers doesn't count. Curry needs to step up next two games if he wants best player in the world status off Lebron.

At Friday, May 27, 2016 7:38:00 PM, Blogger jackson888 said...

Forgot to mention this... another of coach kerr's adjustment that paid off brilliant is playing a traditional center all throughout game 5. Kerr finally realized small ball will not work against the thunder and played bogut more. Improved their rebounding and allowed them to get back to their perimeter switching defensive philosophy with a big man providing a safety net. I am always in awe when i watch the warriors switch defensively whether during opponents' pnr actions or recovering after opponents' initial fastbreak action. Their recovering timing and techniques are just so beautiful to watch.
So excited to catch game 6 and watch what tweaks coach donovan will do...
David, always missed those years when you would write articles chronicling certain critical games...

At Saturday, May 28, 2016 2:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because a title team has an all-defensive player doesn't mean that player is the best player on his team, and obviously every title team will have very good offensive and defensive players. Westbrook is one of the top 5 offensive players in the game. He could lead most teams to the playoffs. When Bruce Bowen was a top 5 defensive player in the game, there wasn't one team he could lead to even come close to the playoffs.

Why do we have to talk about Harden? I'm avoiding mentioning him. Please stop bringing him up. Lillard/Irving are fine examples to use. I doubt Harden could lead a team to a title but he's nowhere near 'similarly' to Bowen, and he's already made 2 1st teams, led his teams to 53 and 57 wins, and a WCF, losing to a historically-great team. Lillard played a vital role in POR making the 2nd round in 14 and 16. His cast was terrible this year, but yet still made the 2nd round and played GS tough for 4 straight games. Lillard is an AS-caliber player for several years now, something Bowen never came close to reaching.

I brought up Raja Bell and the other players, since they were all great defensive players, and actually most are better offensive players than you think Westbrook is defensively. I'm giving you some near-exact opposite players than Westbrook(great defensively, mixed bag offensively). The onus is on you to provide examples of these types of players that could lead teams to the playoffs. We see great offensive/suspect defensive players do this every year, however.

I've seen Westbrook play a lot. He causes lot of chaos for offenses. You can't just sit back and let an offense like GS dictate, you have to take chances. And Westbrook should be the last man down since he's driving to the hoop so much. He obviously has his faults, but he's making it tough for Curry.

PHO did well in 14, but they greatly overachieved, and they did well early in the season before Dragic decided to play better towards end of season. Their cast was better then you claim. And their cast in 15 looks better, despite struggling more and reverting back to form. MIA misses the playoffs in 15. Dragic's playoff performance in 16 was decent, but not overly impressive, and he still doesn't look like an AS-caliber player. Love/Irving shouldn't be thought of as elite players, but their casts early in their careers weren't very good. It took Dragic until age 27 to do anything remarkable. Love is currently 27, while Irving is 24. They've both accomplished much more for their careers than Dragic has for his entire career. Parker's won a finals MVP, while leading his team to at least one finals as well, albeit on great teams, but still.

At Saturday, May 28, 2016 2:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OKC and SA have the guys to play 11-13 deep, while OKC is lucky to go 8 deep. Look at Cory Joseph last year. He couldn't find the court with SA, and played a huge role this year in TOR finishing with the 4th best record and making the ECF. But, Kerr does deserve credit, but this is how GS wins with numbers and the many different effective lineups they have. It doesn't seem like they go small for that many minutes, though it was very effective during the regular season. They need their bigs to produce, which they did in game 5. Can their bigs do this for 2 more games? Possible, but I doubt it. I think it boils down to rebounding margin. Whoever has won this one key stat, has won the game.

I doubt the players dislike Curry anymore than any other player. They could've also voted for Westbrook or James as MVP last year, and didn't. Curry is loved by most and getting ridiculous respect much too early, though, so I can see it. He needs to have several more high-quality years still. He's still only a 3x AS. He does showboat out there some, which is similar to all of James' antics, etc. People aren't going to like that.

You didn't really see Curry lead his team to the title last year? Iggy may have won finals MVP, but Curry was clearly the best player on GS. He won MVP, and he played great overall in the finals. While he needed his cast to come up huge for him, he did as well, and I'm not so sure he didn't outplay James, who put up gawdy stats, but shot horribly from everywhere and actually could've been more aggressive still.

At Saturday, May 28, 2016 3:16:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"I doubt Harden could lead a team to a title but he's nowhere near 'similarly' to Bowen, and he's already made 2 1st teams, led his teams to 53 and 57 wins, and a WCF, losing to a historically-great team."

Yes, while playing with four great defensive players in Howard, Ariza, Beverly, and a briefly revitalized Smith. I'd contend- and be right- that Howard has a much to do with Houston's success as Harden did, particularly in the playoffs.

If we consider Westbrook as "leading" his team to the playoffs and just ignore the existence of Kevin Durant, he still did so alongside Serge Ibaka, one of the top 10 defensive front court players in the league.

Your definition of "leading" a team is suspect, and based off All-NBA or All-Star nods. In terms of players who led their teams to the playoffs who were better defensively than offensively, some examples that occur to me are Dwight Howard, Ben Wallace, Dikembe Mutombo, Marc Gasol, NBA-era Artis Gilmore, and Joakim Noah. Some of those players were better offensively than Westbrook is defensively, but then it's hardly apples to apples since Westbrook, in all the seasons he made the playoffs, he had the luxury of playing beside the league's best or second best offensive player in Durant and one of its best shot blockers in Ibaka. It is fairly easy to list guys who are mostly better at defense who made the playoffs as the second best guy on their team, which is a fairer comparison.

The clearer picture of Westbrook's failure to lead a team came last year, when his team went 27-28 without Durant, despite gaudy offensive numbers from RWB. .500 ball is not the mark of a "top 5" player.

Ultimately, though, I'm in the wrong here for engaging in this discussion knowing full well that you don't much value defense. It's arguing the merits of a preferred religion with an atheist; the argument doesn't matter if your audience is allergic to the premise. Let's agree to disagree, and you can continue to worship at the altar of Westbrook, while I continue to be disappointed in watching a guy who *could be* one of the greatest players of all time instead settle for being the rich man's Stephon Marbury.

At Saturday, May 28, 2016 10:47:00 PM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

GSW need Curry to be Curry again. At the moment I think the Cavs would rather play the Warriors with Curry playing like this. He is by no means playing bad, but pre-injury Curry used to have 10-20 point explosions that would completely open up games. He is not doing that at all and its killing the Warriors, who have to grind it out.

At Sunday, May 29, 2016 12:20:00 AM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

- Still no sign of the MVP imo. Curry is playing great but he used to single handedly break teams. He hasn't done it once this series, GSW need their MVP.

- No-one is playing their reserves which used to be a strength of Golden State's. It is hard to know whether Kerr needs to trust them more or if playing the starters the whole game is the best plan because OKC pull away when they sub the GSW big 3 out. On top of that Curry/Thompson are coming up big in the 4th so its not as if they need the rest, if anything it is Durant/Westbrook who look like they could use a breather.

- Iguodola is absolutely one of their most important players.

- Does anyone know if Ezeli is injured? I seem to have missed that somewhere but he is getting no play.

- Remember when Harrison Barnes was a max player? I'm worried if GSW make it to the finals Barnes is going to get burnt at his position which is a key matchup for Golden State imo.

- I think Varejao looked good out there, maybe he deserves a bit of run.

At Sunday, May 29, 2016 12:47:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


OKC keeps hacking Ezeli when he does play, so Kerr's benched him. I guess he doesn't wanna muck with the rotations by playing him earlier in the quarter.

If GSW makes the finals, Barnes won't be seeing too much of Lebron; that'll be a Thompson/Green/Iguodala job 85% of the time, i suspect.

I'll have more thoughts later, but I only saw bits and pieces of the game so I wanna watch some more before I form an opinion (though I'll tell you right now that KD/RWB looked gassed at the end; 5 of OKC's last 6 possessions were turnovers from the two of them).

At Sunday, May 29, 2016 1:04:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Beverly didn't play in the playoffs in 2015. Smith isn't a great defender, and Howard is far removed from his old-star self. HOU was down 2 starters in last year's playoffs. Ariza's a good defender, but I wouldn't say great. Only maybe Howard was great, and HOU only had 1 playmaker, which is extremely hard to win with. They were awful defensively in the playoffs last year. HOU seemed to do just fine at 28-14 without Howard last year, too.

Would we also ignore the existence of Westbrook if we considered KD leading his team to the playoffs?

Nick, you still aren't getting what you've been saying and what I asked of you. You say Westbrook is great offensively(obviously), and terrible defensively(wrong, but that's your opinion). I said to find me examples of elite defensive players who were terrible offensive players leading their teams to the playoffs. Or to find me a team that would make the playoffs with someone like Bruce Bowen or Shane Battier as their best player.

Howard was very good offensively, and still is a decent offensive player. Wallace was the only player I could think of that might fit. I think Billups was overall better in their DET days, but Wallace could have a case. DET also had several quality players to go along with them. Gilmore was a great offensive player. Noah was still a quality offensive player. Mutombo had an offensive game, too, as does Marc. All of these are big guys you mentioned, too, and only Wallace would be considered terrible offensively. But, almost every year we see multiple examples of great offensive/fairly bad defensive players leading their teams to the playoffs, and often these players are guards.

If Lillard can lead his to the playoffs with POR's cast, I'm pretty sure Westbrook could've done the same. Durant also has the same luxury playing alonside Westbrook/Ibaka. Best player on a team is my definition of leader. It really easy that simple, as is the case for almost everyone else.

With the cast Westbrook had last year, 27-28 or whatever it was, wasn't that bad. A lot of those games came down to crunch time, and OKC seems to continue to have trouble with that part of the game. Westbrook has proven himself in the playoffs many times, including outplaying Curry so far this year. But, at the same time, Westbrook does deserve some blame for missing the playoffs, as does Durant. They both have had multiple great chances, and nothing yet. Nobody else in the league has the luxury of playing with another player as good as either one of them.

Believe what you want to believe Nick. But, please don't proclaim Westbrook as my god. I enjoy watching him, and he's a special talent. I like him more probably because of the amount of disrespect he gets. You greatly underrate him, so I engage you on him more. Your individual defense argument is lacking substance. I'd also be curious to hear additonal reasons why David or anyone else are so quick to clearly take guys like Irving/Lillard over Dragic, even though Dragic supposedly is vastly superior to either defensively, and maybe vastly superior offensively as well(according to you). AS selections and all-nba teams are important and shouldn't be ignored, as is MVP voting(to a lesser extent). Lillard was a top 24 player, but the West was deeper so he missed out. It's not a strict top 24 who make the teams, but overall the teams are very accurate, unless you think a team like MIL who misses the playoffs deserves 3 spots on the AS team. Rarely will anyone agree with everything, but these are very important distinctions. The media votes for MVP and they often are clueless. Nash had no business winning an MVP, but I see why he was in the conversation, and it's not like he was just top 20-25 player elevated to #1. He was at least in the top 10 for a few years and maybe top 5.

At Sunday, May 29, 2016 1:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think they looked gassed. Their late-game problems did come back, though, particularly with KD. He gets the rebound with OKC down 3 with 35 seconds or left, and just throws it away. His play was very confusing. It's too bad we have the current replay system that we have. Green hacks Westbrook, but after replay, GS gets the ball. GS earned the win, though, but they also had to have a ridiculous 21-44 from 3 to steal the game.

At Sunday, May 29, 2016 1:21:00 AM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

Re: Barnes, I agree, his matchup would be love. If he lets love score and doesn't punish him on the other end i can't see the Warriors winning.

At Sunday, May 29, 2016 4:28:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Couple more thoughts, having gone back and caught more of the game:

* Durant trying a little too hard in the first half; OKC beat the Spurs, and got this lead, by trusting their role players some; when it's just KD and RWB, they get predictable and defendable.

* Kanter has become about as unplayable in this series as I expected him to be all playoffs. They've slashed his minutes by 10 or so and he's still a net negative (and that's with two huge blowouts inflating his #s). If SAS had been this insistent on punishing him in the PnR, they might have won.

* RWB is a great passer. I'm gonna criticize him later so I wanna make sure and give credit where it's due first, lest I be labeled a "hater".

* Waiters didn't have his shot tonight, but he still wasn't doing all the things that turned him into a punchline not so long ago. This bodes well for OKC in the future, both Monday and next season. A more mature Waiters could be quite the 6th man in a long-term kinda way.

* Speaking of shooting, neither teams' stars shot especially well overall, but GSW's shot real well from 3, and that was the single biggest difference in the game.

* KD was out of gas in the fourth. BD can't ask him (or RWB) to play those kind of minutes night in, night out, especially not with the load he asks those guys to carry on O, and triple especially with the load KD's also been carrying on D. Needs to find him a few more minutes to suck some wind in the 3rd somehow.

* Westbrook had a great first half, then turned into a tirefire. His transition bad habits came back, he blew a bunch of switches, ended up behind Curry on several PnRs, didn't contest a couple key shots, and made no effort to find a man on any occasion when GSW got an offensive rebound. He also managed to turn the ball over four times in the final two minutes, which is probably a playoff record and a pretty epic individual choke job by any definition.

* Russell Westbrook, career 30% 3 pt shooter, also still took 5 3s in a must-win playoff game. They didn't go in. Also news: the Sun expected to rise tomorrow.

* That all said, if RWB puts up 40/10/10 in a win on Monday, none of us will remember any of that. Basketball's a fickle game.

* Klay Thompson is a robot sent from the future to win playoff games. Somewhere in Vegas there's a Terminator making a killing betting on this guy.

* Andre Roberson is a 40% corner 3 away from being a top ten 2 guard. Excellent defender, great instincts, plays hard as hell on offense. He almost saved OKC a couple times down the stretch. Did not realize he was this good in the regular season.

* Signs of life from Draymond Green. Not what you wanna see if you're an OKC fan.

Game 7 should be fun. It's probably either a GSW blowout or a narrow OKC win. It's also a pretty great test of Billy Donovan as a coach, 'cause that was a brutal loss emotionally for OKC, presumably. Neither RWB or KD are at their best when they're trying too hard to win the game themselves (see KD"s first half or RWB's second tonight for proof) so keeping them at the right level of intensity without letting them shoot the team out of the game early is going to be a balancing act. OKC got this far by playing as a five man band; they can't go back to being a duo if they wanna win. Ball's gotta move, guys gotta know their role on D, team's gotta play together.

Or one of 'em could go out and score 60, I guess.

As David previously pointed out, Road Game 7s are brutal. I think GSW wins in a game that starts off competitive but ends up ugly.

At Sunday, May 29, 2016 5:00:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


Yes, my examples were big guys. As I've discussed before, it is difficult for a perimeter player on defense to have the same impact as a big (though there are a few special exceptions). If I were to come up with a defensive perimeter player who was his team's best player, while being below average offensively, I would struggle... maybe Artest in '04? He scored 18 ppg, but it took him 15 shots to get there.

You're overestimating Mutombo's offensive game, methinks. Guy averaged less than 10 points per game and shot poorly for a big.

Of course, I'd also struggle to name an offensive player who was his team's best player that stunk on D and get there that wasn't either Nash (whose offensive impact in his prime was so astronomically high as to be an outlier) or, admittedly, Lillard this year. That Portland team surprised me.

That said, it's something of a false dichotomy. You can cover for either; surround Harden with four good defenders, you're probably a playoff team. If you surrounded, say, Tony Allen with four guys who can score, he's not going to kill you on offense.

But either of those guys- or any of the others we've been talking about as one-way dudes- provide smart opponents a way to attack you that two-way guys don't. That's sort of my larger point, but if you just want me to say that I'd rather have Westbrook than Bowen, then yes, in a vacuum I'd rather have Westbrook than Bowen (though I think Bowen would be easier to fit into most teams, I think, as you don't need to cover for him anywhere). I might rather have Bowen than Lillard or Irving, though. It's a lot easier to find another guard who can create something than it is to find a lockdown defensive guy.

I disagree that as many people as you seem to think would take Irving or Lillard over Dragic (youth and contract issues nonwithstanding). I have to believe most NBA people are smarter than that. Dragic is a bit less systemically versatile, granted- you really want him in a PnR up-tempo system- but his ceiling on offense is higher, his floor is higher, and his defense is better.

You have Irving or Lillard, you have to build your entire defense to cover for their imperfections, and smart teams will still kill them in the playoffs. You have Dragic, you can build your defense to, you know, play defense. That he's a more efficient offensive player with a habit of inspiring career years from teammates is just gravy.

At Monday, May 30, 2016 9:30:00 PM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

Thunder up by 5 but if Curry keeps playing like this the shots will start falling and GSW win. He is back to really bending the court and the OKC defence towards him in this quarter. If I was Kerr I would emphasise defence and rebounding, the offence will start humming if they keep this up.

At Monday, May 30, 2016 10:57:00 PM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

That 3rd quarter is a great example of how Curry drives this offence. I can't remember when we last saw Golden State playing like this. OKC is so scared of Curry everyone else is getting touches. Exactly why they won 73 games.

If Curry reverts the Warriors are a 50-60 win team, if he plays like Curry they are a championship team which is saying quite a bit this year. These playoff teams are GOOD.

At Tuesday, May 31, 2016 1:02:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Killer migraine, so my acuity is limited but initial thoughts:

* The magical carriage fo OKC's supporting cast finally turned back into a pumpkin at the worst possible time for them.

* It was the best of Russ (passing), it was the worst of Russ (pretty much everything else).

* Steph Curry seems to have recovered.

* Draymond Green not so much. Gonna need more from him against Cleveland.

* He didn't look happy, and his team pretty much lost the game when he sat near the end of the third (10-0 run or so), but I don't think KD's leaving. He doesn't wanna be just another cog in SA or GSW, he wants to compete too much for LAL, it's not clear WAS can give him any better of a chance than he has in OKC (I personally think it can, with a less screwed cap situation in a weaker conference, but it's a debatable point), and Miami can't get him without giving up too much of what makes them appealing in the first place.

At Wednesday, June 01, 2016 1:03:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jackson 888:

Thank you. I enjoyed writing those in depth recaps and I am glad that you enjoyed reading them.


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