OKCThunderGround Power Poll

So nice not having a Thunder game for two days. KD talked of a little bit of burn out in January. I get  it…I was feeling his pain along with he and the team. Too many games in one month. Still a great week-end of sport with a stirring upset on the women’s side in in the Aussie Open. Plus, OU’s No. 1 men’s team travels to LSU and gets a dramatic road win which will keep the Sooners at the top of the poll. Ben Simmons may well be the best prospect in college ball this season, but Buddy Hield is the NPOTY without question so far. He wants the ball in clutch situations, Simmons doesn’t. Seth Greenberg, grow up. End of discussion.

A few changes in this week’s poll. San Antonio drops to third after two lopsided losses to Golden State and Cleveland. Granted, they were without Tim Duncan, but they should have been competitive. Cleveland jumps a notch to second with four straight wins with Lue and LeBron  co-coaching the team and getting Kevin Love more involved. Memphis Grizzlies getting traction and inching upward. Still not ready to move Toronto into the fifth spot. But I’m watching the possible inversion of Toronto and the Clippers closely. Detroit shows me they’re not ready just yet…they drop from my poll and are replaced by the surging Boston Celtics.

OKC Thunder still fourth. Show me something this week against Washington, Orlando, and Golden State and I might move you to No. 2. Show me.

1          Golden State Warriors

2          Cleveland Cavaliers

3          San Antonio Spurs

4          Oklahoma City Thunder

5          LA Clippers Clippers

6          Toronto Raptors

7          Chicago Bulls

8          Memphis Grizzlies

9          Atlanta Hawks

10        Miami Heat

11        Boston Celtics

12        Dallas Mavs

Thunder Bring ‘A’ Game, Dump Harden’s Rockets

OKC 116 — Houston Rockets 108

OKC started slowly on Friday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half before going to the dreaded Hack a Dwight Howard strategy to change Houston’s offensive flow. Hate it if you may, but it worked as Houston cooled. The Thunder steadied themselves and went on to play one of their best halves of basketball in the second half enroute to a playoff like 116-108 win over the Rockets.

Houston led 58-55 at the half. But from the moment Donovan went Hack a Dwight the Rockets cooled and the game changed with OKC leading 89-83 after three periods.

OKC’s hard fought, emotional win broke a Rocket five game winning streak over the Thunder which dated back to April 2014. OKC improves to 36-13 with the win, while Houston drops to 25-24.

These two teams clearly have a distaste for one another and could very well be meeting in a No. 3 versus No. 6 first round playoff series.

Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverly did their perfunctory fanging of one another at several junctures, but Westbrook did not allow himself to be J.J. Barea suckered, instead Westbrook turned in a stellar performance with his sixth triple double of the season. Westbrook’s line …. 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 assists.

Durant was brilliant as well with 33 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists. But it was Durant’s defense and overall court attitude which set the tone for the Thunder in the second half as they defensively put the clamps on Houston from beyond the arc limiting the Rockets to 2-21 in the second half.

OKC’s two stars both brought their overall games in this one and their teammates followed the example. Dion Waiters was excellent scoring 16 points on a 6-9 shooting night and added some physical defense on Harden.

Enes Kanter for the second straight game was what he needs to be if OKC is going to prove to be contender instead of pretender come April. Kanter fueled OKC’s bench with a 22 point, 10 rebound double-double.

Kyle Singler, Anthony Morrow, and DJ Augustin were all solid giving exactly what Donovan needed from each. Singler…grit and hustle. Morrow…a couple of threes. Augustin ….solid backup point guard play. All three pulled their link on the chain.

Steven Adams pulled in 10 rebounds. Serge Ibaka didn’t do much stat wise, and only made one shot, but fought through the night as the game basically went small after Dwight Howard’s ejection at the 7:06 mark in the third period after he received his second technical.

I’m going with the two stars as my No. 1 Star of the Game for their defensive efforts in the second half. It seems appropriate since Durant and Westbrook were both named Co-Players of the Month in the Western Conference.

James Harden led the Rockets with 33 points.

A good ballgame to watch. Arena had a playoff game feel to it. OKC’s two stars responded with some defensive intensity and the rest of the team followed their lead.

For the first time since OKC’s win in Dallas, OKC looked like a top four team in the league. Good win. I need a glass of wine and a song.


Mike Jackson


Game 49: Houston Rockets @ OKC Thunder Preview

James Harden in town tonight as his 25-23 Houston Rockets take on the Thunder. Hard to believe, but Harden’s Rockets have won five straight against the Thunder in the series. Granted, three of those came last season during the injury riddled season, but still surprising considering Houston hasn’t been anything special itself during its Harden era unless you count a Clipper collapse in last year’s second round as a change of culture in Houston.

Horrible start for Houston this season as some injuries and the acquisition of Ty Lawson contributed to the firing of head coach Kevin McHale. But slowly the Rockets have crawled upwards and now find themselves as the No. 7 seed in the West coming off a loss at the hands of Golden State. Another possible plus is the return of Josh Smith, who actually helped the Rockets last spring in their mini run to the Western Conference Finals.

Houston still relies heavily on the three and this can’t bode well for OKC tonight as they’ll be without Andre Roberson to guard Harden.  Cam Payne will miss as well because of the NBA’s concussion protocol procedure. With Payne out that means DJ Augustin will have to play minutes and Houston probably isn’t a good matchup for this to occur.

So who will guard Harden seems to be the challenge OKC as a team will have to answer tonight. With Roberson out it would seem likely Kyle Singler’s minutes will increase substantially tonight and beyond.

With Roberson out—the challenge for OKC from a defensive standpoint will be substantial as OKC faces Houston, Washington, Orlando, and Golden State in the next four games. Steph Curry has already predicted a Warriors’ win over OKC on Feb. 6th just to be clear of how confident the Warriors feel about themselves currently.

One would think Billy Donovan might try Westbrook, Waiters and maybe even Singler against Harden at times tonight depending on foul troubles. Harden getting to the line is always a key if he’s getting there with regularity.

Should be a scoring fest at Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight with the winner scoring at least in the 120’s or so.

Durant, Westbrook, and Co. will have to score in runs, and Westbrook in no way can allow himself to get goaded by Patrick Beverly in this one tonight.

For the offensive minded this one should be right up your alley.

Harden Scores 40 Against Suns

Since the Harden trade, OKC has tried to fill Harden’s role of sixth man and Russell Westbrook’s co-pilot in late game sets with Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson, and currently Dion Waiters.

Kevin Martin was okay as a one year rental. Jeremy Lamb had confidence swings and never got untracked. Reggie Jackson was actually pretty good, but like Harden wanted a starring role on his own team , and Dion Waiters has struggled with game to game consistency. It’s not hard to envision Cam Payne being pretty good in this role down the road though. I could very well see Payne expanding his game next season and being a pretty good fit with Durant and Westbrook to close games and man the second unit as well.

People sometimes forget just how impactful James Harden was in the Thunder’s run to the NBA Finals in 2012. The Harden-Collison two man game was beautiful to watch. Two smart players.


Obama Roasts Trump

The very last thing I want to do on an esoteric rogue Thunder blog is become political in a presidential election year. But sometimes the flow of natural events leaves a rogue blogger with no alternative. In honor of Mr. Trump for passing on tonight’s GOP debate after being bullied too hard by Fox’s own Megyn Kelly.

This may have been the moment the Trump presidential seed was germinated. Just a hunch.

Durant and Harden on Jimmy Fallon

Late January and the dog days of a marathon 82 game schedule are starting to set in with both players and followers of the game. OKC has played 48 games, 34 left in the regular season. Hard to get up for every game since there’s basically no suspense left in this regular season. Golden State will finish first in the West. Cleveland will finish first in the East. San Antonio will most likely finish second in the West, while second place in the East is up for grabs. So—there’s your league wise suspense–who’ll finish second in the East.

OKC seems destined for a third place seed which means they wouldn’t have home court advantage beyond the first round. OKC is 35-13, which is about the pace everyone thought they’d play, but no one envisioned how much better Golden State would be this season in pursuit of a repeat. Therein lies the league storyline…how much better Golden State is with the same players.

That being written—I’m going to pull back bitching about OKC’s defense for a couple of days, (probably one) and take a look back at the wonderful days of  James Harden being OKC’s sixth man and point guard co-pilot.

Harden is back in town tomorrow night and is for the part still loved. Some bitch about him not taking the deal Presti offered, but it was a career no brainer for Harden. Who knows, maybe Durant and Harden will be reunited at some point again in their NBA careers.

Durant Closes Out Wolves in Minnesota

OKC Thunder 126  — Minnesota Timberwolves 123

With OKC’s Thunder playing its third road game in four nights and short Andre Roberson and Cam Payne, OKC found itself in a dogfight against the talented, yet still young T Wolves. But Kevin Durant once again closed the deal for OKC with two huge shots in the game’s final two minutes to secure a hard fought 126-123 road win at Minnesota on Wednesday night.

It was an entertaining game with lots of offensive highlights and not much defense, but in the end it was Durant making the big shots and getting OKC to 35-13 doing what he does best…closing.

Durant and his running mate Russell Westbrook played 87 combined minutes last night in New York, 74 combined minutes tonight, and basically put the Thunder on their backs to get these two road wins.

Durant went 27 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Westbrook went 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 15 assists, yet I think I might go with Enes Kanter as my No. 1 Star of the Game.

It was a much needed game for Kanter for was brutal last night against the Knicks. None of that residue carried over against the Wolves as Kanter had his first double, double since Christmas with a 23 point, 10 rebound game in 23 minutes.

Cam Payne had concussion like symptoms and did not play the second half. But OKC got some quality minutes from Anthony Morrow, Dion Waiters, Nick Collison, Kyle Singler, and DJ Augustin subbing for Payne.

Minnesota shot 55.6% from the field and had 31 assists. OKC shot 52.7% from the field with 23 assists. Like I wrote earlier, it was not a game dominated by stellar defense.

The T Wolves were led in scoring by Zach LaVine who went for something like 35 points on a 14-17 shooting night. Wiggins and Towns chipped in 20 and 19 respectively.

But for Minnesota it was the same story as the young Wolves tightened up during Winning Time and watched as Kevin Durant steered his team home. OKC is now 32-9 in games Kevin Durant has played this season. But I say this—those three young dudes are going to be great players if they’re nurtured properly.

A tough four game road trip for OKC with Winter Storm Jonas, plus injuries to Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, and Cam Payne to be dealt with, yet at the end of the trip OKC heads home with a 3-1 mark and a sigh of relief.

James Harden and his Houston Rockets in town Friday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. I still love Harden. Can’t wait.

Mike Jackson


Game 48: OKC Thunder @ Minnesota Timberwolves Preview

OKC in Minnesota tonight to cap a four game road trip against the 14-32 Timberwolves. Despite having the third worst record in the league–all is not hopeless as they possess some elite young talent in Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Zach LaVine. A group who makes it somewhat easy to think back to the early days of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden when the Thunder were trying figure out how to win regular season games in a 23-59 inaugural season.

Same thing with this Minnesota team as they’re still in the process of learning how to win games. Wolves have some additional talented players in Shabazz Muhummad, Gorgui Dieng, Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Kevin Garnett. So there’s enough there to win some games.

OKC comes in at 34-13, but given what we’ve seen of late from the Thunder it wouldn’t be implausible for the Thunder to get beat in this game if they can’t elicit some emotion and focus. Minnesota is one of the league’s worst three point shooting teams so that lessens the concern a bit, but anything is possible from this Thunder team as far as being defensively inconsistent. Or would it be more to the point saying they’re consistently inconsistent. Whatever.

Enes Kanter comes off what I think was his worse performance this season. So you’d think the thought is he’ll bounce back and  provide some bench points against the Wolves.

With the Blake Griffin mess in Los Angeles, it would appear OKC won’t be under any pressure to sustain the No. 3 seed, but again, with this OKC team, presuming anything might be dangerous.