Warriors Close Out Thunder in Game 7

Golden State Warriors 96 — Oklahoma City Thunder 88

I can’t imagine anyone being surprised at what transpired at Oracle on Monday night as the Warriors closed out the Thunder by a final score of 96-88. It’s about what I thought it would be. The Thunder to their credit did play hard, but this series was over after the Dustin Johnson three putt on Saturday night on the final hole inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. That was when the Warriors in fact escaped the fate every other team in Western Conference Finals history before them suffered when trailing 3-1 after four games. Namely, losing the series.

This will haunt the Thunder forever if they never win an NBA championship. It was there to be had–a trip to the NBA Finals, but instead a Tin Cup meltdown for the ages in those last five minutes in Game 6. A subtle suggestion to Durant and Westbrook…next time lay up with the seven iron and leave the three wood in the bag.

I hate the C word, but what else am I supposed to write? This will be an ending which haunts Durant and Westbrook forever until they finally get over the hump and win a championship if not in OKC–somewhere else.

This was their defining moment and it sucks for me to write this because I so much wanted it to end differently for them and the Thunder.

I’ll be fine. My heart will mend. Already has in fact because I have a life and don’t live vicariously through others. I’ll watch every game of the Finals between the Warriors and Cavs like I’ve watched every game of the NBA Finals for a very long time. But I’m not sure what this does to the hearts of Durant, Westbrook, and their teammates.

This isn’t the kind of thing you just blow off. This was epic. This was like Mitch ‘Wild Thing’ Williams giving up the walkoff homer to OKC’s own Joe Carter in the World Series, or Dustin Johnson three putting on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open to give away a U.S. Open.

This is the kind of loss which defines an athlete unless he has the grit to overcome it in the end by winning a championship and exorcising the demons.

In the end, the difference in this series was when Golden State absolutely had to have it from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson their superstars played with grit, smarts, and a mental toughness befitting a champion.

Durant and Westbrook didn’t.

Truth hurts.

I have no idea whatsoever why Durant and Westbrook would ever make fun of Steph Curry. Moral of the story….. don’t ever mock a baby-faced assassin or his sidekick named Klay.

So where do the Thunder go from here with Durant’s free agency becoming a reality on July 1st?

I have no idea. But I know this, if Durant wants to ever beat Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, or LeBron instead of joining them the most talented roster resides with Sam Presti in Oklahoma City.

But there are some positives to be gleaned here. Steven Adams turned into a star and the kind of player who can become the competitive soul of a basketball team. For all the sorrow Game 6 has brought upon Thunder Nation, take solace in the fact Steven Adams proved Sam Presti knew exactly what he was doing when he used the Toronto pick from the Harden trade to select Adams.

Adams has now officially usurped Nick Collison as my favorite Thunder player. What can you not love about him except his hair? Steven Adams is the kind of guy you want on your hockey team. Thank you, Steven Adams.

I thought Andre Roberson took a big step forward. He still can’t shoot a basketball well enough consistently, but the other parts of his game are excellent and like with Adams–I love his competitive soul.

Not sure what Presti should do with Dion Waiters as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Dion took strides forward as well, but I’m not sure how much I’d pay to keep Waiters if the matching price goes beyond his realistic worth.

Other than Durant and Waiters, every other player on the Thunder roster is under contract for next season.


I’ll write this and hope somehow Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook somehow stumble upon this and read it like a message in a bottle washed upon a shore.

You’re both incredible young men and Oklahoma City loves both of you, but you are not going to win a championship anywhere until you learn how to consistently weave your games alongside those of your teammates for 48 minutes when you’re playing against the super elite teams like the Warriors and Cavs.

You can beat the other 26 teams in the NBA just on your physical talent, but not the Warriors and not LeBron playing like you do.

You can go to LA and both become Mini Kobes wearing twin No. 24 jerseys, but here’s the thing, until you learn to make your teammates better your games aren’t moving to the next level despite what your agents and handlers might tell you. This is your ceiling until that happens.

And here’s one other thing in closing as I wrap this up. Let’s say hypothetically, Sam Presti had gleaned Chandler Parsons alongside Steven Adams in the Harden trade. Let’s just pretend for a moment Chandler Parsons was on the floor with you for those last five fateful minutes in Game 6.

Would he have ever touched the ball?

You tell me.

Mike Jackson




Game 7 Preview

I never planned on having to write this after the Thunder had a 3-1 series lead so I’m not really sure what I want to write. The Thunder had this series right where they wanted it entering the fourth period in Game 6 at friendly Chesapeake Energy Arena. More to the point, they had it where they wanted it with five minutes left before Westbrook and Durant just basically handed the car keys of the NBA Finals over to the Warriors.

Granted, Klay Thompson was splendid hitting 11 threes, but no one on this earth is going to beat the Warriors fumbling and bumbling the ball away — losing it on six of their final eight possessions. This might not be fair to Perk, but he might have been an offensive upgrade to what we witnessed from Westbrook and Durant in those final minutes.

It was that bad. Like watching little girls in an U8 Y league game unable to complete an offensive possession. I can’t remember when I’ve ever seen anything  in sport as painful to watch with the possible exception of pro golfer Dustin Johnson choking at the end of a major.

But it never should have happened. This game tonight shouldn’t have to be played. The Thunder were playing beautiful team basketball which had the nation captivated. It was team ball. The ball was moving and everyone was all in.

But for some reason, that all changed in Game 5 on the road when Westbrook and Durant took 59 of the Thunder’s 91 shots. It stayed that way again on Saturday night at home in Game 6 when the two stars went thud again taking 58 of the Thunder’s 90 shots.

But like I wrote in my recap, it’s one thing to miss shots, it’s something altogether different to not be able to hold onto the ball long enough to get a shot off.

I’m assuming Billy Donovan has some say about how his team plays — so this is on three people — Billy Donovan, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant.

There was some reporting from Chris Broussard on ESPN that the OKC locker room wasn’t Camp Happy after the Game 6 meltdown from Westbrook and Durant. That the Thunder players were angry with Westbrook and Durant

I wouldn’t blame them. I’m just a fan/blogger and I’m angry. Trust me, I was sitting at midcourt on Saturday night with my father, and the entire building was filled with disbelieving people as well. I didn’t hear a boo. I didn’t hear angry yells or anything like that, but there was an undercurrent of anger and disbelief in the building.

I have no take on this Game 7 whatsoever except Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant owe their teammates an unselfish, smart, effective, and hard fought basketball game in Oakland tonight. Basketball, like hockey, is the quintessential team game. There is an innate beauty to basketball when five people are playing as one versus when two play on their own and play poorly.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in no way whatsoever owe me or any other fan one thing because we were never there with them for one step of the journey in the trenches with them fighting to get to this point. So let’s be clear, I don’t feel I’m entitled to anything tonight in Game 7.

But Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters, Randy Foye, Anthony Morrow, Cam Payne, Nick Collison, and the rest of the Thunder bench are entitled to everything. They’ve earned that right.

At the game Saturday night, I was sitting opposite of Kevin Durant’s mother on the other side of the arena. I couldn’t help but watch her as the meltdown went its full course. I hurt for her and her son. I’m a parent, I have a son the same age as Kevin Durant. It was all so painful to witness. I felt like a voyeur almost.

But here’s the thing, if you’re going to be a mega branded, mega paid, mega worshipped super star athlete in the unfortunate culture we live in — then you have to answer the bell at the most important times your team needs you.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, your teammates need you tonight at Oracle. Please step the fuck up.

I hope that wasn’t vague or ambiguous.

Mike Jackson



Charles Barkley on OKC’s Reversion to Hero Ball in Games 5&6

Very poor set of questions by the OKC media in their presser with Durant and Westbrook. Other than Tramel, it appears the rest of the writers didn’t watch much of the last five minutes of the game. I guess they’re scared of asking too tough of questions of the two superstars.  Whatever. Let’s do this with Chuck instead as he talks about OKC’s addiction to hero ball.

My questions would have been, “Is your addiction to hero ball a result of selfishness or just wanting to win so bad you take too much of your teammates’ normal workload and put it on your shoulders? Why revert when you were playing so beautifully for the first time in like forever? Why change back?”

Follow up, “Does Billy Donovan ever tell you guys not to do this when it’s apparent you’ve gotten lost in the game in the wrong way or do you just free wheel as you please?”

Thunder Collapse in Game 6 Ending Nightmare

Golden State Warriors 108 — Oklahoma City Thunder 101

Series tied at 3-3, Game 7 Monday night in Oakland

Of all the things I’ve witnessed in my eight years of watching the Thunder this easily qualifies as the most painful. In a game which literally meant everything the Thunder came completely unraveled in the game’s final five minutes….and the two culprits were Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

OKC led 96-89 with around five minutes left in what up to that point had been about what we expected. OKC building a double digit lead at times, but the Warriors hanging around because Klay Thompson scored 41 points while Steph Curry did his thing as well.

But then came the last five minutes of horror as OKC turned the ball over on six of their last eight possessions with Durant and Westbrook committing the turnovers.

It was so bad it was painful to watch. Worse than anything we’d seen from the Thunder this regular season when they led the entire league in blown fourth quarter leads. This made me think of some of those Thunder losses back in 2008 when Durant and Westbrook were just kids struggling through a 23-59 learning season. But this was for the Western Conference Championship with basically everything on the line…eight years later.

You have to tell it like it is…Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook wilted and went away into the night in a game which might historically define both the Warriors and the Thunder simultaneously, but in completely different lights.

When it came down to it, both Klay Thompson and Steph Curry made game winning plays down the stretch to carry their team.  At the end, both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook couldn’t  hang onto to the ball long enough to get a shot off… let alone make clutch shots.

It got to the point it was so incredibly bad it went from painful to watch to cruel and unusual punishment for every Thunder fan in the building…. and I’m trying to be nice writing this because in no way do I want to be writing this.

Like most Thunder fans my heart is broken, not because the Thunder lost, but more to the point how they lost.

Golden State won the fourth quarter 33-18 and unless we’re all shocked on Monday night this series is over. OKC was all in on this game emotionally. It would be shocking to me if they had enough left to pull off a Game 7 miracle after what we all just witnessed.

But maybe we’ll be surprised.

The very sad part is the other pieces fell into place. OKC got to the free throw line 32 times,  but only made 22 of their attempts. That was big. OKC’s role players minus Dion Waiters, all played fairly well. Ibaka, Roberson, Adams, and Kanter were good enough for the Thunder to win this game, but even before the onslaught of late game turnovers, Durant and Westbrook only shot a combined 20-58 from the field.

The Thunder won the rebounding battle, but for the first time in this series that stat didn’t equate with a win.

Klay Thompson and Steph Curry made shots and plays when their team had to have them.  Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook didn’t.

I honestly don’t know how Durant and Westbrook react after a performance this bad on the biggest stage with the brightest lights shining. I don’t know if they have the will to summon up a performance to make Game 7 even a plausible hope for the Thunder.

It hurts writing all of this as a Thunder fan. None of this is pleasant or fun.

But give the Warriors credit they played with mental toughness and composure when it mattered most.

The Thunder didn’t and if they lose this series on Monday night this Game 6 ending will be what defines Durant, Westbrook, and the Thunder for the basketball ages.


Mike Jackson


Game 6 Preview

So here we are. The OKC Thunder’s moment of truth. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a Game 7 in this series for Oklahoma City. All the chips are in the middle of the table tonight for this game and the Western Conference Championship.

The Thunder want no part of a Game 7 in Oracle. The is the final stop on the Thunder’s roadmap to return to the NBA Finals to face Lebron for a second chance at an NBA Championship ring.

Before this series started, I made two different predictions. One with my head and one with my heart. My head picked the Warriors in Game 7, while my heart picked the Thunder in Game 6.

I’m going with my heart and the Thunder to win the series in Game 6 tonight.

I’ve watched Durant and Westbrook for eight years now. I’ve seen every game. Witnessed their journey from scrawny college kids to what they are now–two of the world’s five best players.

It literally has been a journey from then to now. Three different head coaches. Four Western Conference Championship Finals. One NBA Finals. Multiple scoring championships. One regular season MVP award. Several All-Star MVP awards. Eight seasons in Oklahoma City together.  Everything in the trophy case except one thing—the O’Brien Trophy

This is the one award which has eluded Durant and Westbrook. Tonight we see if OKC can clear this final Golden State hurdle and advance to face LeBron and Company a second time in the NBA Finals.

Game 5 meant nothing when you really think about it. Advertising filler to sell Lincolns.

Back in OKC it should be a game where the whistles become more friendly once again for the Thunder. Where the Thunder’s role players play with confidence, and where the Warrior role players don’t play anything like they did in Games 2 & 5. The axiom is and always has been role players play better at home. This is what should happen tonight. More free throws and better play from  OKC’s role players.

Vegas actually has OKC listed as a 2.5 favorite tonight after losing Game 5 by nine in Oakland.

From the point OKC eliminated the Spurs, this Game 6 is what the Thunder was hoping would be at stake on the floor of the Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28th.

The legacy of Golden State’s 73 win regular season hangs in the balance as does Durant and Westbrook’s dual legacy of not yet having won a ring.

Historically– a lot at stake  tonight.

But my heart wants to tell me it’s Durant and Westbrook’s time.



Golden State Does Enough to Force Game 6 in OKC

Golden State Warriors 120 — Oklahoma City Thunder 111

Thunder lead series 3-2

Game 6 in OKC on Saturday

It’s hard to tell if Golden State imposed their will or if OKC just fell back into some of the bad habits which nagged their season before these playoffs. Steven Adams was whistled for two very soft early fouls, had to sit, and then something happened we hadn’t seen to date in this series–namely, Andrew Bogut was a factor.

With Adams sitting early it was ugly for OKC while Bogut got going on his way to a 15 point, 14 rebound night. His breakout game was a big factor in this one as Golden State and OKC each had 45 rebounds in the game and it wasn’t nearly as easy for OKC to finish at the rim as it was in the two blowout wins in Oklahoma City.

But there it is–the rebounds. If Golden State can hang with the Thunder on the boards in this series they have a chance. A tough overall night for the Thunder and to me it’s actually amazing this game was as close as it turned out to be with the Thunder having a chance to cut it to three with around thirty seconds left when Durant missed an open three.

OKC not only didn’t win the boards, but they in no way resembled the team which made the cover of Sports Illustrated for their new look in these playoffs so far.

I thought Russell Westbrook had a very tough night as far as getting the Thunder into their offense. Some very bad live ball turnovers which got the Warriors into transition and accounted for the Warriors hammering the Thunder in transition  at times. On the night, Westbrook had seven turnovers.

The Warriors in essence won the rebounding battle, won transition points, won points in the paint, won the bench battle 30-13, and outscored the Thunder by 11 points from the free throw line. In reality, they should have won the game by a more comfortable margin than they did.

OKC reverted back to two man ball. Durant and Westbrook went 23-59 from the field combined. Of OKC’s team total of 91 shots, Durant and Westbrook basically took two thirds of the shots on a night when neither was having an efficient shooting night. It looked more like the Thunder of the past than the Thunder we’ve seen of late.

But to their defense, OKC got nothing from Dion Waiters or Enes Kanter in this game so with Adams struggling through early foul trouble, Randy Foye not really a serious threat, Andre Roberson not a double figure guy you can rely on offensively—it’s not like there were any other options other Ibaka who ended up having a decent offensive game with some made baskets in the second half.

Billy Donovan did try something different in this game as Anthony Morrow got some minutes and responded with 10 points making all four of his shots. I would have rolled a little more with Morrow in this one after he made his first three shots since the Thunder weren’t getting much of anything from Waiters and Kanter, but that’s just me.

Conversely, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson only launched 41 shots combined as the Warriors as in Game 2 got more people involved in scoring the ball. This series has been fairly simple—the team which wins the boards, moves the ball, and gets more players in double figures wins the games.

The two early foul calls on Adams were an early factor, but it can’t be an excuse because he came back and played the rest of the game.

To the Thunder’s credit they didn’t just call it in despite all the things which didn’t go their way. They competed even though it was ugly. So I can’t really sit here and be too negative because no one really thought they were going to win Game 5 in Oakland anyway.

Game 6 has always been the final point of OKC’s roadmap to winning this series. I don’t even consider a Game 7 a viable option for the Thunder if they lose Game 6. It’s win on Saturday night in Oklahoma City or spend an entire summer wondering if Durant and Westbrook will ever win a championship together.

Throughout the Durant-Westbrook years in OKC, the Thunder have never lost a home closeout game although they were closed out in 2014 at home by the Spurs, in 2013 at home in Game 5 by the Memphis Grizzlies, and in 2009 at home in Game 6 to the Lakers on the Gasol putback. So–I’m a little confused as to the Thunder’s home playoff invincibility in close out games according to the local OKC media.

So I guess it depends on how you view Game 6, is it a closeout game for the Thunder or the Warriors because the chances of OKC winning a Game 7 in Oakland are twofold, as in slim and none.

An historic Game 6 set to take place in Oklahoma City on Saturday night. The way this game goes will determine how we view Durant, Westbrook, and the Thunder in the big picture of things.

If I were the Thunder–I’d hit the boards with a vengeance, get out in transition, move the ball, and get something from its bench if it wants this to be a  happy ending in Game 6.

Mike Jackson



Game 5 Preview

Consider the following.

Before this post season began, the Warriors and Spurs won a combined 140 games this NBA basketball season. Both were considered historical while the Thunder were mentioned as a next tier team and possibly the fourth best team in the overall league. A team with an outside chance of reaching the Finals. Even more damaging to the Thunder’s pedestrian regular season resume was the fact they led the entire NBA, dumpster fire Lakers and piece of shit Sixers included, as the NBA team with the most blown fourth quarter leads.

Yet here we are on the cusp of Memorial Day weekend and the Thunder have turned the basketball world upside down not because they’re a fluke or a Cinderella like one of those NCAA Tournament darling teams, but more to the fact they finally started playing and finishing to their ability.

Maybe it was in Game 2 against the Spurs when Steven Adams put the team on his back and said let’s go. Maybe it was in the aftermath of the choke in Game 3 against the Spurs when Russell Westbrook took full responsibility for a horrific home loss which magnified everything bad about the Thunder these past four frustrating seasons. Or maybe, it was after the Game 2 blowout loss to the Warriors when the Thunder gave the Warriors the game by reverting to dumb basketball, but whatever was the turning point, the Thunder led by their two superstars have otherwise been incredible in winning seven of their last nine games against the Spurs and Warriors.

Everything has worked. A starting shooting guard who couldn’t shoot is now double doubling due to a tweak by Billy Donovan. Dion Waiters has blossomed into a consistent sixth man and closing the game type player. Serge Ibaka has left Bambi behind. Steven Adams has become a rock star. Enes Kanter and Randy Foye have been for the most part dependable bench pieces. Billy Donovan has been the best coach in basketball.

And of course there’s those two guys named Westbrook and Durant who’ve been balling to the max like superstars on both ends of the floor.

With all that in place the Thunder enter tonight with a 3-1 series lead over the stunned Warriors. The last two games have been lopsided blowout Thunder wins with the Thunder shredding the Warriors for two seventy point plus halves in back to back games.

Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, and Andrew Bogut have all looked lost to varying degrees.

So we enter tonight’s Game 5 in Oakland with all this in place as the Thunder now have three games to finish the Warriors and move onto a rematch with LeBron in the NBA Finals.

If you’ve been paying attention, it’s been a fairly simple series to decipher. The team which wins the boards and takes care of the ball has won the first four games.

But more has made itself it clear as four games have been played. OKC is clearly the more versatile team as far as style of play. The Thunder can go big with the big boy lineups of Adams, Ibaka, and Kanter — or they can go small with the lineup of Westbrook, Durant, Ibaka, Waiters, and Roberson. Either way Donovan rolls it he has the bigger team on the floor because  with OKC’s small ball lineup which has halted the Warriors’ death ball lineup the Thunder are still extremely long.

Durant and Ibaka both have the wingspans of seven footers. Roberson has freakish length as well. Westbrook is the best rebounding guard in the NBA, and Dion Waiters plays with physicality as well. What has happened here is that Billy Donovan and his team  have placed the Warriors in a box.

The Warriors clearly do not want to go out this way in Game 5 at home to end their historical regular season. But unless Steve Kerr can figure out a way for his Warriors to not get mauled on the boards in the remaining games of this series it seems unlikely they can come back all the way from 3-1 down in the series.

For OKC keep doing the things which got you here. Keep it simple. Win the boards, create extra offensive possessions with the rebounding advantage, continue to make smart basketball decisions, keep everyone involved, and finish the series in either Game 5 or Game 6. Grind, bump, and wear out Steph Curry every time he touches the ball. Make sure he takes a physical toll tonight in the event this goes back to OKC for a Game 6. One note of concern, Andre Roberson needs to start making his free throws or else you’d think Kerr might start putting Roberson on the line as Donovan has done with Ezeli in this series.

Only the opening game in this series has been close. The last three games have been blowouts. The games have yet to be epic for the most part, yet fascinating because of how the series so far has unfolded.

But you have to win four games to win a series. The Thunder need one more game, the Warriors need three. Clearly, the math and OKC’s more versatile style of play gives them a reasonable chance to win this series before it reaches a Game 7 in Oakland.

The basketball world watches with fascination as Durant, Westbrook, and the Thunder attempt to reclaim their stake to the Western Conference supremacy which was supposed to be theirs before the rash of injuries the past three post seasons gave these Warriors an opening which they took full advantage of up to this point.

The stage is set.

It should make for great theatre.