By KOLBY PAXTON
I know I usually begin with a short story to get you warmed up, but I really don’t have one that is in any way related to Thunder hoops. You’d think I would come back with a vengeance after skipping Game 3, but, much like Derrick Rose, I’m just not too fired up about competing this time around.
Speaking of Game 3, though, did you guys miss me? Saturday was graduation day at the University of Arkansas. I had particular interest in watching a lovely little psychology major collect her bachelor’s degree. I checked scores and monitored Twitter to some degree, but watching Groundhog Day at the Grindhouse just wasn’t very high on my list of priorities.
Needless to say, OKC wasn’t in much mood to party in the aftermath of the day’s events, but we were. Katie’s siblings were both in town, along with her sister’s fiance’ and my brother; a rare assimilation of the entire starting lineup. In fact, it was the first time that the six of us have ever gone out together, and the difference was evident. I never say no to Dickson Street, but I’m not always working with a championship caliber supporting cast if you catch my drift.
Saturday was different. If I’m the Kevin Durant of pub crawls then my kid brother is Russell Westbrook. Adding him into the mix with shooters on the wings made for a formidable combination. Crazy what a difference one player can make, no?
1. Nice of Serge to join us.
I received three Thunder-related text messages during Game 3. Two of them read, “Serge Isucka” and “Ibaka = awful.” The third also included a less than endearing assessment of Ibaka’s performance, but, censored appropriately, would read much like a 2 Chainz song sounds on the radio.
Finally, finally Serge woke up and delivered exactly the type of performance the Thunder needs from him sans Westbrook. Unfortunately, he only sustained it for one quarter.
2. Not to pile on, but...
Reggie Jackson guarded Mike Conley nearly exclusively in Game 3, correct? And Conley managed just three field goals, am I right? So... Why make the unnecessary and unwarranted decision to switch Thabo Sefolosha onto Conley for Game 4? I realize Sefolosha made a career as a premier perimeter defender, but it’s pretty apparent to everyone not wearing a suit on the Thunder bench that his best days are behind him.
James Harden torched Sefolosha. Chandler Parsons torched Sefolosha. As for Conley? You guessed it. I guarded him with more success in the Springdale Youth Center league than Thabo did last night — particularly early — as all 24 of his points came with No. 2 in blue attempting to mark him.
3. “I Got You Babe”
You know that scene in the “Groundhog Day” when Bill Murray finally just concedes his fate? Rather than fight it, he just embraces his circumstances, content to simply accept the bizarre hand of which he’s been dealt. It perfectly captures my approach to this team in these playoffs.
Durant is going to carry the team, garnering sporadic contributions from some combination of Derek Fisher, Jackson and/or Kevin Martin. Ibaka is going to disappear for vast stretches of time. The opponent will make a run. Durant will run out of gas. Perkins will fumble and stumble and foul and growl. Eventually, without Westbrook there to assert himself, OKC will run out of options and run out of time. Rinse, repeat.
It was over when... Fisher tossed an inbounds pass to Tony Allen — who does not play on Fisher’s team — with 21.1 seconds left. Gasol extended the lead with a freebie, Durant missed a desperation three, and Sonny and Cher rang out once again as the alarm clock struck 6:00.
Stat of the night: In games three and four, Durant has shot 55 percent in quarters 1-3, but just 3-for-17 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Quote of the night: “The variation of what Oklahoma City and Scott Brooks are doing in late game situations has not changed. So all of a sudden they’re easy and they get predictable. And they’re making it difficult for (Kevin Durant)” — Kenny Smith.