Editor’s Note: NO DONALD STERLING THIS WEEK. If you want your fill of that, head to James Vasiliou’s post from April 30. But, and it really does go without saying, Donald Sterling is a supreme scumbag whose documented racism only reveals the tip of a much larger, more complicated iceberg that doesn’t have much to do with basketball.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I meant to make a post composed entirely of this gif much sooner because it is so perfect. It has everything: Blake Griffin, having fouled out of the first playoff game against the Warriors on April 19, looks positively incredulous at the scoreboard, such to the point that he forgets he’s got a full cup of water in his hand, which he promptly tosses on probably the only Warriors fan in the entire front row of the Staples Center. They share an exchange, which allows Griffin to live up to his marketable, likable persona. It’s pretty adorable, all things considered. Elsewhere, an Oklahoma City newspaper lambasted its anointed one, who angrily dropped 36 on Memphis that night. The Pacers have their backs to the wall, no thanks to their Hoya hero. Also, we’re reminded of the fact that this is Damian Lillard’s universe.
1. The Oklahoman calls Kevin Durant “Mr. Unreliable,” Durant scores 36: Oklahoma City-based newspaper The Oklahoman ran a headline in yesterday’s edition which simply read “Mr. Unreliable” in reference to Kevin Durant. I will take any opportunity to defend Kevin Durant. I’m a noted fan of his incredible basketballing ability and long ago decided this:
As such, it is my duty to state how unfair it is for the newspaper to criticize its best player, particularly with Seattle sadly not having anything to criticize. What about the fact that Russell HUSTLE BUSTLE #LETRUSSELLBERUSSELL Westbrook took 31 shots (31 SHOTS! That’s ten short of a Bruce Springsteen song about excessive violence!) and has gone scoreless in overtimes this series (of which, by the way, there have been a lot)? Inefficiency has been widespread among the Thunder, but Durant is surely not the guy to blame. He’s coming off the best season of his career, a year in which he went full angry Fleetwood Mac and dropped his version of Rumours in the form of a fourth scoring title and another near-50-40-90 run. This cat is only 25 years old. And he’s got the unconditional love of a mother to back him up:
So how did Durant respond? Did his typically unflappable demeanor give way to a bout of rage-induced half-court shots just for the hell of it? Of course not. Durant did Durant things, going 11-23 from the field for 36 points and adding ten rebounds in 42 minutes. His efficiency was its best of the entire series, and though he deferred when asked after the game if the newspaper headline had motivated him, it’s probably fair to say he was taking aim just as much at The Oklahoman as at the rim on Thursday night.
The newspaper issued an apology to Durant.
2. Roy Hibbert is more Big Baby Davis than Shaq right now, and the Pacers are in serious trouble: Here is a table:
And here is a chart which creates a visualization of the above table:
Can you tell my undergrad degree is in business? From what we can see in the table and the chart, we have a “rim protector” who, through the first six games in the series, has accumulated more fouls than rebounds and only five more points than fouls. In addition, Hibbert achieved the dubious feat of starting and playing in two consecutive playoff games without scoring a single point. For a guy who is supposed to be the focal point of arguably (with the Bulls gone; thanks, Wiz) the best defense in the playoffs, as well as the second-best player overall on his own team, Hibbert is disappointing, to say the very least.
Though the Pacers managed to play their way into a Game 7 on Saturday night, Hibbert had little to do with it. It isn’t fair to expect efficient 24- and 21-point performances from David West and Lance Stephenson, respectively, especially when Paul George has been lukewarm at best this series. George even recommended “playing smaller” (read: sitting Roy Hibbert) against the Hawks, who have used an athletic game to wear down the Pacers. Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap have played especially well, and the Hawks have a legitimate shot to knock off the Pacers and move on to the next round. Frank Vogel is likely playing for his job right now, and the Pacers are likely playing to keep their core together. Even with his recent dip in performance, Hibbert is as important now as ever.
3. Damian Lillard does not care how you take your coffee, what designer you’re wearing or when the next train to Grand Central arrives:
Damian Lillard has made a habit of hitting game-winning shots, particularly three-pointers. To have that transfer to the playoffs is to place your game next to that of this site’s namesake, Robert Keith Horry Jr., whose career spanned sixteen years, seven championships and countless clutch shots, so many that he has his own personal top ten list. One of my friends texted me after the game that “Big Shot Rob is worried,” which, while not necessarily true just yet, says a lot about the point guard’s development in the last two years. Lillard’s sinking of title contenders Houston closed out a series which was one game and many, many overtimes too short. Houston and Portland played insanely close, and only by the grace of God and LaMarcus Aldridge, who looked very similar in the early games, were the Blazers able to move on to the next round. A few bounces here and a make or two there, and the Rockets would’ve beaten Portland in six. That is how close it was.
On a side note, I wonder how The Oklahoman feels about Damian Lillard.