Attacking the Boards: The Durantula

Sure, it was against the Nets, but these are the games the Thunder are suppose to win and need to win if they want to compete for a playoff spot this year or in the future. The match-ups were in the favor of Oklahoma City but there were some weaknesses and the Nets actually did a good job of taking advantage of them.

This disadvantage for the Thunder is most obvious in this simple comparison of numbers: 42 minutes for Yi Jianlian, 17 minutes for Jeff Green. Coming into the game, I thought Green would have a monster night offensively, but after two buckets in the first two minutes of the game, Green was a non-factor because of the foul trouble he was forced into by Yi.

In his second game back from injury, Jianlian was simply spectacular offensively. Much like Yao Ming, Yi’s range is fantastic for a guy his size. He connected on 11 of his 20 attempts, most of which came from outside of the paint. Impressive form and an unblockable release point because of his height are very effective parts of his game. Yi also collected seven rebounds (three offensive) which is basically an added bonus because the Nets don’t expect to get much on the glass from Jianlian. It’s not exactly a terrible game plan to put Yi on the floor with Brook Lopez, another seven footer that does the dirty work on the glass. Again this compares to Yao Ming because of the way the Rockets have paired his finesse outside game with a real grinder in Luis Scola.

I was also expecting a big game from Brook Lopez because the Thunder’s biggest problem roster wise is the lack of a true center that can guard players like Lopez, but that didn’t happen. Like Green, Brook got into early foul trouble and was never able to stabilize an offensive rhythm. He finished with 10 points, seven boards and a couple of blocks.

The battle between two of the young point guards that attended this Summer’s Team USA Basketball Camp and Showcase ended in a stalemate. Devin Harris had 11 points (three-of-eight), 11 assists, four rebounds and two steals while Russell Westbrook had 16 points (four-of-12 shooting), 10 assists, two rebounds and two steals. This was the fourth straight game in a row for Westbrook in which he has shown a higher level of maturity with the basketball. Smarter passes, more drives to the cup. I like what I am seeing out of this kid in his sophomore year.

While I am on the topic of Westbrook/Harris, I asked Royce of The Daily Thunder during the game who he would take given the choice between the two guards. He said Westbrook because we have already seen Harris’ ceiling whereas Russell still has room to improve.

I tend to agree. Russell is more athletic which gives him a better chance of improving defensively. They both seem to be average shooters so that’s a wash. As far as getting to the cup, they are both pretty good, but again Westbrook gets the nod because of his athleticism. Harris is the better passer right now but in these past four games Westbrook has gained some ground.

In the end, I think it will come down to who the other is playing with. Harris was a bit overshadowed by Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson when he first got to New Jersey and that’s when he really turned into a star. But in Russell’s case, he is getting a lot of attention along with Jeff Green as two of the primary building blocks of the Thunder franchise.

With all that said, this game was all about Kevin Durant.

I told y’all he was good. What a fun basketball player to watch. He just gets it. I know I am not a LeBron fan but I can honestly say I think Durant is already a smarter basketball player or at least he is smarter at 21 than LeBron was.

Durant dropped a cool 40 on just 22 shots (he hit 15 of them) with 10 coming from the free throw line. This is a 40 point performance that comes solely off of two point shots and free throws. Imagine if this kid had his three-point shot going (That’s his only weak spot this year: 31% from deep.), he’d be leading the league in scoring just like I said he would. No doubt KD wants to shove his +21 line in the face of Henry Abbott.

Love rookie James Harden, but this was not a good game for him. 0 makes on 10 attempts and just one assists. He’ll get em next time, though.Gerald Wallace is a baller. He’s an all-star, no doubt. Not a starter because LeBron has the small forward spot but he deserves a bench spot as much as anybody. I mean, he’s 6-foot-9 and is third in basketball in rebounding. Gerald added 21 points (seven-of-13) and 14 rebounds tonight.

Oh, and will someone tell Kobe Bryant or Phil Jackson to make a wager with Michael Jordan. Something performance based, you know, have Kobe score so many points or break one of MJ’s records so he is forced to trading Raymond Felton or D.J. Augustin to the Lakers. How awesome are those two? No respect for them league wide but they both can ball and either of them could start for this team. They still have Flip Murray and Acie Law on the bench and the Lakers could send them Jordan Farmar. Please MJ, do it for Kobe.No Rudy Gay, who was out with an ankle sprain? No problem. There’s a kid by the name of O.J. Mayo who is pretty good himself.

Mayo had a team high 28 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists. Zac Randolph continued his monster team with another beastly double-double: 23 points and 19 rebounds. Is it possible that Hasheem Thabeet gets it? 17 minutes, six points, six rebounds (three of each), and a block. The fouls are still there but he is improving.

The Wizards trio combined for 78 points (Arenas had 30 and Jamison and Butler had 24 each) but that wasn’t enough.

No Ron Artest. Yes, problem.

From the first quarter on, the Lakers lost all intensity and, as usual, Kobe Bryant was the only player on the court that seemed to care about getting the victory. The Lakers were able to cut the Suns lead to six at one point in the third quarter, but when Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum allow trash like Louis Amundson to get offensive rebounds over them and allow garbage Jared Dudley to steal the ball from them you don’t deserve to win. You just don’t.

However, even if the Lakers did try in the second half, I’m not sure they would have won this game. If they played hard in the second half and the Suns shot like they did in the first half, that’s whole different story. But oh boy did Phoenix get hot from beyond the arc in the final two periods. Channing Frye, Jason Richardson, Goran Dragic, Steve Nash. You name someone on their team and they probably hit a wide open three. The Lakers were slow rotating to the basketball on three-point attempts and the Suns made them pay.

That kind of play is exactly the opposite of what won them the title last season. Kobe, Ariza, Fisher, Brown and Odom all got out to the three-point line to chase the Magic away from the three-point shot. Simply put: the effort to do that did not exist tonight.

Kobe was Kobe. He wore a shooting sleeve on his right arm to keep his elbow in tact during the game, but his shot was short early. Later, though, Kobe was sick. He was nailing contest jumpers like normal and even hit an important three that kept the Lakers in it before he exited the game. But because he was making those shots doesn’t mean his game wasn’t effected from the injuries he has. He was almost solely using his left-hand when he got to the basket, throwing up floaters in the lane that went in anyways.

He finished with 34 points on efficient 14-of-26 shooting (even better considering he started one of six) along with seven rebounds, two assists and just one turnover.

After Kobe, the hardest working player for the Lakers was Adam Morrison. No lie. Morrison came into the game with three minutes left in the first quarter, which is easily the earliest point in a ball game that he has entered into, and he worked hard with off the ball movement trying to free himself open with his shot as soon as he got in. Heck, he even hit a three! That’s shocking compared to the performance of other Laker reserves of late.

The Lakers’ front line of Bynum, Gasol and Odom shot a combined 13-of-33 from the field with most of the misses coming from beneath the basket. This same group also allowed fragile Channing Frye to collect 11 rebounds. Is that worse than the eight points (on perfect four of four shooting) and three offensive rebounds they allowed to Robin Lopez? Perhaps.Easily Allen Iverson’s best game since his return to Philly. 19 points on seven-of-11 shooting with five assists. Elton Brand had his best game of the year with 25 points (11 of 16) and nine rebounds (five offensive) off the bench. If Brand keeps this up, it will be easy for the 76ers to escape the basement of the Eastern Conference. They are just four games back of the eighth seed believe it or not. BTGIO favorite Andre Iguodala had 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Oh, and how in the world did one of the worst teams in the East beat Portland in the Rose Garden? Well, Samuel Dalembert, Brand and Marreese Speights shot 76% against the depleted Portland front line. This was the first game in which a team took full advantage of their lack of size.

Brandon Roy lead the Blazers with 24 points on 20 shots.This is not a good loss for Denver. It’s OK to lose to the Kings in SacTown, but losing to the Kings when they don’t have Tyreke Evans is pretty bad.

Carmelo had 34 points, but took 35 shots to get there. J.R. Smith was just one for nine.What a tough couple of games for the Celtics. This game was all about a head-to-head battle of point guards Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo. Ellis had 37 points (15 of 26 shooting) with four assists while Rondo had 30 points (11 of 18 shooting), 15 assists and three rebounds.

I give Rondo the win here for being a more effective scorer and getting his teammates involved.

Anthony Randolph showed his stuff in a rare start. Matched up against Kevin Garnett, the youngster did work, scoring 18 points on 15 shots with nine boards.

The Celtics could have tied the Lakers for the best record in basketball with a win here but they stay one game behind with the L.

Line Break

Author: (2422 Articles)

Mark is an 18-year old sports fanatic that founded this website back in October of 2008. He is the lead contributor for this site and a credentialed member of the media for several sports leagues and organizations. Mark's main focus is the NBA, though he also covers MLB, NFL, and International events like the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic. Follow Mark on Twitter: @Mark_Travis

1 comment to Attacking the Boards: The Durantula

  • [...] Mark Travis of But The Game Is On with some thoughts: “With all that said, this game was all about Kevin Durant. I told y’all he was good. What a fun basketball player to watch. He just gets it. I know I am not a LeBron fan but I can honestly say I think Durant is already a smarter basketball player or at least he is smarter at 21 than LeBron was.” [...]

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