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Kevin Durant Suffers Hard Fall, Remains In The Game (Video)

Late in the 1st quarter during tonight’s highly anticipated matchup between the Thunder and the Heat, Kevin Durant took a very hard fall after going up for a rebound and appeared to land on his right shoulder and hip.

Durant writhed in pain on the ground, and it looked as if he had suffered a serious injury. After a few minutes however, Durant was able to shake it off and remain in the game.

Durant (who picked up another technical) and the Thunder have been frustrated all night, as the Heat have outplayed them from the tip. As of this posting (5 minutes left in the second quarter), the Heat are leading 44-29.

(H/T to @HPBasketball for the video)

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Scott Brooks wins NBA coach of the year

Amid the Thunder’s first-round postseason series with the Lakers, the NBA announced yesterday that the Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks was the recipient of the league’s coach of the year award for the 2009-2010 season.

Despite his team’s trailing 2-0 going back to Oklahoma City for a set of three against the defending champions, Brooks has accomplished a whale of lot during his tenure with the Thunder.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks is this year's NBA coach of the year.

Last season wasn’t great. He took over a struggling team from P.J. Carlesimo without any hopes of winning, but he salvaged the season with some semblance of respectability.

This year? Well, it’s been a different story. Brooks transformed a freakishly young roster from a makeshift assembly of talent to a well-oiled machine. With one star and a number of role players, he has shown Oklahoma City is ready to make an appearance on the NBA map.

Especially impressive is the fact that Brooks was severely limited in height, with Nick Collison, Nenad Krstic, and Serge Ibaka as his main players up front. Nevertheless, he encouraged the team to play inspired, tenacious defense, which is largely responsible for the franchise’s first playoff appearance since relocating from Seattle.

Most important, though, is that Brooks has convinced these players to truly embrace the core aspects of a team. There’s no selfishness, there’s no ball-hogging, there are no off-the-court issues. This squad is focused on winning basketball games the right way. And getting a team to do that is something you can’t really say about many of the great coaches in NBA history.

To be honest, Brook’s transformation of the Thunder is reminiscent of what John Wooden, potentially the greatest coach of all time in any sport at any level, did with his UCLA teams. There’s the same embracing of basketball and life values, and there’s the same desire on the part of the players to be out there every night, doing their best and having fun.

Sure, the 82 consecutive wins and the 10 straight championships aren’t there for Brooks … yet. But as that team continues to blossom, and after the Thunder add a core piece to the front court, watch out. Oklahoma City could be a very dangerous player in the coming years.

And it’s all thanks to the groundwork Mr. Brooks has laid.

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Observations from the Playoffs thus far

With the 2010 NBA playoffs underway, here are some of the things I’ve noticed this weekend in the first games:

  • Point guards have been threats in losing efforts so far.
    1. When the Thunder were in striking distance of the Lakers, it was all thanks to Russell Westbrook. He repeatedly make the Lakers’ otherwise-solid defense look silly, diving into the lane and finishing with ease at the rim. I’ve said it all season: L.A. can’t handle the quick point guards. If Westbrook can recreate that production for the rest of the series, and Kevin Durant gets back on track, Oklahoma City has a serious chance to make some noise.
    2. In the Cleveland-Chicago series, Derrick Rose was the only semblance of offensive production for the Bulls, and although he shot a low percentage, he played decent ball against a stingy Cavaliers defense.
    3. Jameer Nelson absolutely lit up the Bobcats in the first half of their contest.
  • The underdogs are finding a way to stick around.
    1. Chicago, despite trailing to Cleveland big, made the game somewhat interesting at times.
    2. Oklahoma City gave L.A. a run for its money even into the fourth quarter.
    3. The Heat were in striking distance after Kevin Garnett’s eruption on the sidelines.
    4. Charlotte, too, was able to stay in the picture by drawing well-timed fouls on Vince Carter and Dwight Howard.
  • There probably won’t be any upsets in the first round, although San Antonio has an outside chance.
  • The stars aren’t going to be the only factors. Carmelo Anthony’s the exception for now.
    1. Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant shot for poor percentages in their first game.
    2. Dwight Howard, although a beast on defense, was shut down completely on the offensive end.
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Game of the Day: April 6

Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz — 9 PM eastern

Did you enjoy your day off from the NBA? As much as people may despise me for it, I was happy Duke won the tournament. Any claim that Butler “deserved” it is a little bit questionable to me. Duke won all six of its tournament games. What else should it have done?

Anyway, the NBA comes back with a bang with this West intraconference matchup. The Jazz are part of the four-team scuffle for second place in the frontier, and the Thunder are close on their heels, just one-and-a-half games back. But this game is about a lot more than the standings implications.

Oklahoma City has that Durant guy, but he’s going to play well no matter what. The point-guard square-off is what I’m really interested in. Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook are two of the finest court generals in the league. Certainly, Williams is more established than his counterpart, but Westbrook has the potential to be just as good — he just needs to improve his atrocious shooting. Furthermore, Williams has, since the outset, had a top-of-the-line power forward in Carlos Boozer to help develop his game — particularly in the pick-and-roll scenario. While the Thunder have Jeff Green at the 4, he’s more of an isolation player who can obviously finish off a well-timed pass from Westbrook but doesn’t make him all that much better.

Utah will be down a primary defender for Kevin Durant in Andrei Kirilenko, who has been listed as out for the game because of his strained calf. His length and height allow him to match up physically with Durant, but we won’t get to witness that assignment.

The Thunder have gone undefeated against the Jazz this season, winning all three of their previous battles. Most recently, on March 14, Westbrook torched the Jazz for 30 points and 11 assists. Durant added a cool 35 points, including 13-13 from the free-throw line. Kirilenko did not play in that game.

As I see it, the Thunder pull off the season sweep here. The Jazz are incredibly hot right now, and there’s something to be said for streaks, but Oklahoma City evidently poses some sort of unstoppable threat for them. With Kirilenko out, Durant should run buck wild. And look for increased minutes for Oklahoma City’s bench standout Serge Ibaka to try and neutralize Boozer’s post damage.

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