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OKC Thunder: The unsung heroes

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The Oklahoma City Thunder are an enigmatic bunch that leaves everyone, probably including themselves, perplex each time they take the court.

Based on the talent, and offensive firepower they throw on the court, one would expect them to be invincible. But, their offensive nuclear power can also drive them to the ground. They can kill you, or themselves as quickly, and ruthlessly as a shark to blood infested waters. The catch: nobody knows, on a nightly basis, if they are the predator or the prey.

How many teams in NBA history could go at the Roar-acle, home of the 73-9 Warriors, the greatest team of all-time, and pull off an upset despite watching their two best players struggling to shoot the basketball?

Kevin Durant shot a pedestrian 10-30 from the field, and finished 10 points below his scoring average against the Warriors this season.

Russell Westbrook shot 7-21, partly due to his awful first half, but managed to end the game with a respectable 27 points, and 12 assists.

So, while Westbrook and Durant will continue to dominate, and lead the Thunder in scoring, I want to take some time to reflect upon the unsung heroes that have contributed immensely to the Thunder’s success in these playoffs.

Steven Adams, and Enes Kanter are proving to be extremely valuable to this team, and their dominance on the boards is what is keeping the Thunder alive.

In Monday night’s win at Golden State, Adams dominated the Warriors’ frontcourt with a 16 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks effort that helped catapult the Thunder back into that game.

In the previous round, when everyone – including myself – thought the Spurs would laugh them off the building in four or five games, Kanter, and Adams became the mismatches that propelled the Thunder into the Conference Finals.

The two unheralded players established their rugged-and-rough style of play in their series against San Antonio, and thus far have kept it going against the Dubs.

Both Kanter, and Adams will never mistake anyone into believing they are key centerpieces to build a franchise around, but they play with as much heart, and fire as their indomitable point guard.

Adams was born, and raised in Rotorua, New Zealand. He is the youngest of 18 kids, and grew up in a rugby-mad country, and a city dominated by street gangs. In other words, toughness and attitude is his DNA.

And, that is what he brings to the table on every play. A relentless warrior willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win the ball game. He is the guy who will trip Danny Green. A guy who will, fearlessly, push Tim Duncan over and stare him down without an ounce of care as to who ‘the Big Fundamental’ is.

Kanter, the Switzerland-native, Turkish basketball player from Kentucky, has yet to live to his 3rd overall draft pick status, but provides instant energy, heart, and hustle.

He and his Kiwi teammates have graciously accepted their roles as the ‘dirty job’ men. They patrol the paint forcing guards, and forwards to re-think their shot selections, and intimidate the opposition.

Against the Spurs, Adams averaged 3.5 offensive rebounds per game (21 total), and Kanter 3.3 (20 total), meaning that they gave their team an extra six to seven possessions each game of the hard-fought series.

And, when you think that three of those games were decided by four points or less, and two by fourteen, those extra possessions are where the Thunder won. An extra possession puts pressure on the defense, gives you more scoring chances, and with Kevin Durant, and Russ on the court, you will lose that battle.

Pat Riley famously said, “no rebounds, no rings,” and thus far the Thunder are outrebounding everybody.

In their first round series against the Mavericks, Adams recorded 38 rebounds in five games, a tad shy of eight boards per game. His partner in crime hauled in 35 in five games, meaning he averaged 7 rebounds per night.

As a team, the Thunder averaged 47.2 rebounds per game against Dallas who could only muster 35 rebounds per night. The biggest reason behind the Thunder whooping of the Mavericks was their dominance on the boards.

In their second round series against the Spurs, the Thunder hauled in 44.3 rebounds per game while the Spurs grabbed 38.8 boards a night. A much closer battle, which resulted in a much closer series, but in the end the result, was the same.

Monday night, the Thunder outrebounded Golden State 52 to 44, and this trend is likely to continue the rest of the series.

There is an old expression in French that goes “never twice without thrice!”

NBA

New Toronto ‘City’ Jerseys Point North To The 6

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IMG 20180115 092655
Six Flag

Better late and sharp to the party than never looking fly.

Sometimes in the streets of Toronto you just have to wait for a good thing. Like that CN Tower forever in the distance drive from Pearson Airport to the downtown dot. Or waiting for a table and menu for something good to eat at Jack Astor’s on any given night. But Drake always delivers from serving up playlist picks to albums that offer ‘VIEWS’ that honour the great city of the six. So you know if you’re reading this it’s never really too late.

Now after Nike just gave us ‘Association’, ‘Icon’ and real ‘Statement’ jerseys for the new season where they are now the official uniform supplier of this National Basketball Association the ‘City’ line is complete like riding a Matt Bonner tram from King Street West to the Air Canada Center. As Toronto didn’t want to be left out like Kyrie Irving didn’t want to be the next Dwyane Wade. Now the only one rocking sleeves like Adidas is Lakers rook Lonzo again, looking to ball like his UCLA alumni days. Forget Christmas Day, unless you’re rocking Sixers script. As for the 6, the new Toronto Raptors jerseys that go back to black like the late, great Amy Winehouse with Octobers Very Own gold, couldn’t be more Drake or OVO if they had that Owl hooting from the shooting shorts. And you know these third blackouts will be a permanent fixture on ‘Drake Nights’ when the Raps court will be decked out in the black gold same lining.

But these new duds that All-Star ‘Step Brothers’ DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will rock like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly did ugly sweater vests are less ‘Hotline Bling’ and more for the town he calls his own for the citizens of Toronto. ‘They The North’ and have that in six court copying chevrons that in glittering gold, road point to this very Canadian NBA destination. Do you see. And if you don’t know, now you know…player.

This is B.I.G. for the notorious north OVO town of the six. We’ve had the ATL neon, Boston parquet, Lakers Black Mamba snakeskin, Cleveland Land, Detroit ‘Motor City’ industry, New York’s F.D.N.Y. department, the Suns not losing the ‘Los’ love and Chicago’s classic city edition. But nothing for the homestand looks as good as this to the T-Dot.

And with all six signs pointing north to Toronto, we only wish these Raptors threads could be put on for the city every night.

Now the only ‘Fallen Kingdom’ in this Jurassic World will be found in cinemas with Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jeff Goldblum this summer season Blue.

It took a minute for the sap to meet the tree but the Raptors and the Toronto city they call home are far from extinct.

Nike finds a way.

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The ‘Human Highlight Film’ Dominique Wilkins Almost Made ‘Showtime’ Worthy

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Wilkins
How Unique Would The Lakers Have Been With 'Nique?
Hollywood’s show kept fast break rolling last night like a Golden Globe as the young Lakers finally snapped their losing trend by clipping the Atlanta Hawks, 132-113 at STAPLES. All behind 20 points from Brandon Ingram, 15 and 9 from Julius Randle and 13, 10 and 6 from rookie Lonzo Ball. J.C. with 18 and K.C.P. with 14 also had three three’s each as the Lakers made a sweet 16 season best from downtown, to go along with a franchise record 42 points off fast breaks on a momentous night for the storied franchises record books.
It kind of looks like Showtime’s go on all over again.
But straight from the Fox Sports hole pregame did you know that back in the 80’s day the NBA’s Hall of Fame, Human Highlight Film, Dominique Wilkins was almost drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers to be the centerpiece of Showtime? The Atlanta Hawk legend who has a statue outside the ATL arena like all the Magic, Kareem’s, big fellas and logos outside Lakerland told us himself play-by-play as part of the pregame panel.
“Jerry Buss didn’t want me but Jerry West did”, ‘Nique said with warm affection to what could have been. And we can’t help muse like Shea Serrano’s brilliant ‘Basketball And Other Stories’ book to what legacy and Laker legend would have been like if the Basketball God’s didn’t cast down a thunderbolt. You see apparantly it all came down to an injury to Lakers Celtic bruising forward Mitch Kupchak, which will no doubt leave some Laker fans thinking this may be the first time but not the only time their former G.M. Mitch has messed up things for the Lake Show.
Kupchak’s season crippling injury made Buss want to go bigger and taller. And the rest is Big Game history as the Lakers drafted Wilkins’ fellow North Carolina alumnus James Worthy who made his own H.O.F. career more than just his second name that resides in the forever rafters like 42. The second in goggle command behind Cap remains one of the Lakers and the league as a whole’s most underrated legend.
But we can’t help but think what it would be like if we just looked up at the STAPLES ceiling and saw Dominique’s name up there like Kobe’s too (or two) with his 21 in that acclaimed area. It would have certainly brought more hard-nosed hostility to those Larry Bird fights and more Hollywood to that iconic Slam Dunk Contest between the Human Highlight and the G.O.A.T., M.J. And could you have imagined the Magic between a player who finished his career with Orlando and actually the legendary Boston Celtics and the man with the top hat himself Earvin Johnson? Now you thought watching Lake Show greats A.C. Green and former coach Byron Scott was good.
In the end it was all scripted the right way. The Lakers had their own Big Game dunking James worthy of a King and Dominique Wilkins soared as a Hawk in the A. But if Magic’s all smiling Showtime had a few more Human Highlights for the film? Now that would be something straight out of Hollywood.
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LeBron’s Land Now Has I.T. Support

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Portland Trail Blazers V Cleveland Cavaliers
I.T. Follows All The Kings Men

Cleveland plainly dealed their point prince Kyrie Irving away from the King’s Cavalier land this Summer, to make the NBA’s historical Boston Celtics storied again behind their new superstar handle. And in return they got a glorious gunner with an 80’s iconic name, albeit one hip checked to the new year with injury.

But even if Christmas has come late this year like changing your calendar to 2018, Isaiah Thomas is back like you’ve never seen him before, like a Detroit Piston legend kissing and making up with an 80’s Showtime one in an emotional NBA TV reunion.

Now that’s Magic!

Like Pennywise the clown, injury tempted I.T.’s reign into the gutter for the opening chapter of his story with the King like he was wearing a yellow raincoat. But just wait for part two…it’s about to get slicker as forget arms, Thomas is about to take everyone’s legs off from the ankles up.

He’ll float too.

The land was in need of a hand. One that even the way of Wade couldn’t help after the thorn that went in probably retired, former franchise player Derrick Rose’s side. And now they have it all for one and one for all in I.T.’s support. The King now has a fellow crowning talent ready to hold the throne with. Isaiah Thomas’ return to the trail against Portland was blazing too. Normally a nice 17 points and 3 assists would seem modest for a pocket dynamo of this young Iverson’s stature, but when we answer that it came in just 19 minutes of burn than you know it’s something else altogether.

It’s the makings of something greater.

But all that failed to blend in Beantown as his reunion with the Celtics he was supposed to retire with and his renewed rivalry with the guard he was traded for was put on a DNP-CD hold (at least he too made up with 80’s great Danny Ainge). But the whole event game of the night turned out to be a wash-out as the Celtics 102-88 scrubbing of the Cavaliers on polished parquet only saw the real rivalry of James (19) and Kyrie (11) amass less than 20 points each when this explosive TNT match-up should have gone 30 for 30 for ESPN.

Still Ohio will rise again when the King and I.T. return to their land and maybe even the promised ones of the NBA Finals. As another Celts/Cavs conference finals match-up without Gordon Hayward and this time more Love could beat towards the heart of a lion. And the five foot something with a headband has plenty of that under his too.

And you best believe tooth and hip surgery nail he’s going to leave it blood, sweat and tears all on the parquet this playoff postseason.

But this time instead of against one, Isaiah won’t just be running alongside a King…he’ll be one.

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