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Durant doesn’t buy talk Thunder can’t win it all this year

Mar 8, 2013, 12:12 PM EDT

Kevin Durant AP

Not everyone believes the Oklahoma City Thunder have a real chance to win an NBA title. And if you watched the Miami Heat take them apart on Valentines Day, it’s easy to say that the gap between the Heat and Thunder is pretty much still where we left it last June. Which is pretty wide.

TNT’s Charles Barkley is leading the “Oklahoma City has no chance” parade.

Kevin Durant isn’t buying it. Of course, what do you expect him to say? But he said he and his teammates are not listening to the Round Mound of Rebound. Dave D’Alessandro of the Star-Ledger spoke with him about it.

“I don’t listen to that guy,” Kevin Durant said, pronouncing those last two words like you would say “Jihad” or “Sequestration…”

“He said that last year,” Durant said. “He said we wouldn’t make it to the Finals — that we were a bunch of jump shooters. But we’re shooting 48 percent as a team. We don’t shoot all 3s and jumpers. We get in the paint. We can do it all.

“So of course he’s gonna say that. You respect sometimes what he says, he’s a funny guy. But we don’t listen to him.”

Apparently he listens to Barkley enough to be bothered by him.

If you think the Thunder have a chance to win it all this season comes down to one thing — do you think the Miami Heat can be beat? If not, well, it doesn’t matter who we discuss as a challenger, does it?

But if you do think someone can beat the Heat then you have to think the Thunder have a shot. The Spurs may be in that mix too, but the Thunder have to be there.

Despite the James Harden trade (and I think they will miss his shot creation come the playoffs) the Thunder are a better team now than they were a year ago. Last season they scored 107.1 points per 100 possessions and gave up and even 100 (for a differential of +7.1). This season their defense is pretty much the same giving up 99.7 points per 100 but they are scoring more, 110.6 (for a differential of 10.9). (Stats via HoopData.)

The fact is Kevin Durant is a better player than he was a year ago, Russell Westbrook is a more mature team leader on the court, and Serge Ibaka has made a big leap. All three of them grew a lot from their Olympic experience last summer. The Thunder are a better team.

Are they good enough to beat the Heat? Watching the Heat lately it’s hard not to join Barkley’s parade, but things could look different by June.

  1. aboogy123456 - Mar 8, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    The Thunder are a frustrating team because they are so talented and can beat every team in the league, but they just don’t match up well against the Heat. The heat have a glaring weakness in that they play small and can get dominated by big men, look how Vucevic played against them the other night.

    The problem is, the Thunder’s big men have very little offensive skills, but they are great on defense. There are a lot of good offensive big men in the west, ( san antonio, memphis, LA ), but they all have to go through the Thunder in order to play the heat. The thunder’s defensive big men are good against these teams and then pretty useless against miami, look at Perkins last year. It’s frustrating because I’m not convinced the Heat would make it out of the west, but since they are in the east they can just hope they play the thunder and they don’t ever face their toughest challenge. I will take the Heat over the Thunder because the Thunder don’t have the right team to dominate the heat inside, and lebron is just better than Durant. If the heat were playing memphis or San Antonio I think it would be closer.

    • hehateme2 - Mar 8, 2013 at 1:50 PM

      He’s a little delusional still. You would think he would heve learned by now that they can’t match against the HEAT!

      But.. few can so there’s that.

  2. miamatt - Mar 8, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    Don’t see how this statement wouldn’t be expected from KD. I’d have a problem with it if he conceded, “yeah, we’re booking our golf vacations already…”

    Having said that, I do think Miami owns OKC. But the Finals won’t start for three months, and a lot can change between now and then… And regardless, as a player you have to believe in yourself and your team; if you didn’t you probably wouldn’t have made it to the NBA.

  3. nbascreed - Mar 8, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Until Kevin Durant is better, more physical and more dynamic than Lebron James the Thunder can’t beat the Heat ergo, cannot win the championship.

    ktgotgame.com

  4. patfic15 - Mar 8, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    Should of added some size with skills.

  5. jimsjam33 - Mar 8, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    Cognito ergo sum . Your statement is ridiculous . Basketball is a team sport and the Thunder are one of the three best teams in the world . The Heat and Spurs being the others . ( ( I am a Clipper fan ) The Thunder as a starting five are much better than the Heat . You are right about LeBron James being the best , but Durant is not far behind . Match up the other starters and the Thunder are better .
    The OKC Thunder have been ” seasoned ” after last years finals They are hungry and extremely dangerous . For Barkeley to make a stupid statement that the Thunder ” have no chance ” entitles him to wear a ” dunce ” hat for the rest of the season .
    I would add three other teams to have a ” longshot chance ” at the title if injuries plague the other teams before the playoffs. ( I.E. Tony Parker ) . That would be the Knicks , Clippers , and Nuggets . All three of those teams are dangerous , but not as good as the top three.
    Back to LeBron . He was the winner last year with his supporting cast , but he can’t do it alone . Wade and Bosh are a nice supporting cast , but can they do it again ? I doubt it .The rest of their team are re-treads . Just ask the people in Cleveland about how important a bench is .

    • hehateme2 - Mar 8, 2013 at 1:53 PM

      Wade is much more than a nice supporting cast there jimbo. You watch basketball much? Miami’s bench will beat the Thurder with ease.

    • eventhorizon04 - Mar 8, 2013 at 2:05 PM

      So in your opinion,
      1. “The Thunder’s starting 5 are much better than the Heat,” and
      2. The Thunder’s bench is much better than the Heat’s bench because the Heat’s bench is just “retreads.”

      ….So how did the Heat beat the Thunder last year (and this year), if the Thunder’s starters are better and if the Thunder’s bench is better?

      • zerole00 - Mar 8, 2013 at 3:00 PM

        For some reason they played Perkins and Fisher a lot in the Finals. I’m guessing their chances of winning took a huge hit from that.

      • kinggw - Mar 8, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        Who else could they have played?

  6. rodge1 - Mar 8, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    @jimsjam33

    Actually sir, your statement is ridiculous. How is the Thunder’s starting 5 ‘much’ better than Miami’s?… And I bet you probably think OKC’s bench is better than Miami’s, which is another debate… So in your words OKC has a much better team than Miami… Real bright dude

  7. rodge1 - Mar 8, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    In case you don’t understand jimsjam33: Bosh is better than Ibaka. LeBron is better than Durant. Wade is better than Sefalosha or whoever the 2-guard is. That’s 3 out of 5 starters. Please explain your brilliant statement.

    • bougin89 - Mar 8, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Trust me, I’m not trying to defend Jims comment from above but I think Ibaka/Bosh is a lot closer than people think. They are different types of players but both PF’s and I’d argue the Heat would actually be better with Ibaka than Bosh, based on fit more than talent. If you look at their numbers per 36 minutes I’d take Ibaka. Of course just looking at numbers doesn’t tell the whole story but they are a good indicator.

      That being said it’s pretty ridiculous to say the Thunder have a better starting 5 than the Heat. Both extremely talented teams but how can you not give the nod to the defending champs.

  8. eventhorizon04 - Mar 8, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    I believe the Heat are a very good team that has 3 weaknesses.
    1. Size – Helpful to get rebounds, which lead to second-chance points when the Heat play without a true center

    2. Elite passing – The Heat’s aggressive defense can only be exploited by elite passing. Rick Carlisle of the Mavs said it in 2011 during the Finals. of the Pacers said it in 2012 during the Conference Semi-Finals. A team has to keep moving the ball around to force the Heat to keep rotating, eventually leading to an open shot.

    3. Elite 3-point shooting – The Heat’s defense is built on using athleticism to prioritize defending the paint while recovering to contest 3-point shots. Teams with elite 3-point shooting can exploit that by forcing the Heat to cover a lot of ground with multiple 3-point shooters to defend. This is why the Knicks have done well against the Heat.

    The Heat have shown they can overcome teams with 1 or 2 of those traits, but the hardest matchup for the Heat would have all 3.

    I think OKC can win it all, but I’d favor the Heat in a re-match slightly because I think the Heat match-up well against OKC, which has good passers and good 3-point shooting.
    However, they lack a true size advantage, as Perkins and Ibaka aren’t great rebounders or very skilled on offense.

    Likewise, the Memphis Grizzlies are a threat because of their size and passing ability, but they lack good enough 3-point shooting to prevent the Heat from swarming Gasol or Randolph in in the paint.

    Like Memphis, the Clippers are a threat due to their combination of size and elite passing (run by CP3), but they lack elite outside shooting. While they have the deepest bench in the NBA, Deandre Jordan isn’t a very skilled center.

    If I’m the Heat, the team I fear the most is the LA Spurs. They have Splitter and Duncan as two skilled big men who are good rebounders. They have a terrific pass-first offensive system run by Tony Parker. And half their roster consists of good to great 3-point shooters. I feel like a Heat-Spurs series would be very, very competitive.

    • eventhorizon04 - Mar 8, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      Should be, “Coach Frank Vogel of the Pacers said it.”

      • eventhorizon04 - Mar 8, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        Oh, and to cover potential threats in the East:

        1. Pacers – elite size (Hibbert + West) and good passing. With Danny Granger’s health issues, you wonder if he’ll be ready for the playoffs, and he’s one of their best shooters (38% from 3 for his career). Still, the Pacers are an elite team even without Granger.

        2. Knicks – They’ve beaten the Heat twice thanks to hot 3-point shooting and elite passing and were competitive in a third game (a loss). They qualify as a threat to the Heat.

        3. Bulls with a healthy Derrick Rose – In theory, they’re a team that combines size with elite passing/PG play with Derrick Rose, but unless Derrick Rose starts playing soon, there’s little chance Rose would be very effective. Playoffs start in just over a month – it’s going to take awhile for Rose to get back up to speed. Bulls can’t beat the Heat in a 7-game series with a sluggish Derrick Rose, so unless Rose starts playing before April starts, I don’t consider them a real threat to the Heat.

        That’s the list of threats in the East (smaller than the list in the West).

        I can’t call the Celtics a true threat to the Heat in a 7-game series. They don’t have a size advantage. Their outside shooting has been inconsistent. And while the ball movement has improved without Rondo, the fact remains that Rondo was the “matchup nightmare” for the Heat against the Celtics. Rondo has always played well against the Heat, and without him, I don’t see the Celtics beating the Heat.
        Yes, they beat the Heat once without Rondo this year, in triple OT, but since then, they’ve suffered further injuries, and the Heat have gotten better.

  9. lakerluver - Mar 8, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    The Spurs, Clips, Celtics and Pacers all have a better chance of beating the Heat than OKC does. OKC tries to beat Miami at their own game. They don’t match up well with the Heat.

  10. rodge1 - Mar 8, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    @bougin89
    Totally see your point. Though I prefer Bosh because Ibaka while talented is a dirty player and talks too much… And the other guy said OKC had a MUCH better starting 5, not just better.

  11. loungefly74 - Mar 8, 2013 at 9:27 PM

    we all know…”true” respect doesnt happen till the (alpha) player is wearing a ring…KD is awesome, heck, a monster…but he needs a ring. we all know that, right?

  12. jimsjam33 - Mar 8, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    I just noted that not one of you happened to mention Russell Westbrook at the point vs. Mario Chalmers . Chalmers is a no score , ok defensive point guard . He would not start for a fourth of the NBA teams , if that many . His job …get the ball to James .

    Not one of you mentioned that Sefalosha and Wade both have their good points . Wade experience and probably more explosive on the offensive end . Give the edge to Sefalosha on the defensive side and he does contribute from the 3 point line . .

    Ibaka and Haslem at the power forward . Are you kidding me ? Ibaka is All NBA defensive team and delivers points in the paint . He’s a great shot blocker . Haslem is in there because you have to have
    five players on the floor .

    Perkins and Bosh . No doubt Bosh gets the edge on the offensive side , but Perkins is not on the team to score points . He’s there to hurt you and get rebounds for Durant .

    Now for James and Durant . Argueably the two best players in the world . James is number 1 . Durant number 2 , but if your argument is that James is miles ahead of Durant then you belong in a looney bin .
    Like I said the Heat’s bench is the re-tread factory . Battier is the best of the bunch and a real defensive giant . . Kevin Martin is the Thunders best 6th man . Toss up ..

    The regular season doesn’t mean a thing sports fans . The playoffs are the start of the real season . I’ll even go one step further and say the Heat don’t make the finals . They won’t get past the Pacers or the Knicks for that matter . The Thunder will play the Lakers and win in four . Next , the Nuggets and win in 6 .. The biggie is the Spurs . Toss it up .

    Sorry , but nobody really knows until the play-offs are over . At least I have an opinion and I’m sticking to it . Personally , I would love to see a Thunder – Heat re-match with everybody healthy and ready to go .

  13. blazewr6 - Mar 9, 2013 at 2:15 AM

    The two biggest things the Thunder have against them in their matchup vs the Heat.

    1. Kevin Durant is not as good as Lebron James…….Yet no matter what Lebron owns the thunder and has incredible shooting on the outside for when he drives and takes the whole defense with him. Chalmers, Battier, Allen, Miller kill the thunder because they can simply stroke wide open 3′s.

    2. Scott Brooks gets a lot of praise for being a great coach and i for 1 think he is probably one of the worst coaches in the league, he has has been handed the keys to a corvette. Any idiot on the street can see that Kendrick Perkins should just be deactivated when they play the Heat. He is a huge liability on offense because his guy can double team Durant or Westbrook and not have to worry about Perkins doing anything at all. Also he gives Derek Fisher a lot of minutes which is the biggest mistake anyone can make. That guy cannot guard anyone in the NBA right now and his ugly shot isnt even close to worth having him on the court. If Brooks were smart he would have prepared Perry Jones who is a young athletic 6’11′ guy who can matchup with Chris Bosh and can close out on 3 point shooters that the Heat have. Not only that Reggie Jackson is an excellent basketball player and should never have to worry about some miserable player like Fisher takes his minutes. Brooks shoudl have also given Jeremy Lamb more minutes because he shoots nearly 50 percent from the three point line. ……….Over all Scott Brooks is a terrible coach and makes terrible substituions and gets thoroughly outcoached when they play the heat. I am a huge thunder fan and cannot stand that midget brooks. Please Bring Phil Jackson in and watch us go win 4 in a row!

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