The other day I sat around playing with a fun little dream-making utility on ESPN.com that creates a bracket, and then runs through scenarios of potential playoff wins and upsets. Naturally, as a Nugz homer to some extent, whenever the result didn't end in KMart with a gold ribbon, I would press reset. Our most likely statistical outcome is really to get outed in the first round. The Thunder are a devastating team right now, playing the 2nd best in the NBA as far as most are concerned. But our Nugz have been united by a cause, and a team fueled on desire and harmony. Statistics have no place in the compelling story of our Nugz. Unfortunately Hollinger says 34%.
A series of uncertainties awaits us however. How ready will Ty, Nilo, Nene, Moz, Flallo... everyone be? Even as they get healthy, are they in full force the way the Thunder are? Statistically what level of potential are they playing, is 75% enough for us? Will we be able to eke out a win on the road with the battered bunch (in my opinion, we have to win one of the first two- not exactly groundbreaking I know)? Are the new big men in OKC for real?
I really don't know too much about this Ibaka, Perkins, Thabo, triad of upstarts. Certainly it will be a matter of composure, who gets some big blocks, who puts laundry in who's face. Someone's going to set the tone. If the Thunder set it high and we respond with an implosion of poor attitude- it could get ugly. .
The good thing is we've got ugly covered, in KMart, a budding Kosta- and the X-factor Birdman.
Bird's high level of play lately has been amazing, his dunks aren't just straight on anymore, he's making mid-air adjustments and making his own lanes with screens. If he is the best big on the floor we can win this series. I don't think the OKC big's are going to score, they don't particularly need to that much. But if Birdman is able to protect the paint like he did against the Mavs 2 years ago http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIO1qRQ8dR4 then we can start to twist this 34% a bit. He turned Texas into birdwatchers. I mean it sounded almost like they were cheering for him. If he can get in Westbrook's head a bit, that guy gets frustrated, you can see it.
Another uncertainty, Wilson Chandler, against just about every other team is consistent, but he was 1-10 with 0 Rebs and 0 Blks in 25 minutes in the road loss, and had a pretty unimpressive night at the Pepsi Center at 2-9 with 7 Rebs. Just basically ugly games for him, if he even plays at a mediocre level as opposed to horrid, it's huge for us. Shoot 4-8 for us please, get 2 blocks, and shut down Durant a bit.
Nene, will play hurt, and gets frustrated by the Thunder. I'm not excited for him, but I'm also frequently wrong. Just when I give up hope is when he blows up. Go Nene? Please stop Nick Collison, he had 8 offensive rebounds last time you played him. No defensive rebs, none. 30 minutes 8 offensive boards, and was +/- 22 on the addition side. If nothing else Nene, make it a point to not wipe, and box him out every play.
I believe TLaw is headed for stardom next season, perhaps even on a Derrick Rose level. That being said, if he thinks he could re-aggravate his injury in the first game- let's rest him. Let's say he has an arbitrary 60% chance of hurting his ankle more in Game 1. Do we take that gamble if we know that he only has a 20% chance of aggravating it in Game 2? I don't think we do, I think we play Felton and Chandler/JR. Felton is fully engaged with this club and wants to lead us to a championship. He knows he isn't doing it by himself but he also knows he has the right pieces and the right attitude. We are incredibly lucky to have a personality like him with us.
He must hit his free throws, he must hit his three's and he must have an impact on Westbrook. When he came to the Pepsi Center he went 5-17, and 8-10 from the line. Clearly his shooting won't be that bad again. If we can hold him to say .. 40% shooting in the playoffs and only send him to the line 6 times we have done our job.
The tricks in this are going to be a series of checks and balances, a science and art of limiting superstars points and remaining emotionally intact on the road. Statistics can tell part of the story, but they don't account for the intangibles. Our team has the greatest set of intangibles to work against a team of relative tangibles. For the most part we know what they are bringing, but the variables in our equation we would have to call Stephen Hawking about.