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Smack / Mar 26, 2012 / 1:03 am

The Thunder Bend The Heat’s Mettle; The Final Four Is Officially A Bluegrass Battle

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant (photo. Rob Hammer)

While everyone else put “Mad Men” on the TV at 6 in the east, it was time for Heat-Thunder. Is there really a question what you should have watched? The atmosphere in OKC was like a late-round playoff game and the Thunder came out hot. James Harden’s full-court dime to Kevin Durant was finished by KD’s off-balance righty layup over Shane Battier (11 points) and Dwyane Wade. That was the appetizer. KD had his day (28 points, nine boards, eight assists, 4-of-5 on threes) and may have supplanted LeBron (17 points) as MVP front-runner but Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins were huge, combining for 35 points and 16 boards and get this, 16-of-21 shooting. Ibaka all but sealed it with less than six left on back-to-back dunks on pretty feeds, the last by Russell Westbrook (13 points) after being left all alone on a wheel route off a screen. … Set your watch by it today: How many times will this win be called a “coronation”? Not to downplay the win but let’s call it a good win, cool? Plenty of hoops left. There was a 3-4 stretch not quite two weeks ago, but this makes three straight wins over good teams (Clips, T-Wolves, too). Outside of the Big Three’s combined 57 points, the Heat resembled more of a rudderless ship than title favorite. … They showed a clip of the Hawk mascot breaking his beak off his face on the rim during a dunk stunt. Looked terrible, but not long ago that would have been the highlight of an Atlanta home game. Quite the opposite Sunday night as the Hawks (playing a third game in three nights) turned in a great victory beating Utah in quadruple overtime. The last 4OT game was in 1997, mind you. No one wanted to make a game-winner, be it Joe Johnson (37 big-time points), Paul Millsap (25 points), Jeff Teague (18 points), Devin Harris (11 points) — that is until the end of the second OT. Then Harris and Johnson hit big shots, with Johnson stepping back on a fading three to tie at 113 with a second left. At the end of the fourth OT, Joe hit another big jumper from the top of the key in iso to get the Hawks up four. To add some salt in the wound, he hit it over C.J. Miles, who bricked a point-blank put-back on the previous possession. Is there a stipulation in the Utah TV crew’s contract to call Al Jefferson (he of 28 points and 17 rebounds) “Big Al” every time? Honest question. … The Lakers were NOT ready in the first half, against a Memphis team that’d lost three straight. Rudy Gay was everywhere with a block on Pau Gasol on the break from behind, then absolutely stuffing a slam on Andrew Bynum through the lane. He’d jump out on Kobe at times, too, helping a smorgasbord defense that limited the mamba to five points in the half. A third-quarter charge by LA to get it within four was for naught. Tony Allen (10 points) knifed a long two from the corner in the last 90 seconds and then Marc Gasol (six points) put up an 18-footer to secure the Grizz a much-needed win. … The Cavs are a mess again, losing six of seven after Phoenix rolled them by 25. Marcin Gortat (22 points) went for the Suns’ first 10. Shannon Brown had a big dunk on the break that pushed the lead to 21 and it was goodnight, Cavs, from there. Nice showing by Markieff Morris with 22 points going in and outside for them. … At what point does the “best forward” debate end with Kevin Love‘s name as the unequivocal answer? He went for 51 Friday and followed it with his seventh career 30-and-20 game (30 points, 21 boards) as the T-Wolves put a beatdown on Denver. Surprising about Love’s day was he only hit one three but still was 11-of-19. … Was today a mandated rout day? It stretched to Boston, where the Celts were up as much as 25 on the Wizards in their win. And hello, Avery Bradley (career-high 23 points), who got a couple nice feeds of Rajon Rondo‘s 11 dimes after he made his first seven shots. … Manu Ginobili (11 points) nearly got caught at midcourt, then saw a hole. A couple dribbles later he had his left hand at the rim and all over Spencer Hawes‘ mug. Manu was 0-for-5 from three and just 5-of-13 from the field, but he’s still a dangerous athlete. He was one of six Spurs in double figures, led by Tony Parker’s 21. … Two teams trying to get better in the draft clashed in Portland with the Blazers winning after Charles Jenkins‘ last-second three for the tie didn’t draw iron. Raymond Felton‘s 24 points is part of a much better stretch for him since Nate McMillan was fired. Can it last? … Hit the jump to read about how the stakes for the blood feud in the Bluegrass State just got bigger …

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