The 8-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder are tied 2-2 in their opening round series with the top-seeded, defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Thunder dropped the first two games in L.A., although they were both close. The Thunder then took Games 3 and 4 before raucous home crowds, including a 110-89 beatdown on Saturday night. Game 5 from the Staples Center in L.A. is on Tuesday night at 10:30pm Eastern Time on TNT.
This is the Thunder's first playoff appearance since relocating to Oklahoma City from Seattle in 2008, and it is also former Hoya great Jeff Green's first playoff appearance. Jeff is now in his third year in the league. Although Kevin Durant is unquestionably the star of this team, taking the overall scoring title with 30 points a game, Jeff is a critical part of this team. Over the regular season, he was the third leading scorer at 15 per game, and also averages 6 rebounds. He is a starting forward and averaged 37 minutes per game, second on the team only to Durant. His FG% was 45%, 3-point FG% 33%, and his free throws were 74%. His numbers have dipped a little bit from the 2008-09 season (16.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg), but the team has gotten much better, going from 23-59 in '08-09 to 50-32 in '09-10. Russell Westbrook has also emerged as the #2 scorer on the team, which, good or bad, takes some of the scoring pressure off Jeff.
Jeff has been kind of quiet in the playoffs so far, although he did have a pretty good Game 4. In four games, he is averaging 11.8 points and 5 rebounds. He did, however, score 15 points and grab 9 rebounds in the Game 4 blowout, and I saw him take a nice charge. Announcers seemed pretty high on him. He has been struggling with his shooting - 29% overall, 26% from three. Even in Game 4 he only shot 5-17. He is hitting his free throws so far though - 82%. I'm hoping Game 4 was a turning point for Jeff, and that he can emerge as more of a force late in this series.
It'll be interesting to see how this series plays out, and it would be a HUGE upset if the Thunder were to take it. The Thunder are an extremely young team - Durant and Westbrook are both 21, Jeff is 23, and fourth leading scorer James Harden is just 20. If this team can stay together, I think they can be a playoff force for years to come. No matter what, this experience with the Lakers is incredibly valuable for this young team. And if they were to upset the top-seeded, defending champion Lakers in the first round, they would be the talk of the NBA.
Game 5 is critical. If they can steal that on the road, then you'd have to like their chances to win Game 6 at home, where they are 2-0, and where their home court advantage is a big factor. If the Thunder lose Game 5, then even if they win Game 6, I'm not sure how they would handle a Game 7 environment in Los Angeles, with all of the Laker mystique.
Anyways, go Thunder and go Jeff Green! This is a fun team to watch, so if you haven't yet, check them out.