Wednesday, June 27, 2012

OKC's James Harden Chokes in Finals

The main reason the Oklahoma City Thunder lost the NBA crown to the Miami Heat? That's easy. Point the finger at James Harden. Quite simply, he choked. How else can you say it?

OKC needed him and Harden, for the most part, was rattled and played badly. Named Sixth Man of the Year, he averaged 16.8 points a game during the season and belongs in the lower half of the list of the NBA's top 20 players. Without him, OKC doesn't whip the seemingly unbeatable San Antonio Spurs to reach the Finals. The team needed that kind of high-level performance from him in the Finals, but didn't get it, or anything close to it.

In most of the five Finals games, the Thunder's booming big three--Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden--was just the big two. Word is leaking out,  from sources close to two of the players, that Harden, normally a team player, was in me-me mode, sulking because he wasn't getting the ball enough. The word was that Harden didn't appreciate Westbrook's ball-hogging and, in the locker room, made that very clear.

When the media wasn't around, report the sources, things got ugly. Harden was grumbling and grousing and, in general, acting like a jerk. OKC 's two veterans with NBA Championship rings, Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins, tried to soothe Harden and change his sullen attitude. But it didn't work. Harden wouldn't listen. Feeling he was frozen out of the offense, Harden was in a funk and played like it most of the time.

The Thunder won the first game---its lone victory--despite Harden being MIA. OKC really needed him in that crucial fourth game, but Harden played lousy on offense, scoring just 8 points, on 2 for 10 shooting. Also in the debit column, he had four turnovers and was in foul trouble by the third quarter. Though he did lead the team in rebounds, with 10, that wasn't much help. OKC needed his offense and it wasn't there.

There was a reason Harden became less of a factor in the OKC offense in the Finals. He kept missing open shots, even short ones. Why keep passing the ball to someone who's clanking shots? On big stage, under pressure, Harden simply didn't deliver.

In Harden's defense, you can single out something that, quite possibly, took him out of his game. He had the misfortune of being handed an impossible defensive assignment--LeBron James. For 6-5, 220-pound Harden it was a nightmare trying to stop 6-8, 260-pound James. You could say he expended so much energy on defending James that, when Harden was on offense, he was often running on empty.

The perception, though, is that Harden choked. His surly attitude in the bleak Finals didn't help. Harden's behavior, say the sources, left a sour taste in his teammates' mouths. They can forgive his performance but not his attitude. Come next season, he has some major repair work to do.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Damn That Roger Clemens

Doesn't it gall you when some obviously guilty person cleverly navigates the system and goes free?
So maybe you, like me, are irritated that nothing has happened to Roger Clemens.

In his 24-year-career, he was unquestionably a great pitcher, winning a record seven Cy Young awards, striking out over 4,000 batters, with a remarkable 3.12 earned-run average. No way he did all that without a juice boost. When he was 40 he was pitching like he was 30. Did he use steroids? Of course. Guilty. Case closed.

He was outed, about 4 1/2 years ago, in the famous Mitchell Report, baseball's investigation into steroid use. Of course, Clemens denied these charges. Lying to the media is no big deal but fibbing to Congress is a felony. After he denied these charges in a Congressional hearing in 2008 the feds, not believing the denials, went after him, dragging him into court, charging lying to Congress and obstruction of justice.

Last Monday, the jury acquitted Clemens of all charges, proclaiming there wasn't enough evidence to convict him.

What the hell?

This is the second time Clemens weaseled out of these charges. The first time, last summer, the case fell apart because of a prosecutoral blunder, when the jury saw evidence that was inadmissible. The prosecutors were crucified by the media, who claimed even rookie attorneys wouldn't make such a boneheaded mistake.

But the retrial, which ended Monday, also failed. This time the case, largely based on the testimony of two witnesses, crumbled because one of the witnesses, Clemens' close friend, pitcher Andy Pettitte, essentially changed his story. Pettitte said his memory of a key conversation with Clemens a dozen years ago was foggy. That left trainer Brian McNamee, who's credibility is shaky, as the primary witness. With reasonable doubt clouding the testimony of both witnesses, Clemens skated free again.

Clemens is acting all innocent. Don't believe him. He's as guilty of using steroids as Barry Bonds, who also juiced and escaped penalty. Sources of mine tied to underground steroid sales named Clemens back in the late 90s as a frequent user. No question he's a juicer. How else could he maintain such a high level of excellence for so many years? He's human, not from Krypton.

So Clemens gets away with it, thumbing his nose at justice. Not much we can do about it, though.

Clemens has never been a favorite of mine. He always seemed like an arrogant, selfish jerk. Souces of mine that are close to guys who've played with him confirm that he's a jerk, an egotistical diva who abused his teammates. When a good guy cheats the system, you don't feel too bad about it. But when a jackass does it....

Damn that Clemens.

A few months ago, a source close to the Yankees told me it was an open secret that Pettitte would change his testimony. Some speculated it was a payoff. Others said it was blackmail, that Clemens had something on Pettitte. But the word was that Pettitte's backtracking would severely damage the federal case. Foolishly I didn't believe any of it.

Damn that Clemens.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tiger Not Done Yet

I know, I know. I've buried Tiger Woods many times, proclaiming him dead--Tiger, R.I.P.--when he struggled in tournaments that, in the old days, he would have won or at least come close to winning. He used to swagger, now he staggers.

A case of premature burial? Could be.

I've reconsidered.  I'm not so sure he's finished, In the next  year or two, he just might muster up every ounce of quality golf inside him, and win another major--something he hasn't done in four years. Not that it looks great for him. Age and injuries, naturally, are his enemies. He's 36--a creaky 36--roaming courses on bad knees. And he's still fiddling with his stroke. Listening to some knowledgeable golfers analyze Tiger, they go on and on about what's wrong with his swing, which is a maze of glitches.

You saw all sides of Tiger in last weekend's U.S. Open at San Francisco's Olympic Club, a notoriously treacherous course mined with obstacles, where golfers battle fog, winds and brutal slopes. In the first two rounds there were flashes of the Tiger of old. Early Saturday, he had a share of the lead. But suddenly he morphed into the Tiger of today, tumbling down the board, racking up a 75 and a four-over total. On Sunday, beginning with a barrage of bogeys, he was out of contention early, ending any chance of winning his first major since claiming the U.S. Open title at Torrey Pines in 2008. He finished a disappointing 21st.

Tiger's real problem is consistency. When he was king of the hill, through nearly all of last decade, you could count on him to win a major or two every year or at least be a major threat to win every one. Now, in a given tournament, the rotten rounds outweigh the good ones.

One thing is in Tiger's favor. There aren't any other golfers out there who are hogging the titles. True,
Tiger is no longer consistent, but who else is?. Every major is won by a different golfer. The shine-and-flounder syndrome rules. Somebody will win a major and then have trouble making the cut in other tournaments. Look at this U.S. Open. The world's No. 1 golfer, Luke Donald, didn't even make the cut. Neither did the defending champ, heralded young Rory McIlroy. Nor did Masters' champ Bubba Watson. Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson was a disaster, barely escaping a last-place finish. Overall the field is stronger than it was last decade, but there don't seem to be any budding Tigers for Tiger to worry about.

Tiger is still capable. Remember that day last March, at the Honda Classic in Florida, when he shot a miraculous closing round of 62, nearly catching McIlroy, who won by two. Still, though, his grip on the mental part of the game is shaky. We don't see that iron-willed, laser-focused Tiger all that often.

Maybe we should give Tiger the benefit of the doubt. One day, possibly at a major, he'll string together four killer rounds. It may be a long shot but there's enough solid evidence pointing in that direction.

Several friends, real golf fanatics, have wagered a few thousand each that Tiger will win a major by his 38th birthday. Though not betting the big bucks, I'm siding with them.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bosh Factor Raises the Heat

All of a sudden, the NBA Finals, with the Miami Heat facing the Oklahoma City Thunder, doesn't look like a Thunder stroll.

After OKC, in the cozy confines of Chesapeake Energy Arena, scorched the Heat in the opening game, 105-94, it looked like Miami was cooked. What else can you conclude when a team slips behind by 13 and then roars back to win easily, leaving the befuddled opponent in the dust? Also, OKC had just polished off the San Antonio Spurs, who appeared to be the best team in the playoffs.

The consensus was that OKC, which apparently took the Heat's best shot  in the opener, would cruise at home in the second game. We were getting used to the Thunder format. They'd get off to their usual lazy start before waking up in the second half and going on a tear. Favored by five in game 2, OKC did, as expected, struggle early, trailing in the first quarter 18-2, missing 11 of its first 12 shots.  After falling into that hole, there was the Thunder's typical, furious fourth-quarter rally. This time, though, it flamed out in the final seconds, with the Heat winning a thriller, 100-96.   .

What happened?

Three things. First of all,  Chris Bosh played one of the best playoff games of his career, grabbing 15 rebounds, staking his claim on the middle, which he had timidly surrendered to the Thunder big men in the first game. LeBron James, with 32 points, and Dwayne Wade, with 24, took all the bows for that second-game win, but Bosh was the big difference. In the first game he wasn't a factor in the middle, scoring his mild ten points from the outside and getting bounced around in the paint. In that opening game, it seemed like Bosh, just back after missing three weeks with an abdominal strain, was still ailing,  On Thursday, though, he was a terror. His play in the middle created scoring opportunities for James and Wade.

Other keys to the Heat win. Rocked by the OKC fastbreak in the first game, for 24 points, Miami defended it much better in game two, allowing only four fastbreak points through the first three quarters. Also the Heat, normally a 73% free-throw shooting team, hit 22 out of 25, with James hitting all 12 of his shots, including a critical pair with 7.1 seconds left. Without that dead-eye free-throw shooting, Miami doesn't win.

What happens tonight in Miami? With Bosh playing well and Miami seemingly at full strength, the Heat doesn't look like a pushover any more. Favored by four, Miami, with home-court advantage, does have a slight edge. But the Thunder is a good road team but better, though, during the season, than in these playoffs. Overall, OKC is still the superior team and more likely to emerge as the NBA champ. But, to win, it must cure its first-quarter doldrums.

So who wins tonight? Flip a coin--too many plus factors on each side

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Heat In Trouble

The Miami Heat is in big trouble. This team can't win the NBA title. The way they looked in that game 1 loss on Tuesday, in Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena, they'll be lucky to win a game against the Thunder.

Yes, the Heat did come out strong, jumping out to a 13-point lead in the first half of Tuesday's game. But that meant nothing. Thunder watchers know the team is notoriously slow-starting, playing tentatively in the first half. In this case, since this was OKC's first NBA Finals game, jitters were a factor. In the second half, though, OKC did what it usually does--bury the opposition.

The Heat didn't hold back, blasting the Thunder, full ammunition. The Heat's biggest gun, LeBron James, had the best scoring NBA Finals game of his career, with 30. Dwyane Wade added 19. Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier combined for 29 points. Chris Bosh added 10. But all that firepower wasn't nearly enough. The Thunder's Kevin Durant exploded for 36 points. Right behind him was Russell Westbrook with 27 points and 11 assists. But nobody else had a great game. James Harden scored only 5 and Serge Ibaka didn't block a shot. Nick Collison, though, did get 10 boards. While this was, overall, a subpar Thunder game, OKC still rolled over the Heat. 105-94. Imagine what will happen if the Heat plays well. You know Harden, after that lousy effort, is due for a big game.

The Heat is limited by health problems. Mainly, Wade is very quietly ailing. He's not saying what's wrong but, according to insiders, he's far from 100%. Bosh isn't fully healed either. He's playing outside, shooting jumpers, rather than roaming the middle, where's he most effective. James can't do it by himself. Wade and Bosh have to seriously amp up their games. So do the role players.

 A ferocious effort by the Heat might win the team a game or two at home. But Miami whipping the Thunder, an excellent road team, and winning the NBA title in this seven-game series, just isn't going to happen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Heat vs. Thunder--Pick the Thunder

Picking a winner in the NBA Finals, which begin tonight in Oklahoma City, would have been a lot easier last week. Back then the Miami Heat's best big man Chris Bosh, was still out with an abdominal strain. Without him clogging the middle, the Oklahoma Thunder would have cruised to the title.

But Bosh is back.

The Heat's LeBron James got the credit for his dominant play in last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, after the Boston Celtics took a shocking 3-2 lead. But Bosh, back in the lineup, was a huge factor in those two wins. The Celtics, who had been ruling the interior, and putting an extra defender on both James and Dwyane Wade, couldn't do that any more. One reason James scored all those points in those last two games is that he wasn't as tightly defended, 3because the Heat had to also focus on Bosh.

Now picking a winner isn't so easy. There are solid reasons to pick either team. With Bosh healthy, Miami has its high-flying big three--including Wade and James--again. Arguably the Heat struggles with the Indiana Pacers and the Celtics, both inferior teams, were due to the absence of Bosh. There's a perception that the Heat, which wobbled to the title, is weak.

Meanwhile, the Thunder, which had a tougher road to the Western title, looks strong, wiping out some tough teams, including the Lakers and the Spurs. Beating the Spurs in six games really spurred fans and media to board the Thunder bandwagon. Entering the playoffs, the Spurs looked unbeatable. But, after sizing up San Antonio in the first two games, both Thunder losses, OKC blew them away in the next four games.

Quite simply, the West is far superior to the East. So the Thunder, having steamrolled some solid teams on the way to the Finals, looks like a better bet to win the NBA title. Outside of Miami, none of the East's best--Chicago, Boston, Indiana and Atlanta--would fare well in contests against the cream of the West. If transplanted to the East, either the Lakers or the Spurs might be in the Finals, instead of Miami.

Also, the top six Thunder players--Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha--are just better than the Heat's top six. Miami's real advantage is experience, having played in the Finals last year, losing to the Dallas Mavericks. But this is the Thunder's first trip to the Finals. Jitters, particularly in the first two games, could do them in. The antidote for jitters, though, is something OKC has--home-court advantage. The team plays exceptionally at Chespeake Energy Arena. So far in the playoffs, the team is 8-0 there.

OKC is favored both in the series and, by five, in tonight's game. Look for the Thunder to win the NBA title.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pacquiao-Bradley...Something's Rotten In Boxing

Saturday, in the world welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, was a strange, ugly moment in the history of boxing. Timothy Bradley won a split decision over Manny Pacquiao. But Pacquiao clearly won the fight. There wasn't any doubt. You could even tell that Bradley, by his body language and manner, knew he lost.

But judges C.J. Ross and Duane Ford gave the fight to Bradley. Only Jerry Roth scored in favor of Pacquiao, and that was by a hair, 115-113. What fight were they watching? Ford is 74 years old. Are his eyes are failing? He certainly didn't see the fight the way the rest of us saw it. This was a truly horrible decision.

I watched a tape of the fight. No question, Pacquiao won seven rounds, 3 through 9.  Being very generous, you might have scored rounds 1, 2, 11 and 12 for Bradley. Only round 10 unquestionably belonged to Bradley. At the worst, Pacquiao should have won because he dominated seven of the 12 rounds.

My expert fight-fan friends, all veteran Pacquiao watchers, tell me that he not only won the fight, but rank it among the top five performances of his career.

Going into the fight, Pacquiao was a 4-1 favorite over Bradley, who was unbeaten at 28-0. A very good fighter, Bradley was in tip-top shape. Pacquiao, a great fighter, wasn't in his best shape. At 33, he's coming off a wobbly win last November against Juan Marquez. Is Pacquiao, some were asking, slipping? Based on the Saturday fight, he's not. He schooled Bradley. At times, it looked like Pacquiao was even toying with his opponent. It wasn't even that close. Though Pacquiao looked a bit winded at the end of the fight, he was definitely in charge.

Bradley's victory points to a rematch in November. Or does it? Now that's in question because of the sour taste left by this one. What's worse, the fight that everyone's waiting for, Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather Jr., is pushed even farther back.

So what's the motive for this strange decision? There doesn't seem to be an obvious one. No one seemingly stands to gain from a Pacquiao loss. There's only one place to look. Corruption, a festering sore forever in boxing, flares up again. As usual, in the history of terrible decisions, you can point to meddling by crooked gamblers.
Some people made a lot of money betting on underdog Bradley. Two of my sources, who are tuned into the gambling underbelly, very cautiously hint at in involvement by some bigtime gamblers. How was it done? Payoffs to judges?

You can bet nobody's talking. But, no surprise, something's rotten in boxing.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Celtics vs Heat, It's All About Heart

Heart, pure and simple. That's what tonight's Game 6 at Boston's TD Garden comes down to.

Ahead 3-2, the Celtics, with a surprising road win on Tuesday and a three-game win streak, have the Miami Heat on the ropes, ready to claim the NBA's Eastern Conference championship with a victory in the best-of-seven series.

The teams are fairly even. The Heat, boasting LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, is younger and quicker but their third big cog, forward Chris Bosh, is shaky, playing for the first time Tuesday after being out with an abdominal pull. The Bosh factor drops the Heat down a peg, making the team fairly equal to the Celts, who have three old players--Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. With Bosh totally healthy, the Heat, which started out in this series 2-0 without him, would have won in four or five games. Bosh returned Tuesday for Game 5 in Miami and was impressive in a short 14-minute appearance. Undoubtedly, he'll play longer in tonight's game and could be a bigger factor. When Bosh is out or in less than top shape, the Celts' Garnett rules the interior and frees defenders to focus more on Wade and James, making them less effective. Also, with Bosh out or hobbled, it's much easier for the Celts' best player, point guard Rajon Rondo, to penetrate the Heat defense.

Here's where the heart factor comes in. Under fire for losing last season's NBA finals to Dallas, the Heat's James has been roasted mercilessly since then. If the Heat lose again, he'll naturally be blamed. So for another year, he'll be blasted for failing in the clutch. James will do anything to avoid that misery. On the Celtics' side, this is definitely the last hurrah for the senior trio of Garnett, Wade and Allen. Just reaching the NBA finals will be a victory for them. Unquestionably, there'll be no next year for them. This is it.

So will James play ferociously and efficiently and lead the Heat to a Game 7 in Miami, where the team will be heavily favored? Or will the Celts' senior citizens rise up, fight off the fired-up Heat and propel the Celts into the finals, one last time? It's who has the biggest heart, who doesn't fold under pressure.

The Heat does have more to overcome. First of all, the team is on the road, in a hostile arena where it usually plays badly. In recent years, Miami has bombed in Boston, losing 14 out of their last 15 at the TD Garden. In that stretch, the lone Heat victory came in last year's playoffs, in a second round overtime game. Not only that, Boston is nearly invincible at home, losing only twice, barely, since the All-Star break. Also, for Miami, the pressure is really on because there's no tomorrow. If Boston loses, at least the team gets another shot, even though it's on the road.

Surprisingly, the road team, Miami, is the favorite, by 2 points. Smart bettors will avoid this one. With the X factor--heart--so huge, the game could turn either way.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

This Time, The Spurs Really Are Doomed

A week ago the consensus was that the San Antonio Spurs would be, right now, lounging around, resting up for the NBA finals, basking in the glory of silencing the Oklahoma City Thunder and planning how they'd trample the likely Eastern champ, the elderly Boston Celtics.

At the start of this series, San Antonio, with a sparkling 2-0 lead, looked like an invincible machine. The Thunder, though, tossed a wrench into that machine, which is grinding to a halt. Suddenly that Ferrari looks like a creaky old Model T. Tonight the Spurs are in Oklahoma City, having lost three straight for the first time this season. Now it's the Spurs, down 2-3, who look dead..

What the hell happened?

Three things. First of all the Thunder coaches figured out a way to stop the seemingly unstoppable Spurs point guard, Tony Parker, who orchestrated those first two wins. Then, the Thunder couldn't guard him. He was zipping around lead-footed defenders, getting easy baskets or passing off the open teammates who nailed easy baskets. The Thunder simply changed their defense, putting quick, lanky Thabo Sefolosha on Parker. In the second game, Parker was 16 for 21 for 34 points. But in the last three games Parker, furiously shadowed by Sefolosha, has been thoroughly thwarted, struggling to get clean shots and passing erratically. In the last three games, he's shot a miserable 16 for 41. In the last one, his turnovers outnumbered his assists. With its conductor faltering, the Spurs offense has degenerated.

Second, in the three losses, the Spurs role players have been totally outplayed by the Thunder role players. In particular, OKC's Sefolosha and center Kendrick Perkins have been gems on offense and defense, while the Spurs secondary players, like Danny Green, Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard, have sputtered.

Third, the Thunder's Kevin Durant has soared, taking control of the last three games in the fourth quarter. Suddenly, he's like a young Kobe Bryant. And the Spurs have no answer for him. In fact they haven't had much luck limiting the Thunder's other two big guns--Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

The big surprise is that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, generally acknowledged the best in the game, hasn't been able to come up with a remedy for the Thunder's tweaks. In the chess match between coaches, Pop has been outplayed by Scott Brooks. Pop's big tweak,  inserting super sixth-man Manu Ginobli into the starting lineup of Game 5, backfired. He scored big, 34 points, but, without its star, the Spurs' second unit was trashed by the Thunder backups.

It doesn't look good for the Spurs. Though San Antonio is an exceptional road team, the Thunder is a great home team--7-0 so far in the playoffs. Yes, the Spurs are desperate but the Thunder is just as desperate--desperate to avoid a Game 7 in San Antonio.

Can the Spurs regroup and  revert to their early playoff form? Probably not. The surging Thunder seems too strong and dominant and quite able to handle whatever the Spurs throw at them. OKC is a five-point favorite but it might be a smart bet to take San Antonio. With both teams in a desperation mode, it should be a close game.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Spurs Doomed? Naahhhhh

What does that game 3 blowout in the NBA Western Conference Finals really mean?

Does the Spurs getting shanked by Oklahoma City by 20 mean that San Antonio, all of a sudden, is doomed, that their 2-0 start in this series is immaterial? Just a few days ago, this San Antonio team was lauded as invincible, boasting a twenty-game win streak, with just two losses in its last 33 games. But that booming Thunder win has Spurs followers spooked. Bulging just a few days ago, that Spurs bandwagon now has plenty of room.

Relax Spurs fans. They're not doomed. Do you really think the Thunder is suddenly 20 points better than the Spurs? Be serious.

Here's the scoop. That San Antonio loss was inevitable. That winning streak was just baggage, due to be ended by an ugly loss at some point. Smart bettors picked that game, with the Thunder favored by four, as the logical place for the streak to end. In its first home game of the series, the Thunder, desperate to avoid that 0-3 black hole, would give its best effort  Meanwhile the Spurs, with a 2-0 cushion, would relax just a little. It's human nature. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was screaming at his team to match the Thunder energy but they tuned him out. You could see that, by the third quarter, the Spurs had mentally checked out. That massive point-gap just meant that the Spurs, long before the game was over, realized it was a loss and were already thinking about tonight's game 4.

Yes, it was an ugly loss. That 82 points was the fewest the Spurs have scored since January. Their shooting was atrocious..Reliable Manu Ginobli was at his worst, making only one shot. What can you do if three of your starters--Leonard, Green and Diaw--combine for only six points? That's not likely to happen again.
Look for Tim Duncan to improve. He's overdue. In game 3, he collected only two rebounds. In the last two games, he's scored just eleven points each, on lousy 7 for 26 shooting.

What really sunk the Spurs was two Thunder adjustments. Assigned to handle little Spurs' point guard Tony Parker, big shooting guard Thebo Sefolosha thoroughly neutralized him. Also, 6-6  Ginobli could do nothing with 6-10 Serge Ibaka draped all over him.

Will the Spurs adjust to those adjustments?  Expect it, because of the Spurs ace-in-the-hole, coach Popovich. He's the best. He'll come up with something. 

Odds are still with the Spurs to win this series. For the Thunder to win it would mean, since losing the first two games, they have to ultimately beat the Spurs four out of five--now three out of four. That's a lot to ask, especially since the Spurs still have home court advantage. Both are excellent road teams, but the Thunder will have a tough time winning in San Antonio.

Despite that game 3 blowout, Oklahoma City, a three-point favorite tonight, is still a long shot to win the series. Clearly, the Thunder is no pushover. If they play like they did Thursday, this one may go seven.