Are we paying enough attention to the Thunder? Plus, three Celtics questions with Jay King

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Is it crazy that Rudy Gobert is tied for the most DPOY awards ever? More on this below.

Thunder Rolling Too

We’re not freaking out about OKC enough

The Minnesota Timberwolves are enjoying their best postseason start of all time (6-0). They swept the Suns and surprised everybody by winning Games 1 and 2 of their second-round series with the defending champion Nuggets. It’s been an incredible run, so we’re right to freak out over what Anthony Edwards and company are doing. With that said, holy crap, look at what the Thunder have done so far. They kicked off their semifinals matchup by housing Dallas 117-95.

Nobody should minimize OKC’s dominance during its 5-0 start this postseason. Actually, maybe we should be making a bigger deal of the Thunder’s start despite being so young. Sure, we can compare OKC’s opponents to Minnesota’s. If we did, we could admit the Suns (swept in first round by Minnesota) have more starpower and gravitas than a Pelicans team without Zion Williamson (swept by OKC). The Nuggets are the defending champs and superior to the Mavericks, but the Thunder are blowing opponents out regardless.

Three of their five wins so far this postseason are blowout victories (by 20 or more points). In five games, the Thunder have a plus-85 point differential. That figure is the second-best over any five-game span in team playoff history. It’s also right in line with the Wolves’ plus-93 mark this postseason (trailing only the Celtics at plus-103).

OKC dominated Dallas in the fourth quarter to put Game 1 to bed, but this thing was tucked in most of the night. The Thunder had complete control, which is only magnified more by their poise with such an inexperienced core. Nobody on the Mavs can slow down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams were perfect in their roles, and Lu Dort was part of the committee to slow down a still hobbled Luka Dončić.

One thing is evident after Game 1: Dallas must get both of its stars rolling. The Thunder have such a balanced attack that the Mavericks have to overwhelm with starpower.

Super overreaction to Game 1: Thunder in five.

The Latest From Shams

Brandon Ingram speaks up

League sources tell me that Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram and coach Willie Green had a minor exchange in the locker room during Game 2 of the team’s first-round series with the Thunder, with Ingram essentially telling Green he wanted the ball and wanted the coach to help facilitate that.

Ingram returned from an injury late in the season and is entering the final year of his contract in 2024-25. Given his usually quiet demeanor, his speaking up in that Game 2 moment was something that stood out as the Pelicans were trying to save their season with Williamson injured.

New Orleans, however, was swept out of the first round despite a 49-win regular season, and not long after, team executive David Griffin promised roster changes going forward. How the Pelicans approach this offseason will be worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks.

Celtics Still Dominating

Jay King explains if they can keep this going

Even with Kristaps Porziņģis questionable to play in the second round, the Celtics have been heavy favorites to march back to the Eastern Conference finals. They started their series with the Cavaliers by blowing them out – no Porziņģis for Boston, no Jarrett Allen for Cleveland. Regardless, the Celtics won 120-95 behind a team-high 32 points from Jaylen Brown. Instead of digging into my thoughts on the win, let’s get Jay King, one of our Celtics scribes, into the mix with three questions.

Boston didn’t feel the absence of Porziņģis in this game. How much did it feel the absence of Jarrett Allen?

King: This could sound weird, but Horford might be better to stretch out this particular defense. Unlike Porziņģis, who often hits the paint on rolls or post-ups, Horford usually stays stationed outside the 3-point arc. He will space out Mobley. Once Allen returns, Horford will also put him in a difficult predicament: Should he stick with Horford, a sharpshooter, or leave him alone to defend the rim? Either option will leave the Celtics with plenty of paths to score. Porziņģis seems to be more missed against switch-heavy teams.

Boston outscored Cleveland by 21 at the 3-point line. Is there anything Cleveland can do about that moving toward?

King: The Cavaliers actually produced 42 3-point attempts after averaging only 29.9 per game during the first round. I thought their approach on that end of the court made sense. To pull off an upset, they will need to open up their offense and generate 3s. Without Allen, they downsized with more shooting on the court and launched away – they just didn’t make many. Only Isaac Okoro (3 of 8) really had any success from downtown. They need more from their better shooters, including Max Strus and Sam Merrill (if Merrill stays in the rotation).

Do you think Donovan Mitchell strikes actual fear of losing this series into the Boston defense?

King: I actually think the Celtics should be more worried about shutting down Mitchell’s teammates. He had some big games against Orlando, but the Magic were able to silence the other Cavaliers for most of the series. Cleveland’s offensive rating in that round was alarmingly low (ranked 15th out of 16 teams with 100 points per 100 possessions). With all of the perimeter defenders the Celtics have, they should be able to force Mitchell into tough shots without over committing to him. If they’re able to limit the supporting cast, they should score enough to advance.

My overreaction to Game 1: Celtics may lose one more game in the East.

Rudy Gobert’s Historic DPOY

Future Hall of Famer confuses history

It’s been a big week for Rudy Gobert. His Timberwolves are up 2-0 on the Nuggets. He welcomed his first child into this world. On top of that, he won his record-tying fourth Defensive Player of the Year award in commanding fashion. Gobert ran away with the award, scoring 72 of the 99 first-place votes. Second place went to fellow Frenchman and this season’s Rookie of the Year winner, Victor Wembanyama. Bam Adebayo came in third, but all three spots had gulfs between them.

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— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 7, 2024

Gobert has now tied Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace with the most DPOY awards, and the basketball world is deeply confused by this. Gobert has won more DPOY awards than  Kawhi Leonard (two), Draymond Green (one) and Bam Adebayo (none) combined. Many people have wondered aloud if the voting system has been wrong about Gobert’s wins, considering he hasn’t had much postseason success. It’s kind of like Giannis Antetkounmpo and Nikola Jokić winning multiple MVP awards before they won a title. Gobert could justify some of that by winning even more this postseason, but that’s more about perception than realty. It actually doesn’t have anything to do with the award itself.

It’s a regular-season award, and Gobert has been a defensive MFer in the regular season ever since he started getting regular minutes. While I believe there’s a massive difference between Mutombo and Gobert as defenders relative to their eras, is the gulf so massive that it’s ridiculous to compare them to each other? I do believe versatility as a defender is more valuable than a big’s presence in the paint. And I also think Draymond should have more of those awards, but thems the breaks sometimes. Gobert is in the history books whether people like it or not.

Bounce Passes

dare you to get Josh Hart to sub out of a game.

Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson is out for the season.

Does TNT Sports need the NBA? It appears we’ll find out.

Screen Game (All times Eastern)

(Top photo: Joe Murphy  / Getty Images)

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