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Thunder Ballers - An Oklahoma City Thunder Blog | Page 4
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The Oklahoma City Thunder are not that far away from being able to topple the elite teams in the NBA Western Conference. They are this close to being able to hang with teams such as the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers.

So close, yet not quite there yet.

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That was perhaps a weak attempt at a clever headline. You've all heard the expression about returning to the scene of the crime. Now, I am in no ways trying to say that the Los Angeles Lakers robbed the Oklahoma City Thunder in last year's NBA playoffs. It was a hard fought series by both teams, with the Lakers just happening to come out victorious on their way to another NBA championship.

The Lakers defeated the Thunder, four games to two, in last year's first round. It was the first postseason appearance by the Thunder since bolting from Seattle, but it gave them a taste of what they want to accomplish in the future, especially against the likes of the Lakers in the playoffs. This team is headed in the right direction.

Heading into Monday night's huge matchup in the Staples Center, the Thunder are coming off of one of their biggest victories of the season. With a 125-124 home win over the Orlando Magic, the Thunder gained some much needed confidence as they prepare to play against one of the best teams in the league today. At 30-11, the Lakers have the second best record in the Western Conference. Although they are behind the San Antonio Spurs in the standings, I cannot think of too many people who do not feel as if the playoffs will still go through Los Angeles in the west. In order to be the champs, you have to beat the champs. No team has been able to do that over the last couple of seasons.

The last time these teams met was in Oklahoma City, with the Thunder suffering a 95-94 defeat in game six of the 2009-2010 NBA playoffs at the hands of the Lakers. It is an image that none of us will soon forget, with the entire team hanging their heads as the final buzzer sounded.

But it is an image that can be erased later on this season. Win or lose on Monday night, that will not change what happened last year. The only thing that can avenge that series loss cannot take place in January. It cannot take place in February or March either. But depending on when they could possibly meet again, it can only happen in either April or May.

In the playoffs. 

Not that a win Monday night would not help.

* Make sure to follow Kelley on Twitter @RobKelley24, as he was recently named one of the 1,000 Most Influential Sports Writers on Twitter in 2010. 



It took a huge effort from the most productive duo in the NBA to hold off a very talented Orlando Magic team at home last night, but Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were able to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to their fourth consecutive victory, 125-124. It was another offensive explosion for the Thunder, who are now just one win away from tying their longest winning streak of the season. That opportunity will come on Monday night in a huge battle on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers. But for now, we'll just focus on last night's victory over the Magic.

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Yao Ming did not suit up for the Houston Rockets last night. Neither did Kevin Martin. For that matter, neither did Tracy McGrady, Juwan Howard, Dikembe Mutombo or David Wesley. For those of you who are questioning my knowledge of current NBA rosters, I suppose I should explain my listing of some of those names.

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I suppose I should first clear up the images above. I in no way condone fighting in the NBA. Some of the brawls that have taken place on the court are some of the league's most embarrassing moments. They also, however, happen to be some of the most iconic and memorable. While many of them take place in the heat of action, others are created due to deeply heated rivalries that are formed out of competition, respect, and absolute hatred for one another.

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I'm going to make this very simple. Last night's victory over the Memphis Grizzlies was certainly nice for the Oklahoma City Thunder. They had just lost to them within the past week on the road, so defending their home court was a step in the right direction. With a 109-100 win last night, the Thunder are now on a modest two game winning streak. Kevin Durant scored 40 points and the team once again looked sharp from the free throw line. I should be very content, right?

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Dirk Nowitzki was not in the lineup for the Dallas Mavericks, as he has been out since injuring himself last time the Mavs took on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Caron Butler was not on the floor either, as he is expected to miss the season after rupturing a patella tendon on New Year's Day. Combine all of that with a strong second half by Oklahoma City, and the Thunder were able to end their longest losing streak of the season of just two games by winning in Dallas, 99-95.

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For the most part, the 2000's belonged to the teams in the NBA's Western Conference. It was never a question of who would win in the NBA Finals, but rather who would come out of the West, because nobody really thought that the Eastern Conference representative had much of a chance to win a title. 

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The 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contestant is expected to have a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder participating, although it is not the one I suggested in my previous article. The official announcement will come on Thursday on TNT, which will also air the Thunder's game against the Dallas Mavericks, but do not hold your breath waiting to hear Kevin Durant's name called. 

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To many people, it is a dying art. It lacks the quality star power that it used to feature in the past. It does not have any rivalries that would gather the same amount of fanfare. The 'it' that I am clearly talking about is the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

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