Dribbles: Thunder play ‘dirty,’ Heat win again & Lakers hit .500

Editor’s note: Now that Armchair 3’s 30 in 30 series has run its course, I promise more regularly updated NBA news, notes and analysis.

Are the Thunder ‘dirty’?

Serge Ibaka’s, um, swipe at Blake Griffin’s groin area is the topic of much conversation in NBA circles today following Oklahoma City’s 108-104 win in Los Angeles yesterday. Personally, I’m not sure how Ibaka’s not ejected for this shot, for which he only received a flagrant 1, albeit a near-crucial one — headed into that possession, L.A., who had not lead all game long, trailed 99-93, but turned in a 7-point possession to a 1-point advantage, thanks to a Barnes 3, a Griffin free throw and then a Jamal Crawford 3.

But what does this say about the Thunder? Oklahoma City’s 2nd in the NBA in technical fouls this year, at 74, trailing only, you guessed it, the Los Angeles Clippers’ 78. Kevin Durant’s 12 is second to Kobe Bryant, 14, among all players, and Kendrick Perkins is tied for 3rd with 11. Russell Westbrook, 9, and Ibaka, 5, also crack the top 36. Perkins, 2 flagrants and 1 ejection, and Ibaka, 2 flagrants, make OKC one of 3 teams, alongside the Clippers and Knicks, to have 2 guys with at least 2 flagrant fouls. (Durant also pitches in with 1 flagrant and 1 ejection.)

I’ve got to say, OKC has a swagger about them this year, beginning with Perk and Russ, on down through Durant, Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha. That bodes well for their playoff chances, even if it means Ibaka faces a suspension for his Griffin cheap shot.

Heat win 14th straight

The Heat trailed by 14 at the half, against a team that has beat them twice already this year (by 20 points each time), but still managed to come up with a 99-93 win at Madison Square Garden on Sunday to push their winning streak to 14. That streak, which started Super Bowl Sunday in Toronto, has seen Miami dispatch 7 likely playoff teams, plus the Lakers, by an average of nearly 11 points per, headed into tonight’s game in Minnesota.

The key, of course, is LeBron James. In February, the hands-down MVP averaged 29.7 points, 7.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds on 64.1% shooting. He also shot 80.9% from the foul line and 43.2% from 3, two of his perceived weakness throughout his career. Oops.

Lakers hit .500 mark for first time this year

After a 99-98 win over the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, the Lakers, 30-30, are .500 for the 1st time since Dec. 28, when they were 15-15. Head coach Mike D’Antoni & Co. are obviously hoping L.A. does not reel off 6 consecutive losses, like they did after Dec. 28.

L.A.’s 2.5 games out of the No. 7/8 seed, currently co-occupied by the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets; the Lakers are 1-2 against each of these teams so far this season and will see James Harden’s Rockets once more, in the finale April 17 at Staples. Beginning tomorrow night in OKC, the Lakers have 11 games to play against likely playoff teams, Houston included; 12 of those 22 games are on the road, but one’s at the friendly confines of Staples against the co-inhabitant Clippers.

The Lakers’ way in may be Utah, which plays 13 of its remaining 23 games against likely playoff teams, starting tonight in Milwaukee; 8 of those 13 are on the road, where Utah’s 10-19, the worst away-from-home mark of any of the current 16 playoff teams. At this point, L.A., a squad Metta World Peace suggested less than 6 months ago could beat the 95-96 Chicago Bulls’ mark and win 73 games, is undoubtedly clawing for its playoff life.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


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