News, notes and observations from Friday’s 109-92 win over Minnesota
- Minnesota forward Corey Brewer is one of the better defenders I’ve seen guard Kevin Durant. With his long, active arms, Brewer makes Durant work hard to get clean looks and chases him extremely well on screens, sometimes keeping up so well that Durant can’t even catch it. And if Durant does, it’s rarely in his preferred spot. Very impressive work.
- Without Brewer, Durant shoots much better than 8 of 17 against the Wolves and probably ends up with 40, not 25.
- There was a time last summer when I thought Ramon Sessions would have been a great addition in OKC. While he’s still a good player, he’s completely fallen off from his Milwaukee production. Probably a good thing the Thunder didn’t pony up any coin to get him.
- The Thunder’s defense was swarming tonight, in man-to-man, rotating and helping and switching on pick-and-rolls. When the Thunder plays like that it is a hard team to beat.
- Ever wonder why the Thunder’s front office loves Jeff Green so much? Look what he did tonight. He guarded 7-foot center Ryan Hollins, a long, lanky, athletic big man, for a good portion of the game. Then Green switched and played straight up against Kevin Love and battled him well.
- Hollins had the play of the night with his poster dunk on Nenad Krstic. Plays like those, inside the Ford Center when the home crowd gets quiet and I let out a roar, makes me think the whole arena just heard me break the, ‘No cheering from press row rule.”
- Hollins later popped Eric Maynor in the face with what I thought was an inadvertent elbow late in the game. Maynor bounced up like a big boy and no punches were thrown.
- Durant did exchange words with Sasha Pavlovic late in the game after a hard foul. That was the first time I’ve seen Durant get in someone’s face and not let it go after a few seconds. I don’t know what was said, but Durant clearly was not happy.
- The Thunder’s 29 assists were a season-high.
- Russell Westbrook made it happen, dishing out a career-high tying 15 to go with his 18 points and eight rebounds. Westbrook is a special talent, and I’m starting to wonder if, because of his all-around, stat-stuffing skills, fans around here aren’t slowly getting to the point of preferring Westbrook of Chris Paul. It might sound like nonsense now, but I really think we could soon see a shift in some fans’ desire. Paul is three years older and might not get much better than he’s been the past two seasons. We still don’t know how good Westbrook really will be. Think about it.
- I dug up an interesting stat. After tonight, Westbrook has attempted only 17 more 3-pointers that former UCLA teammate, power forward Kevin Love. After praising Westbrook in that last bit, I won’t mention how far ahead Love is on the percentage meter. Let’s just say Westbrook still has room to grow.
- Serge Ibaka returned from a one-game absence and had a career-high 14 points tonight and looked active around the rim throughout. His offense is coming along and his confidence appears to be gaining steam, but his teammates say he’s already full of confidence. Westbrook told me after the game that Ibaka will have a hard time developing offensively the rest of the season because his role is to rebound, block shots and run the floor. We’ll see how that plays out. I say start getting the big man some touches in the post.
- There was a bit of pushing and shoving between Love and Ibaka late in the game while the two were battling for positioning then a rebound. It got a little testy. Love was whistled for an offensive foul. I love how Ibaka didn’t back down. He’s stood toe-to-toe with a lot of opponents this season. You have to love his fire.
- Nick Collison also returned after missing the San Antonio game and picked up right where he left off, scoring 10 points, pulling down six rebounds and providing plenty of energy.
- Darko Milicic showed some game tonight. And I mean that in all seriousness.
- Anybody still want Al Jefferson? I don’t know if he’s ever going to be the dominant big man he was on his way to becoming before injuries set in.
- The Thunder had its 16th sellout of the season tonight. Friday night or not, against the Wolves, the worst road draw in the league, that in and of itself is a testament to Thunder fans.
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