Thunder 108, Kings 102
News, notes and observations from Sunday’s 108-102 win at Sacramento…
- Russell Westbrook was clearly the star of the game. For the second time this week, he destroyed Beno Udrih and Tyreke Evans. What made this one more impressive was he did it after missing most of the third quarter because of a cut above his right eye that required six stitches to stop rampant bleeding.
- It was pretty impressive to watch the Thunder go on a 19-9 run when Westbrook was out of the game. I think that showed a different kind of maturity on the Thunder’s part tonight, especially since so much of the offense is initiated by Westbrook.
- What was not encouraging is watching the Kings follow up that run by ending the period on a 12-3 spurt of their own. When Evans sank a third-quarter buzzer-beater, Sacramento had all the momentum and it looked like the Kings would make a run in the fourth. But the Thunder showed some nice poise at that point and responded in the fourth with a little rally that gave it some breathing room. Westbrook scored 13 points with four rebounds and two assists in the final period. He played under control, got to the rim and the free throw line as a result of attacking the basket and made nice passes to set up his teammates.
- Westbrook is starting to gain some national recognition for his play this season. After Ric Bucher came to Oklahoma City last week to report on an upcoming piece in ESPN the Magazine, Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports was at tonight’s game for a piece he’s writing on Westbrook. So be on the lookout for that.
- For as good as Westbrook was, the Thunder might not have won this one had it not been for the team’s dominance on the glass. The Thunder out-rebounded the Kings 45-33 and it led to a 23-11 advantage in second-chance points.
- Nenad Krstic had a game-high 10 rebounds. That’s the second time this season you could say that about Krstic, who has now pulled down double digit rebounds in two straight games.
- The Thunder did a slightly better job defensively on the Kings than it did last Tuesday. Sacramento shot 50.6 percent Sunday, down from 54 percent in the last meeting. The Kings can be a tough cover because they have so many shooters on the court, 1 through 5, and they can score in transition really well when they have it clicking.
- This was a very testy game. Nick Collison and Carl Landry exchanged shoves. Kevin Durant and Andres Nocioni exchanged words. Westbrook and Nocioni needed to be separated. Serge Ibaka nearly knocked Spencer Hawes’ (I believe) block off with his elbows following a rebound. Very intense 48 minutes considering the Kins are 21 games under .500. OKC got whistled for three technical fouls, and strangely enough it was Westbrook, Durant and Jeff Green who picked them up. All were in a nine-minute span in the second quarter. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he thinks it’ll prepare the team for the final 20 games, teaching the guys how to not lose their cool.
- Brooks made it a point to compliment his bench play tonight. And the unit was pretty good. Ibaka had 11 points and five boards. James Harden had 14 points, two rebounds and two steals. Eric Maynor filled in nicely for Westbrook when Westbrook missed nine minutes in the third quarter and had four points and four assists. And Collison was huge defensively tonight with six boards and a blocked shot to go with four points and a lot bumping and battling down low.
- Two things that Brooks clearly wasn’t happy with, however, although he probably wouldn’t offer the information unsolicited. Harden passed up an open 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter and Brooks screamed from the bench to shoot the ball. When the play later resulted in a turnover, Brooks immediately called for Durant to report to the scorer’s table. Earlier in the game, Brooks didn’t appear to be pleased with Maynor’s defense on Udrih. If you re-watch this one, you’ll notice that Maynor got a quick hook in the second quarter, not long after Udrih made him fall when he rocked him off balance with a quick crossover.
- The Thunder is now 15 games better than it finished last season….with 20 games to go.
- Carl Landry is a beast. That is all.
- Thabo Sefolosha found his shooting touch a little bit tonight after struggling with it for more than a month. He hit three out of four shots in the first quarter and that was four more shot attempts than he took all game against the Clippers on Friday. Sefolosha finished with 10 points on four of seven shooting.
- For the second time this week, though, I didn’t think Sefolosha’s defense on Evans was very effective. And that’s surprising since Sefolosha has locked down some of the league’s best wing players this season. Maybe because it’s because Evans possesses a dangerous mix of size, quickness, ball-handling ability, a streaky but at times soft shooting touch and extreme craftiness.
- For what it’s worth, in four games against the Thunder, Evans averaged 20.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.7 steals.
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