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Thunder 111, Sixers 93

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 5:52 pm •  Published: March 30, 2010

News, notes and observations from Tuesday’s 111-93 win over Philadelphia…

  • You could tell the Thunder’s defense came to play from the opening possession. Thunder players packed the paint, swarmed as the ball swung from side to side and collapsed on the ball when it was dumped down low. Russell Westbrook blocked Elton Brand on the opening possession and the Thunder forced Brand into a miss after the Sixers recovered the loose ball. The sequence set the tone for the entire night.
  • On the Sixers’ second possession, Westbrook played the passing lane and stole a pass intended for Jrue Holiday.
  • The early defense led to an early 21-12 lead, and from there the Sixers never came close to threatening. OKC was ahead between seven and 11 for much of the game and led by as many as 25 points.
  • Westbrook, and Nenad Krstic didn’t even play in the fourth quarter, which could be a big boost going into Boston on Wednesday night.
  • Really not sure why Scott Brooks insists on playing starters’ late in blowouts. Kevin Durant didn’t come out until the halfway point in the fourth quarter despite the Thunder being up 20. And when he exited, Thabo Sefolosha and Jeff Green checked in. James Harden played until the final buzzer. One of the rotation guys obviously is going to have to play. But if I’m Brooks, I make it a point to make my garbage time lineup Eric Maynor, Kevin Ollie, Kyle Weaver, Serge Ibaka and Etan Thomas. You could reason that Harden’s a rookie and could benefit from the experience. But Harden is fifth on the team in average minutes. Doesn’t seem like that logic will wash. Harden nearly sustained a serious shoulder injury while flying in for a dunk against the Lakers the other night. I wouldn’t risk an injury to Durant, Green, Sefolosha or Harden. No way. No how.
  • With Westbrook leading the way, the Thunder had just 10 turnovers on the night.
  • Westbrook didn’t have his shot going, shooting just 3-for-12 from the field. But he had 14 assists and only one turnover. He had five assists in the first quarter and six in the third, carrying the offense effectively as he’s done so many times this season.
  • Durant got it going offensively early on and had one of his easiest scoring nights this season. The thing that stood out most was his growing ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. He did it on the Thunder’s opening possession, blowing by his man from the left baseline and drawing a foul at the rim. He then went coast-to-coast a few trips later. And his drive to the cup at the end of the first quarter, although the officials overturned the foul call and whistled him for a charge, was impressive because it illustrated how he no longer settles nearly as much as he once did.
  • In fact, the entire team didn’t settle tonight. After shooting just 3-for-15 from long distance against Portland, and 2-for-18 against the Lakers, the Thunder utilized much better shot selection tonight and worked inside, out. The Thunder made 6-of-12 shots from 3-point range and was 3-for-4 in the first quarter, but those looks were wide open attempts off drive-and-kicks or the result of players coming off screens.
  • The best example of the improved shot selection came when Durant had Marreese Speights isolated at the top of the key but took two dribbles in and pulled up from the free-throw line extended rather than the 3-point line. That never would have happened last season and might not have happened earlier this year.
  • While the Thunder deserves credit for much better shot selection, you couldn’t have faulted the players if they decided to jack up 3s all night tonight. You could clearly see why the Sixers are last in the league in opponent 3-point percentage. They don’t rotate well, close out on shooters effectively or fight hard through screens. Philly’s perimeter defense is what makes jump shooters lick their chops.
  • Sefolosha had nine points tonight and had some nice offensive plays early.
  • Weaver got in the game early in the second quarter. And I don’t know why.
  • Andre Iguodala had the prettiest play of the night when he faked a behind-the-back pass with 4:25 left in the third quarter and finished with a one-handed dunk. And in what quite possibly explains why the Sixers stink, Philadelphia allowed Green to knock down a momentum-killing 3-pointer at the other end. to go back ahead 77-65.
  • Ibaka’s offensive game is coming along nicely. He had a very impressive up-and-under move in the lane late in the game. And when he missed one of his early jumpers, leaving it short, he made it a point to shoot with more arc on the next attempt. He swished it. He is really a fast learner.
  • The Thunder out-rebounded the Sixers 47-36.
  • The Thunder now has 45 wins with nine left to play. Tonight’s win moved OKC back into sixth place. If the playoffs started today, the Thunder would play, surprise, surprise, Utah. Not the seeding many might have expected, but it’s the matchup Thunder heads sound like they prefer.
  • Can somebody explain to me why Jason Kapono wears No. 72?
  • Holiday is going to be a good point guard in this league for many years. He’s crafty, smart, slippery and has a nice change of pace to his game. Think Baron Davis in terms of pace. Holiday is the youngest player in the league and still doesn’t appear to be rattled or rushed. He’s got a nice handle and what looks to be solid shooting mechanics. He got where he wanted on the court fairly easily tonight, and when he matures as a player and gets more experienced he could be dangerous. It’s worth keeping an eye on his development.
  • Ollie got a nice ovation from the Philly fans (those who stayed throughout) when he checked into the game for the first time with 4:37 left to play and the Thunder ahead 103-81. Ollie had three stints in Philly and was on the 2000-01 team that lost to the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
  • According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Thunder will sign Mustafa Shakur for the rest of the season.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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