Observations, news and notes from Wednesday’s game……
* What’s worse at this point? Playing with more energy but still being incapable of executing down the stretch like the Thunder has shown in its last two? Or not showing much fight whatsoever and losing by 35 and 18 on your home court as OKC did in the previous two? I think we all know the answer, but both are bad to watch. The former perhaps tougher because it’s the same thing time and time again.
* Add a bench scorer to general manager Sam Presti’s shopping list this summer. Doesn’t have to be a high-priced guy. Just a player who you can count on for 12 to 15 each night. The Thunder has zero true scoring threats off the bench. A few guys who can knock down shots, but nobody who can create for himself and others and make a play when the shot clock is winding down.
* Watching J.R. Smith (14 points) and Linas Kleiza (17 points) come off the bench and bury shot after shot, it becomes evident how much more of an advantage teams have with a potent scorer in reserve.
* Russell Westbrook was very good tonight. Like a true point guard should, he got his teammates involved early, dishing five assists and taking only two shots in the first quarter. He let the game come to him tonight and really ran the offense as well as I’ve seen all year. He had five turnovers, but as coach Scott Brooks pointed out in his postgame comments, some weren’t his fault.
“He is getting better,” Brooks said. “He did a great job of passing. He did a good job of really controlling the game tonight.”
* Unfortunately for OKC, Chauncey Billups did a better job. His third quarter scoring changed the pace of the game and gave the Nuggets momentum going into the fourth. Finished with 16 points and three assists in the period.
* Westbrook’s 14 points and 11 assists were his ninth double-double of the season. Among rookies, Westbrook ranks sixth in double-doubles.
* Along the lines of point guards and ball distribution. The most interesting and perhaps telling stat of the game was the assists. In the first half, the Thunder had 17 assists. The Nuggets had seven. In the second half, the Nuggets had 19. The Thunder had eight.
* Thunder shouldn’t feel so bad with the way Chris Andersen was swatting shots left and right. His seven swats tonight bump his average to 5.0 over the past four games.
* The right side of Kevin Durant’s hip might be bothering him a little more than he’s leading on. He was grimacing a little tonight but played through any discomfort or pain en route to a team-high 31 points. Durant was originally injured by a shot to the midsection by San Antonio guard Michael Finley on March 31.
* Shaun Livingston showed more flashes that he’s on the right road to recovery. He had a few passes tonight that made you drop your jaw and a couple of dribbling moves that defied logic. But there are still times that show he’s got a ways to go. On one fast break, he never bothered to challenge an Anthony Carter layup despite having a five-inch height advantage over the Nuggets point guard. It’s little things like that that tell the full story of where he is in his recovery.