News, notes and observations from Friday’s 96-91 win over Phoenix…..
- After Deron Williams and Chauncey Billups torched the Thunder, Scott Brooks started Thabo Sefolosha on Suns point guard Steve Nash from the start. But it wasn’t because Brooks wanted to keep Nash from getting hot early. If that was the case the wrinkle didn’t work. Nash had five points and seven assists in the first quarter. But Brooks said his goal was to have a bigger defender switching onto Amar’e Stoudemire when the Suns ran their pick-and-roll. And that strategic move worked well.
- While it’d be nice to see Westbrook consistently defend his position the entire game, moving him off the ball does have its benefits. Westbrook won’t get run ragged on pick-and-rolls and can maintain some energy to execute what’s required of him offensively.
- The Thunder turned the tide in the third quarter, when OKC held Phoenix to a season-low 12 points.
- The Suns made just 5-for-16 shots in the third period and had nine turnovers.
- Phoenix briefly threatened in the fourth with a 9-0 run, turning an 85-73 deficit into an 85-82 game.
- And when Nash responded to a Kevin Durant jumper with a finger roll with 1:23 left to keep it a three-point game, I thought the Thunder would be toast. Give credit to how the Thunder didn’t allow the Suns to storm back and steal the win after doing just that against the Nuggets.
- Nenad Krstic did not play Friday because of a right knee contusion. No one knew anything about the injury until about 35 minutes before tip-off. Nick Collison started in his place.
- The Thunder recalled D.J. White from Tulsa. He was active but did not play.
- I’ve been wanting to see what Serge Ibaka could offer in extended minutes. And with Krstic out, he got a real good chance to show what he can do with a few more minutes. Ibaka was all over the place, scoring from in low on his way to a career-high tying 15 points and rebounding like a mad man before finishing with nine.
- The most impressive thing Serge did in my eyes tonight was take Stoudemire out of the game. It happened on every trip to the free throw line. Ibaka would box out Stoudemire with a strong and physical jolt into the lane. After about the third trip, Stoudemire decided it best to not fight this battle.
- Brooks praised the play of Westbrook. The coach was talking about how well Westbrook and Sefolosha did defensively on the perimeter. Westbrook wasn’t bad offensively either. Until the fourth quarter. Westbrook had eight points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and only one turnover. But he was scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting in 12 minutes in the final period.
- Collison couldn’t stay out of foul trouble tonight. He had three fouls in five minutes. Frustrating night.
- The foul trouble forced Brooks to go with Etan Thomas checked in with 7:12 left in the second quarter. Thomas got an extremely loud ovation from the fans, many of them likely asking over the past few months why he hasn’t been playing. Compare Ibaka’s stat line to Thomas’ one blocked shot, two fouls and one turnover in seven minutes and there’s your answer.
- James Harden is in a big-time slump. He missed all four of his field goals tonight and even went 2-for-4 from the free throw line. Thunder heads better hope he figures it out before the playoffs.
- Surprise! With San Antonio and Portland losing tonight, the Thunder is back in the sixth seed. Goodbye, Lakers.
- After scoring 35 points tonight, Durant bumped his scoring averaging 30 points this season.