Nuggets from my notebook from Saturday’s win over Memphis
- The Thunder was physical tonight. More than anything, that’s what won it the game., After getting bullied in Memphis, the Thunder came home and pushed back. You could see the fight from the start. Jeff Green played like he took Zach Randolph’s monster game (and his own poor performance) Tuesday personally. Nick Collison came in and did all he could to slow down the Grizzlies’ big men. The Thunder set the tone early and made Memphis fight for everything it got.
- Another huge factor tonight was the job the Thunder did on the Grizzlies supporting cast around Randolph. Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo, Darrell Arthur and Greivis Vasquez combined to score 71 points on 27 of 70 shots. That’s 38.6 percent, and had the Thunder not allowed so many offensive rebounds its defensive effort would have looked even better than it was.
- Mayo absolutely killed Memphis tonight. He jacked up shots every time he touched the ball. He put his teammates in bad positions. And he played horrible defense. His awful shot selection and unwillingness to stop shooting stood out most. Kevin Durant scored 29 more points than Mayo on only seven more shots.
- Durant’s 40 points were so impressive because they came in the flow of the game. He didn’t force his way to 40 by taking ill-advised shots. KD went 1-for-7 from the 3-point line, and at some point he probably should stop settling if they’re not going. But he made 13 of 14 free throws and 13 of 24 shots from the field.
- Russell Westbrook had a few “what-is-he-doing” moments. But overall, he was great tonight. He’s leading the team extremely well right now. And I think, with the exception of a few games here and there, he’s slowly getting his turnover problems under control.
- It’s been a while since I’ve seen Thabo Sefolosha make his presence felt. He’s had some good rebounding games here and there. But more and more, he’s starting to become an afterthought on the court. His offensive game still isn’t up to par, which is no big deal. But his shut-down defense hasn’t been anywhere near the level it was last season. Maybe that has a lot to do with the team’s overall lackluster defense. Either way, I’m starting to wonder why he’s on the court at times.
- With that said, why did James Harden get only three shots? That’s way too low. He played 20 minutes, which probably should be his minimum. But dude’s got to take more than three shots. I think that goes back to Harden needing to assert himself more. Give him credit for five boards, though.
- Turnovers were huge in this one, too. The Thunder turned 13 Grizzlies turnovers into 22 points. Memphis scored just 11 points off 18 Thunder turnovers.
- If the Grizzlies had any kind of 3-point shooter, they’d be dangerous! Memphis went 1-for-15 from beyond the arc tonight. In general, if the Grizzlies had shooters spotting up with Gasol and Randolph commanding double teams, they’d be almost impossible to stop.
- In the past three games, Durant has slid over to shooting guard. He’s looked particularly good in the past two, at Dallas on Thursday and tonight. Against the Mavs, Durant defended Jason Terry down the stretch. Tonight, Durant had an extended dose of Gay. Said Durant: “I want to be challenged every night. I want to get better every night.”
- Westbrook tied a career-high with three blocked shots tonight.
- Green pulled down his first of six rebounds 5 1/2 minutes into the game. Wonder if he had any monkey off his back feeling?
- After watching Memphis outscore it 18-8 in second-chance points through three quarters, the Thunder held the Grizzlies to three second-chance points in the fourth quarter. That rebounding in the final frame was a big key to the win.
- A big part of the game plan tonight was getting more pressure on the Grizzlies’ guards. Mayo and Vasquez combined for three assists and 10 turnovers. Those two had 15 assists against seven turnovers in Game 1. Mission accomplished.
- The Thunder is now 19-4 when scoring at least 100 points. The Grizzlies fell to 2-15 when they allow at least 100 points.
- Tonight’s 18,203 fans marked the 17th sellout in 20 games. I continue to be impressed. I continue to be impressed.