Thunder 125, Magic 124
Nuggets from my notebook from Thursday’s win over Orlando.
- Nenad Krstic played perhaps the best quarter of his life in a Thunder uniform in the first period. He pulled down nine rebounds, which tied his season high, and scored six points. His defense on Dwight Howard was exceptional and he was great establishing himself as a presence in the paint.
- Krstic’s final stat line, 16 points and 11 rebounds, marked his first double-double this season.
- Russell Westbrook was awesome again. He notched his second triple-double this season and you could see it coming from the opening tip. Westbrook was all over the court, finding any way he could to make an impact.
- Kevin Durant’s efficiency is starting to show. He’s now connected on at least 50 percent from the field in each of the past four games. His percentages in those four, from latest to oldest: 76.5, 58.8, 54.2 and 50.
- Jeff Green came up with yet another clutch play tonight. His fadeaway 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer with 2:51 left to play pushed the Thunder’s lead to 119-112, effectively creating breathing room for OKC down the stretch. I asked Green what makes him so good in those situations: “I’m always confident in myself,” Green said. “No matter how I’m shooting. If I’m 0-for-11 when the time comes or if I’m 7-for-7, I’m going to shoot the ball if it’s in my hands and I have an opportunity to make a play.”
- The Thunder is now 7-0 in national televised games, 3-0 on TNT. Several players were asked about that record after the game and the consensus was the team didn’t have many last season and are trying to capitalize on the exposure this year.
- As I wrote for Friday’s paper, this was a huge win. It can build confidence and perhaps begin to establish some consistency. The Thunder’s defense was better than the final score would indicate, and the offense looked incredible tonight. Most importantly, there were no dry spells, no prolonged letdowns that allowed Orlando to peel off costly runs. This was the Thunder’s most complete game, and it could have some carry over going into the second half of the season.
- The Magic scored a combined 70 points from the 3-point line and the foul line. That’s why the final score is an eyesore for a team trying to become a defensive-minded bunch. The only issue with the Magic’s 14 3-pointers was that Orlando basically had its way inside as well with Howard racking up 39 points. One or the other has got to be shut off. Other than that, holding the Magic to 45 percent shooting from the field and out-rebounding Orlando were better indicators of the Thunder’s overall defensive performance.
- Howard loves having fun. He’s full of animation throughout a game. Tonight, you could tell he’s living his dream every time he steps on an NBA court. A few examples: As Durant stood at the free throw line, Howard came by and playfully poked his finger in Durant’s chest; Just before the start of the third quarter, Howard walked all the way to a fan who sits behind the scorer’s table and dresses in a superhero outfit and calls himself ‘Thunder Man’ and said, ‘Where’s your chest at? You got to do some push-ups.’; Howard heaved over-the-head halfcourt shots as he took the floor in the final minutes of halftime.
- Has Howard ever made 17 of 20 free throws?
- The Thunder is now 13-2 when Durant scores at least 30 points.
- The Thunder is 15-3 in games decided by seven points or less. Tonight’s close victory was one of the best of the year. The Magic have so many sharp-shooters that they could have easily assembled a run that broke up the Thunder’s party. But the Thunder showed a lot of growth in staving them off.
- Orlando’s five turnovers set an opponent low for the Thunder. The previous low was 10.
- James Harden has gotten extremely good at drawing fouls on his jump shots. You could argue that he kicks his legs out to do so. J.J. Redick made that argument to the officials tonight, asking them to look out for it. And sure enough, Harden was whistled for an offensive foul in the third quarter when he was called for that exact play.
- Ryan Anderson and Gilbert Arenas combined to carry the Magic in the second quarter. And those two almost turned the tide.
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