Thunder 110, Sixers 105 (OT)
Observations from the Thunder’s 110-105 overtime victory against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center:
– Don’t be stunned if center Kendrick Perkins is activated for the Thunder’s three-game road trip at Cleveland, Washington and Miami next week.
That doesn’t guarantee he’ll start or even play, but the 6-foot-10, 280-pound Perkins is expected to practice with his teammates for the first time Friday since being traded two weeks ago.
Presumably, the Thunder will try to let Perkins make his return on the road, where there is considerably less pressure than playing in front of your new fans at home after a trade.
Perkins has made steady progress rehabbing his sprained left knee and you can sense an excitement among Thunder personnel that he is close to returning.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks might share an official target date for Perkins’ return after today’s practice, but every player essentially is considered day-to-day until Brooks receives clearance from the team’s medical staff on an injury.
– The Thunder traded for Perkins and Nazr Mohammed to get bigger, but lately OKC has gone small to combat perimeter matchup problems while awaiting Perkins’ return.
At Memphis on Monday night, the Thunder lost 107-101 with a smaller lineup, but OKC was able to do a decent job containing the powerful inside duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, who combined for 35 points, but just 12 rebounds. What killed the Thunder was poor decision-making on offense, plus being unable to stop the penetration of Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley. Memphis also got clutch play from former Oklahoma State guard Tony Allen and the predictable hustle from reserve Shane Battier, who had seven points and seven rebounds (five offensive).
At Philly on Wednesday, the Thunder went with even a smaller, four-guard lineup at the start of the second and fourth quarters with James Harden, Eric Maynor, Thabo Sefolosha, Daequan Cook and power forward Nick Collison.
In the second quarter, that lineup came from six down to forge a tie at 41 before All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook re-entered. In the fourth quarter, though the lineup struggled to score early, it set the defensive tone that eventually resulted in victory.
So while some Thunder fans have questioned Brooks for going with a smaller lineup, these past two weeks actually should be viewed as a good sign that OKC has shown the capability to go small, which can still be used as an alternative even when the team gets bigger with Perkins.
- Serge Ibaka isn’t the only player to step in and replace Jeff Green at the stretch 4 spot. Durant and Thabo Sefolosha have, too.
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