Thunder Tacks On Another Loss To Hapless Pistons
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s 104-94 win over Detroit.
- If you thought the Thunder’s late-game execution needed work, be glad you’re not a Pistons fan. Detroit looked like it had absolutely no idea what to do down the stretch. After the Pistons had clawed back from an 18-point deficit to cut it to nine with 2:35 left to play, everything was chaotic from there. Detroit missed five of its final six shots and struggled to get anything of quality in the closing minutes. What made it so bad was the Thunder’s defense was far from dominant.
- The most impressive thing about the Thunder’s performance was its offense. The Thunder shared the basketball without turning it over. OKC had 25 assists and just 11 turnovers. The Thunder had only three turnovers in the first half. The team’s 11th turnover came on a voluntary shot clock violation when James Harden dribbled out the shot clock with a 4.4 second differential showing on the game clock.
- Russell Westbrook was huge for the team’s offense performance. He came out trying to get his teammates involved, setting them up while putting his own offense on hold. When he does that, there is a clear trickle down effect that takes place. Everyone else begins making the extra pass, and the offense then looks much better.
- The Pistons led 26-22 at the end of the first quarter, and it could have been much worse had they converted a few more of their second chances. Detroit missed four of five second-chance opportunities…and they still made 10 of 17 shots after starting 5-for-5.
- Wonder what’s gotten into Thabo Sefolosha? My man is turning into a gunner. Relatively, of course. Seems like any time he gets a good look these days, though, it’s going up. He entered tonight’s game averaging 3.8 shots this month. He had three in his first eight minutes tonight. Not sure if this new assertiveness is a good thing or not. On one hand, Sefolosha is showing improved confidence in his jumper and it’s not like he’s forcing it. He’s open each time. On the other hand, the sniper is shooting just 42 percent this month, his lowest mark in any full month.
- The bench was terrific tonight. The reserves scored 42 points on 15 of 26 shooting. Harden lead the way with yet another strong showing, this time a 22-point effort on 7-for-11 shooting. And Harden made four of six 3-pointers tonight, none bigger than the back-to-back bombs he buried inside the final three minutes of the third quarter. After the Pistons had closed within four, those helped to push the Thunder’s lead back to nine before OKC went into the final period ahead 11.
- Westbrook’s windmill dunk with 48.9 seconds left in the first half was the best breakaway dunk in the Thunder’s history. His catch off the glass from Earl Watson two seasons ago at Golden State is a close second. The Thunder NEVER does flashy dunks. That’s half of what made it so nice. It was unexpected.
- Here’s why coaches sometimes don’t like those flashy plays. On the sequence right before Westbrooks’ flush, he dribbled the air out of the ball before blowing a layup with four seconds left on the shot clock. He had possession for 21 seconds and did nothing with it. Then, he had the nerve to lallygag back on D. When the Thunder came away with a quick defensive rebound at the other end, he was still standing near halfcourt and was able to cherry pick the bucket. Great play. Awful effort.
- Something I noticed immediately following Westbrook’s jam was the look on Eric Maynor’s face. Maynor was somewhere between shocked and scared. He jumped up off the bench like everyone else, mouth wide open but not smiling. Instead, he maintained a deep glance over at Thunder coach Scott Brooks. It was as if he was asking, without talking, “Are we allowed to do that? Can I celebrate now?”
- Remember when Tracy McGrady was a big deal?
- Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince were destroying the Thunder early. Kevin Durant was not closing out on Prince’s jump shots and Sefolosha, Harden and Daequan Cook were no match for Hamilton’s savvy. Their early effectiveness is why the Thunder trailed early.
- Eleven years in, it’s still a thing of beauty when Rip works without the ball.
- The Pistons started the game with their best two players, Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey, on the bench. Malcontents or not, it didn’t make much sense to me. Especially Stuckey. The Thunder never has an answer for him.
- I walked into the Pistons locker room before the game and witnessed a whole new level of ‘who gives a damn?’ The Pistons were as carefree as a team can be. If the team’s turmoil wasn’t written about and shown on highlight shows, you’d never know they had a problem. About seven Pistons players were sitting side by side, all joking and laughing about any and everything. None of them looked concerned about the task at hand. The scene depicted the meaning of a mutiny.
- I can’t believe Chris Wilcox is starting for the Pistons. He was always one of my favorites when he was with the Thunder. But I never thought he’d see a starting gig again.
- I can guarantee you Jason Maxiell hasn’t missed any meals this season.
- I don’t normally pay attention to this kind of stuff. But it was brought to my attention during the game. The Pistons don’t have a single white guy on their roster. As someone put it, ‘They’re like the anti-Indy.” Or Utah.
- Westbrook was 43.4 seconds away from failing to attempt a free throw for the first time this season. The Pistons had to intentionally foul him, which saved his streak.
- Meanwhile, Durant’s 11-for-11 performance at the free throw line helped him score a game-high 24 points on what was a rather quiet night. He finished 6-for-13 from the field after starting 1-for-7.
- Oh, and KD’s nine rebounds, five assists and three steals completed a nice all-around performance. Did I mention he didn’t have a single turnover? Very nice game for the Durantula. Just wish he would have played better D on Prince.
- Should I feel stupid for not having a clue who Kevin Cronnin or REO Speedwagon is? Mr. Cronnin was courtside tonight and got a nice ovation when shown on the big board.
- Very cool halftime show. That’s more like it, Thunder! Pop-locking, when done well, is always entertaining.Remote Kontrol is the trio’s name. They’re from Atlanta, Ga.
- I was convinced the Thunder would trade up for Greg Monroe during last year’s draft. I just knew Sam Presti would. He traded up for Cole Aldrich instead. But I still think Monroe would be a great fit in OKC.
- Harden made a lot of really nice passes tonight. He finished with only three assists, but his decision-making was on point. Unfortunately, at least two of Harden’s nice passes were two Sefolosha on the wing. Under normal circumstances, they would have been the perfect extra pass. But Sefolosha isn’t exactly the most reliable shooting threat. Sefolosha actually got the shooter’s roll on a 3 off of one of Harden’s passes.
- Serge Ibaka, after a great game, put the icing on the cake perfectly in this one. His two-handed block on Rip brought the crowd to its feet with 27.9 seconds left and started the party. Great way to finish a pretty sound victory.
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