Thunder Tames Bobcats, Wins Sixth Straight
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s 99-82 win over Charlotte.
- Kevin Durant sustained a shoulder injury late in this one when he ran into teammate James Harden. Durant said he’s OK. The team is calling it a shoulder bruise. “It was a quick stinger,” Durant said. “I could have stayed in the game, but I just wanted to be cautious about it. I’ll be all right by tomorrow.”
- As for the game, it was pretty open and shut. The Thunder let the Bobcats hang around a little longer than they probably should have. But in the end, OKC had one of its most impressive stretches of D that we’ve seen all season. It just won’t raise many eyebrows because it came against the Bobcats. Still, the Thunder closed out Charlotte by holding it to empty possessions on 13 of its final 15 possessions. The Bobcats had five turnovers in that eight-minute stretch. Those are really impressive figures, and only now is it becoming commonplace to see the Thunder on the right end of them.
- Serge Ibaka played his tail off doing what he does best — being an energy guy — from start to finish. He had three blocks in the first eight minutes and was an animal on the boards (game-high 13). He added 12 points to secure his ninth double-double of the year. Ibaka finished with five blocks, giving him 23 in his last four games.
- I guess I have to say Ibaka’s man defense on Boris Diaw was awful. Ibaka single-handedly allowed Diaw to join the list of players who’d be All-Stars if they played the Thunder every night. To my knowledge, it includes Tony Allen, Trevor Booker and Matt Bonner. Am I missing anyone?
- On a serious note, I had visions of Jeff Green being out there as I watched Diaw light up Ibaka. Green could have defended Diaw much better on the perimeter and perhaps not have gotten beat off the dribble as easily as Ibaka. Granted, Diaw could have made Green his…in the painted area. Still. Green is gone and it’s all water under the bridge, I know. But that little game within the game illustrated the benefits of having a 4-man as versatile as Green was. It’s not all gravy having Ibaka in that spot.
- Thabo Sefolosha came to play tonight. His defense on Stephen Jackson helped limit the Bobcats guard to 1-for-8 shooting in the first half, and his timing and pressure on the ball and in the passing lanes led to steals and a nice block on Gerald Henderson.
- Kendrick Perkins made his home debut tonight and Thunder heads got a real treat if they watched him closely. Tonight was as intense as he’s been in any of his three games so far. Throughout much of this one, Perkins was absolutely pissed. At himself. At his teammates. And at the officials.
- One play sequence stands out most. When Russell Westbrook allowed D.J. Augustin to blow right by him midway through the third quarter, Perkins stared down Westbrook and unleashed a series of choice words. I couldn’t believe it. I haven’t seen anyone talk to Westbrook, or anyone else for that matter, like that. Ever! Not Scott Brooks. Not Kevin Durant. Not Nick Collison. Not Ibaka. No one. I could make the argument that there’s nothing this team needs more.
- It would have been better had Perk not allowed Kwame Brown to blow by him two possessions later and convert a reverse layup.
- Brooks talked about Perk holding players accountable. “It’s important that all good teams are policed by one another,” Brooks said. “We have a standard that we set in place and you don’t want it to go below that. If it does, it has to be addressed. It’s always good to have players do that also. It can’t always be from me, but I’m willing to do it when necessary.”
- Westbrook was not good at all offensively tonight. He missed a lot of layups. He played in a crowd. He left his patience at home. And he forced things entirely too much.
- That being said, ahem, that reverse dunk midway through the fourth….very nice!
- When Perk caught an entry pass from Westbrook midway through the first quarter, he cleared out everyone just so he could catch his breath. It took him a full two seconds to breath before he even thought about what kind of move he’d make. Perk was gassed.
- After Perk finally made his move, he scored on a nice turnaround jumper. Looked like he knew exactly what he was doing. I said it before, I’ll say it again. The Thunder should go to him more in the post. Develop him down there. That jumper was his only shot of the night. Now, it’s unwise to try to incorporate a post game into Perkins’ repertoire and the Thunder’s system this late into the season. But I’ll be disappointed if we don’t see the coaching staff try to pull it out of him next year.
- The refs missed about 12 traveling violations…In the first quarter.
- Eric Maynor made me blurt out, ‘nice pass!,’ about three times tonight.
- Didn’t like the inconsistency by the game-ops crew in handling D.J. White’s return. When White started the second quarter, he wasn’t announced immediately. A minute in, the P.A. guy finally announced White had entered the game. And when he did, he said, ‘Also in the game, please welcome back to Oklahoma City, No. 8 D.J. White!” Huh??? White can get a special intro, but Blake Griffin can’t? That’s ridiculous. I was told all opposing players are treated the same. Apparently not.
- Every now and then, you hear a story that hits you and makes you realize NBA players don’t always have it easy. White shared one of those stories before the game. When play-by-play man Brian Davis asked if he hung out with his old teammates any while in town, White said no. Then he explained how he had to go back to his home and handle certain business. Uh, like getting clothes and packing them up to take to his new home with him. White, remember, was traded when the team was in San Antonio. He had to go straight to Charlotte. Imagine you’re on vacation and an airline loses your bags. Say you’re stuck with just your carry-on for three weeks. How would you feel? White said he also had to check the mail, pay bills and take care of some business with his vehicle, you know things most of us don’t have to pencil in every three weeks.
- Shaun Livingston looked good. He’s a feel-good story that you just have to root for. And he’s one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. I wish him the best going forward.
- During a break in the second quarter, two guys shot foul shots to determine which would attempt the halfcourt shot. Both were black. One dude was about 6-7. He air-balled five out of his nine attempts. Just goes to show all tall black guys can’t play ball.
- I had no idea until midway through the second quarter. But our old friend Tom Werme is the sideline reporter for the Bobcats. Longtime Thunder heads (as in those who paid attention last season) remember Werme as the co-sideline reporter here in OKC.
- Durant made the best play at the end of a quarter that I’ve ever seen him make. With the clock winding down at the end of the third quarter, Durant drove past Jackson and dumped off a beautiful pass to Nazr Mohammed for an uncontested layup. It’s the type of play I think we all would like to see him make consistently in those situations. I asked Durant about that drive and dish will post his thoughts tomorrow.
- This was the Thunder’s sixth straight victory, the longest winning streak this season. OKC also moved to 22-6 against the East and 21-3 against sub. 500 teams. In its past seven games against sub.-500 teams, the Thunder has won by 21.6 points per game. In other words, they’re beating the crap out of bad teams.
- With 14 games left, playoff seeding is in mind. “We got to take one game at a time but also know in the back of our minds we still got an opportunity to be in third place,” said Daequan Cook. “It’s important for us to get the wins we need to get to continue the win streak.”
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