Thunder Makes Quick Work of Minnesota T-Wolves
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s 111-103 win over Minnesota.
- Sort of a predictable game. The Wolves stayed close. The Thunder went up big. Minnesota battled back. And OKC ended up blowing them out before it got respectable by the final buzzer.
- That third quarter was disturbing, though. The Thunder was up 16 before the Wolves mustered a 22-8 run and pulled within 82-80 with 33 seconds left. Minnesota made made 10 of 13 shots while the Thunder missed eight of 11 and turned it over three times.
- Kevin Durant’s two 3-pointers turned the tide. KD was 4-for-13 before hitting two 3s in the final 11 seconds of the third quarter. But those were big-time shots. They helped the Thunder lead by six going into the fourth.
- Nazr Mohammed picked it up from there. His contributions in the fourth quarter came out of nowhere and maintained the momentum that Durant’s shots had created. His defense (the charge he took, the deflections and steals he came up with, the interior resistance he supplied) we’ve come to expect. But his offense (10 fourth-quarter points) was unexpected. Nazr scored 10 of the Thunder’s 13 points during a 13-5 run in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter that bumped OKC’s lead to 101-87. Ball game.
- The entire bench played beautiful basketball tonight. Eric Maynor, James Harden, Mohammed and Nick Collison played their roles to perfection. They shared the ball on offense and created turnovers on defense. At one point in the second quarter, the starters had scored 29 points and the reserves had 27 points.
- Collison was scary good offensively. He made his first six shots before missing his final attempt. But Collison wasn’t just scoring. He was scoring at will. He had a sick crossover on Anthony Tolliver. He hit mid-range jumpers. He scored on running hooks and finished feeds with dunks.
- Kendrick Perkins, for one, thinks Collison should be more assertive on the offensive end. “One thing about Nick that I’ve been telling him a lot lately is I don’t know why he don’t be being aggressive a lot,” Perkins said. “He can play offensively. I think sometimes he gets a little passive and gets caught up in his role, which is good. But he can put the ball in the basket and he can make plays. And I think going into the playoffs we’re going to need everybody. Every night in the playoffs, it’s a certain guy that wins games for you, that has a big night.”
- Perk had his best scoring game since joining the Thunder, chipping in 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting. He said he’s been working on his offense a lot lately and it’s starting to pay off. “I’m starting to feel a little bit better out there on the court,” Perkins said. “I’m starting to get my rhythm back.” Perk also said he was upset at himself for how he played Wednesday against Utah so he used that performance as motivation to have a better showing offensively tonight.
- Of Minnesota’s 20 turnovers, 16 were Thunder steals. That’s a season-high for the Thunder and it helped OKC have a 22-6 advantage in fast-break points.
- Russell Westbrook tied a season high with five of steals. He looked like a defensive back on one interception he had on one of Luke Ridnour‘s passes.
- Thabo Sefolosha tied a career-high with four blocks tonight, which is the sixth time he’s had that many in a single game.
- James Harden just had to do the leg kick again tonight. Looks like he’s starting to get the call less frequently, which is a good thing in my opinion.
- Wesley Johnson’s poster dunk on Serge Ibaka in the first quarter was nasty. But did Johnson travel?
- After missing its debut, I saw the new intro video for the first time tonight. Well done by the Thunder. Cool concept. Excellent execution.
- You can always tell when KD has made up his mind whether he’s going to shoot before he catches the ball. He just has a look. And generally, when it goes up in those situations it’s going in.
- I loved the fundamentals Ibaka showed on back-to-back trips early in the third. He had two put-back opportunities, the first off a Durant miss and the second off his own miss. On both attempts, he kept the ball high and went right back up for layups. One of my pet peeves is seeing big men think they absolutely have to put the ball on the deck before going back up. Now that Nenad Krstic is in Boston, we don’t see that nearly as much.
- If ever there was a player you could just look at and say, ‘God created him to play basketball,’ it’d be Anthony Randolph.
- Perk has been flirting with air-balling a free throw for three games now. It finally came tonight in the third quarter. But it started against the Raptors, with that huge trip to the stripe he had in 2ith about 40 seconds left. He almost missed everything on the second attempt. In the first half tonight, he came up extremely short, too. Then, it happened in the third quarter. Perk went 1-for-6 tonight from the stripe. I asked him about his foul shooting struggles after the game and he took full responsibility for his poor percentage. He said it’s all mental and an early miss got in his head for the rest of the game. I’ll have more on Perk’s foul shooting in the coming days.
- Along those lines, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he has confidence in Perk to get up there and make them with the game on the line. Brooks said he thinks Perk will get it together. So at this point I wouldn’t expect to see Brooks take out Perk down the stretch to avoid him having to shoot foul shots.
- Daequan Cook might be getting squeezed out of the rotation a little bit. He played just five minutes against Utah (probably because Thabo was so good defensively) and had just eight minutes tonight (slightly more because KD had two first-quarter fouls). It’ll be interesting to see how Brooks uses Cook against Portland on Sunday. That’s a game where the Thunder might really need another 3-point threat.
- Finally, no one is happier tonight than Maynor. March Madness has really been kind to his alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth. In the locker room after the game, Maynor was making all kinds of noise while boasting about his Rams. And they were only up seven at the time, just before halftime. They eventually escaped against Florida State and I’m sure Maynor is somewhere right now letting everyone know about it. Collison might not get a single pass from Maynor on Sunday, though, if Kansas beats VCU. And Maynor might want to keep his head on a swivel on defense if the Rams beat the Jayhawks. Collison might not call out a single pick.
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