As I wrote for Tuesday’s paper, Oklahoma City followed its worst loss of the season with perhaps its best effort yet.
Every player I talked after the game pointed to Saturday’s players-only meeting following the 25-point blowout in Philadelphia as reason the team played its best 48 minutes of the season. The drought to start the third quarter really hurt.
So too did Luis Scola’s 23 points and nine rebounds. OKC can live with players like Yao Ming getting 19 and 12 and Ron Artest getting 17 and 11. But if the Luis Scolas of the NBA world are going to have near career nights against the Thunder it’ll be tough to collect many wins.
Save the first seven minutes or so in the third quarter, when the Thunder got off to a 1-for-11 start shooting the ball, the offense looked the best it has all season. The final numbers — 89 points, 40.5 percent shooting — don’t indicate as much, but the ball was moving, players were cutting and finally this team was getting easy baskets. Not many teams are capable of winning with a 39-point second half.
A few notes…..
* Kevin Durant’s 29 points mark his best performance of the season at home. And it’s about time the Ford Center fans got a chance to witness the type of performances he’s strung together on the road and some of what he’s capable of doing on any given night. Durant had entered the game averaging 24.6 points on the road and 16.8 points at home. Here’s what he had to say about his hot start (10 first-quarter points) leading to his best home performance……
“It definitely helped my confidence, because I couldn’t get it going in this building. And by starting off like that, my teammates did a great job of trying to get me open and getting me open shots and getting me lanes to the basket so I could help them out as well.”
* Durant’s seven rebounds were one shy of his season-high, set back on Nov. 10 in a 107-99 loss to Indiana. Durant said after the game that he’s placed more focused on rebounding lately….
“I was kind of upset with myself that I wasn’t going down there getting some boards early (this season). I had a couple of games where I might have had five or six. But I’ve just got to continue to get down there and get boards and help this team. I think once I rebound we can be a better team.”
* Jeff Green had a solid first half before disappearing in the second half. He had 13 points on 4 of 7 shooting at the break and ended with 16 points on 5 of 14 shooting. For the mathematically challenged, that’s three points on 1 of 7 shooting in the final 24 minutes. But the good news on Green on this night was his continued accuracy from behind the 3-point line. He made his first two 3s and finished 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. A guy who hit just 27.6 percent of his treys last season is now shooting 48.3 percent from deep through 11 games, ranking among the league leaders in the category.
“I think he’s improved an awfully lot,” said coach P.J. Carlesimo. “It’s 11 games. But (it helps) if you can do something consistently for a while. Last year, he shot the corner 3 in particular very well. The long range shooting is something he worked on this summer. It’s no question he’s a better shooter than he was when he left in April. So that’s encouraging. But I don’t want him to live on the 3-point line either…I’m encouraged by the way Jeff is shooting, for sure. But I still like Jeff getting to the rim, getting to the free throw line and posting up.”
* Robert Swift got a good lesson tonight against Yao Ming, and surprisingly held his own. Yao had just eight points, five rebounds and two blocks in the first half. Swift had four points, five rebounds and a block in the first half. But, as expected, one guy exploded in the final 24 minutes and it wasn’t Swift. Yao finished with 19 points, 12 boards and three blocks. Said Swift……..
“He’s one of the best centers in the league right now. You just go out there and try to make him struggle as much as possible. It’s a difficult matchup for anybody. At his height, you just try to wear him out and run him down.”
Chris Wilcox will play Wednesday against the Clippers…Desmond Mason is expected to miss up to two weeks with a sprained elbow…The Thunder committed just 13 turnovers, 10 coming from the trio of Durant, Earl Watson and Russell Westbrook…Westbrook and Durant combined for nine of the Thunder’s 10 steals…OKC was out-rebounded yet again, this time 48-39…The Thunder has now given up 100 points or more in five straight games…There were 18 ties and 14 lead changes Monday.