Observations, news and notes from Friday night’s 109-98 win over Detroit:
- The Pistons played without Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince.
- Rodney Stuckey tried to replace their scoring by himself. And for a moment, it looked like he would. Stuckey had 20 points in the first half, hitting seven of 14 shots and six of six free throws. He got to the basket whenever he wanted to, routinely beating Thabo Sefolosha off the dribble. But his big first half was the biggest blessing in disguise for the Thunder. Dude was completely out of control in the third quarter, forcing shots and hurting his team. He was 4-for-10 the rest of the way but finished with a season-high 31.
- For a moment, it looked like the Thunder could really lose this game. The Pistons thoroughly outplayed the Thunder in the first quarter, shooting 57 percent and controlling the game by controlling the glass.
- Oklahoma City outscored the Pistons in each of the final three quarters.
- The 11-4 run that the Thunder closed the second quarter on was huge. It gave the Thunder a 52-51 lead at halftime and OKC extended it to six 4 1/2 minutes into the third period.
- Consider James Harden the player of the game. Without his fourth quarter the Thunder don’t win this game. The rookie is quickly establishing himself as the team’s best playmaker. It seems Scott Brooks should start putting the ball in his hands at the top of the key more often and just let him get the team into something. He had a game-high eight assists tonight, five in the fourth quarter.
- Before anyone declares that previous statement a knock on Russell Westbrook, it’s not. Westbrook had a bad night tonight but he still needs to have the ball in his hands to improve. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time for Brooks to insert the more natural playmaker and let Westbrook see how it’s done when he’s having a bad night. Or at the very least leave Westbrook on the floor but let Harden be the playmaker.
- Serge Ibaka is coming along, folks. He had 12 points and and five rebounds in 23 minutes. Six of those points came in the decisive fourth quarter.
- The Pistons had 31 fouls. The Thunder had 16. The Thunder had 36 free throws. the Pistons had 16.
- Kevin Durant bounced back tonight. Not a great shooting performance (7-for-17) but much better than 4-for-18.
- Nenad Krstic had 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots — in just 16 minutes, 26 seconds.
- I was hoping Will Bynum gave me a highlight dunk tonight. It didn’t have to be over someone. I just wanted to see the little guy get up. Everyone knows he can get up.
- As Mike Baldwin wrote about for Saturday, the bench was big tonight. Nick Collison and Shaun Livingston, to an extend, joined Ibaka and Harden to turn the tide.
- Jonas Jerebko is a player.
- Thunder fans were wondering all last season why Chris Wilcox wasn’t playing. Well, he barely gets minutes on the Pistons behind Jason Maxiell and Ben Wallace. Speaks volumes.
- The Thunder is now 11-3 when leading after three quarters and 11-0 when scoring 100 points or more.
THEY SAID IT
- Scott Brooks on the game: “I thought our bench came in and gave us a big lift in the first quarter. I thought some of our starters were not ready to play. They didn’t come out with the intensity for what it takes to play in this league.
- Brooks on Serge Ibaka: “Serge was very good tonight. That is two games in a row…He is still learning what we are doing. But you saw it tonight, he is getting it. He is focused. We try and keep it simple with him.”
- Brooks on James Harden: “James had eight assists in Detroit and had eight assists tonight. He is a very, very good playmaker. We drafted him to be a playmaker. He can score the ball or find the open man…I just like the way he plays. He plays hard and he plays for his teammates and he is not just looking to score the basketball.”
- Harden on his performance: “I was just aggressive. My teammates helped me out and I looked for them as well. They knocked down some open shots and key plays.
- Nick Collison on the team’s bench: “We got some talented guys off the bench. We do have a pretty good feel of how to play with each other. We know our offense is going to come, starting with James in that second group…We’re pretty deep and it’s definitely and advantage that we have.”
- Collison on Houston: “Houston’s a team we’ve had a lot of trouble with in the past. Just a really good team top to bottom. Real solid. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. Defensively, they’re real solid so we’re going to have to move the ball. It’s not a game where we can just play one-on-one because the help’s going to be there. We’ll have to be ready to play. It’s a physical team. We’ll have to do a lot of things well to win.”
BY THE NUMBERS
10: Blocked shots by the Thunder.
13: Biggest lead by OKC.
16: Offensive rebounds by Detroit.
24: Assists by the Thunder.
50: Percent shooting by the Thunder.
53.3: 3-point percentage by OKC.
109: Points by the Thunder, the third highest of the season.
17,774: Announced attendance inside the Ford Center.