Observations from tonight’s game….
* If only the Thunder had a closer like Allen Iverson.
* Kevin Durant was on Iverson to start, which was surprising given the fact Scott Brooks immediately moved Durant to small forward when he took over to prevent him from having to guard guys like Iverson.
After the game I asked Brooks about starting Durant on Iverson and he said it had to do with Iverson having a history of struggling against longer, lankier players. Brooks said he also wanted to use Russell Westbrook on Rodney Stuckey to try and keep Stuckey out of the painted area after seeing Stuckey score 40 points against Chicago on Dec. 23 and 20 the game before that against Atlanta. Those explanations made sense. I think it also could have had something to do with Iverson coming off a groin injury and the Thunder thinking he wouldn’t be 100 percent.
* Rookie guard Kyle Weaver got seven critical first-half minutes and looked solid. He made a sweet no-look pass to Jeff Green for a layup and hit a nice mid-range jumper in rhythm. Then he played six second-half minutes and looked like a rookie, contributing nothing but two turnovers. We could see more of Weaver.
“Kyle came in and gave us good minutes,” Brooks said. “The one thing about Kyle that I love and I love about this league is if you bring it every day in practice and try to get better and work on your game, one of these games you’re going to get an opportunity. And he has done that for two months. So he’s being rewarded for working every day in practice trying to get better.”
* And with that, Damien Wilkins could now see extended minutes on the bench.
* The story of Chris Wilcox’s career was summed up in 22 minutes tonight. He scored six points with seven boards in 11 first-half minutes and had four points with no rebounds in 11 second-half minutes.
* Durant’s hot streak continued. His 26 points tonight bumped his streak of games with 22 points or more up to nine straight. He’s scored at least 22 in 10 of 12 games this month. Thunder officials plan on campaigning for Durant as Player of the Month. He’s now averaging 25.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks in December with three games remaining this month.
* Wonder why Pistons guard Richard Hamilton played just nine minutes in the second half.
* 17 lead changes and 14 ties would have made you think this was a playoff game against two heavyweights.
* The Thunder’s nine second-half turnovers, five in the fourth quarter, really hurt. Taking care of the basketball is just as much a part of closing out games as good defense, quality shots and made free throws.
* Speaking of free throws, the Thunder was 3-for-6 in the fourth quarter. The Pistons were 6-for-6.
* Jeff Green and Kevin Durant need to continue to feed off each other offensively. After both players scored 20 or more in back-to-back games against Dallas and San Antonio, giving fans a glimpse of things to come, Green has failed to score 20 points in his past five games and contributed more than 13 points only twice (18 and 16) in the past five games. Green had 11 tonight, but the Thunder is a much more difficult matchup when both are clicking.
Quotes to note…..
“We can play with anybody. We just have to, from the opening tip, play with some toughness. And they have. We’re battling. We’re coming close every game. We’ve heard it before. We’ve seen it before. Now, let’s change the ending. And our guys are going to work on that until we find a way to change the ends of these games.” — Coach Brooks.
“We have to continue to play with resolve. We did that tonight. It could have easily been, ‘OK, we’re down 14 (in the fourth), let’s get ready for the Wizards.’ But our guys are not like that. It’s an incredible thing to watch this team progress and evolve.” — Brooks.
“One of the things I love about our guys – they have it now and it’s getting better every game — they’re mentally tough. It’s going to help us down the line if we continue to show mental toughness.” — Brooks.
“I think we play better when the competition is better. When we’re playing a team that’s been in the playoffs and things like that I think we bring our A game. I think what we struggle with is playing down to our competition sometimes and that’s when we end up throwing games away. But we’re learning right now. We’re young and we still got room to grow.” — Chris Wilcox.
“We’re getting tired of these moral victories. We’ve got to get some wins. If we continue to play like this and get those key stops like we did we’ll win games. It’s just a matter of time. We’re going to start to turn this around.” — Kevin Durant.