Nuggets from my notebook in the Thunder’s 120-99 loss to Utah.
- The first points of the game for the Thunder came on a long 2-point attempt by Jeff Green off a feed from Russell Westbrook. Long 2-pointers have long been described as the worst shot in basketball, and the Thunder spent the rest of the first half trying to live by them. OKC missed nine of its next 10 shot attempts, many of them long jumpers. The one easy bucket the Thunder got in that stretch was a reverse layup by Nenad Krstic off a pretty feed by Westbrook. But of course, it was waived off because Krstic traveled. That about summed up the kind of night it was for the Thunder.
- Kevin Durant struggled big-time in the first half. But when Durant used a Krstic screen and blew by Andrei Kirilenko and Al Jefferson for a driving dunk, Kirilenko looked at Durant like he didn’t remember Durant having that in his game. It was one of those helpless looks Durant puts in so many defenders.
- KD never could get into a rhythm. His missed his early jumpers and never made the adjustment to go to the basket. And it looked like Kirilenko’s length had a lot to do with throwing off Durant’s timing. Even when KD was open, his rhythm looked bothered, as if he thought Kirilenko was coming from nowhere to contest. By the time Durant did get it going in the third quarter, scoring 13 points on 3-for-5 shooting in the period and making five of six foul shots, it was much too late. C.J. Miles put it best: “Andrei Kirilenko did a good job of contesting his shots. You cannot stop Kevin Durant. He shoots the mid-range shot as good as anyone in the league. Kirilenko tried to make him do more and stopped him from catching any real rhythm.”
- Welcome to the NBA Cole Aldrich. On his 22nd birthday, Aldrich made his NBA debut with 1:29 left in the first quarter. And 28 seconds later, he cleaned up a James Harden miss with a thunderous one-handed putback slam. It brought the crowd to its feet and many fans gave the rookie a standing ovation. Here’s how much Brooks was thinking of his rookie’s performance afterward: “We lost the game,” Brooks said. “We didn’t play well as a team. Cole is like any other player on this team. We’ve got to get better.”
- Deron Williams had six assists in the first quarter. The Thunder had two. Utah had nine assists on 11 made field goals in the period. The Jazz finished with 32 assists!
- The Thunder had 10 assists and 14 turnovers.
- Once again, Green had some success posting up on the left block. He either got baskets or trips to the foul line, mostly against Paul Millsap or C.J. Miles. The most encouraging sign was that Green’s first (and only) assist of the 2010-11 season came out of a post up. When the Jazz’s defense focused in on Green, he turned and found a wide open Serge Ibaka for a two-handed dunk.
- Here’s about all you need to know about how discombobulated the Thunder’s offense was tonight. At one point, Thabo Sefolosha had six field goal attempts and Westbrook had four. Through three quarters, Sefolosha had eight shot attempts and Westbrook had seven. Westbrook finished with 13 shot attempts. It’s clear he’s got to be more aggressive no matter what. “Definitely,” Westbrook said. “I need to figure out a way to get my team going, getting to the line or whatever it is to try to get my team going.”
- Here’s how Al Jefferson summed up Paul Millsap’s 30-point, 16-rebound, six-assist performance. “One word,” Jefferson said. “Beast.”
- The Thunder’s defense has been the biggest head-scratcher. The Jazz shot 53 percent and became the third straight team to toy with OKC’s defense. That will be the team’s biggest point of emphasis. “We just have to get back to playing a defensive brand of basketball,” Brooks said. “It’s been just decent up until tonight, and tonight wasn’t good at all.”