By Darnell MayberryModified: April 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm •
Published: November 13, 2010
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win over Portland.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored the final 18 points for the Thunder.
Here’s how entertaining this game was: there were 14 ties and 16 lead changes.
And here’s how impressive of a closeout it was by OKC: the lead changed teams only once in the fourth quarter.
After Durant’s fourth straight jumper in the final four minutes, he shouted to his teammates, ‘This is my house!” Always modest, Durant denied it after the game. But he earned the right to scream such a statement after his fourth-quarter performance. Said Portland coach Nate McMillan, “Durant made All-Star plays. He made important points.”
Durant desperately needed a clutch performance like this. In the fourth quarters and overtime in the Thunder’s first seven games, KD averaged just 5.4 points on just 12 of 36 (33.3 percent) shooting from the field. When I asked him about the difference tonight, he replied with a candid answer. “I got a little bit of rest at the start of the fourth,” Durant said. “So I felt good coming in.” Durant’s minutes have become a bit of an issue to start the season. He entered tonight averaging a league-leading 42.3 minutes and recently admitted that he could have used more rest in Sunday’s loss to Boston.
This was a big win for the Thunder. Sounds a little silly to say that on Nov. 12. But keep in mind that division winners automatically earn a top four seed and home-court advantage in the playoffs. And two early victories over a division heavyweight like Portland can come back into play at the end of the season. When the dust starts settling on conference standings, and tiebreakers and such may be needed to determine playoff seeding, we could look back on these first two games as being pivotal victories.
Was I the only one who had flashbacks to Carmelo Anthony when Rudy Fernandez hoisted that 3 from the left corner? I didn’t think so.
Westbrook’s 36 points are a new career-high. He was unstoppable tonight, adding seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals, two blocks and only two turnovers. What is becoming more and more impressive is that while speaking to reporters or interacting with his teammates after performances like this, Westbrook doesn’t give off anything that suggests he thinks it’s a big deal.
Durant and Westbrook became the franchise’s first set of players to score 30 points in back-to-back games since Dale Ellis and Xavier McDaniel did it in April 1989. And that sounds quite impressive until you’re told Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette were the last teammates to do it for any team, pulling the feat in three straight games in January of last season. Damn Nellie ball.
For as good of a win as this was, at some point the Thunder’s defense has got to show up for four quarters. But what we saw out of it in the fourth quarter was pretty darn impressive. The one complaint you could have in the final period was that the Thunder allowed too many offensive rebounds in the fourth. Aside from that, OKC held Portland to 7-for-19 shooting, forced three turnovers, two of them steals, and blocked three shots. Brandon Roy went just 2-for-8 in the fourth.
Here’s what coach Scott Brooks had to say about the fourth quarter D. “You want to be a great defense for 48 minutes. But you want to be a special defender in the last 12 minutes. That’s what it takes to win games in this league. But we have to be consistent. There’s always another level that we want to get to and tonight we did.”
And here’s what Brooks said about his team’s early performance. “In the first half, it was just a shooting clinic on their part.”
The Blazers shot 12 of 19 in the first and second quarters, setting an opponent high for field-goal percentage in a half. Their 65 points also set an opponent high for points in a half.
Brooks started Nenad Krstic against LaMarcus Aldridge and put Serge Ibaka on Marcus Camby. I asked Brooks about matching up Ibaka like that after the Philly game, when he put Krstic on Elton Brand and Ibaka on Spencer Hawes. Brooks said a part of it is to help Ibaka avoid early foul trouble.
The Aldridge matchup was a bit of moot point early, because the Thunder did a much better job of defending him in the post by sending a double his way on the catch. OKC forced him to pass out much more than it did last Thursday and, as a result, Aldridge had just one shot attempts in the opening period. He finished the game with 10 points on 10 shots.
Brooks said before the game that the two biggest keys against the Blazers were limiting transition points and “trick plays.” Andre Miller pulled one of those “trick plays” with 4:23 left in the first when he threw a pass off the backboard to himself and tipped it in. It was reminiscent of this. (OK, not really, I just always have loved that play.)
Miller’s got a pump fake for every situation. That is all.
Thabo Sefolosha was a bit of an unsung hero in this one. His defense on Roy was solid when it mattered most and his hustle and heady plays were critical. He even recorded four assists, the second time this season he’s done that. “He took one shot tonight in 34 minutes, but he was a major impact,” Brooks said. “He really did a great job of making them take some tough shots.”
James Harden hit two of three 3-pointers in the first period and they got him going. He started the second quarter with a nice, aggressive drive to the rim and finally started to look more comfortable with the ball in his hands. Early in the second quarter, Harden had 10 points, topping his previous season-high of nine. Unfortunately for Harden, the rest of his first half was disappointing. He gave up easy baskets and, worst of all, he failed to shoot a wide open corner 3 in the final seconds of the second quarter when he was re-inserted for that sole purpose.
The Thunder went 24 of 26 from the foul line and five of six in the fourth quarter. Again, it’s become the ultimate closer.
OKC made six of 12 3-pointers. I don’t have to tell you that’s a season-high.
D.J. White got his first burn of the season, getting the call over Cole Aldrich. White was a better matchup for the lineup the Blazers presented with no true big man off the bench. White didn’t do anything that stood out. He picked up an offensive foul, and he allowed Armon Johnson to split the defense. Nothing else to remember about him in this one. You can’t say he didn’t play hard though.
The Thunder caught a huge break when the refs called offensive basket interference on Aldridge with 3:43 left in the second quarter. Aldridge didn’t touch the ball as it nearly rolled out of the rim. For a team that couldn’t buy a stop, it provided a big lift. OKC went down and scored at the other end to take a 54-53 lead.
Rumble made his first career overhead halfcourt shot. He banked it in on his fourth try just before the start of the fourth quarter. He wasn’t available for interviews after the game.
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...