Thunder 114, Nets 93
Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s win over New Jersey.
- With the Nets completing their lone visit to OKC this season, it’s possible that Thunder heads will miss out on Carmelo Anthony altogether this year. And that’s a shame. Melo’s Denver Nuggets don’t come back to town until April 8, the second-to-last home game of the year. It’s almost a certainty that Anthony won’t be with the Nuggets at that point. And if New Jersey is indeed his destination, Oklahoma City will miss arguably the league’s best scorer. Even if the Knicks land Melo, New York comes to town on Jan. 22. Unless that trade goes down soon, it’s likely Thunder heads won’t be see Anthony at all this season.
- It took 33 games, but Tony Brothers finally refereed a regular season Thunder game. Thunder heads, of course, remember Brothers from this. Brothers did work the Thunder’s second preseason game, a road game against Miami in Kansas City. I didn’t hear any fans fire any mean-spirited comments toward Brothers. And I’m glad no one did. Everyone makes mistakes, and I’m sure Brothers is still kicking himself for his.
- Russell Westbrook had a brutal first quarter. In less than six minutes in the opening period, Westbrook threw three bad passes and had his shot blocked three times. He finished the frame with five points on 1-for-5 shooting with two rebounds, one assist, one foul and one turnover. His and-one on a left-handed layup, though, was sick.
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks gave Kevin Durant an uncharacteristically early hook with 1:35 left in the first quarter. Brooks replaced Durant with Thabo Sefolosha. Durant typically doesn’t get his first breather until a minute or two into the second quarter. I initially though Brooks was unhappy with a contested 3-pointer Durant had taken on the previous possession. But Brooks told me after the game that he’s looking to change things up a bit and give Durant more of a breather. With the way Brooks substituted tonight, Durant would get the quarter break as additional rest. It’s something we might see over the next few games. Brooks, however, said it will be determined by the flow of the game. That means, if the Thunder is getting its head kicked in, don’t expect Durant to come out. If OKC is up, look for KD to get a break.
- New Jersey shot itself in the foot with turnovers in the first half. The Nets had 15 in the first half and it led to 13 Thunder points. When the Nets took care of the ball, they got just about every decent shot you could ask for. The Nets shot 53.1 percent in the first half but trailed by 11 at halftime. That’s all because of turnovers.
- The Thunder finished with 31 assists tonight, a season-high. The team’s previous season high was 29, set back on Nov. 22 against Minnesota. Nine Thunder players had at least one assist, and four players had at least four assists.
- Only one Nets player had more than two assists. And Devin Harris led New Jersey with three.
- OKC did a really nice job controlling Harris. After all of the point guards who have lit up the Thunder this season, you would expect Harris to go off. But the Thunder kept him out of the paint and relatively in check.
- We saw some attitude out of the Thunder tonight when James Harden gave Sasha Vujacic a piece of his mind. Very interesting sequence there in the second half. Harden had left the locker room by the time the media went in, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have elaborated on the exchange anyway. A replay showed some tugging going on by both players on a previous sequence. Then Vujacic looked to have overreacted when he hit the deck with Serge Ibaka. You don’t see Thunder players get in an opponent’s face very often. But is that the kind of attitude this team eventually needs before becoming a power?
- Brook Lopez’s shoes look like a transformer. Those things are ridiculously wide at the heel. Thought they were about to turn into an 18-wheeler.
- Lopez came into this game averaging 20.2 points and 9.2 rebounds against OKC. It’s safe to say the Thunder did fairly well on him after limiting him to 19 points on 9-for-16 shooting and only six rebounds.
- Quietly, Jeff Green has now registered at least five assists in five of his last eight games.
- Thabo Sefolosha deserves a handshake or something for his game-high eight rebounds tonight. Said Sefolosha: “I got to do it. They had some big bodies out there. Serge and Nick and Nenad, they were busy boxing out so I just tried to help the team by going in there and getting the rebound and getting the fast break started.”
- What is going on with the Thunder at the free throw line? OKC went 18 of 27 tonight, 66.7 percent. Seven players missed at least one free throw tonight. Durant missed two! The Thunder hasn’t shot at least 85 percent from the stripe in 10 games. That’s alarming after the start the Thunder got off to.
- Referee Violet Palmer is a stickler for traveling violations. No fan will ever leave an NBA game that Palmer works saying the NBA never calls traveling.
- After the first meeting between these two teams, I questioned why Nets coach Avery Johnson didn’t play rookie forward Derrick Favors more. Tonight, Johnson did. There must have been something up in that Dec. 1 game, because those eight minutes were a season-low for Favors. Keep an eye on this young fella. He has game! If I’m the Nets, I’m not sure I’d trade him and a bunch of picks for Melo. Anthony hasn’t proven he can take a team anywhere on his own. So why not maintain your young talent and grow from within rather than seek a quick fix. Just my two cents.
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