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Thunder 109, Rockets 94

by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 6, 2012

Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win over Houston.

  • Best part of this win? No Thunder player logged more than Kevin Durant’s 27 minutes, 55 seconds. James Harden was the only other Thunder player to play more than 25 minutes. And no starter played a single second in the final frame. That could be huge going into the next two games of this back-to-back-to-back.
  • The Thunder was able to rest up because it took care of business early and, finally, didn’t mess around. OKC led by as many as 27 and never trailed after taking a 3-2 lead 1 1/2 minutes into the game.
  • A 16-5 run in the first 4:32 of the second quarter put this one away. Once again, it was the bench that provided the spark. And, again, Harden led the charge. Harden scored or assisted on 11 points during the run, which put the Thunder ahead 46-25. The Rockets never got closer than 15.
  • Could Harden be the Thunder’s best player at drawing free throws? I know that might sound a little far-fetched considering Durant averaged 10.2 attempts two years ago. But when you watch Harden, as soon as he starts his attack you almost know he’s going to either score or get fouled once at the rim.
  • Harden finished with 23 points for the second time in as many games. But what I love most about it is the efficiency with which he scores. Harden was 8-for-11 tonight and made all five of his foul shots. He also had three assists against one turnover. Through seven games, Harden is now averaging 17.8 points on 48.7 percent shooting.
  • Do you realize Harden is now second on the team in scoring? Could we again have the whole Batman and Robin thing twisted? First, we thought it was Durant and Jeff Green. Then we realized it was Durant and Russell Westbrook. Could we be wrong again? Is it Durant and Harden?
  • Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry missed this one with an injured foot. Goran Dragic replaced him and was a non-factor. With Jonny Flynn moving up to serve as Dragic’s backup, the Rockets’ guards were no match for the Thunder.
  • Dragic did do some damage, actually, finishing with 10 points and 11 assists without a single turnover. But, really, in the context of this blowout, how important was he? Nice player, though.
  • Thabo Sefolosha returned to the lineup and his resumed his starting role. There are some who might want to blame the two-game skid on Thabo’s absence for a game and a half. I’m not in that camp. I consider it a coincidence that the Thunder won upon Sefolosha’s return. He didn’t have much of an impact tonight. The Thunder just played much better. Thabo told me after the game that he’s feeling much better.
  • Nick Collison did say it was pretty important to get the rotation back. “With Thabo back, it allowed us to get our normal rotation back. It was a little bit off the last couple of games.”
  • Durant bounced back from an 8-for-26 shooting performance with an extremely impressive 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting. In his previous three games, Durant shot just 37.9 percent.
  • As much as it was good to see KD’s shot return, it was just as nice to see him rebounding again. After averaging seven rebounds in his first five games, Durant had pulled down a total of seven in his last two. Tonight, he had five boards in the first quarter and finished with seven.
  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks called this one of KD’s “best all-around games on both ends of the court.” Durant finished with three assists and just one turnover and, in the second half, just began toying with the Rockets. He made some incredibly slick passes, several of them no-look, thread-the-needle dishes. But for as pretty as they were, they were the right pass as well.
  • The Thunder came into this one looking to control the boards better. For a quarter, things weren’t working out so well. The Rockets had five offensive boards in the first quarter but finished with 11 for the game. In the middle two quarters, the Rockets had just two offensive rebounds. And the boards that Houston did get weren’t much of an issue since Houston had trouble converting its second chances, finishing 4-for-7 on second-chance opportunities for 11 put-back points.
  • Luis Scola’s footwork is unbelievably good. In the first quarter alone, Scola hit Serge Ibaka with a spin move for a score and followed that up by getting free with a pump fake. Then, on his most impressive move of the night, Scola broke out a spin, a pump fake, an up-and-under and a drop step ALL ON THE SAME TOUCH! In the second quarter, Scola scored on a driving layup, something he should never be able to do against the infinitely more athletic Ibaka. But it was a byproduct of how much Scola had Ibaka off balance. It just wasn’t fair.
  • Aside from the matchup that just isn’t fair thanks to Scola’s footwork, Ibaka brought his A-game tonight. He was energized and made an impact from the start, running the floor and blocking shots. He finished with 11 points, nine boards and three blocks in just 22 minutes. It was the type of performance we were accustomed to seeing from Serge last season.
  • Ibaka’s second assist of the night, his sixth of the season, was a beauty. Believe it or not, it was a drive and dish. He dumped it off to Kendrick Perkins at the last second for a layup. Perk when I asked about Ibaka’s playmaking: “We been working on it. We gon get better. Give me and Serge about another two weeks, watch, we’re gonna be the best big man combo in the league.”
  • Might be time for Daequan Cook to lose the goggles. He’s 1-for-6 from 3-point range since breaking out the specs. He was shooting 57.1 percent from deep before the goggles.
  • The Rockets accidentally did something at the end of the first quarter that might need to be added to somebody’s playbook. With just a few seconds remaining on the game clock, Flynn raced it up and fired a shot from about halfcourt. Chandler Parsons caught the errant attempt and dunked it in just after the buzzer. My question is why can’t some coach draw it up that way? Seems like the perfect bit of misdirection.
  • Midway through the third. KD split Chase Budinger and Scola with a spin move for a scooping layup. Wow!
  • What’s up with KD at the free throw line? He missed three tonight, one of them not being counted because of a lane violation on the Rockets so officially he was 6-for-8. It’s past the point of shocking. I’m now wondering if it’s a tad mental at times.
  • Hasheem Thabeet. Yeah, remember him? He was over on the Rockets bench in warm-ups tonight. I’m embarrassed to admit I once thought he’d be a good fit for the Thunder.
  • The Thunder shot 63.2 percent in the opening quarter. The Rockets were at 36 percent.
  • Anybody else cringe at the Frisbee-catching halftime dogs? When the one does the back flip while catching it, I always feel like the little thing is gonna break its neck.
  • Up next: Houston again on Saturday.

-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
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...
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