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Thunder 108, Spurs 96

by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 8, 2012

Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s win over San Antonio.

  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks made an interesting subtle change to his substitution pattern. It was very minor. He sent Nick Collison to the scorer’s table without James Harden. Usually the two check in together. Tonight, Collison was on his own when he subbed in at 4:49 in the first quarter. And he replaced Kendrick Perkins, not Serge Ibaka.
  • Brooks when I asked about the tweak: “We have some luxuries with some of our rotations, because Kevin (Durant) can play 2s, 3s, and 4s. And a few guys can play multiple positions. So, at times, I try to muck up the lineups just to cause some confusion. But I like all of our guys at different spots. I don’t like to keep them at one spot…It was nothing to read into. It was just the flow of the game, something different.”
  • Harden got off the bench to report to the scorer’s table 29 seconds after Collison checked in. So that’s why it wasn’t much of a change. The next whistle, however, didn’t come until 3:57. But the biggest difference was Harden came in for Ibaka instead of Thabo Sefolosha. That gave the Thunder a lineup of Russell Westbrook, Harden, Sefolosha, Durant and Collison. Don’t think we’ve seen much of that.
  • The reason the lineups were so interesting to watch tonight was because of the season-ending injury to Eric Maynor. It’s going to be interesting to see how Brooks handles his rotations from here out. What’s so great about it for the Thunder is that there still are tons of options. For now, it looks like things will remain the same, only with rookie Reggie Jackson filling in for Maynor.
  • Harden on the Maynor injury: “This whole season now is for Eric.”
  • Jackson told me before the game that he’s never been in the position of benefiting from a teammate’s misfortune. But he said he’s going to attack the situation with confidence. “It’s definitely a tough loss,” Jackson said. “Everybody knows how tight-knit this group is. It’s kind of like family. So it feels like we lost a brother. Somebody has to step up in his position and I guess that’s what I have to try to do; go out there and be me and hopefully I can do enough for this team to keep winning.”
  • Jackson was good in his first action as the primary backup. He played with poise and was under control throughout. He took the open shot when it was there, drove when a lane was available and was solid staying with his man defensively, even against speedster T.J. Ford. Impressive performance by the rookie. He scored 11 points with four assists and two turnovers in 23 minutes.
  • In typical rookie fashion, Jackson made a great play one second and a bonehead one the next. He hit a 3 off a feed from Durant with seven seconds remaining in the third, and then he bit on a pump fake by Ford at the foul line, skying to try to block the shot attempt and ultimately landing on Ford, who got two free throws out of it with 0.6 tenths of a second left in the period. But Jackson knew he messed up before his feet even hit the ground. He grimaced and said ‘my bad’ to the bench. He was more disappointed with himself at the decision than anybody else could have been with him. I took that to be a great sign of his basketball IQ.
  • Two minutes into the second quarter, Jackson was sucking wind. Hard. And that was after the first quarter break. Might take him a few outings to get into game shape. He fought through it though and even hit a runner shortly after sucking on all the oxygen he could get.
  • I’m wondering if Westbrook is ever going to get back to the level we saw last season. He had 13 points on 13 shots tonight and finished with just five assists in 24 minutes. We’re 10 games in and Russ has only had about two really good games. At what point does this become an issue? (Note: I’m not saying it should be. I’m simply asking the question. Because, clearly, he’s not the same player.)
  • Durant just keeps getting better and better. Now he’s flirting with triple doubles? C’mon now. That’s not even fair. He had 21 points, 10 boards and seven assists in 28 minutes. Had he gotten those final three helpers, it would have been KD’s first career triple double. His passing obviously has improved and he looks much more sure of how to find the open man.
  • A perfect 10-for-10 for KD at the stripe tonight. It was only his third time this season getting at least 10 free throw attempts and his second time making 10.
  • What more can I say about Harden? OK, I found something. He’s now a 20-point scoring threat each night. Between how he’s shooting the 3-ball right now and his knack for drawing fouls, Harden can erupt on any given night.
  • Collison recorded his first double-double of the season tonight, and he can thank Matt Bonner. Collison absolutely abused Bonner on the offensive end, torching him for eight of his 10 points in a 2 minute, 14 second span early in the second quarter. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich couldn’t yank Bonner quick enough.
  • Remember that game against San Antonio last year where Bonner killed the Thunder from 3? The Thunder just learned that its best defense for Bonner is Collison’s offense.
  • Harden had such a gorgeous driving layup on one possession in the first half it made Perk get off the bench and give the stank face. You know, the one where someone does something so nasty you can only scrunch up your face and shake your head? That’s what Harden’s drive made Perk do.
  • Can the Thunder please stop posting up Westbrook? Please!!! What’s the point? He backs down as best he can and then, without fail, takes a turnaround jumper or a fadeaway. Am I the only one who sees this as counterproductive? Posting up for a drop step leading to a layup? High percentage. Posting up to turn out and have an average shooter shoot a jumper? Mind-boggling. Westbrook made a jumper out of the post tonight, and I’m afraid that will only encourage Brooks and Westbrook to keep going back to it.
  • The two-man game with Harden and Collison is my favorite thing in the Thunder’s playbook. Something good generally happens out of that and nine times out of 10 it’s a thing of beauty. Their chemistry (which I’ll write more on here soon) is incredible, and they know how to make each other better. The fake give, spin and go by Collison wowed the crowd tonight.
  • Tim Duncan is old. What’s Tony Parker’s excuse?
  • Perk got into it with DeJuan Blair tonight. The two stood toe-to-toe and stared each other down. After the game the Spurs beat writer came over to me and asked if I talked to Perk about it. And you know what? It never crossed my mind to. And you know why? When doesn’t Perk get into it with someone. As our man Berry Tramel said, “If Perk didn’t get into it, then we’d be asking him what’s going on?”
  • Pop on Manu Ginobili: “Nobody serves Manu’s role, just like nobody can serve Kevin’s role. You get those kind of elite players, you don’t fill their shoes.”
  • With so much discussion about whether Harden should start or not, I decided to ask Pop, the king of keeping his All-Star coming off the bench, about the strategy. I’ll post his comments here Monday.
  • The Thunder completed a sweep of its three in three, becoming the first team to do that this season. Four others tried. Four others failed. During the shortened 1999 season, there were 64 three in threes played. Only eight sweeps.
  • I’m sensing a trap game on Tuesday at Memphis. The Thunder got up for these last three. You could tell. They breezed through them (for the most part) and it would be natural to let your guard down in the next game. Keep an eye on that Grizzlies game.
  • If you spot 22 typos in this post, or if I’ve happened to say the Thunder beat the Bucks or anything else wacky, you’ll have to excuse me. The three in three definitely has caught up to me. These first 10 games feel like 20 right about now.
  • Up next. At Memphis on Tuesday.

-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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