Thunder 95, Hornets 85
Tidbits from the Thunder’s victory at New Orleans on Wednesday night:
- On Tuesday night, after recording their fourth victory in five nights, Thunder players somberly explained during post-game interviews in Memphis that this was no time to gloat. Point guard Russell Westbrook said it wasn’t even time to smile. On Wednesday night, OKC’s back-to-back-to-back, five-games-in-six-nights sweep had been completed with a 95-85 victory at New Orleans. Inside the smallest and hottest visitors’ locker room in the entire league, there still was no gloating. However, there were plenty of smiles. Westbrook included. No one popped champagne, of course, but for the first time all season, Thunder players let down their guard and simultaneously exhaled.
- One night earlier, Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha had a spirited conversation in French. Tonight, when a much happier Ibaka made a joke, his teammates laughed in a French accent.
- The 66-game regular season is only 18.2 percent complete, but OKC is off to a 10-2 start in the first 18 days. The Thunder’s final 54 games will be played in a span of 100 days, which is still hectic, but not ridiculously so.
- Reserve forward Nick Collison leads the team in ice consumption. After every game, both knees are wrapped in ice and both feet are soaked in ice water. Calculated in his responses while evaluating Thunder performances, there was a bit more pep in Collison’s tone Wednesday. “I was proud of our team tonight. It’s not easy (winning five straight in six nights). It wasn’t the prettiest game, but you saw a lot out of our team when we fought back from a bad start and a couple of rough stretches throughout the game. We had a muddy start. We didn’t have the extra juice and I think it’s probably just the schedule, but we got out of it.”
- The Thunder trailed by 10 in the first quarter and understandably could have collapsed given their fatigue from a hectic schedule. Collison then revealed the difference between this year’s team and last year’s team that was good enough to win the Northwest Division title by five games and advance to the Western Conference Finals: “In the past, that’s a game we would have stayed in a funk the whole game,” Collison said. “It was good for us to snap out of it.”
- Kevin Durant is on his way to becoming a complete nightmare for opponents. He’s making an effort to care as much about rebounding and passing as he does about scoring. In what areas has Durant improved? “He’s gotten stronger,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s growing up in front of our eyes. He catches the ball where he wants it now. He doesn’t get pushed off. He didn’t want to get pushed off (before), but he wasn’t strong enough to hold his ground. I think he’s doing a better job of doing that. He can score in different spots easier and that’s the most important thing. I think he’s really seeing the floor better. He’s able to make passes to open guys. He’s never been a selfish player. He’s able to see it quicker before the play closes up on him. He’s passing the ball very well.”
- Durant, when asked if he was worried his team was too tired to come back from a double-digit deficit against the Hornets: “I never worry about our guys, man. We always come to play. They hit us right in the mouth early and made more plays than us. They played hard, man.”
- On Tuesday at Memphis, Sefolosha went 4 for 4 from the field and 3 for 3 from 3-point range. On Wednesday, Sefolosha didn’t take his first shot until midway through the third quarter, which was a missed 3-pointer. What took so long for Sefolosha to pull the trigger? “My teammates didn’t want me to shoot,” deadpanned Sefolosha, who is shooting 58.8 percent on 3-pointers. Asked to explain his new-found shooting success, Sefolosha said: “It is rhythm and it’s confidence, that’s the main thing. I work hard on it and I know I can knock them down. It’s a matter of doing it in the game. I know my role has evolved as far as my offensive game and I just try to fit that role to the best, you know. I know I have to knock down those 3-pointers to help the team.”
- More stone hands from Ibaka. Two second-quarter passes from Durant directly underneath the basket went uncaught. Late in the third quarter, Ibaka mishandled a pass underneath from Westbrook.
- Though rookie Reggie Jackson has played well – better than expected, in fact – there are still too many times the ball gets sticky in his hands. Jackson no doubt is athletic, but no matter how quick he is, he’s not quicker than good ball movement. Nazr Mohammed shouted for Jackson to get the play started quicker, and to get on the proper side of the court.
- An odd sight with 1:37 left in the second quarter: Westbrook, who never admits fouling anybody at anytime, raised his hand when Chris Kaman was fouled in the act of shooting. Thing of it is, the foul was called on Ibaka.
- The Hornets shot 1 for 16 from 3-point range. That’s 6.3 percent.
- The Thunder often draws well on the road, but not this round trip – 13,601 in the FedExForum and 13,565 in New Orleans Arena.
- JOHN ROHDE
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