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Wizards 105, Thunder 102

by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 19, 2012

Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s loss at Washington.

  • Calm down. It’s just one game. Forget for a second who it was against. It was only one game, and only one ‘L’ will go down in the loss column. Don’t lose sight of that.
  • Having said that, it’s not good to get swept by the Wizards in the season series.
  • One thing snapped the Thunder’s seven-game winning streak — apathy. A few tried to deny that fact. They should have instead done themselves a favor and admitted it. Frankly, the Thunder took the Wizards lightly. It was as simple as that. To deny it only opens the possibility of it happening again.
  • Once the Thunder came out careless, it gave the Wizards a chance to keep it close. That gave Washington all the confidence it needed to continue to hang around and make things interesting. Bad, bad decision on the Thunder’s part. OKC should have approached this one like it did at least four others in the past: jump out to a big lead, keep the foot on the gas and rest up in the fourth quarter.
  • I thought that’s what would happen tonight. I thought the Thunder would come out focused and ready to put a hurtin’ on the Wizards. Silly me. But I blame Kevin Durant. Not for the loss, of course, but for duping me into believing the Thunder would bring the right level intensity. It was at Tuesday’s practice that Durant was asked about how the best team in the league could get up for the worst team in the league. “We greedy,” Durant said. “We want to win every game we play.”
  • The moment you knew the Thunder wasn’t all there tonight is when Kendrick Perkinsbacked down from Wizards forward Andray Blatche.As Perk was making an offensive move midway through the second quarter, his elbows made contact with Blatche twice, once in the chest and once in the face. Blatche had grown tired of it and got in Perkins’ face. Perk didn’t do a thing, which some might say is the smart thing to do. But we all know that’s not Perk. He’s the instigator, the bully, the enforcer. This time, he allowed Blatche to get in his face, chest to chest, and never responded. He actually waited for Blatche to finish and walk away.
  • The battle between Perk and Blatche actually began on the previous possession. Durant was trying to inbound the ball to Perk (seemed backwards to me), and Blatche was bodying up on Perk to prevent a clean inbounds pass. Perk flashed a smirk, scrunching up his face to show the universal sign for disrespect when a player thinks he can’t be guarded. But Blatche stole the ball on the inbounds pass and it led to a one-man fast break that Blatche finished with a layup. Had this been playground ball, after the ensuing mix-up one could say that Blatche got into Perk’s head then stole his heart.
  • If you’re griping about the last-second shot KD took and, more specifically, Thunder coach Scott Brooks’ play-calling, do yourself a favor and stop. It was the exact same play Brooks drew up that won the game against Dallas. Only difference is the Wizards played it tougher by fighting over the double screen, and KD missed the shot.
  • Rebounding is a problem. It didn’t take all 15 of these games to realize that. But after tonight, it certainly looks like the Thunder is now in serious trouble. The Wizards, the 2-12 couldn’t beat a bowl of eggs Wizards, out-rebounded the Thunder 52-43 and 19-6 on the offensive end, tying an opponent high for offensive boards. The Thunder has now given up at least 10 offensive boards in each of its 15 games. Worse yet, the Thunder is yielding 13.3 offensive boards a night, the most in the league.
  • All these opponent rebounds are killing the Thunder’s defense, which generally has been solid prior to the shots going up. They’re giving teams second chance scoring opportunities and putting them on the foul line additional times. They’re also hurting the Thunder’s offense, as teams prevent easy run-out opportunities which the Thunder destroys opponents with.
  • Washington previously had out-rebounded only one opponent all season.
  • Before the game, Wizards coach Flip Saunders called the Thunder’s four-man post rotation of Perk, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed the best in the league. Then Saunders watched his duo of Blatche and McGee out-rebound the Thunder’s foursome 21-18. Blatche and McGee combined for more offensive rebounds (nine) than the Thunder did as a team (six).
  • Shooting guard Daequan Cook got a team-leading two offensive boards. Enough said.
  • The offense ain’t working either. Not in the sense of the entire season, but more so in the sense of stretches of every game and, at times, entire games. For the fifth time, the Thunder finished with more turnovers (21) than assists (15). And the imbalanced scoring is becoming more and more alarming. Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 68 percent of the Thunder scoring. Nothing good can come from that. Defenses that can design their game plan around stopping two guys have a relatively easy assignment. Slowing the Thunder’s two All-Stars is still a challenge. But if it’s essentially a game of 2-on-10, who you taking?
  • Consider this. KD and Russ combined to score 69 points on 25-of-50 shooting. The remaining three starters scored eight points on 4-for-8 shooting. Something’s wrong with that picture, because 50-percent shooting is 50-percent shooting, no matter who’s an All-Star and who’s not.
  • James Harden stunk it up again on the road. I pointed it out in my nuggets after the Boston game, and mentioned it in my notebook in Wednesday’s paper. It. Is. An Issue. Whatever Harden is doing on the road, he needs to stop. Whatever routine he has, he needs to change it. It sounds strange, but on most nights Harden is the most important Thunder player on the roster. When he scores and scores efficiently, the Thunder has a three-headed monster with him, Westbrook and Durant. When he doesn’t, well, the Thunder loses to the Wizards. Harden is now barely shooting 38 percent on the road.
  • Westbrook was fantastic throughout much of this one. He flat out carried the Thunder offensively. Without Westbrook, the Thunder might have gotten blown out in the first half OKC was so bad tonight.
  • It was pointed out to me after the game that in three games Westbrook has scored 89 points against Wizards guard John Wall. For you math geniuses, that’s a 30-point average.
  • The Wizards shot 43 free throws! I don’t have to tell you that’s an opponent season high. The previous high was Portland’s 36 on Jan. 3, which happened to be the last time the Thunder loss. Washington attempted 20 free throws in the final 3 1/2 minutes. That’s incredible. I know most of them were taken because of intentional fouls by the Thunder as it tried to save a win. I don’t care. That many free throws in that little time is stunning.
  • How many shots rattled out on KD tonight? Seemed like 72.
  • Wizards fans booed Blatche during pre-game intros. Then the crowd booed the team throughout the first quarter. The Wizards were down 12-5 and the home fans were booing the breaks off them. I could not believe it.
  • I’ve grown sick and tired of hearing about the Thunder’s culture. I might gag every time I hear it after three-plus seasons on this beat. But after just two days in D.C., I grew 25,000 times more respect for how the Thunder runs its organization. The Wizards are a mess. No direction. No leadership. No plan. No purpose. No structure. No organization. No class. No character. No principles. No commitment. No sacrifice. No pride. No discipline. Those who know me know how tough that is for me to have to write. There are good people in the organization, at most levels. Just nowhere near enough of them in the right places. Be grateful, Oklahoma City. What the Thunder has built goes above and beyond the status quo.
  • Former Thunder forward Jeff Green attended tonight’s game. He sat courtside and seemed to be in good spirits after undergoing open heart surgery last week. He declined my interview request but said when I asked if he had anything to say to his fans in Oklahoma “Tell them I said hello.” Green was in the Thunder’s locker room after the game and it was clear that everyone missed him and was happy to see him.
  • Speaking of surgery, Eric Maynor had successful knee surgery. He’s expected to make a full recovery and be back next season.
  • The kid Chris Singleton out of Florida State started with some pretty darn good D on Durant. Saunders said before the game that he wanted the rookie to make KD “uncomfortable” and force him into turnovers. Mission accomplished. Saunders also said KD would score 30. Right again! Durant finished with 33. It was KD’s fifth 30-point game this season and his first since his four-game streak of 30 point games to start the season ended on New Year’s Eve. But it was without a doubt his toughest 30-point game this year. Singleton played only 13 minutes (why, I don’t know.) and crowded KD and used his length to be an annoyance. With his quick hands, Singleton was able to even recover once beat and slap the ball out of KD’s hands on drives, knocking the ball off Durant’s body to give the Wizards possession. A big part of Durant’s seven turnovers were a result of Singleton.
  • Offensive fouls were a thing tonight, too, and led to some of KD’s giveaways. The Thunder committed seven offensive fouls, with five players committing at least one. Durant had two charges in the fourth quarter, and Ibaka was whistled for two offensive fouls as well.
  • Up next. At New Jersey 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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