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Thunder 99, Pistons 79

by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 23, 2012

Nuggets from my notebook from Monday’s win over Detroit.

  • I was convinced when Westbrook threaded the needled with an on-the-run, behind-the-back pass to Kevin Durant to make it 8-2.
  • Not very often two Top 10-worth plays by the same team are turned in within the first 2 1/2 minutes of a game. Westbrook did just that.
  • Westbrook on his two early highlights: “I just tried to keep the excitement in the game. I just tried to keep the fans involved and keep my teammates involved as well.”
  • If you ask me, this was by far Serge Ibaka’s best game of the season. He started off providing weak side defense at the rim and his presence was a big part of the Thunder shutting down the Pistons’ attack early. Ibaka then rebounded like a mad man. Only thing he didn’t do tonight was knock down shots, which (I may be in the minority on this) you can live with when he has nights like this. Ibaka finished with a game-high 10 boards and a season-high tying five blocks.
  • In his last three games, Ibaka has now pulled down 29 boards and blocked 12 shots. Said Westbrook: “He’s back to protecting the paint and rebounding. In the last five or six games, he’s gotten people scared to come in the paint. I’d be scared if I was them, too.”
  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks started Kendrick Perkins on Greg Monroe and Ibaka on Ben Wallace. I wasn’t sure about that one at first because of Monroe’s athleticism. But it was a brilliant matchup. Perk’s superior man defense limited Monroe’s effectiveness, and with Ibaka on a non-factor offensively in Wallace he was allowed to roam and provide that great weak side help. Well done by Brooks.
  • Worst part of this game was Nick Collison not returning after halftime due to a sprained left ankle. He’s listed as day-to-day. A shame, really, because you never want to see bad things like an injury happen in a blowout.
  • Detroit made its first shot. The Pistons then missed 15 of their final 17 in the opening period.
  • Westbrook’s post-up game looked much better tonight. I’m nowhere near ready to say that it’s a good option yet, largely because he abused a rookie in Brandon Knight. But the first move Russ hit Knight with, a Dream shake-like fake that led to a smooth jumper was jaw-dropping no matter who it was scored against. It was by far the most impressive move we’ve seen out of Westbrook in the post. Give me more of that regularly and I can live with Westbrook on the block.
  • KD missed the Dirk twice tonight. He’s like 0 for his last four on the Dirk…and I’m still not sure he’s hit one at home.
  • The Thunder scored 15 of its 19 fast break points in the first quarter. There have been entire games this season in which the Thunder hasn’t had 15 fast break points.
  • How sweet is home for James Harden? He scored his 18th points with 4:52 remaining in the second quarter. That total was more than his point production in any one game on the Thunder’s recent three-game road trip. Harden finished with 24, two shy of his career-high, on 8-for-11 shooting.
  • Thanks to Harden coming back to earth, the Thunder finally made some 3-pointers. OKC was 7-for-16 tonight, and Harden was 5-for-6. In the previous two games, the Thunder was 8-for-26 from deep.
  • I don’t know what was said or done, but Perk picked up what looked like a silly technical foul tonight. It’s his sixth of the season. Remember, you get suspended for a game after 13. Bad decision by Perk.
  • Someone had to remind me of this after the game. But in my weekly chat, a reader said it was nice to see Perk slow down on the techs. My response: “Way to jinx it. he’s now guaranteed to get one tonight.”
  • Barry Sanders Sr. and Jr. were both at this ballgame. I could be wrong, but I don’t think they were sitting together. Odd.
  • Although it was a blowout at this point, Thabo Sefoloshahad the play of game. When he didn’t give up on a 3-on-1 Pistons fast break on the last possession of the first half, he saved a basket by blocking Jonas Jerebko’s shot and preserving the Thunder’s 27-point lead. A side benefit to that play was that it ensured the Pistons’ 33 points would set a new opponent low for points in any half.
  • Brooks on Thabo’s block: “Nothing Thabo does surprises me anymore. NBA players usually don’t stop a 3-on-1 break. That’s just Thabo’s will and his determination to play every possession every second while he’s on the floor.”
  • Hustle aside, Sefolosha’s rejection on Tayshaun Prince on the previous Pistons possession was a much better block. Sefolosha came flying out of nowhere and stuffed Prince when he thought he had a clear deuce. The best part? The Thunder’s lead was so large at the time (29 points) that the crowd had began sitting on its hands. That meant it was quiet enough inside the arena to actually hear Sefolosha’s palm slap the ball. Not often you hear that, even on Ibaka’s big blocks.
  • Durant had a play early in the third quarter that I’m not sure anyone in the arena fully appreciated. If you’re one of the ones who didn’t, you’ve become spoiled to how good the guy is and how amazing his development has been. It came at the 10-minute mark of the quarter. KD had a fast break opportunity. He had four options: 1) Pull up, 2) put his head down and barrel to the basket, 3) pass to a teammate, or 4) pull it out and wait for his troops. Two years ago, Durant would have opted for option two and lost the ball on his way to the rim. Last year, and heck, even at times this year, Durant would have pulled up and tried the trey. But Durant slowed up, read the defense and methodically knifed his way into the paint, where he drew the defense before whipping a pass to Ibaka for an easy dunk. It was a big-league play by a big-time player. I can only hope the fans didn’t take that for granted. While everyone seemingly wants to crown Durant as the game’s best player, it’s plays like that that Durant has had to learn how to make that is getting him closer to being able to lay claim to that title.
  • Westbrook doesn’t back down from ANYBODY. Late in the third quarter, Westbrook was subtly jawing at Ben Wallace. Not even Ron Artest wanted them problems!
  • I’m ready for Cole Aldrich to play. Nothing against Nazr Mohammed (OK, maybe a little something), but Aldrich looks ready for a larger role. I mean, how much better is he really going to get in practice. My gut says the backup center job belongs to Aldrich next season when Naz’s contract expires. But if I’m Brooks, why wait? Mohammed hasn’t been as consistent this year, and Aldrich seems to have an impact rebounding and on defense every time he gets minutes. I’d make the move.
  • Cameras for Durant’s movie were here tonight. They’ll be back Wednesday. I was told that whatever filming was done tonight was just crowd reaction. But for the most part, the crew was getting a feel for the arena for tomorrow’s shoot, when the real filming will be done and the extras will be used to get most of the B-roll.
  • Up next. The Hornets on Wednesday.

-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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