Thunder 101, Grizzlies 94
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win over Memphis.
- Kevin Durant is indeed The Real McCoy.
- The way KD took over the game tonight just leaves you shaking your head and admiring his greatness.
- Durant scored 16 of his game-high 36 points in the final quarter. It was one less than the Grizzlies had as a team!!
- More impressively, 14 of KD’s 16 fourth-quarter points came in the final five minutes with neither team ahead by more than five points. Those are all clutch-time points, folks.
- Memphis coach Lionel Hollins on KD: “He’s a great player. I mean, that’s all you can say. He’s a great player. He made great plays and great shots down the stretch. He took over the game. He’s going to be one of the all-time greats if he stays healthy.”
- I said this tonight on one of our award-winning video recaps (you don’t really believe that do you?). I was more impressed with Durant’s rebounding in the second half than his scoring down the stretch. The points will be what’s remembered, and rightfully so. But KD’s rebounding is more of a testament to his development into an all-around player. Better yet, a cold-blooded killer. He had zero at the half. He finished with 10, including four in the fourth quarter. It helped the Thunder take control of the boards in the decisive fourth quarter after Memphis manhandled OKC for the first three.
- OK, back to KD’s scoring. Dude had missed all five of his 3-pointers before burying perhaps the biggest shot of the night with 53.8 seconds remaining. Said KD: “That 3, as I was shooting, it looked good. But I was missing. So it was just a matter of time before one of those were going to go down for me.”
- Durant said he liked the 3 more than the beautiful, off-balance J he hit over Rudy Gay with 22 seconds left. “Because I had missed five of them that looked good,” Durant said. “But that one finally went in for me and it was a critical part of the game. So it was a big shot.”
- Consider this the second time Durant has stolen shine from a teammate. James Harden was about to be the player of this game before Durant decided to turn deadly. Harden ignited a 22-10 run that turned an eight-point deficit at the start of the fourth period into a four-point lead with 3:14 left to play. Over that run, Harden scored or assisted on 14 of the Thunder’s points.
- When it’s a close game in the fourth quarter, I don’t like to see much of anything out of the Thunder’s offense except the ball in Harden’s hands. That’s the only time I can relax. And it’s the only time I know something good will happen.
- One thing I didn’t like about Harden tonight. He got the Durant treatment by the Grizzlies after getting hot and didn’t respond that well. Tony Allen switched onto him, and Memphis even sent a few doubles his way. But when Allen began playing more physically in denying the ball, Harden couldn’t get open. Keep an eye on that. If teams start doing that, the Thunder’s saving grace is gone.
- Daequan Cook got the start again for the injured Thabo Sefolosha and played his tail off…defensively! Cook started the game 0-for-4 from the field but was a pest at the other end. He blocked a putback attempt by Allen, broke up an alley-oop intended for Gay, boxed out Marc Gasol so well he pushed him all the way under the net and blocked another shot by Allen. And that was all in the first five minutes. Cook’s final line was five points on 2-for-7 shooting with seven rebounds and three blocked shots in 32 minutes. Be honest. You’d love it if Kendrick Perkins provided that production.
- Perk’s actual line: five points, one rebound and one blocked shot in 30 minutes. Insert Scott Brooks‘ favorite line here.
- Is Cook making a case to remain in the starting lineup even when Sefolosha returns? Some already think he deserves it. And as I wrote after the Mavs game, at least one player thinks he’s a good fit in the first string. I doubt it will ever happen. But Cook has quietly become a much better defender than he was when he first got here. And, although I don’t know where he ranks among other shooting guards, his rebounding appears to be above average. And we all know his shooting gives the first five a different dynamic. Could it at least be worth Brooks considering?
- Brooks on Cook: “D.C. was all over the ball. He was all over the floor. It’s a nice luxury to have one of the best 3-point shooters play the defense that he plays. He plays hard. He’s always in the right spot. He’s a great help side defender.”
- It seems Cook will get some more time to present his case to crack the first five. As our man John Rohde reports, Sefolosha will be sidelined a tad longer.
- So much for Perk chilling out on the techs. One game after he told me he would, he was whistled for a double technical foul after getting tangled up with Gasol. It was Perk’s ninth of the season. He’s now four shy of an automatic one-game suspension. With 44 games left, I’m not sure Perk has enough chill in him.
- Was that Perk on that early reverse layup of Dr. J? (Too far? Yeah, definitely too far.)
- What an awful opening three quarters the Thunder played. What, you thought I was going to overlook it? The Thunder won this game thanks only to a terrific fourth quarter in which it outscored Memphis 32-17.
- The first 36 minutes were the worse I’ve seen the Thunder play this season. I mean it. OKC didn’t even look interested in being on the court. The Thunder’s defensive rebounding was disgusting (Memphis had 14 offensive boards). OKC gave up way too many second-chance points (19). There were sloppy passes being made all over the court. Turnovers galore (15 leading to 22 Grizzlies points). Missed free throws (20 of 25 through three but just 11-of-16 with 4:16 left in the third). A lane violation (by Perk, wiping out a KD freebie) and some terrible transition defense.
- When Brooks admits his team didn’t play with effort, you know it was bad. “We were a little flat for some reason,” Brooks said. “We usually don’t play as sluggish as we played tonight.”
- Harden when asked why the first three quarters were nothing like the last one: “That’s a great question. We were trying to figure the same thing out.”
- Boy, that fourth quarter was might impressive, though. Don’t overlook the defense that helped decide the outcome. The Thunder held the Grizzlies to 5-for-18 shooting, blocked five shots and turned Memphis over five times. OKC also kept Memphis off the free throw line, holding the Grizzlies to just six attempts in the final period. Only four of those came in the final five minutes.
- If I had a Fave Five of NBA players, I think Tony Allen would be in it. He is one tough sucker.
- I could have sworn Allen was about to fight somebody tonight. First it looked like it would be Russell Westbrook. Then it looked like it might be Harden. In between, it looked like it would be O.J. Mayo.
- Did you see KD’s left handed jump hook attempt tonight. I don’t think I even want to see him add that to his arsenal. That’s scary.
- The M-V-P chants for KD as he stood at the stripe with 17.4 seconds left…fitting.
- Harden on KD’s clutchness tonight: “When he gets it going like that, you just got to sit back and watch. He made every shot tonight at the end of the game. He led us to victory.”
- Y’all like the man-leggings that’s sweeping the Thunder roster? Westbrook, KD, Perk and Reggie Jackson all wore them tonight. Most guys wear an even longer, tighter version of them under their clothes after games. But I’ve never bothered to ask why. I asked Nick Collison tonight. He told me they’re supposed to help with recovery. Then he said, “But I don’t know if they helping during the game.”
- It seems the Thunder gets better after every game against the Grizzlies. They’re a tough, hard-nosed, never-say-die team. They’re physical. They play smart and together (at times). And they’re extremely well-coached. It’s always a battle between these two. Said Brooks: “When you play against them, you know that you have to play tough. They step up to that level. So hopefully we take something with us to the next game.”
- Up next. At San Antonio on Saturday.
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