Thunder 111, Blazers 107
Nuggets from my notebook from Monday’s win at Portland.
- Kevin Durant said the Thunder remembered some trash talking by Blazers players after they won by 10 in Oklahoma City on Jan. 3. “It was a lot of trash talking after that first game with them,” Durant said.
- When asked to elaborate, Durant toned it down but did provide a few more details. “It wasn’t too offensive. Of course, they said they thought they were the better team; they’re the best team in the West. All of that stuff, which is cool for them to say. They beat us and we had to take it. But I think that ever since then we’ve gotten better, they’ve gotten better and tonight was just going to be a battle between two tough teams and I’m glad we came out on top.”
- Kendrick Perkins on the trash talk: “Oh, we don’t forget stuff like that. But we ain’t about to respond, either. I wish they would have had their whole starting five in so they wouldn’t have no excuses about the game tonight. But we don’t forget nothing.”
- I don’t know whether that block by LaMarcus Aldridge was a goaltend or not. Even the in-arena replays that I saw were inconclusive. Many have said on Twitter that it was clearly a clean block. If so, there’s obviously going to be a large segment of fans who insist the Thunder got a gift. I can’t disagree. The Blazers probably would have won. But it was a bang-bang play (when I saw it live I thought it hit the backboard first) and you can’t fault the officials if they got it wrong. That’s the breaks.
- KD on the goaltend call: “I got it up there quick enough and it hit the glass first and it was a goaltend. So it was a good play for us.”
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks on the goaltend call: “I didn’t look at it. I saw it live. The referees…it’s a hard game. We won the game. I’m happy we won the game.”
- This was a great win. By far the best of the season. It wasn’t always pretty. But when you’re the best (by record), you’re going to get everyone’s best, and it’s going to sometimes be hard-nosed, physical contest. That’s what this was. And the fact that the Thunder came into the Rose Garden, where the Blazers had only lost once in 12 games, and slayed a team that was whupping opponents by an average of 18.3 points in their building, speaks volumes.
- Durant on the win: “It was one of those wins where we come back in the locker room a little bit emotional.”
- People tend to get a little carried away with the superlatives after games like this. So pardon me if what’s coming fits that bill. The defense the Thunder played on the game-clinching Blazers possession was the best I’ve ever seen from OKC. It was a big-time, dominant defensive effort. Everyone did what they needed to do. Russell Westbrook was pressuring Jamal Crawford. Perk was bodying Aldridge. Serge Ibaka provided great help. And Perk got the big block. You won’t find a more impressive 24 seconds of defense. Anywhere.
- Perk on the sequence: “It’s just talking and communication. You’ve got to give credit to the coaching staff. They called the play out. Russ kept pursuing. And you just never give up on the play. You especially can’t give a guy like Crawford a clean look at the basket. He’s known for hitting (game-tying shots) and game-winners.”
- Perk’s defense on Aldridge in the overtime period was as good as it gets. Perk held L.A. to two points on 0-for-3 shooting. Said Perkins: “He wore out himself. He hit some tough shots early…But I think he wore out through the fourth and overtime. The first three quarters, he had his legs.”
- Brooks on Perk’s D: “I thought Perk was the difference-maker. It’s kind of weird to say that when the guy he was guarding had 39, but he made him work for every shot. His activity, his rebounding, his defense, his toughness I thought won this game.”
- This was a great night for Perkins. As I blogged earlier Monday and put in Tuesday’s paper, Perkins admitted he’s struggling. But tonight, he had 10 rebounds, scored six points on 3-for-7 shooting and, of course, had the stellar late-game D on L.A. This could be the type of performance that changes his fortune. Perk said so himself. “It was huge,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep going. It said I had 10 (rebounds). I thought I had 12. I’m just going to try to build and keep going from there. Stay motivated. Stay positive. Keep working.”
- Perk was absolutely laying out cats tonight. He set a mean back pick on Aldridge (offensive foul), ran through Batum (offensive foul, possibly a flop) and crushed Wallace on a screen for KD. The next time Brooks talks about things that don’t show up in the stat sheet (aside from turnovers for offensive fouls), go back and watch this game.
- Aldridge made his first shot on Perk, and I thought to myself, ‘This can’t be good for the old confidence.’
- Then Aldridge kept making shots. Again and again and again and again. I started counting the ways he scored.
- Fadeaway on Perk, shaking him with a jab and blowing by on the baseline.
- Driving layup past Perk high off the glass, over the outstretched arm of Ibaka.
- An up-and-under/drop step on Nick Collison.
- A jump hook on Perk.
- A turnaround jumper on Collison, spinning right.
- A turnaround jumper on Perk, spinning left.
- A spin-out lob against Perk, catching a pass from Marcus Camby.
- A mid-range jumper from the top of the key out of a pick-and-pop.
- Needless to say, L.A. can put the ball in the hole. Brooks admitted at Monday morning’s shoot-around that he voted for L.A. to be an All-Star reserve. Perk called him an All-Star, too. (The reserves will be announced Thursday).
- I was becoming concerned with the lack of fluidity from the Thunder’s offense in the fourth quarter. OKC was just 8-of-21 in the final period of regulation, and it was, at times, some extremely ugly ball. There was no rhyme, no reason and no real effective attack. It was close to becoming the story of this game. Then the defensive stepped up even more when it counted most and sealed the win.
- The Thunder held the Blazers to 1-of-9 shooting in overtime.
- Westbrook saved the Thunder with that big block on Nicolas Batum at the end of regulation. How Batum got so free remains a mystery to me. But credit Westbrook for coming up huge. Of course, Blazers fans wanted a foul called. Durant on the block: “That was big. He had a clear lane to the rim. Russ stayed parallel. He jumped up and avoided getting the foul call on him and he made a tremendous block.”
- Overlooked shot of the game: Durant’s corner 3 with 2:06 remaining in regulation. And, boy, was it a tough, tough shot. KD ran off a baseline screen, caught a pass in the corner, turned and fired in rhythm and buried it. I’m convinced that if that shot doesn’t fall, the Thunder goes on to lose this game. The Blazers were on a 17-6 run and turned an 89-83 deficit into a 101-95 lead. Big-time shot.
- Ibaka brought a ton of energy. This is the type of performance everyone would like to see more often. He was rebounding, blocking shots, scoring on putbacks and providing nice all-around hustle to keep the Thunder on top in the first half. He finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks and swore after the game that he should have had seven blocks and 16 rebounds. Oddly enough, it was Ibaka who picked up the slack for Westbrook in the first half with the All-Star point guard was struggling offensively.
- One sequence summed up Ibaka’s energy. It was the two straight blocks he had in the third quarter, first rejected Aldridge, then swatting Crawford following a Thunder turnover. It’s too bad the Thunder didn’t get anything out of those.
- Westbrook picked it up in the third, though, scoring 12 points mostly on easy transition dunks. It ignited him and put the Thunder ahead by as many as 12.
- I’ve got to say this about Ibaka, though. Westbrook would have had a triple-double if Ibaka could catch consistently. Russ finished with 28 points, 11 rebound and eight assists. But there was a possession late in the first quarter in which Russ drove and dropped off a nice, not perfect but nice, pass to Ibaka. The ball went right through Ibaka’s hands and squirted out of bounds. Had he caught it, he would have had an easy dunk. There were a few of those tonight.
- Let’s also not overlook KD’s defense tonight on Gerald Wallace. Durant held Wallace to four points on 2-for-9 shooting with just five rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes. Said Brooks: “I thought he was defensive-minded from the start. Wallace kind of had his way in Oklahoma, and Kevin took the challenge and made him take a bunch of tough shots.”
- Just before the horn sounded to start the second half, the Blazers showed a league-wide top 10 plays countdown on the big screen. Of course, Blake Griffin’s dunk on Perk was No. 1. But here’s the kicker. Perk was on the bench, seated right next to Durant, watching. Right after the replay of the flush KD turned to Perk and said something in his ear. I know Perk has got to be tired of seeing that by now.
- Apparently, one Portland reporter thought it was in poor taste by Durant to dunk the ball in the final seconds. He asked KD about it. Durant’s response: “I didn’t want to chance it. Maybe I was going to miss a free throw. So I just wanted to go in there and get two for sure points.”
- Collison picked up a charge tonight on Wallace. I feel like I haven’t written that nearly as much this season.
- Anyone notice how James Harden and KD waved off Reggie Jackson twice in the second quarter and brought the ball up themselves? No? Go back and replay the first period and pay close attention…That’s why having a rookie backup point guard isn’t the worse thing. He’s not being asked to lead the second unit.
- One thing I’m getting sick of from RJ. Homeboy dribbles like he’s still in college with a 35-second shot clock. Make a move, man!!!
- The skip pass was back tonight! Harden to Daequan Cook. I love it.
- I’ll make this quick. Ignore the Sonics fans behind the Thunder bench and throughout the arena. Who cares that they’re there? Who cares who they’re rooting for. Oklahoma City has a team, and it’s the best in the league right now. Stop majoring on the minor.
- Rubber Boy was the halftime act. I can’t stand him. I wish he was banned.
- I counted two times that the Blazers switched to a zone, once midway through the first period and once late in the third. I could be way off on my count. But those were the only two times I noticed it. Portland seemed to get in it for one possession and then get right out of it. I never can understand why teams do that. Give it a chance and it just might work.
- Up next. At Golden State on Tuesday.
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