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Thunder 124, Nuggets 118

by Darnell Mayberry Published: February 20, 2012

Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s win over the Nuggets.

  • It took Kevin Durant 4 1/2 years to record his first 50-point game. It’s going to take some time for that to sink in for me.
  • The story in this one was the Thunder did something no other team in NBA history has ever done. That is have a player with 40 points, a player with 50 points and a player with a triple double. Russell Westbrook had 40 points. Serge Ibaka had a triple dip with 14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocked shots.
  • Durant and Westbrook became the first duo to score 40-plus points in the same game since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in February of ’96.
  • Ibaka’s 11 blocks were a career high and set a new franchise record.
  • Here’s something our man Berry Tramel pointed out to me that is truly amazing about this game. Nobody else on the Thunder played well. Think about that for a second. That’s hard to do in this kind of barn burner.
  • Denver is a really good team. You can’t take anything away from the Nuggets. They play hard and they never quit. But this one shouldn’t have come down to this. The Nuggets came in missing Nene, Danilo Gallinari and Rudy Fernandez. OKC should have won by 15.
  • Nobody’s going to want to hear this, but this game is a classic example of why Charles Barkley is always bagging on the Thunder. It was perhaps the most entertaining game this season. No doubt about that. But for the Thunder to struggle with an injury-plagued Nuggets team, playing on the tail end of a three-game road trip, and need overtime, at home, and a statistical feat that’s never been done in the history of the NBA doesn’t exactly scream championship caliber. Again, it was a great game. Tons of fun to watch. But it shouldn’t have come to this.
  • A lot of people already are using this game as proof that Durant and Westbrook can co-exist, saying ‘See! I told you so.” Slow down. It’s one game. In the regular season. Against an injury-plagued Nuggets team. I’m not saying they can’t co-exist. Not even close to suggesting that. But you’d be jumping the gun if you used this one instance as the final shred of evidence that there won’t be any issues down the road. Let’s wait and see what happens come playoff time, because there are clearly on-court issues that need to be ironed out.
  • Durant admitted after the game that him and Westbrook are improving in that department, though. “I think this year we’re starting to play off of each other a little bit better,” Durant said. “We were trying to find each other. Our teammates were trying to find us. We didn’t force anything. That’s the best part about it.”
  • Ibaka now has three games of at least 10 blocked shots. The last time a player did that was Shawn Bradley in 1996-97 when he recorded five games with at least 10 blocks.
  • Ibaka blocked at least one shot on six Nuggets tonight.
  • Ibaka is now averaging 3.29 blocks.
  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks had a great line about Ibaka’s shot blocking. “Our coach Mark Bryant is a good coach, but he ain’t teaching any of that,” Brooks said.
  • Westbrook’s 40 points came on 16 of 29 shooting. He had nine assists to go with that and turned it over just twice. That’s impressive.
  • Brooks on Westbrook: “I thought Russell really controlled the game. Obviously he scored a lot of points. But he gave Kevin opportunities to score, and he also gave our other guys opportunities to score. They had wide open shots. Unfortunately, they missed some of the open looks that they would make.”
  • Extremely disturbing stat: 72 paint points by the Nuggets.
  • Extremely encouraging stat: 20 Thunder assists against only 14 turnovers. How on earth did the Thunder play this fast and not have another low-assist, high-turnover game? Said Brooks: “Maybe we should just play fast and we won’t turn the ball over as much.”
  • I seriously thought Thunder heads were about to start booing the home team in the second quarter when the Nuggets were gobbling up all those offensive rebounds. That’s not the style of Thunder fans, which I think is a good thing for this market and this new franchise (although I love fans that boo elsewhere). But I swear it was close.
  • I would have loved to see Cole Aldrich tonight. Maybe that would have helped with Denver’s 18 offensive rebounds.
  • For anybody who saw my tweet shortly before the game about a “good source” saying James Harden was “going to go off.” If you couldn’t tell, I was joking. It was an inside joke with someone. A couple of people were getting their Thunderwear in a bunch about it.
  • Someone asked Brooks after the game if he was concerned with his bench getting outscored 58-17, with 10 coming from Harden. “Not really, just because they played their bench a lot more minutes than ours,” Brooks said. “Our bench didn’t play a lot of minutes. I have confidence in our guys.”
  • Durant drove to the rim with the game on the line!! Have we ever seen that before? If so, it hasn’t been done many times. But that’s what KD did when he put it on the floor and blew by Birdman for a two-handed dunk with 4.4 seconds left in regulation. Because of the amount of attention Durant receives in those situations, it’s extremely difficult to duplicate on a consistent basis. But maybe this will be the first step to him looking for it more.
  • Brooks on the driving dunk: “That’s another step in Kevin’s growth, I think. Because I thought he had opportunities to do that. I was telling him in the timeout it’s an opportunity to attack. Don’t settle. Kevin’s a terrific driver either way. He can do, obviously, a lot of things, shoot, but he can drive either hand equally as well. And he had an opportunity to drive left and we gave him that whole side and he took advantage of it and he attacked the rim.”
  • KD on the driving dunk: “I was really going to try to end the game and shoot the 3. It might have been a bad idea. But Chris Andersen is a great shot-blocker, and I think if I would have shot that one he would have got it. He pressed up on me a little bit and I was able to get a lane to the basket. I just tried to finish strong because he blocked like three of my shots.”
  • KD on finally reaching 50: “As a kid, it’s something that you dream about. Get to that 20-point mark, that 30-point mark and then get to 50, it feels good.”
  • Durant shared the moment with his mother, brother and grandmother at the buzzer, hugging all three as confetti fell from the rafters. It clearly was a special moment. “They’ve been there with me ever since I was 8 trying to play this game,” Durant said. “To score 50 points with them on the sideline at the highest level of basketball, man, is just a dream come true. It’s a blessing. To go through it with them is pretty cool. To be honest, I didn’t think I would be at this point when I was young. Everything has just been a whirlwind for me. I’m just happy that I’m here.”
  • I asked Royal Ivey if he is now in the rotation. He said he didn’t know. He’s just jumping up when Brooks calls his name. He started the second quarter again tonight for what it’s worth.
  • Two nights after sustaining what’s called an orbital floor fracture, Lazar Hayward did not attend Sunday’s game. He missed a great one.
  • Was it me or was it hotter than Haiti in the Peake tonight?
  • Who’s ready to do this all over again tomorrow?
  • Up next. New Orleans on Monday.

-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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