Thunder 119, Celtics 104
Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s win over Boston.
- Welcome back, Daequan Cook. You were sorely missed. Cook made 5-of-11 shots tonight went 3-of-8 from deep to match his season high of 17 points. His first 3-ball that dropped was only his second in the past five games. And when he splashed in his second with 3:14 remaining in the opening period, the crowd erupted, partly because it pulled the Thunder within one after a sluggish start led to a 10-point deficit, and partly because seemingly everyone in the building knew Cook had been struggling and that bomb was a sign that he was back.
- Cook doesn’t like passing up shots. If he touches it, there’s a 92.4 percent chance it’s going up.
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he wasn’t worried about Cook, who was just 4-for-34 from deep in his previous six games. “He really hasn’t shot the ball well, and I wasn’t concerned with it. Obviously, I would like for him to make some shots. But with Daequan, I’m happy he does this, last year I looked at him as a guy that can give us a 3-point threat. But this year I look at him as he can defend, he can rebound and he can make plays for us. He’s not just a 3-point shooter.”
- Led by Cook, the Thunder made nine of 19 3-pointers tonight and used the long ball to get back in it when the Celtics took that early 10-point lead. In the last couple of games, the Thunder took a ton of 3s but didn’t make enough to warrant that many hoists. Tonight was a great night from behind the arc.
- Celtics guard Avery Bradley started the game for the suspended Rajon Rondo. And Bradley began the game by pressing up on Russell Westbrook and trying to play aggressive defense. As soon as I saw that, and Westbrook’s initial attack on offense, I thought ‘Uh oh. Here we go.’ It looked like Westbrook was about to turn the game into a personal battle. And on a couple a possessions he did. But Russ stayed under control and turned in a solid, solid performance with 31 points, five rebounds, six assists and just two turnovers.
- This was the third straight game Westbrook has scored at least 30 points. It’s kind of hard to believe, but that’s the first time he’s done that.
- Controversy alert. Westbrook took two more shots than Kevin Durant.
- In the last two games, KD and Russ have gotten to the line at the rate we grew accustom to seeing them get there last year. Westbrook has attempted 24 foul shots in his last three games. Durant has attempted 28.
- James Harden returned from a one-game absence and scored 17 points with seven assists and four rebounds. Only two of his points came in the second half, though.
- With the win, the Thunder is now tied with Miami for the league’s best record at 26-7. Pay no attention to whatever you hear Thunder players and coaches say. The record is important and it matters to them. If OKC finishes with the best record in the league, it will get home court advantage throughout the playoffs. If you ask me, if the championship is a battle between any combination of Miami, Chicago and OKC, the determining factor in which team hoists the trophy this year will be home court advantage.
- Most encouraging thing tonight: two first-half turnovers, both coming in the second quarter.
- Second most encouraging thing tonight: three offensive rebounds for the Celtics. A lot of that had to do with Boston’s 18 turnovers preventing them from getting up shots and a 48.6 percent shooting clip from the field that didn’t lend itself to many second chance opportunities. Still, when you’re one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the league, you take it how you can get it.
- Least encouraging thing tonight: another big lead was blown. The Thunder allowed the Celtics to erase a 27-point, deficit midway through the third quarter and pull within six in the final 3 1/2 minutes. That’s now two straight games we’ve seen that. Said Royal Ivey: “We got complacent. They were in attack mode because they were down and they were needing a win. We were playing on our heels. But we closed it out and we got the win and that’s all that’s important.”
- Complacent is the operative word. The Thunder is simply taking its foot off the gas and letting teams back in it. Someday, that’s going to bite at a bad time. Gotta clean that up now.
- Couldn’t have asked for a better showing out of the Thunder in the first half. The 72 points were a season high for any half. We saw the most impressive run in team history, a 30-3 spurt that spanned seven minutes over the last five minutes of the first quarter and first two minutes of the second. And there were 14 assists (and just two turnovers) on 26 made field goals.
- Said Brooks: “Tonight, we were moving the ball. We were running the court. We were playing with a good pace and taking care of the basketball. It was beautiful basketball in the first half.”
- The Thunder got balanced scoring for a change. It’s something OKC could be so good at but struggles mightily with at times. This is how much better the offense looks, how much easier things become, when everyone gets involved. In the first quarter alone, five Thunder players had at least four points. By halftime, four Thunder players had each scored at least 13 points and six players had at least four shot attempts. The Thunder is unguardable when it shares the wealth like that.
- Some guy on the kiss cam tonight leaned over to his girlfriend and right before he kissed here she lifted up the Harden T-shirt she was wearing that flips up into a mock beard. He then kissed that. That didn’t sit well with me.
- I can’t say enough about how Ivey has handled himself in the minutes he’s gotten. He had eight points tonight, made three of four shots, including two of three from 3-point range and played some stellar defense in stretches.
- Go back and watch the Celtics’ discipline. It is amazing. They play the same way whether they’re up by 10 or down by 20. They don’t force shots when they get down. They don’t freeze each other out. They run through their sets and remain committed to their system. It’s extremely impressive to watch. That’s where the Thunder is trying to get. And someday, the Thunder will.
- Bradley’s bunnies! My goodness. Homeboy can get up. You clearly can see why he drew comparisons by some to Westbrook when he was coming out of college. He posterized KD tonight on one of his dunks.
- There are very few moments during a game where Doc Rivers isn’t complaining.
- Kendrick Perkins was called for a tech with 4:53 left to play. It was his league-leading 11th of the season, two shy of an automatic one-game suspension. The tech he got at Houston did not get rescinded. Over/under on when he gets No. 13?
- Perk’s energy was great tonight. You could tell he got up for playing his old teammates. He finished two points shy of a double-double. But with 10 boards, he recorded his second straight double-digit rebounding game and his fifth of the season.
- If you don’t know by now, KD is replacing Joe Johnson in the 3-point contest.
- KD got a tech tonight, too. It was only his first of the season. Seems like he’s had more, though.
- No real update to give on Nick Collison, who missed his second straight game with a quad contusion. I’m just guessing, but I doubt he plays Thursday against the Lakers. I would think Brooks would just give him a rest through All-Star weekend. We’ll see.
- Up next. Lakers on Thursday.
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