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Thunder 122, Bobcats 95

by Darnell Mayberry Published: March 10, 2012

Nuggets from my notebook from Saturday’s win over Charlotte.

  • This game was over after a three-minute stretch early in the second quarter. The Thunder used a 12-0 run to turn a three-point lead into a 15-point advantage. During that spurt, the Thunder got the Bobcats to miss five straight shots and turn it over twice. Kevin Durant and James Harden combined to score all 12 points during the run.
  • The most impressive thing about what was essentially the game-clinching run was how the Thunder shared the ball. All five made field goals by Durant and Harden came on assists. Four different players — Harden, Reggie Jackson, Nick Collison, and Russell Westbrook — had an assist.
  • The Thunder had a season-high 27 assists in this one. Eight Thunder players had at least one assists. Six Thunder players had at least two.
  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks on the ball movement: “You can’t say that we turned the corner because it’s just one game. But it’s a start. Hopefully we continue to move the basketball. The good teams in this league are consistent with that ball movement.”
  • It’s trite, I know, but the key to the Thunder bouncing back tonight was effort and energy. If the Thunder played like it did tonight against Cleveland, that home winning streak would still be intact. Instead, the Thunder had to learn the hard way. Said Collison on the team watching the Cavs film Saturday morning: “We didn’t play hard enough to win. We didn’t play fast enough and we didn’t have enough energy. It was really pretty bad.”
  • The Thunder is now 8-1 in games after a loss.
  • Westbrook got off to a great start, getting high-percentage shots while just abusing D.J. Augustin. Westbrook scored on post-ups, in transition and on pull-ups and mid-range jumpers. Westbrook scored 13 of the Thunder’s first 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting, and he was under control and made good decisions throughout.
  • Harden and Westbrook were the only ones doing anything for the Thunder on offense early on. They combined to score 29 of OKC’s first 35. Durant then joined the party.
  • The Thunder’s 31-point lead tonight was one point shy of its largest of the year. But the field-goal percentage (63 percent) was a season-high.
  • OKC’s 122 points were a regular season high and came two shy of the 124 scored in overtime on Feb. 19 against Denver.
  • Despite the blowout, turnovers and defensive rebounding both were a problem again. The Thunder had 14 turnovers, which actually is a fantastic number for OKC. But eight of those came in the first half, and the Bobcats scored 20 points off of them. As for the rebounding, the Thunder gave up 15 offensive rebounds (partly because of a tone of missed shots by Charlotte).
  • Byron Mullens returned to OKC for the first time. He scored 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting with three rebounds. He had zero impact on the game one way or another. Still think Sam Presti blew it by dealing him?
  • Old friend D.J. White also came back as a member of the Bobcats and scored 10 points with five rebounds. I still like his game. I’d say White should study Brandon Bass.
  • My first impression of Kemba Walker. He’s really, really short in person. And that makes what he accomplished in college all the more impressive. As for tonight, Walker finished with four points, one rebound and six assists in 22 minutes. I have doubts as to whether he’s an NBA player.
  • The Charlotte Observer’s Bobcats beat writer only travels with the team on occasion. Says a lot about how bad the Bobcats are.
  • Westbrook’s D leaves a lot to be desired. A whole lot. I’ll just leave it at that.
  • Daequan Cook’s ineffectiveness in the first unit is becoming more and more glaring. He’s reverting to inconsistency, and you wonder how long Brooks can stick with him, especially since he’s doesn’t change the game defensively. Cook made just two of six shots tonight, and they both came in the third quarter when this game was all but over. If Thabo Sefolosha doesn’t return soon (and it still doesn’t sound like he will), could Royal Ivey soon be the new starting 2?
  • Who told Westbrook he was a 3-point shooter? We’ve gotten to the point where every time there is a last-second shot to be taken, Westbrook will dribble up slowly and allow precious time to tick off the clock. He’s in no hurry because he’s got his mind made up that he’s going to pull the trigger on a 3. He did it again tonight right before the end of the first half. It makes you want to pull out your hair.
  • I was really curious to see Bismack Biyombo tonight. The Bobcats’ center had a sizable chunk of hype coming into the draft last year, and a part of the reason he was taken seventh overall by Charlotte perhaps had a little something to do with the success of Ibaka. Like Ibaka, Biyombo is from Congo and is a physical specimen. He looks a little more raw than Ibaka was as a rookie, but, at 19, he’s also younger than Serge was as a rookie. You can tell Biyombo has some skill, though. He’s got a nice feel for the game defensively and might someday tap into his offensive reservoir. Right now, though, Biyombo is a broke down version of Mo Sene on the offensive end.
  • OU’s own Eduardo Najera came back “home” tonight and immediately unleashed his inner goon. He picked a fight (not literally) with Serge Ibaka upon checking in, sent KD crashing to the floor on a hard foul during one of Durant’s drives to the hoop and nearly gave Westbrook a Charlie horse with a hip check.
  • I’m way more bummed about Ricky Rubio missing the Olympics than him missing the remainder of the regular season.
  • I feel like every game there is now at least one atrocious call from the officials. Mark Cuban looks more and more right by the game in his assessment that the refs are overworked in this compacted season and are having it negatively impact their performance. Tonight’s version of Let’s Make a Bad Call came with about 8 1/2 minutes remaining in the third when Ibaka corralled a defensive rebound and secured it with his elbows high. Ibaka started screaming like only Ibaka does and he began to turn, giving the impression that he was swinging his elbows. Ref Monty McCutchen immediately called Ibaka for an offensive foul, assuming he had whacked Tyrus Thomas in the chops. But Ibaka didn’t even touch Thomas It was a terrible guess by McCutchen.
  • Harden and Collison hooked up on the backdoor play tonight. This is hard for me to admit. But I like the backdoor play better than I do the skip pass play.
  • Harden had a career-high 33 points tonight. If you had any concern about his shot, you can stop your worrying. He was lights out tonight, making 11 of 16 from the field and 4 of 9 from 3.
  • Jackson had a team- and career-high seven assists tonight. It’s a positive step for the rook, which, for him, is essential at this point. So we can overlook the fact that the majority of them came in garbage time. Maybe this night will help build his confidence. Brooks was pleased with his rookie point guard. “Offensively, he’s improving,” Brooks said. “I just like the fact that he’s getting better every day a little bit at a time.”
  • Kendrick Perkins with five assists tonight. The best one was a full-court pass to Ibaka for a dunk. And the best part of that was that Perk looked to his bench right after the bucket and gave a motion with his index finger like, “Put one on the board.”
  • Gotta give it up to Thunder fans tonight. It was a 23-point game midway through the fourth quarter and most people still hadn’t budged. Thunder heads remained in their seats and cheered and cheered despite the blowout. Extremely impressive.
  • Up next. Houston on Tuesday.

-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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