Thunder 111, Blazers 95
Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s win over Portland.
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks on the first quarter defense: “The first quarter was really good. It was probably one of our best defensive quarters of the season.”
- The Thunder held the Blazers to 15 points on 6-for-23 shooting in that opening period. OKC’s opponent low for the first quarter this year is 12 points.
- You could tell the energy was kicked up a notch after Friday’s loss to the Spurs. There’s just something about this Thunder team that doesn’t like to have losses linger. OKC is now 10-1 after a loss this year.
- I asked Russell Westbrook what makes the Thunder so good in bounce-back opportunities. “Just being more focused, especially when we’re at home we know after a loss we got to come back and be ready to play,” Westbrook said.
- The Thunder’s ball movement in the first quarter wasn’t great. But it was pretty darn good. The Thunder had seven assists on 12 made field goals and saw five players get at least one assist.
- OKC finished with 24 assists for the game, three shy of tying its season high. The Thunder is now 15-3 when it finishes with at least 20 assists.
- After cleaning house at the trade deadline, the Blazers, surprisingly, still have some pretty good talent. With Raymond Felton, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wes Matthews, Jamal Crawford and Joel Przybilla, Portland has a nice core to make teams have tough nights. The Blazers might not make the playoffs. But they’re still talented enough to get wins.
- Having said that, I’ve got to admit I had no idea who Luke Babbitt was when I saw him in the game for the first time. He desperately needs a haircut.
- Brooks said the rebounding was a big part of the game plan going in, and the Thunder did a great job of controlling the boards. OKC out-rebounded Portland 43-35 and held the Blazers to 11 offensive rebounds.
- The most impressive thing about the win tonight was how the Thunder held Aldridge in check. Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison did a great job of making his looks tough and keeping him off the glass. Aldridge had just 15 points on 6-for-19 shooting. Aldridge came into tonight’s game averaging 34.5 points against the Thunder, the most for any player this season.
- I agree, Thunder heads. It makes all the sense in the world to go after Derek Fisher. I’ve supported Reggie Jackson all season. But adding Fisher is absolutely a no-brainer.
- James Harden sustained some sort of injury to his left index finger late in the first quarter. He grimaced throughout the rest of the period like he had fractured the thing. But the team’s trainer taped it up and he played on. Harden said after the game that he jammed the finger.
- Perhaps the injury affected Harden’s shot, because he missed six of his seven attempts. But he got to the line 14 times and finished with 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
- Harden missed three of his free throw attempts, including two straight on a three-shot trip at one point. But I loved how the crowd encouraged him with a hearty round of applause after the first two misses.
- The Thunder missed 10 free throws tonight, highly uncharacteristic of the team leading the league in free throw percentage. After tonight, Milwaukee might have dethroned the Thunder in that category.
- I love me some Jamal Crawford. But I swear he takes some of the dumbest shots.
- The Thunder’s 3-point shooting was on the money tonight. OKC made 11 of 18 (61.1 percent) and saw five players knock down at least one 3-ball. The most surprising was Thabo Sefolosha going 3-for-3 from deep and finishing with 11 points in 15 minutes. Sefolosha added five rebounds and two assists and, frankly, looks like he’s ready for more minutes. And it sounds like that day is coming soon. Brooks said he wants Sefolosha playing around 15 minutes for the next game or two and then “go from there.”
- Whatever Steve Max is getting paid, it’s not nearly enough. The halftime act needs a raise for his “Simon Sez” routine. It’s big time.
- Craig Smith committed perhaps the dumbest foul I have ever seen with 9:52 left in the fourth quarter. With the Thunder having to inbound the ball with just 1.1 seconds showing on the shot clock, Smith ran into Harden and fouled him as he launched a 35-foot prayer. It completely destroyed all the momentum the Blazers had created during a 10-0 spurt. Instead of the Blazers possibly getting the ball back down 84-76, Harden made all three free throws to put the Thunder up 87-76. That was the ballgame.
- Enough with these late tips!! They’re brutal for everyone. Tonight, fans filed out early in the fourth quarter and you know what? I don’t blame them one bit. It’s a Sunday night and folks have to work in the morning. Committing to 41 games a year (33 this year) is tough enough. Having to tuck yourself in at midnight on a Sunday is torture. Thank God this was the last late night on Reno….at least until the playoffs.
- Up next. At Utah on Tuesday.
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