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Thunder 115, Kings 89

by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 13, 2012

Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win over the Kings.

  • Russell Westbrook’s monster dunk late in the second quarter. Was it the best in Thunder history? I say so. Kevin Durant agrees. The Thunder has had a lot of highlight-reel dunks over the (four) years, but this one has to be at the top of the list.
  • It didn’t matter that Westbrook’s dunk didn’t come on someone, like Durant’s over Brendan Haywood, or Durant’s on Roy Hibbert, or James Harden’s on J.J. Hickson, or even Westbrook’s on Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers. What made Westbrook’s dunk tonight so great was three things: 1) how incredibly high he got, 2) how incredibly bad the pass from KD was and 3) the fact that Westbrook is, you know, a 6-3 point guard!
  • I’m just going to copy and past what KD said of Westbrook’s flush. “I don’t want to give him too much credit. It was a great pass by myself (laughs),” Durant joked. “Nah, but that was one of the most athletic plays I’ve ever seen. I think it was probably the dunk of the year. But Blake Griffin has had a lot of those. But for a 6-3 point guard to be catching lobs like that, man, that was unreal.”
  • Durant on what he thought when he let go of the pass: “I thought it was too short. I thought it was going to get tipped. But he turned a terrible pass into a great finish. That’s what he’s been doing for us all year. That was unreal.”
  • KD on where the dunk ranks in Thunder history: “He had a few of them. He dunked on Battier. Battier was crucial. His first year when he dunked on Chalmers. And the one where he dunked off the backboard over (Marco) Belinelli was crazy. He’s had plenty of highlights. But this one was unreal because of how high he jumped and how much he cocked it back. At 6-3, I’ve never seen nothing like that. Nah. That was probably the best, his right there because he’s 6-3, man, and he dunked that like he was my height. It was a terrible pass and he cocked it all the way back, man. That was crazy.”
  • If you don’t care about the dunk, are one of those basketball “purists” who roll your eyes and consider it just two points and you want me to move on, you’ve come to the wrong place. The NBA is in the entertainment business, and plays like the one you saw tonight are the reason folks pay what they pay to see these games. There might not be 100 people in the world who can do what Westbrook did tonight. Not only is it a big deal, but it was by far the most interesting thing to happen in this contest.
  • And I’d actually disagree with anyone who says plays like Westbrook’s monster dunk is worth just two points. They’re momentum-changers. They get players hype. They get teams going. And they fuel crowds. Harden admitted as much a few days ago during an interview session prior to the Clippers game. Generally, highlight plays like those are followed by a run of some kind. It’s no coincidence, at least in my book, that the Thunder closed the half on a 9-2 run after Westbrook’s dunk.
  • The Thunder’s first field goal didn’t come until Kendrick Perkins made an improbable catch on a cut to the basket and finger-rolled in a bucket with 7:52 left in the first quarter. It ended an 0-for-8 drought the Thunder had to start the game.
  • There was plenty of sloppiness on both sides early on, as the teams combined to shoot just 3-of-18 in the first five or so minutes.
  • The difference in this game was the 29-9 run that the Thunder used to turn a 38-35 lead with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the second quarter into a 67-44 margin with 9:48 left in the third. The Kings had no answer for it, and it turned into a blowout from there.
  • Said Kings coach Keith Smart: “Oklahoma City is on a different level right now, and you have to match their physicality. If you do not match it, you are going to be pushed all around the floor. The tone was set early in the game and we never recovered. It was a close game until about four minutes into the second quarter, and then the wheels fell off from there.”
  • The Thunder led by as many as 32 tonight, tying its largest lead of the year, which came against Detroit on Jan. 23.
  • OKC also came one point shy of tying its largest margin of victory of the year. That 27-point win was against Charlotte on March 10.
  • James Harden missed this game with a sore knee. He’s day-to-day.
  • With Harden out, Thunder coach Scott Brooks divvied up the minutes between Royal Ivey and Daequan Cook. Both were extremely solid, Ivey, of course, with his defense, and Cook going 3-for-5 from downtown.
  • Derek Fisher’s offense is coming around. He scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and was the team’s third leading scorer tonight. I don’t believe in jinxes, but something tells me I better not make much of it.
  • Serge Ibaka tried to swat everything that came his way tonight. He got off to another great start, blocking three shots in the first quarter before finishing with seven for the game. This was the best four-point, 1-for-4 shooting, four-rebound performance you’ll ever see out of Serge.
  • If you would have told me before the game that Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins would combined to score 11 points on 4-for-19 shooting, I would have guessed the Thunder would win by 20-plus. That’s exactly what happened.
  • Somebody wanna tell me why Isaiah Thomas was so unstoppable tonight?
  • With Lazar Hayward nursing a stomach flu, Reggie Jackson got the nod to be on the active list…He went 0-for-3 from the field but it was all in garbage time so it didn’t really matter.
  • No monster dunk from Cole Aldrich tonight to commemorate the blowout. Shame.
  • Final thought. I’d circle the Kings game next Friday as a trap game. Sacramento is likely to remember what took place tonight and, if the Kings aren’t just playing out the string, potentially stun OKC at their place. Evans and Cousins aren’t going to struggle as much as they did tonight in their own building, and the Thunder might just think it’ll be another cakewalk. It’ll be an interesting game.
  • A five-game road trip is up. You’ve got to think at worst the Thunder will go 3-2. Again, at worst.
  • Up next. At Minnesota on Saturday. No Kevin Love in that one.

-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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