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Thunder 106, Wolves 84

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:45 pm •  Published: January 10, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday's win over the Wolves.

  • Nothing all that noteworthy about this one in the grand scheme of things. Two major things that factored into this 22-point drubbing, though, were what took place in Washington two nights earlier and the mockery Minnesota made of OKC last month. The Thunder desperately wanted to avenge its loss to the Wolves, a defeat that snapped OKC's 12-game winning streak, and also atone for the shameful performance against the Wizards. Check and check.
  • A byproduct of those goals was improved defense. The Thunder came out with renewed focus and commitment from the start and it showed. We saw the Thunder do tonight everything that it didn't do against the Wizards. OKC closed out on shooters, rotated with purpose, played the passing lanes, clogged the paint and rebounded the basketball.
  • Minnesota shot just 33.3 percent in the first quarter and scored just 16 points.
  • The bad thing was the Thunder scored just 16 points in the first quarter as well and made one less shot on the same 21 attempts, just 28.6 percent.
  • But it was all good, says coach Scott Brooks. "I put up with the bad offense as long as we weren't down 16 to 30," he said. "Some nights are going to be like that. We're going to be running in mud. Our shots are not going to fall. But our defense was really consistent throughout the game. I thought sooner or later if we just continue to defend that we would create some opportunities."
  • Brooks continued: "Our best part of our offense in the first half we had 16 fast break points off of our defense. So the halfcourt execution caught up with us in the second half."
  • It was 16-16 after the first period. The Thunder then outscored the Wolves 90-68 the rest of the way.
  • Back to those fast break points. The Thunder finished with 23, largely a result of 19 Wolves turnovers. Minnesota's giveaways led to 26 total points for the Thunder.
  • Wolves coach Terry Porter: "You know a team like that is going to explode. You try not to feed it and, for us, the thing we did was turn the ball over and that fed their break. They got out in the open court and got easy opportunities and ignited the offensive thrust that they had."
  • More breaks for the Thunder in this one. Kevin Love wasn't in the building because of a broken hand. He'll miss up to two months. J.J. Barea also sat out this one with an ailing back. That's 30 percent of Minnesota's offense, folks. Worth noting as well that this was Ricky Rubio's first time playing the second game of a back-to-back. Not to mention Wolves coach Rick Adelman was not with the team for the second straight game due to personal reasons.
  • Is it me or is the Thunder the luckiest team ever. It has Kevin Durant (really, I could stop there), found a late draft gem in Serge Ibaka, saw Russell Westbrook transform into a top 10 player and rarely has had to do battle with the injury bug. Add to all that, the Thunder always seems to face teams when they're short-handed. For example...
    1. Nov. 1: Spurs were without Manu Ginobili.
    2. Nov. 4: Hawks were without Josh Smith.
    3. Nov. 8: Bulls were without Derrick Rose.
    4. Nov. 16: Hornets were without Eric Gordon.
    5. Nov. 21: Clippers were without Caron Butler (and you could also throw in Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill).
    6. Nov. 23: Celtics were without Avery Bradley.
    7. Nov. 24: Sixers were without Andrew Bynum.
    8. Dec. 1: Hornets were without Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon.
    9. Dec. 4: Nets were without Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans.
    10. Dec. 7: Lakers were without Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.
    11. Dec. 12: Hornets were without Eric Gordon.
    12. Dec. 14: Kings were without Marcus Thornton.
    13. Dec. 17: Spurs were without Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard.
    14. Jan. 4: Sixers were without Andrew Bynum.
    15. Jan. 6: Raptors were without Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray and Linas Kleiza.
    16. Jan. 7: Wizards were without John Wall, Nene, Jordan Crawford, Trevor Booker and Cartier Martin.
    17. Jan. 9: Wolves were without Kevin Love and J.J. Barea.
    That about sums up the story of the Thunder's fortune, not this season...as a franchise.
  • Durant and Westbrook both said nothing changed about the Thunder's defense. I'd have to watch both the Wizards game and this one again to really be able to analyze it. The leaders, however, took after their coach and said the Thunder simply played harder.
  • Brooks hinted that a few things were different but he didn't say what. He very well could have just been talking about effort. "I thought we had a good shoot-around. We covered a few things that we had to improve on, and I saw that tonight."
  • Durant: "We just played harder. We talked out all our schemes. Against Washington, we didn’t talk a lot. We were just switching just to switch and our effort wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be. Tonight, we did a really good job of responding after a loss. Coach got after us. He challenged me as a leader on the defensive end and I just tried to come out and do my best for the team.
  • I followed up on that by asking Durant if there was anything different strategically. "Nah. We don't really change anything when we have a bad game," he said. "Every time we lose and we don't play well defensively, it's just all about having miscommunications and lapses. But once we take those out of the game we're all right."
  • Westbrook on the difference: "Just taking ownership. I think if we take ownership in ourselves defensively then I think it shows on the floor."
  • It took 3 1/2 minutes for Kendrick Perkins and Nikola Pekovic to get into a stare-down and subsequent shoving match. Well, Perk shoved Pek. But a double technical was called and play went on.
  • I know Perk is one of those Jalen Rose "dark alley" guys, but I'm not sure too many players want to mess with Nikola Pekovic. That guy is a tank.
  • Brutal start for Perk. In his first 4 1/2 minutes, he picked up two fouls, had two turnovers and a technical foul. He was replaced Nick Collison and did not return until 2:52 remained in the second quarter.
  • Perkins picked up his third foul five seconds into the third quarter on another illegal screen.
  • Yet somehow, Durant managed to let this come out of his mouth: "I think Perk set the tone for us tonight with his defense on Pekovic early on, making him shoot some tough shots. We just fed off of it."
  • Perk's final line: two points, one rebound, zero assists, one steal, one blocked shot, four fouls and three turnovers.
  • Perk did make Pek take like two tough shots at the start of the game. Not sure I'd say it was tone-setting type stuff. But whatever. Here's what I hate about all the hate that's been heaped onto Perkins. It makes it tough to adequately and accurately analyze his performance. Let's call it the Russell Westbrook effect. The same thing happened with the Thunder's point guard. People are bagging on Perk so much that anytime anybody looks at his play through a critical analysis scope it'll now be deemed as piling on. At the same time, anytime anyone praises Perk it'll be judged as much ado about nothing, or, I love this one, pushing the company message. That's what it's come to with saying anything, good or bad, about Kendrick Perkins this season. And I wish it was not that way.
  • With 5:45 remaining in the first quarter, the Wolves led 11-5. In other words, in the first 6 minutes, 15 seconds the Thunder scored just five points.
  • DeAndre Liggins unexpectedly started the second quarter and I fully expected the Thunder to go on a 50-0 run. Give or take a few for OKC.
  • Liggins, though, as always, was solid. He hustled. He played smart. He didn't make major mistakes. He made a nice drive-and-kick to Kevin Martin for a 3-pointer, supplied some nice fullcourt pressure to Alexey Shved (who I'm starting to love more each time I see play) and was sound in the Thunder's halfcourt defense as well, even coming up with a steal.
  • That's now two straight that Scotty Brooks has trotted Liggins out there. Could it be the start of Liggins cracking the rotation? "He's getting some minutes. They're not always going to be there. They're not always going to be consistent," Brooks said. "But I take a lot of pride in all of our guys being ready when they're called on and the last couple of games he was ready. And I'm not going to hesitate to do it again."
  • More from Brooks on what he likes about Liggins: "He does a couple of things that you really enjoy watching. He just plays with some heart. He plays with toughness. That's what he does. That's how he practices. He does not change the way he plays. Every practice he's guarding the guys like it's Game 7, the last second of the game. And that's what we like about him. We want to continue to develop his game."
  • I just want to say. In the first half, Liggins led all players with a plus-10. The season could have ended there and I would have been satisfied.
  • Westbrook on Liggins' hustle: "It excites me every time. He's hungry. He wants to go out there and play and help us win. He does all the right things, comes in every day and gets his work in. I'm happy to see a guy like that on the floor."
  • With four minutes left in the third, Brooks got a technical foul while seated on the bench. Must have said one of the magic words. Someone with a better vantage point of the sequence told me Brooks was woofing at the ref and the official told him it was his last warning. Brooks then took his seat. Immediately, Durant told Brooks to "get one." Seconds later, the same ref turned toward the scorer's table, put his hands together in the form of a 'T' and put it in the books.
  • With 28 seconds left in the third, Ibaka got a technical foul for slamming the ball out of frustration with himself for not finishing an and-one opportunity. The ball bounced high into the air, which is an automatic tech. Had he caught it he would have been cool. But, he missed the ball and the ref blew the whistle. How's that for irony?
  • What's crazy about that tech on Ibaka is that it'll cost him two grand. You know how long it takes me to make two grand????
  • Bill Russell, I mean Greg Stiemsma, had only one block tonight. I'm shocked.
  • Thabo Sefolosha did a great job of driving to the rim and finishing tonight. He had two really nice drives and the one he didn't finish, surprise, surprise, came when he got called for a charge after not giving it up on the break. Can't teach an old dog new tricks, I s'pose.
  • I ask for a SOUL train line and the Thunder Girls tonight give me country western, complete with the outfits to match. Flannel shirts, boots, cutoff shorts and cowboy hats. Nobody's listening to me!
  • And as much as I love Peter Rabbit, where are my Olate Dogs???
  • Westbrook really had his 3-point shot working tonight, except of course for that one he air-balled. He went 3-for-4 from downtown and finished with an extremely efficient 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting. He added eight rebounds and seven assists against just one turnover in 30 minutes.
  • Durant on Westbrook: "It's nothing new. So when you guys come and ask me about Russ, it's nothing new. He's doing the same things over and over again. It's no surprise to me."
  • A bunch of familiar faces were on hand for this one. I'm not going to run down the list. Just know that the majority where football players with some sort of tie to OU or OSU.
  • A few games ago, after Reggie Jackson supplanted Eric Maynor as the primary backup point guard, I wondered if Maynor would benefit from getting some minutes in Tulsa. Tonight, I asked him about that as a possibility and he said, quite emphatically, that he has absolutely no interest in a D-League assignment. I'll have more on that in Friday's paper, as well as Maynor's reaction to trade rumors, specifically a recent report that Philadelphia was seeking to get him.
  • Also look for a piece Friday (and Thursday on NewsOK.com) about Durant's newfound mean streak. As a preview of sorts, here's what Westbrook told me: "He wants to win, man. The young Thunder team is out the window. We're all old enough now to take ownership in what we do. Kevin's come in this year taking ownership. He feels like he needs to step up and he's doing it."
  • Tulsa 66ers guard and Thunder training camp invitee Andy Rautins won the 3-point contest at the D-League Showcase. Dominique Sutton, also of the Tulsa 66ers, won the showcase's slam dunk contest.
  • Basketball could be returning to Seattle. A group from Washington is closing in on a deal to purchase the Sacramento Kings with the intent of relocating them to Seattle for the 2013-14 season. Here are a few ways it impacts the Thunder.
  • And here's Collison's take on it: "Well, it's not a done deal yet. Those things are very complicated. So I'll wait and see like everybody else. If it happens, I'll be happy for Seattle fans and feel for Sacramento fans, because I've seen first-hand how hard it is for fans to lose a team. If we go there, it'll be fun for me to see some old friends, but it definitely probably would be a weird feeling."
  • Nine of the next 10 are on the road. Buckle up. Our man John Rohde has you covered in this space for the next three as I take a breather. I leave you in good hands.
  • Up next. At the Lakers on Friday. It's on ESPN but don't forget you can catch it on Fox Sports Oklahoma. (What up TM!)
-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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