Thunder 117, Nuggets 97
Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s win over Denver.
- I didn’t have it tonight. It was one of those days I really wasn’t in the mood to go to work. We’ve all been there. Obviously the difference is I get paid to watch basketball for a living. And I’m fortunate to have a great seat while doing it. So I try to never complain about my job. Still, roughly 15 minutes before tip-off I had little desire to make the trek from the press room out to the arena. My exact words, to no one in particular, were, ‘Well, let’s go out and watch another Thunder win.’ This is what it’s come to as we near the halfway point of the season. Monotony. Mundane basketball that’s become so predictable it’s borderline boring.
- Good thing the Thunder was very much interested in showing up for work.
- That’s the big takeaway from tonight’s thrashing of the Denver Nuggets. Oklahoma City, despite its league-best record and despite its mounting winning streak and despite its ability to absolutely demolish a playoff-bound bunch any time it feels like it, is still very much interested in the process. We question it at times, mostly after sloppy wins and shocking losses. But it’s become abundantly clear in this recent stretch that the Thunder is continuing to handle business at a time when it could easily put the car on cruise.
- Wednesday’s win, the Thunder’s fifth straight, was perhaps as complete as we’ve seen. Denver coach George Karl said before the game that the Thunder is “playing on a mission.” Over the next three hours, OKC demonstrated as much, in every facet, from start to finish.
- The Thunder never trailed Wednesday night and led by as many as 28 points.
- OKC has now won its last five games by an average margin of 14.6 points. Two of those victories were road wins by 15 and 12 points, respectively.
- “We’re greedy,” said Kevin Durant. “In this league, you’ve got to be greedy. Just as quickly as you can win four or five in a row you can lose four or five in a row. So we never can be complacent.”
- I asked Russell Westbrook the same question I posed to Durant. How has this team been able to fight off boredom and maintain focus? “You can’t get bored with winning,” he said. “If you do, then you’ve got a problem.”
- Defense set the tone for the Thunder in this one, and it sparked OKC to its overpowering performance. The Thunder clogged the paint early, shut off the passing lanes and pressured the ball. It eliminated every good look the Nuggets could have hoped for. As a result, Denver turned it over on its first two possessions and was forced to settle for long jump shots on its next three.
- Scott Brooks: “The ball pressure was good, and the activity on the ball, we had a lot of hands around the basketball. We were using length. They didn’t see a lot of openings early on and I think when you do that it gives the appearance that it’s not going to be an easy night to score on us.”
- Got to love this quote from Karl after the game: “We didn’t have a good offensive game, we didn’t have a good defensive game and we didn’t have a good energy game.” Tell me, coach, what exactly is left?
- Karl is easily one of the many men I could sit at a bar and talk to for hours about basketball. He might even be in my top five.
- Westbrook was magnificent in the opening quarter. He scored 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting and made all four of his foul shots. The Nuggets didn’t have a single body capable of slowing him down and Westbrook knew it. So he attacked and attacked and attacked some more.
- Here’s what Westbrook said when asked whether seeing his mid-range shot falling boosted his confidence. “I come in the game confident,” he said.
- Westbrook and Durant scored 24 of the Thunder’s first 26 points.
- With two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Westbrook had 16 points — the same amount as the Nuggets. He finished the period with the same 16, two fewer than the Nuggets.
- Late in the first half, Westbrook was outscoring the Nuggets’ starting five 25-23.
- Durant on Westbrook: “What can you do? He’s shooting the jump shot and if you pressure him he can go to the rim. So it’s like a nightmare when he’s making that jump shot.”
- The Thunder had 11 steals and 11 blocked shots tonight. “When you do that, you give yourself a good chance to win,” Durant said.
- OKC also limited Denver to 2-for-15 shooting from 3-point range and held the Nuggets to 15 fast break points, three fewer than their average. Through three quarters, the Nuggets had just 10 fast break points.
- Kevin Martin must have had 10 fast break points by himself. He was a cherry-picking machine tonight.
- With Martin pouring in 20 along with KD’s 20 and Westbrook’s game-high 32, the Thunder moved to 5-0 when three players score at least 20 points.
- Quiet night for Serge Ibaka offensively. He got only five shot attempts. Allow me to go on record to say that should never happen. Five attempts should be a half for Ibaka with the way he’s growing.
- Kenneth Faried did not grab a rebound in his first five minutes. That was the Thunder’s first victory of the night.
- Faried’s first rebound actually didn’t come until 2:51 was left in the second quarter. It was a tip-in. It pulled the Nuggets within 20 at 62-42.
- Amazingly, Faried finished with just two rebounds and only five points. I’ll admit it. I thought he would have 15 boards tonight. Great job by the Thunder keeping him off the glass, though.
- Durant got another technical tonight. It was his team-leading seventh of the season, this time for barking in Faried’s face after a monster dunk.
- Nick Collison suffered a right ankle sprain at some point in the first half and did not return for the second half.
- This game had to set an NBA season high for the most botched alley-oops.
- I’m convinced Reggie Jackson would routinely flirt with triple doubles if he ever looked to score. He’d obviously need to get the minutes, too. But I’m sure he could do it.
- Kendrick Perkins decided to take his man, Kosta Koufos, off the dribble tonight…from the top of the arc! It was the most elaborate set of one-on-one moves maybe in basketball history. But Perk finished the play with a bucket. It was his lone make out of six attempts. Naturally, he screamed for an and one after the shot.
- Durant on Perk’s point guard-like play: “When he started doing it I was a little upset because that’s not what he do. But he made a tremendous move and that’s probably the most excited I’ve been in a game in a long, long time. I was still marveling at that play three or four possessions later. It was a great play by him. The guy was pressuring him so he made a good move. I’m sure you’re going to see that on a highlight.”
- I can’t tell you how bad I wanted to see JaVale McGee do something that would end up on “Shaqtin’ A Fool.”
- Since people continue to ask. Here is Brooks’ explanation on why Eric Maynor did not play tonight. I’m seriously thinking about leading the nuggets with this quote after every game. “I was going to put him in, but I wanted to give Reggie some more minutes. It was about the five- or six-minute mark that I was going to make that decision. It’s hard to play 13 guys. I wanted to see the other young guys play. I know what Eric does. And he’s been very professional in a tough situation. He wants to be out there and playing with our guys. But he still works and he’s still waiting for an opportunity. And usually it comes around if you just keep working and staying positive and he has.”
- Our man John Rohde returns to this space for the next two. I’ll be back for the final four road games on this upcoming six-game trip.
- Up next. At Dallas on Friday.
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