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Thunder 105, Kings 95

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:45 pm •  Published: January 26, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win at Sacramento.

  • What a way for Russell Westbrook to bounce back. After arguably his worst performance of the year at Golden State, he was in total command of the offense tonight in Sacramento, scoring 18 points with 14 assists in 32 minutes.
  • Westbrook was two assists shy of tying his career high and one away from matching the Kings’ team total.
  • Said Kevin Martin: “He was great. He’s a special point guard. He wasn’t looking to score too much. He was just making the right play all night.”
  • It was sort of predictable that Westbrook would respond tonight. Not only did he have a bad game against the Warriors, but he also watched his team lose. If we haven’t learned anything else about Westbrook by now, we know that guy hates to lose. His numbers come a distant second to winning the game. So this performance, this win, was to be expected.
  • Don’t take my word for it. “Right now it doesn’t matter what the numbers look like,” Westbrook said after the game. “All we need to do is win.”
  • Some people want to discredit Westbrook’s game because it was the Kings. I feel sorry for those people.
  • This was a clinic. I don’t care if it was the Kings, Bobcats, Wizards (who are actually pretty decent now) or the Hornets. The way Westbrook controlled the offense was a thing of beauty. He was patient. He was poised. He was under control. He made smart decisions. He got teammates the rock at the right time and in the right places.
  • Go back and watch some of Westbrook’s passes. They were phenomenal. I’m talking pinpoint passes out of pick and rolls and beautiful finds on backdoor cuts. If you want to discredit Westbrook’s game because it was the Kings, fine. But this game showed his continued growth with timing and vision.
  • Kendrick Perkins: “He told me after the game in Golden State that he couldn’t wait to the next game and come out and play. He wanted to win. So I knew what he was going to come out and try to do.”
  • Oh yeah, Kevin Durant scored 24 points on 12 shots.
  • Led by Westbrook, the Thunder dished 27 assists on 37 made field goals.
  • It was a terrible start for OKC. Nothing looked good early. Not the offense, thanks to missed shots. Not the defense, thanks to missed assignments. The Kings led 23-9 midway through the opening period and, for a while, it looked like this was going to be a dogfight.
  • The Thunder outscored the Kings 59-37 in the second and third periods. That was the ballgame.
  • OKC went on to lead by as many as 25 points late in the third quarter.
  • It’s pretty bad when a team leads by 14 points at home and then trails by 25 in the same game.
  • K-Mart got a nice ovation from his former home fans when he checked in with 5:30 to go in the first quarter. Nice, classy move by Kings fans. Rockets fans might want to take note.
  • The Thunder got back in the game behind a 14-3 run in the last half of the first quarter. It was no surprise that Westbrook scored or assisted on 10 of those 14 points. He hit K-Mart for back-to-back 3-pointers and capped the spurt with a nice find to a rolling Collison.
  • OKC had two defensive 3-second violations in the first quarter and one in the second.
  • Scott Brooks said on three separate occasions before the game that limiting DeMarcus Cousins was one of the primary goals tonight. The second time he said it, Brooks said his team can’t let him have a 25 and 15 game. The third time he said it, Brooks said his team can’t let him have a 30-20 game. I couldn’t help but point out to Brooks that his numbers kept going up. “I just remembered,” Brooks said, “I thought he had a 29 and 20-rebound game.” Brooks was then informed it was 31 and 20. “See,” Brooks said. “Let’s start over. Ask the question again.”
  • In the first quarter, Cousins appeared to be on his way to having one of those monster games. He had nine points, three rebounds, one assist and three steals in that opening quarter. The Thunder had absolutely no answer for him.
  • With the help of forward Jason Thompson and some early run-out opportunities, the Kings scored 18 points in the paint in the first period. Thompson matched Cousins’ nine points.
  • For some reason, the Kings stopped going to Cousins and Cousins stopped attacking down low. Cousins and Kings coach Keith Smart did as much to keep Cousins in check as the Thunder.
  • Perkins did provide some solid defense, though, making Cousins shoot over the top. “I just said he wasn’t going to hit those shots all night,” said Perkins. “He’s a gifted player, so you got to expect him to come out and keep shooting. I just said as long as I keep him taking contested 2s, eventually he was going to have to miss one.”
  • Cousins scored five points on 2-for-9 shooting after the first quarter.
  • Tyreke Evans had a boneheaded play at the end of the first quarter. With the quarter clock running out, he pushed it on a two-on-one fast break and threw a lob to Thompson. When Thompson didn’t catch it, he had to come down in a crowd and fight for the ball. He recovered it underneath the basket and tried to kick it out to a teammate but saw his pass get picked off. Westbrook then drilled a jumper to beat the buzzer at the other end. That was a potential four-point swing. Instead of holding for the last shot, Evans’ decision ended up costing the Kings two points.
  • OKC never trailed after taking a 44-43 lead with 3:58 remaining in the second quarter.
  • In the first half, it looked like everybody on the court was trying really, really hard to score. Then KD would make a move or a jumper and it looked effortless, like he was just a thousand times better than everybody else.
  • DeAndre Liggins is a rebounding machine. He had seven tonight, three in his first 6 1/2 minutes, including one on the offensive end that got K-Mart a second chance bucket.
  • It’s easy to take some (not all) of the things Durant and Westbrook do for granted when you watch them every night. I’m guilty of it myself. But they led a fast break with about 6:30 remaining in the second quarter that literally made me shake my head and say to my neighbor “My goodness!” Westbrook got the ball and with that little pest Jimmer Fredette pressuring him made a few dribble moves, spinning and going behind his back before getting it up the court and to KD. Then KD put on his own dribbling display, crossing over, splitting two defenders and slashing to the rim. Not much a team can do when two guys can do what they did on the same possession.
  • After he came out on fire, K-Mart told some courtside fans “I always liked this gym.” It would be the start of some great on-court chatter from K-Mart.
  • Tyreke had another brain fart at the end of the second quarter when he stepped out of bounds despite the Kings having another chance at the last shot.
  • When Evans’ turnover gave OKC the ball back, the Thunder took a 20-second timeout to draw up a play to get a shot with 1.3 seconds showing and needing to go three-quarters court. Just before the ball was inbounded, K-Mart walked over to the far corner just in front of my press row seat and said to me, “3-ball right here. Watch.” First I thought he was nuts. There was no time for Westbrook to get the ball and pass up to him. Then I realized Brooks must have designed a play for him to go get it. And that’s exactly what unfolded. Collison set a perfect cross screen on K-Mart’s man, and Martin flashed to the near sideline. He caught the ball just beyond the 3-point line but had it stolen away by Marcus Thornton as he began to turn toward the rim. Shame. It was a gorgeous play call.
  • Serge Ibaka doesn’t seem confident shooting free throws right now for some reason. His form is all funky, and he doesn’t seem to be comfortable releasing his foul shots. He made six of eight from the stripe tonight, which is pretty good. But in the last nine games, Ibaka is shooting just 15-for-27 from the line, 55.5 percent. In his first 33 games, Ibaka was shooting 81.8 percent from the free throw line.
  • Liggins sustained a right eye abrasion tonight but returned to the game.
  • Reggie Jackson’s back-to-back attacks to the rim midway through the fourth quarter were examples of his explosiveness that I’ve been talking about for a year and a half. On the first one, when he nailed a runner, you could see the light come on and Jackson go into attack mode. The second one was just nasty…and needed.
  • Perhaps not seen on television is how Durant was barking at Jackson to give him the ball after Hasheem Thabeet got the defensive rebound. Jackson took it up the court himself as KD began to shake his head and scrunch his face. Five seconds later, Jackson was soaring down the middle of the lane to pack one in. Durant, still at halfcourt, let out a roar in approval.
  • Travis Outlaw will dunk on you anytime, anywhere.
  • There was a group of about 10 Thunder fans seated together just behind the scorer’s table. They were right behind radio voice Matt Pinto and to the right of the television crew. Chances are you might have heard their cheers all night on the broadcasts.
  • We got a K-Mart Special tonight. That’s the new moniker for when Martin steps out of bounds as he’s making his move. Special h/t to reader Barry Amenema.
  • I spoke with K-Mart briefly before the game about his tendency to step on the line. He told me he has never done that as much as he has this season. He also expressed a small bit of frustration in himself for doing so but had an extremely logical explanation. Essentially, K-Mart said because his role is more of a spot up shooter than it’s ever been he’s not accustomed to working on the sidelines as much as he has this season. He said it’s an adjustment that he’s still acclimating to.
  • K-Mart added this. He said because he travels a lot just before making his move, it becomes more likely that he’ll step out of bounds. I literally had to shake my head in disbelief as K-Mart admitted this. I was like, ‘So you know you travel?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I shuffle my feet.” That turned into a sidebar, as I began to inquire why. He said he didn’t know the reason, he just always has done it. He then said sometimes the refs call it and sometimes they don’t, so he has continued to do it. That’s when I told him how much Thunder heads used to hate it when he played for other teams and the refs never seemed to call it. He laughed. Then he pointed out how he notices everybody with a rooting interest for the opposing team hates it, fans, players coaches. Everybody’s always complaining, he said. K-Mart seemed to enjoy this very much.
  • Late in the fourth quarter, K-Mart shouted “KJ, keep fighting to keep that (team) here.” He was talking to Sacramento mayor and former Suns great Kevin Johnson. KJ just smiled politely. This would have been a great game for K-Mart to be mic’d up.
  • With two minutes left in the game, KD untied his laces as he sat on the bench and tossed his game shoes to the team’s head of security. Durant instructed him to give them to two little kids. If this is indeed Durant’s final time playing in Sacramento, he went out with class.
  • Up next. At the Lakers on Sunday.

-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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