Thunder 112, Mavs 91
Nuggets from my notebook from Monday’s win over the Mavs.
- The prospect of these two teams going into overtime for the third straight time this season went out of the window about 18 minutes into the game. This was a old-fashioned butt kicking, as the Thunder led by 27 in the first half and as many as 33 before cruising to a much-needed drama-free victory.
- OKC displayed a renewed defensive focus, holding the Mavs to 41.4 percent shooting while being locked in on that end throughout the night. The Thunder got tons deflections and was terrific for much of the night in turning stops into scores.
- A rather lengthy morning shoot-around might have been the basis of tonight’s success. The Thunder generally opens up to the media at 10:30 a.m. for shoot-around. Today, the session went beyond 11:30. Apparently, a film session was the focus. Scott Brooks made much of his message about defense and ball movement, two things the Thunder excelled at tonight.
- Kevin Durant made a great point after the game. “We responded well,” he said. “But the toughest test is to see how we do the next game. It’s easy to do it when he gets on us the morning of the game. We got to see if we can sustain it and keep going the next game. So I’m looking forward to see how we respond against a good team.”
- The fact that Durant played tonight is a story in and of itself.
- KD was in obvious pain and discomfort both in the second half of Saturday’s loss at Cleveland and after the game. He looked to be in such bad shape after sustaining a right rib contusion that it didn’t seem possible he’d play tonight. After the team landed late Saturday night, Durant was taken to the hospital to get examined. The results confirmed the contusion. Durant, however, was cleared to play though still suffering through considerable discomfort.
- “Just play,” Durant said when asked how he was able to block out the banged up rib. “At the end of the Cleveland game, I mean, I was hurting throughout the game. But your adrenaline takes over and I tried not to focus on it. If you think about it too much that’s when it really starts to hurt. So I just tried to take my mind off of it and play the game. Tonight I tried to do the same. I didn’t want to shy away from contact or anything. I just wanted to play the game.”
- Durant barreled to the basket multiple times tonight, not only drawing contact with frequency but seemingly initiating and embracing it. On one late first-quarter possession, Durant drove down the right side of the floor and attempted to flush a highlight-reel dunk against two Mavs defenders. He was fouled hard by forward Elton Brand on the play but bounced right up, strolled to the free throw line and split a pair. It was the most encouraging sign that Durant was not trotting out there just to be out there. He was banged up but still able to compete at a high level. “I just got to continue taking care of it and hopefully I’ll be better the next few days,” Durant said.
- Durant scored 19 points with 10 rebounds and four assists while making six of 11 shots in 28 minutes.
- No starter needed to play a second in the fourth quarter.
- After two straight head-scratching performances, Russell Westbrook responded with a well-mannered and all-around effective outing tonight. He scored a game-high 24 points with seven assists and three steals while making half of his 16 shots. His defense on Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo was outstanding for the most part, as he helped limit them to a combined 16 points on 17 shots — and 10 assists against seven turnovers.
- Westbrook’s ball pressure was key. So was his ability to play the passing lanes. It helped the Thunder force 14 turnovers — 10 in the first half– which led to 23 points and one easy scoring opportunity after another.
- Durant on Westbrook: “I seen the regular Russ. It’s no different. He came out and did his job.”
- The Thunder had 11 steals and eight blocked shots.
- OKC scored 25 fast break points.
- The game turned during a nine-minute stretch from the three-minute mark of the first period to the six-minute mark of the second. Over that span, the Thunder broke a 22-all tie by going on a 28-8 run and taking a 20-point lead. The explosion occurred much like most others for OKC. Defense, run-outs and ball movement.
- Over that nine-minute span, the Thunder forced the Mavs to miss 15 of 19 shots, including nine straight at the start of the run. Meanwhile, the Thunder saw seven players score — four chipping in at least four points — and had seven assists on 12 field goals. Six of those points came off three Mavs turnovers.
- That 28-8 run eventually grew to 39-12.
- Kevin Martin caught an alley-oop tonight. Seriously. He laughed about it afterward and told me it was probably his first since his first season in Houston.
- The Reggie Jackson shot at the end of the first quarter was a bad decision. He should have pulled it out and held it for one shot. He ended up scoring, but he nearly allowed Mike James to knock down a runner at the other end that would have negated it. Got to be smarter there.
- Would you believe the Mavs actually made nine of their first 12 shots tonight?
- Durant: “They made some tough shots early on. And we didn’t get discouraged. We stuck with our schemes and continued to just play our game. And we was able to make them miss in the second quarter.”
- Hasheem Thabeet put together a nice little game. He rebounded well (four in 11 minutes), blocked shots (three) and even hit a little 15-footer. He talked after the game about wanting to do it every night and play hard for his teammates.
- The Thunder had 17 points off turnovers in the first half. Against the Cavs, the Thunder had just 14 all game.
- Also, after allowing Cleveland to score 39 fourth-quarter points, the Thunder gave up 44 points in the first half tonight.
- Ball security was also huge in this one for OKC. The Thunder finished with 11 turnovers, leading to 15 Mavs points. But at halftime, the Thunder had just four giveaways, which led to five points. And one of those turnovers was a bogus offensive goaltending call on Serge Ibaka.
- Three of Durant’s assists came in the second quarter. Do yourself a favor and go back and watch the dime he had to K-Mart.
- Durant on his passing: “I try to be an all-around player. I just try to make the right basketball play. I enjoy seeing my teammates score. I enjoy throwing a dime. I enjoy throwing a lob. I enjoy a backdoor cut, getting Kevin Martin a dunk. So it’s just anything for the team to win. I’m just excited for all my guys to go out there and play well. Tonight was another example of if we play together we’re a tough team to beat.”
- Durant picked up his ninth technical foul tonight. That ties him with Matt Barnes, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony and DeMarcus Cousins for the league lead. This one came with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter. It was a surprising one that came out of nowhere, as nobody seemed to see or hear what Durant did or said.
- “I just got to shut up,” Durant said. “I’m racking ‘em up, man. Sometimes I get too excited and voice my opinion when I couldn’t. I just got to shut up and play the game.”
- Durant pleaded his case to no avail immediately after getting hit with tonight’s technical foul. Depending on exactly what he said, it’s a tech that could get rescinded by the league. But Durant hasn’t had one rescinded all season, and after the game he took responsibility for his actions but did not provide details into what exactly was said. “I shouldn’t have got a tech,” Durant said. “I just went up and talked to him and he got me one. But that goes back to the ones I’ve gotten before. I guess they watch and they’re looking for them now. I just got to shut up and play my game and just fight through it.”
- Up next. Golden State on Wednesday.
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