Thunder 119, Warriors 98
Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s win over the Warriors.
- Russell Westbrook was the player of the game if you ask me. This was one of those team effort victories that the Thunder loves to talk about. But it was Westbrook who set the tone and captained the team to this cakewalk.
- The Thunder’s second possession showed what type of night it could be for Westbrook. He had an open 3 from the right corner but passed it up as a defender ran at him and fired a pass to Serge Ibaka for an even better looking 18-footer. It was the first of many magnificent decisions that filled Westbrook’s night.
- “I like the fact that he competed on both ends of the floor at a high level,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of Westbrook. “He has the ability to be one of the best two-way players in the game and he’s been showing that all year.”
- Westbrook must have selective memory because he said doesn’t think Stephen Curry “really did too much last time.” That was in response to a question I asked about whether Curry’s performance in the last meeting fueled Westbrook tonight. Westbrook being Westbrook, he dismissed the notion, almost defiantly. But between Curry’s team-high 31 points in that game, and Westbrook having arguably his worst game of the year, it’s natural to believe one was related to the other.
- Tonight, Curry scored just 14 points on 5-for-20 shooting. He added a game-high 11 assists and eight rebounds but had six turnovers as well. Much of that was due to Westbrook’s ball pressure. Westbrook had four steals and seemed to have even more deflections. Curry beat Westbrook on a backdoor early and off the dribble moments later. But aside from that, Westbrook helped to bottle Curry up.
- “He was steady,” Kevin Durant said of Westbrook. “His ball pressure was great. He was pursuing over screens. He was getting everybody involved. He was just energetic. That’s what we need from him and he’s been doing it all season.”
- Westbrook finished with 22 points, three rebounds and five assists. He didn’t even stuff the stat sheet like we’re accustomed to yet still had his way. To me, that shows growth in his game.
- As dominant and dialed in as Westbrook was I’m sure, ahem, someone still will take issue with him shooting one more shot than Durant.
- Westbrook and Durant didn’t need to play at all in the fourth quarter.
- That’s because the Thunder led by as many as 26 points and the second unit was sensational in polishing off this one.
- The bench mob was downright terrific. Although Brooks never went with a full five-man B team until the rout was on, the reserves had one of their best games, often rallying to extend leads.
- Reggie Jackson, Kevin Martin, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet were the four Brooks went with in the first half, flanking them with Durant and Thabo Sefolosha. In the second half, before garbage time, it was Jackson, K-Mart and Collison, flanked by Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka. Those units turned a 12-point second-quarter lead into a 20-point lead and an 11-point advantage at the start of the fourth into a 23-point margin midway through the period.
- Brooks on the second unit: “We were up 11 and that second unit came in and really did a good job on the defensive end. Reggie had two incredible defensive energy plays…and just was active. I thought he was really good. He sparked that unit. It’s a defensive unit. Nick and Thabo, when they’re in their together, they protect the basket as well as any bigs in the league.”
- Jackson scored 12 points with three rebounds, six assists, two blocked shots and zero turnovers tonight. His best game as the backup?
- Brooks left Jackson in when he brought Westbrook back midway through the second quarter. Brooks has done that in the last couple of games. Not sure if it’s matchups, Jackson’s effectiveness or the end of the road for DeAndre Liggins.
- I don’t have to tell you that I hope it’s not the end of the road for DeAndre Liggins.
- Speaking of DeAndre Liggins, DeAndre Liggins sprained his left ankle late in this one. He left the arena with a protective boot on his foot and is officially day-to-day.
- See how much I love DeAndre Liggins? I can’t stop typing DeAndre Liggins’ name.
- As the Warriors’ starters were being introduced, the arena played Tupac’s “California Love.”
- Ibaka decided to be an animal on the boards tonight. With no Andrew Bogut, the Warriors didn’t really have anyone to stop Serge from gobbling up rebounds so that’s exactly what he did. He had three offensive boards in the first quarter and got his offensive game going with two early putbacks.
- At the other end, Ibaka also blocked shots like crazy, swatting four in the first quarter and finishing with six to go with 15 points and nine boards.
- The Thunder’s 16 blocked shots tonight are a season high.
- I don’t know much about Kent Bazemore, but the dude can ball a little bit. He was a name that was on the Thunder’s summer league roster last summer but never played for unknown reasons. If I remember correctly he wasn’t even with the team. But he showed the defensive toughness tonight that earned him the Lefty Driesell Award as a junior at Old Dominion. And for some reason, Jackson struggled to stay in front of him when he had the ball at the top of the key.
- Remember when Harrison Barnes was a big deal? Seems nobody is talking about him anymore. Could have a lot to do with him being stuck on a west coast team.
- K-Mart said there was some foul play and trash talking going on tonight by the Warriors. “Coach (Mark) Jackson should talk to a couple of his bench players, make sure they get wet behind the ears before they come barking up a couple of our player’s tree,” Martin said. Asked then if they inspired him, Martin said “Yeah, I take it personally. They did. It wasn’t only talking trash. They did a couple of dirty plays to inspire us as a team.”
- Durant downplayed the “dirty play” but said it fueled K-Mart. “I think K-Mart did a really good job of getting mad and getting through on his own,” Durant said,. “That’s what busted the game open for us in the fourth quarter. I think he was upset at the play where he got fouled on a pass and got pushed out of bounds. That kind of ticked him off, and that’s good. That got him going.”
- Up next. Phoenix on Friday.
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