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Thunder 97, Suns 69

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:46 pm •  Published: February 11, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s win at Phoenix.

  • Here are the final margins of victory, in chronological order, over the Suns this season: 18, 12, 31 and 28. Add it up, divide by four and you’ll see the Thunder won the four-game series with Phoenix by an average margin of 22.3 points.
  • This one might have been the most impressive. The Thunder had balance on offense, focus on defense and actually maintained both for 48 minutes, all while playing on the road without the help of its third best player.
  • Kevin Martin was not with the team because of flu-like symptoms. He is on the trip but stayed at the team’s hotel. In his absence, Thabo Sefolosha scored a season-high 20 points, spraying in shots from all over the floor, including five of seven from behind the 3-point line. His five makes from downtown are a career high.
  • “I’m just shooting it with confidence,” Sefolosha said. “I’m not trying to put any extra pressure on myself. When I’m open, I’m just letting it go. With the work that I did in the summer and throughout the season, I feel confident.”
  • The Thunder won this game in the final five minutes of the second quarter. OKC closed the first half on a 16-2 run, turning a three-point lead into a 17-point halftime advantage. The Thunder never looked back.
  • Russell Westbrook ignited the rally with his steal on Jermaine O’Neal’s pass from underneath the Thunder’s basket. Westbrook intercepted the ball, gathered himself and dunked over a late-contesting O’Neal.
  • Seemed fitting that Westbrook capped the run, too. He hit a buzzer-beating 3 out of a timeout that appeared to crush the Suns and give the Thunder all the momentum.
  • “We wanted to close out the quarter and go into halftime increasing our lead from that point, and our guys did a good job. They locked in. They focused in on every possession,” said Scott Brooks. “And we got good looks. We had a stretch that we weren’t getting good looks because we were taking bad shots. We stopped doing that and then we started moving the ball much better.”
  • A media member out here in Phoenix pointed out that the Thunder has 27 double digit wins this year. That’s kind of impressive.
  • Only one Suns player scored in double digits. Markieff Morris had a team-high 12 for Phoenix. I wonder how many times in NBA history a team hasn’t had a single player score double figures.
  • In that game against Charlotte on Nov. 26, when the Thunder also held the Bobcats to a season-low 69 points, Jeff Taylor was the lone Bobcats player in double figures. He had just 10.
  • For those asking, Jeremy Lamb was inactive tonight while continuing to recover from his low back strain. I sort of agree with others. It is unfortunate that he’s injured during this hot streak. He’s missing out on some good minutes. I don’t, however, think garbage time is going to do him or any player much good.
  • The Thunder never trailed and led by as many as 35.
  • Thanks to the blowout, the most compelling thing about this ballgame was how the bench would perform without K-Mart. Hard to give the second string a passing grade in this one. Through three quarters, the bench had scored just three points. The reserves missed six of seven shots over that same span.
  • The B team wasn’t all bad. They did a lot of good things. The ball movement didn’t tail off and the defense was still there. They just couldn’t make shots, which is about what you’d expect from a lineup that includes Reggie Jackson, DeAndre Liggins, Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet. They just didn’t have a scorer until Kevin Durant replaced Thabo with 9:14 left in the second period. Even then, those two five-man units mustered only three points in 5 1/2 minutes.
  • After watching the second unit without Martin tonight, the second time this season we got a glimpse of what it looks like, you can’t help but think there’s a trade that needs to be made to shore up the second team. It’s completely reliant on a two-man game with Martin and Collison. That or Durant being on the floor to bail it out. At some point throughout a postseason run, you’d figure one or both of those things won’t be there. Even though the second string is building a defensive identity, only so many scores are going to be produced from stops. What happens when K-Mart goes cold, or KD is in foul trouble? Who does the Thunder turn to for five, six or seven minutes? OKC has very real financial restraints that will make dealing extremely difficult. But deals are out there. The organization, however, seems comfortable with the status quo because rotations generally shrink in the playoffs and a nine or 10-man rotation becomes one that only goes seven or eight deep. There’s also a general feeling that there aren’t enough minutes for an additional player, and even if there was ample opportunity available at what cost would Player X come if he’s any good? You can’t question much about the way this franchise has built. But banking on this bench in the postseason seems like a risky proposition, possibly even one that could bite the Thunder in a big game or two down the line.
  • Having said all that, Jermaine O’Neal, for the second time in three days, was just screaming at Sam Presti with his play: “Come and get me!”
  • Can’t see how anyone can watch Jackson create shots for his teammates and not think he’s a point guard. More and more people have flooded my inbox and Twitter account with thoughts about Jackson being more of a shooting guard and “Westbrook lite.” First of all, it’s not like that’s a bad thing if he is. Secondly, he’s not. Jackson plays much more under control than Westbrook did when he was at this stage in his career. Jackson also is a better shooter at this stage (even though he’s in a big-time slump at the moment) and, I’d argue, is a better passer and decision-maker than Westbrook right now. Jackson sees things before they happen and creates scoring opportunities for others. Westbrook racks up assists, but he reacts more than reads if that makes sense. To put it another way, one guy makes the pass that’s there, like a pick-and-pop, for example. The other guy sets up scores, like breaking down his man and dishing a dump off pass after drawing the defense. There’s a difference.
  • Before anyone accuses me of bashing Westbrook (because, you know, nobody can analyze his game these days), that’s not what it is at all. I just think Jackson is a better passer. Plain and simple. I’m sure some, if not most, will disagree. But it’s no different than saying Eric Maynor is a better playmaker than Westbrook, which, before Maynor’s injury, I think we all agreed with.
  • This was Jackson’s 26th straight game as the primary backup behind Westbrook. Maynor played 25 games before Brooks gave Jackson the keys. That could mean something about how Brooks thinks things are going at that spot. It could mean nothing. But Jackson definitely has passed the 25-game trial that Maynor received.
  • Wow. I’m just now realizing that Phoenix shot only five free throws. That’s a new opponent low. The previous low was eight, set by Philadelphia.
  • Phoenix had four turnovers before making its first field goal. The Suns started 0-for-7.
  • Kendrick Perkins told me before the game that his infamous pose on jump shots is not actually a pose. He says he’s trying to guide the ball in.
  • After forcing Marcin Gortat into a tough baseline jumper at the end of the shot clock in the first minute of the third quarter, Perk turned toward his bench, clapped his hands and bellowed “Four points in two games!”  Gortat was stuck on two points at that point.
  • Gortat then scored four points on back-to-back jumpers in the next two minutes.
  • Up next. At Utah on Tuesday.

-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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