Thunder 127, Wolves 111
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win over Minnesota.
- It wasn’t the most encouraging performance, but given the circumstances it’ll have to do.
- The defense wasn’t there tonight. Yet the Thunder still got out of here with a 16-point win. You take that every day.
- Against a Wolves squad playing without star forward and leading scorer Kevin Love, there’s no excuse for the Thunder to allow 111 points, 48 percent shooting and force only 10 turnovers. But, again, the Thunder got the W.
- Scott Brooks on the Thunder’s defense: “There’s no question that what we have is not broken. It’s just not working at the moment.”
- The first quarter defense actually wasn’t bad at all. OKC held Minnesota to just 23 points on 42 percent shooting and looked about as engaged and active as it has in a long time. Players were fighting through screens, chasing baseline runners, clogging the paint, contesting shots and closing out possessions with rebounds. It was everything you want to see from the team’s defense.
- And then the second quarter started.
- Not sure what happened to the defensive intensity in that second quarter, but the Thunder allowed 35 points on 62.5 percent shooting and allowed the Wolves to make this a closer-than-expected contest.
- Brooks: “I’m not thrilled at all with our defense. We gave up a 30-point quarter. Almost two of them.”
- It’s not my intention to focus on the “negative.” It’s simply a byproduct of where this team is right now and, really, what it expects of itself. Winning a shootout by 16 against a team 12 games under .500 and playing without its best player is not at all what the Thunder wants to be about.
- Brooks: “To get to where we want to get to you have to be a defensive team. And we know that.”
- Now, on the other end, there was some really impressive offense played. As a results, the Thunder tied its season high with 127 points, shot nearly 58 percent from the field, made nine of 14 3s and nailed all 22 of its free throw attempts.
- Late in the fourth quarter, the Thunder was shooting 60-plus percent from the floor, 60-plus percent from 3-point range and 100 percent from the foul line.
- Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook led the way offensively. The two combined for 64 points and 16 assists.
- Westbrook in particular was good. He dumped in a season-high 37 points on 13 of 22 shooting and added seven rebounds and nine assists. He controlled the game throughout, taking quality shots, making smart passes to get teammates involved early and often, took care of the ball outside of a few stretches and made proper passes out of double teams on his post-ups.
- Durant: “Russ was really good on the scoring department as far as putting pressure on those guys and making the smaller guys guard him in the post. So he was really good tonight and we just followed his lead.”
- Durant and Westbrook combined for 19 points and six assists in the third quarter. Their play in that period is what overpowered the Wolves and delivered this victory. They took turns taking it to Minnesota and it led to a 34-25 period that built a 17-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
- Brooks: “We wanted to make sure that we set the tone in that third quarter, and I thought they did a good job of coming out and being aggressive and attacking. They’re two very good offensive players, but when they attack like that it opens up a lot of shots for other guys and that’s where we were really good tonight.”
- The Thunder had 28 assists tonight, three shy of tying its season high.
- OKC completely shut down Nikola Pekovic in this one. The Wolves center has become a bit of a Thunder killer in recent games. But tonight he scored just five points with two rebounds. Kendrick Perkins did a fantastic job on him after missing the Rockets game with a knee injury. Perk played with his usual physicality and contested jump shots as best he could. Pek looked like he didn’t want any part of Perk tonight.
- Durant: “Perk took that personally. That’s what we want. He did a really great job of pushing him off his spots, making him shoot over a hand.”
- Perk picked up two fouls in the first 3 1/2 minutes, forcing him to sit and Hasheem Thabeet to strap up. Thabeet then came in and continued the effort Perk started. Thabeet was actually pretty impressive. He fronted Pek well and bodied him when he did get it. Thabeet got two fouls in about five-plus minutes, but he stuck with it and gave a nice contribution.
- Thabeet also had two really good offensive rebounds that led to putbacks.
- DeAndre Liggins checked in with 2:46 remaining. It only made me wonder if this is the last time this season we’re going to see DeAndre Liggins.
- Harsh sighting in the locker room before the game that summed up the business of the NBA. Ronnie Brewer’s nameplate has already replaced Eric Maynor’s above Maynor’s old locker.
- In case you missed it earlier, Brewer will wear No. 8. He’s expected to be available Sunday against Chicago.
- Classy move by the Thunder honoring former Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who passed away this week.
- Not a ton of balance in the scoring department by the Thunder. Only four guys finished in double figures. Perk got there late with 10 points. With 28 assists on the night, it seems like many more players would have had big scoring nights.
- Minnesota, on the other hand, had seven players in double figure scoring and came within a Derrick Williams point of having eight score at least 10 points. I think I’m more confused as to how that happens and a team loses by 16.
- Kevin Martin scored 19 off the bench but somehow fouled out in 25 minutes.
- K-Mart posted up J.J. Barea in the first 30 seconds of the second quarter. I’m sure it’s not the first post-up of the season for K-Mart. But I honestly can’t remember another one.
- K-Mart: “Before the game, Russ was asking me how my post moves were. I told him they were like Hakeem Olajuwon’s. So I got to show it a little bit.”
- Durant said at this morning’s shoot-around that he hates playing against Brewer. K-Mart said the same thing tonight. “I put Ronnie in one of the top five guys that I always hated to have guard me,” Martin said. “So he’s definitely going to help our defense out. He’s been in some great defensive systems, and he’s just a player that knows how to play the game.”
- More from K-Mart on what makes Brewer a special defender: “He’s long. He’s kind of like Thabo. He has great defensive instincts and he’s not afraid to bang. He learned how to play defense under Jerry Sloan so he has a pretty good pedigree to him.”
- You know that dude you play against at the park who makes you say to yourself, ‘He ain’t no good. This is all luck. He can’t be this good.’ But deep down, you know the truth is he really is that good. That’s J.J. Barea. I always thought those campaigning for him to join the Thunder were a little off. But the guy can really, really play. There’s a reason he continues to torch the Thunder. Tonight, he started 4-for-4 from the field and did just about whatever he wanted: got to the rim, got whatever jumper he saw fit, set up teammates, everything. He finished with 14 points with three rebounds and four assists before fouling out in 25 minutes.
- With Maynor gone, it seemed like Reggie Jackson had a little bit more of a pep in his step tonight. Maybe I was just seeing things. He just looked to be more of a bundle of energy throughout the night, not even during the game, than he normally is.
- Jackson was good tonight setting up teammates. The way he creates plays kind of reminds me of James Harden. Before you go blowing up the comments section, let me explain. He’s nowhere near as good of a playermaker as Harden. OK. In no way am I saying he is. But if you remember when Harden was at this same stage Jackson is now, Brooks and some players would get on Harden to pass the ball, keep it moving. Harden, however, knew exactly what he was doing. Or at least he was figuring out that he knew what he was doing. Before long, Harden was a maestro with the ball in his hands and breaking down defenders to get his shot at the rim or set up something for somebody else. I see the same type of thing in Jackson. He seems to know exactly what he’s doing, even if it doesn’t look like it ,or always work out, or simply takes him too long to do it. Just like I said with Harden then, I say the Thunder lets Reggie do his thing a little more now.
- OKC had a turnover on an inbounds pass tonight and a five-second violation on another inbounds attempt.
- Did y’all peep Perk’s hang time on his dunk over Dante Cunningham with 25.5 seconds left in the third quarter?
- Way too many turnovers for the Thunder. OKC finished with 18, which led to 26 Wolves points. The Thunder had 14 turnovers through three quarters.
- Perry Jones III randomly started the fourth quarter.
- In related news, I’m still waiting to see signs of life out of PJ3.
- The two-man game with Martin and Nick Collison continues to grow into a gorgeous set for the Thunder. The second unit still might be too reliant on it. But you can see that chemistry developing more and more each game.
- Lastly, there apparently was a rumor on local radio that old friend Derek Fisher is in town and about to sign with the Thunder. I did some investigating tonight and found out it’s not true. Fisher is not in town. And he has not signed a contract. With that said, it’s an easy connection to make. Fisher played here last year so he knows the system, he has championship experience, he’s a great locker room leader and still can be a steady hand as a reserve point guard, which the Thunder needs now that its down to two at the position. At some point soon, the Thunder will bring in another player, and it’ll probably be a third point guard. It might even be Fisher. But that day hasn’t happened yet.
- Up next. Chicago on Sunday. It’s a late 8:30 start.
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