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Thunder 119, Hornets 74

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:46 pm •  Published: February 27, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s win over the Hornets.

  • That completes a 3-0 home stand. No surprise there. It was against Minnesota, Chicago and New Orleans. All three are slumping. All three came in shorthanded.
  • The last two were in convincing fashion. And they were dominant defensive games. After holding the Bulls to 29 percent shooting, the Thunder held the Hornets to 35 percent.
  • What do you make of those numbers is the question. Is it a sign that the Thunder’s defensive prowess is returning, or is it simply a product of OKC playing two injury-plagued teams that are going through tough stretches?
  • The next two games, against Denver and the Clippers, should provide a better indication of where this Thunder team is at the moment.
  • OKC’s 45-point win tied its largest margin of victory this year. The Thunder also waxed Charlotte by 45 in November.
  • Only one Hornets player scored at least 10 points. That was Ryan Anderson, who had 14.
  • Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis didn’t play in this one due to injuries. They’re not good enough to make up 45 points. But they certainly would have helped. New Orleans also came to town on the second night of a back-to-back.
  • Early team defense was impressive. The Thunder came out and played like the Hornets were the Heat. Didn’t seem to matter that New Orleans was 18 games under .500 and playing without its two best players. Ball pressure was suffocating, help defense was on time, switches were crisp and covered well and defensive possessions were closed out with rebounds.
  • The rebounding was as impressive as anything else. At the end of the first period, the Thunder held a 15-3 advantage in the rebounding department. The Hornets didn’t have a single offensive rebound.
  • New Orleans finished with just seven offensive boards. That’s one more than the Thunder’s opponent season low.
  • The Thunder finished the game out-rebounding the Hornets 48-25.
  • Seeing the defense succeed might have played a part in the Thunder playing smart offensively. OKC drove the ball hard early on and got easy points at the rim each time it put pressure on the Hornets’ defense. Ten of the Thunder’s first 12 points were in the paint.
  • Ball movement was also spectacular tonight. It too started early. The Thunder had six assists on its first seven made field goals and finished with 27 assists.
  • Kevin Durant was fabulous with his passing tonight: 10 assists against one turnover.
  • Durant recorded his third triple-double of the season, adding 11 rebounds and 18 points on his final stat line.
  • On his last assist, one he knew he needed for a triple-double, Durant passed up a short jumper in the lane and fired it to Russell Westbrook with very clear, very loud instructions to “Shoot it!” Westbrook did and buried it, a corner 3 right in front of the Thunder’s bench. The two immediately started celebrating and grinning like high school teammates.
  • While Durant did the passing, Westbrook did the scoring. Russ scored 18 points in the first quarter, making five of eight shots and, again, destroying Geivis Vasquez.
  • Late in the first quarter, when Westbrook had 18 points, nobody else in a white jersey that shared the floor with him had scored.
  • Did we see a sneak peak at what could be Scott Brooks‘ new substitution pattern tonight? He brought in Kevin Martin for Durant with 5:08 remaining in the first quarter. That’s about three minutes earlier than Durant generally subs out for the first time. It could have just been that Brooks knew a blowout was about to happen.
  • Hasheem Thabeet‘s block on Xavier Henry’s layup attempt with 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter was just cruel. Henry looked like a little kid challenging an NBA player.
  • Derek Fisher and Ronnie Brewer made their season debuts with the Thunder. Fish started the second quarter. Brewer started the fourth. Fish got a mini standing ovation when he checked in.
  • Brooks was vague once again before the game when pressed some more about his rotation going forward. When asked specifically whether the No. 2 spot on his depth chart at backup point guard is Fisher or Reggie Jackson, Brooks said “both.” Then Fisher took the court alongside Jackson at the start of the second period.
  • Fisher went -0-for-4 in his first game, all of them 3-pointers. Durant set up Fish for two open corner 3s early. Had Fish made either the crowd would have erupted.
  • Midway through the second quarter, Durant had as many assists (four) as shot attempts.
  • Durant’s dish to Serge Ibaka late in the second quarter was his prettiest of the night. And that was a tough honor to get in this one. But on that pass, Durant whipped an underhanded dime through two defenders to a spot Ibaka was headed, not in. The pass beat Ibaka to the spot. Durant led him perfectly. Ibaka cut behind Robin Lopez and Durant fired it past Vasquez while on the move. Simply a phenomenal pass.
  • It appears Robin Lopez’s sole purpose is to push people.
  • Do yourselves a favor and go back and watch Kendrick Perkins‘ block on Lopez’s dunk attempt with 11:18 left in the third quarter. It was fantastic. Rewindable even.
  • I’ve not been a proponent of Perk guarding point guards. Seems pointless to have “the league’s best low post defender” D’ing up 40 and even 80 feet away from the basket. But he was terrific tonight. Perk pestered Vasquez and forced him into wild shots and quick decisions. Perk was so good it looked like a mismatch in favor of the Thunder. Rarely, if ever tonight, could Vasquez blow by Perk. On one second half possession when Vasquez tried, Perk soundly slid his feet to stay in front of him and blocked his shot once Vasquez forced up a shot near the paint.
  • Brooks, of course, didn’t let the opportunity pass to praise Perk for his efforts. “This is a classic example of Perk,” Brooks said. “Perk did not score, but he had a major-league impact on this game tonight. The way he was ball-hawking their ball-handler in the backcourt, the way he was blocking shots, the way he was rebounding, the way he was just playing with force on the defensive end really started and established our points in transition.”
  • Ball security was among the best the Thunder has had all season for the Thunder. OKC’s 11 turnovers were six more than the team’s season low this year. But the Hornets scored just seven points off them. The Thunder had just four in the first half and only seven through three quarters. The final four came in garbage time.
  • Brewer hit a 3-pointer tonight. He also had five points with four rebounds, two steals and an assist in 12 minutes. All that’s fine and well. But he hit a 3-pointer tonight.
  • Perry Jones III showed signs of life. He caught a dump off from Nick Collison for a dunk and drilled two jump shots, looking comfortable doing it.
  • PJ3 snapped the team’s streak at the foul line, however, missing one on a late trip. The Thunder made its first 25 foul shots and finished 27 of 28. Rookies.
  • Up next. At Denver on Friday.

-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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