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Thunder 116, Bobcats 94

John Rohde Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:46 pm •  Published: March 9, 2013

Early Saturday morning observations from Friday night’s Thunder victory over the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena:

  • Given some of the Thunder’s previous results, you couldn’t help but wonder the unthinkable. OKC has been cruising right along in the past, only to drive into a ditch and suffer an embarrassing road loss against a pitiful opponent. It happened earlier this season at Washington (without John Wall) and Cleveland. In the past it’s happened at Sacramento, Toronto and Washington (again). Would it happen Friday at Charlotte? Um, no.
  • Last time it played the Bobcats, OKC posted a 114-69 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena. In that game, Charlotte managed just 24 points by halftime, scoring 12 each in the first and second quarters. On Friday, the Bobcats led 29-28 after the first quarter.
  • The Thunder looked a half-step slow after Thursday night’s 95-94 survival against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Understandable, given the team’s 3:15 a.m. arrival into Charlotte.
  • Four-time All-Star Kevin Durant finds the good in everybody: “This team (Charlotte) has nothing to lose. They play so hard, they’ve got a great coach (Mike Dunlap) and they’ve got a great group of young guys, so we knew they were going to come out blazing. I think we did a good job of taking that first punch and kept fighting after that.”
  • With 31.0 seconds left in the first quarter, Thunder sixth man Kevin Martin hit a 16-footer. That started a 21-0 run by the OKC reserves, and there was nothing fluky about it. Nothing but backup players scored for the Thunder during that spurt.
  • OKC reserves actually scored 29 straight points from the 1:18 mark of the first quarter to the 6:09 mark of the second period. That’s extremely impressive – yes, even against the Bobcats (13-49).
  • When the Bobcats visited Chesapeake Energy Arena on Nov. 26, they arrived with a 7-5 record and left with a 45-point loss (114-69). Since that day, Charlotte has gone 6-44 (.120). Sounds like the beginning of the Thunder’s first season (3-29), only longer.
  • It’s amazing how relaxed backup point guard Reggie Jackson looks. It’s like a switch has been flipped to the “on” position. Asked if he still gets nervous, Jackson shrugged and said, “Nah, it’s just basketball.” And it’s good basketball at that.
  • What’s particularly good to see is how well Jackson and 38-year-old veteran Derek Fisher are playing together. Last season, it was Fisher who averaged 20-plus minutes per game and essentially pushed Jackson to the end of the bench. Now they’re side-by-side.
  • Jackson on playing alongside Fisher: “There was nothing wrong with last year. I thought I was ready, I might not have been. We’re just playing side-by-side and trying to get things done. It’s great having a vet in the backcourt with you. We’re just trying to figure things out, get everything jelling and get things back to the way they were before, and hopefully even better.”
  • There was an immediate favorable reaction Friday when word spread quickly that Thunder general manager Sam Presti had reached out to Hugo High School junior Trey Johnson, who accidentally scored the game-winning basket for the other team in a Class 3A boys basketball state tournament game against Millwood on Thursday night in Yukon. Presti refused to share what was said in their conversation, but did confirm Johnson will attend Sunday’s noon game against the Boston Celtics at The Peake as a guest of the Thunder.
  • Say this about Charlotte, their fans love basketball. A crowd of 18,870 showed up Friday, evidently with nothing better to do than watch a blowout.
  • Once again, a loud Thunder contingent was on hand. There were more Thunder jerseys in the stands than Bobcats jerseys. However, there were plenty of times the arena was deathly quiet.
  • That being said, after Durant was whistled for carrying the ball (palming), one fan screamed “Over-rated.” Seriously? I thought Carolina knew basketball better than that.
  • Martin, who has been struggling on the road all season, had a solid trip, going 8 for 16 from the field and 6 for 11 from 3-point range. OKC sure looks more formidable when Martin contributes.
  • Friday was another quietly solid game for Serge Ibaka, who in the first quarter appeared to be the only OKC player with any gas in the tank. Ibaka finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. In his last four games, Ibaka is 23 for 32 (.719) from the field and has 11 blocked shots.
  • Ibaka’s mohawk haircut is coming in nicely.
  • Late in Thursday’s victory over the Knicks, Durant finally decided to take over the game. He started to pass a little bit less and shoot a little bit more. How does Durant know when it’s time to take charge? “Eye contact,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said with a smile. “He knows my look and I know he gets what I’m thinking. It’s along the lines of, ‘Please, Kevin. Take over this game.’ He understands. With the experience he’s had over the last couple years, he knows when it’s time to take over a game. He has the ability that only a handful of players in this league have.”
  • How do teammates on the court know when it’s time for Durant to take over? “I think we all know that, the whole league knows that,” Martin said with a chuckle. “He’s the go-to guy at the end of the game and we’ll just get out of his way and let him do his thing.”
  • Presumably, former Thunder center Byron Mullens is miserable playing for Charlotte, but it sure didn’t show Friday night. He visited the Thunder locker room briefly after the game, wearing a huge smile despite managing just five points, two assists and zero rebounds in 17 minutes of play. Why the grin? Mullens was holding his new baby.
  • For those who might have missed it, Portland beat the Spurs 136-106 in San Antonio last night. Feel free to overreact right about …..… NOW!
  • With Tony Parker out with an ankle injury, Trail Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard exploded for 35 points and nine assists with a plus/minus of plus-33. Lillard is outstanding and should be a unanimous choice as Rookie of the Year, but I’ll still take last year’s ROY, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving.
  • Next stop: Sunday’s noon contest against the Boston Celtics at The Peake, which will be shown on ABC. Thunder beat writer Darnell Mayberry will occupy this space for the remainder of the season.

- John Rohde

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