Thunder 110, Jazz 87
Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s win over the Jazz.
- Man, that fourth quarter felt like a summer league game.
- The third quarter was pretty bad, too.
- That’s because the Thunder took care of business in the first two periods, building a 22-point halftime lead and cruising to a cakewalk over a division rival that had embarrassed it a month ago.
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks: “Our defense was outstanding in that first half…I thought that was the game right there.”
- OKC held Utah to 22.7 percent shooting in the first half, a performance that will go in the books as one of the team’s best halves of basketball this season. Only the Bulls shot a lower percentage in a half, Chicago mustering just 20.8 percent back on Feb. 24. That stands as the franchise record in the OKC era.
- How about that second quarter? The Thunder held the Jazz to just nine points in the period. That is a franchise low for points allowed in a period in the OKC era. Utah made just three of 24 shots and, in the final 10 1/2 minutes of the period, had twice as many turnovers.
- The Thunder put away the Jazz with a 21-4 run in the final 10 1/2 minutes of the second. In case you didn’t catch that the first time, Utah scored four points in 10 1/2 minutes.
- Kendrick Perkins on that second quarter: “I can’t recall (ever doing) that. That’s pretty awesome to be a part of. And the crazy thing is I don’t even think we was full throttle today. Usually Loud City will be rocking a little bit more and we be a little bit more energized. So I thought it was just a great professional win.”
- Perk was the player of the game. No ifs, ands or buts about it. His defense on Al Jefferson was spectacular. He held the Jazz bruiser to eight points and seven rebounds. Jefferson made just four of 13 shots.
- At halftime, when the Thunder had Utah stuck on 22 points, Jefferson had just six points on 3-for-11 shooting and six rebounds. The Jazz had just six points in the paint.
- Brooks: “Perk…if you had to give a game ball, you’d give it to him.”
- Hoop idea. Start giving game balls. Not literally. But award game balls like soccer awards man of the match honors, or hockey hands out three stars on the night. I’d love to see it worn like a badge of honor, sort of like college football decals on helmets though that would get cluttered. But track it, compare the players with the most at the end of the year and let the game balls be a part of the debate for the MVP award. The game ball would be reserved for the player who most impacted the win. Of course wins, and a player’s impact on ushering them in, always decides (or should) the MVP. Just a thought.
- Back to Perk. Here’s his final stat line: zero points, 0-for-2 from the field, three rebounds, zero assists, four fouls and four turnovers. Numbers do lie.
- Credit Serge Ibaka for the job he did on Millsap as well. Millsap finished with just seven points and seven rebounds. It felt like Millsap was grabbing whatever offensive rebound he wanted, but officially he had just three.
- It was clear that the Thunder made it a point to win the battle of the big men, especially after Jefferson and Millsap manhandled OKC in the last meeting. A month ago in Utah, Jefferson and Millsap combined for 41 points and 17 rebounds on 19 of 36 shooting. Tonight, the duo combined for 15 points and 14 rebounds on 5-for-18 shooting.
- Brooks: “I thought their bigs really did a good job of setting the tone for their team in Utah. And I thought our bigs did a great job (tonight).”
- Perk: “We remember the butt-whooping that they gave us in Utah so we just wanted to come back and respond after that. Coach instigated it a lot these last two days about how bad they whooped us. We laughed about it, but at the same time Serge and myself, we’re two guys that have a lot of pride. So I told him today let’s go out here and do what we got to do. Don’t worry about nothing else but making it hard on those two guys. I think we did a pretty good job.”
- Perk’s last three opponents, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Jefferson: a combined 31 points on 15-for-46 shooting. If I may.
- Again, the Jazz had six points in the paint at the half. Six! Utah had just 16 through three quarters. Thanks to the summer league-like fourth period, the Jazz finished with a misleading 32 paint points. Still, that’s 11 below Utah’s average. This is a team that came into the game tied for seventh in paint points at 43.1 per game.
- Kevin Durant: “We were physical with them. Perk did a great job. Serge did a great job. We made them shoot over a hand and forced them out. I can count on one hand how many times they just got easy points in the paint.”
- Here’s why the effort by Perk and Ibaka was so critical. Because it not only shut off the paint but it also allowed the help to stay home on the perimeter. As a result, Utah’s guards weren’t allowed open looks and the Jazz couldn’t turn into double trouble for the Thunder, which is what happened in the last meeting. Utah made just five of 15 3-pointers. Of those five made 3s, three came in the opening period. Two of those three were in the first 4 1/2 minutes. The third was a buzzer beater.
- The funny thing is early in the first quarter it looked like the Jazz, fighting for its playoff life, really came to play tonight.
- Durant finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, both game highs. And he was probably the third best player for the Thunder.
- Russell Westbrook controlled the game on both ends before finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and a game-high nine assists. He was fantastic from the opening frame, posting up the smaller Mo Williams, driving and dishing to set up teammates for dump offs (Nick Collison and Ibaka) and corner 3s (Thabo Sefolosha), rebounding and playing the passing lanes without over-committing or gambling. Big-time game for Westbrook. Had it not been for the lockdown defense by the Bash Brothers, this victory would have been all because of Westbrook.
- Durant had an off night. What??? How can I say that? He had 23 points, 10 boards, two blocks and made seven of 13 shots. Right. But he had a season-high eight turnovers — six by halftime — zero assists and started 1-for-6 from the floor. Now, he bounced back beautifully in the second half, making his first six shots before missing his final attempt. But that doesn’t make up for how bad his body language was, how sloppy he was with the ball and how minimal of an impact he had on the game even in spite of his final numbers. At halftime, for example, Durant had eight points on 2-for-7 shooting with five rebounds and six turnovers. The Thunder led by 22 in spite of him.
- Durant just didn’t look into it tonight. If anyone deserves a pass it’s Durant. But he wasn’t available to the media at shoot-around this morning for unknown reasons — he asked off — or prior to the game. Then he came out and looked lethargic from the start, almost like he didn’t want to be here. Again, if I’d played my tail off for 64 games I would be mentally, physically and emotionally spent as well. But when Durant checked out of the game for the first time with 4:45 left in the first period, he sauntered to the bench, sulking almost. When Sefolosha drilled a 3 moments later, Durant, typically the captain of the cheerleaders on the bench, barely budged. Something just wasn’t right with him in this one.
- Durant tried to explain. “It was just a slow start. I turned the ball over too many times. My confidence, I don’t care who you are, what type of player you are, you have confidence issues if you turn the ball over so many times, miss so many shots. You get down on yourself. I want to do so well all the time and sometimes I can’t do that well. But I get down on myself and I’m still learning how to get out of that.”
- KD knows Westbrook saved him: “When I was struggling early on really bad, and I was down on myself, my teammates came to my rescue. But he was the main guy. I really appreciate him doing that for me because he could have easily just let me fall to the wayside. But he kept me involved, kept my spirits up and that’s what you need your point guard to do. So he was great tonight.”
- Durant’s turnovers are getting out of control again. In the last five, he’s averaging five turnovers. He’s got to get that back under control.
- This just wasn’t fair. Even though Durant was terrible in the opening quarter, Brooks was able to stick him back in with 8.7 seconds left and the Thunder searching for a bucket. Durant took the inbounds pass under his own basket, coolly dribbled up the court, blew right past his man and got a layup plus the foul. He made the foul shot to complete the three-point play. All you could do is shake your head in amazement. The only thing Durant did was score too fast.
- With 3.8 seconds left on the clock, Jazz guard Alec Burks then raced down and drilled that buzzer-beating 3 to end the first quarter. From that standpoint, as impressive as Durant’s play was (especially given his early struggles), it still was poorly executed.
- Derek Fisher came off the bench again before Reggie Jackson. Something I’ll never understand.
- Fish was hitting shots tonight, though. He made four of five from the field, including two of his three 3-point tries, and finished with 10 points. Everything looks better when he’s making shots.
- Unlike Monday night, the second unit with KD looked really good at the start of the second quarter.
- Bon Jovi must really be struggling to sell tickets here. They’re just giving away those tickets. Like, for real. They were having a giveaway earlier this week, and for the last few games they’ve advertised seats for 10 bucks. What y’all got against Bon Jovi?
- A lot of questions about Ibaka’s left eye. See, what had happened was…he fell into Tim Duncan’s knee with 6:40 remaining in the fourth quarter Monday night in San Antonio. It looked bad at the time, but I had no idea he was going to show up tonight looking like he had just gone 12 rounds with Clubber Lane.
- A lady tripped and fell while walking behind the Thunder’s bench at halftime. As the teams were warming up for the second half, Durant stopped shooting and ran over to help the lady up. He beat arena security and the medics there. Nice gentlemanly gesture there.
- Durant and DeMarre Carroll got into it again tonight. Carroll hip-checked Durant with 5:47 left in the third quarter. Durant took exception. Then Westbrook took exception. Westbrook ran over and elbowed Carroll in the chest. Those two then started talking smack. The irony of the whole thing was that Carroll did to Durant exactly what he didn’t appreciate Durant doing to his buddy Burks back in Utah a month ago. Check the 2:30 mark here.
- Got to love how Westbrook came to Durant’s defense. Wolverine was ready to unleash the claws.
- Durant: “I was just trying to get my teammate away from it all. I seen Russ over there by himself. That was the first thing I was concerned with. It was a hard foul. That’s it. I did the same thing to one of their guys in Utah so I couldn’t be too upset about it. I was just running over there to get Russell. I seen him in a see of blue of Utah guys. So I just tried to go over there and get him out of that because I knew he came to my rescue there as well.”
- To be clear, Durant’s bump on Burks was much lighter than Carroll’s bump on KD.
- Durant: “Ain’t nobody gon fight out here first off. It wasn’t that hard of a foul. I’m glad I was able to get two free throws out of it. But other than that I was just trying to go over there and get Russ.”
- Brooks on the incident, specifically how Russ stood up for Durant: “You don’t want to put your team in a bad position, but you always have to protect your teammates. It’s nothing that we go into the game thinking that we’re going to get into a skirmish or a fight or anything. But you always have to protect your teammates. But you don’t want to fight. This is not a fighting sport. Nobody fights in this league. They pretend to be fighters but they’re not fighters.”
- Along those lines, Hasheem Thabeet and Enes Kanter got tangled up and had to be separated. As Brooks said, neither really seemed to want to do anything. But for the life of me I can’t understand how Thabeet keeps getting into it with players. He is without question the nicest guy on the team. It’s not even close. But on the court, he’s like another person and keeps finding himself in the middle of a mess.
- Ronnie Brewer played the final 4:44. He checked in when the Thunder was ahead by 19. I talked to Brewer before the game about his lack of playing time and he seemed to be handling the (for lack of a better word) hardship with complete professionalism. I’ll post a piece here tomorrow on his thoughts on the matter and how he’s handling. But here’s the brunt of what he had to say. “I don’t let it get me down,” Brewer said. “If I don’t play, you can do other things. You can cheer your teammates on. You can tell them things that maybe you see that they don’t see on the court. You got to just do your part and that’s part of being part of a great organization. Everybody has their role and does their part. And whenever my name is called I have to be ready and play to the best of my abilities.”
- Up next. Orlando on Friday.
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