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Thunder 97, Pacers 75

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:47 pm •  Published: April 6, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win at Indiana

  • Best win of the year. By far.
  • Consider the circumstances. On the road. Second night of a back-to-back. 4 a.m. arrival. At a place OKC has won only once in four seasons. Playing the best defensive team in basketball. A team that hadn’t played since Monday and won eight of nine. With the Pacers playing for the Central Division crown. Yeah, I’d say this was the best win of the season. And that’s before you even take into account how it happened.
  • “I think it was a very good win,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I don’t know where it ranks, but I know it has to rank up there with some of the best wins of the year for us. I just like the fact that we came out with a focus and did not let up.”
  • As I wrote for Saturday’s paper, it’s a good thing OKC has the biggest energizer bunny in basketball. His name is Russell Westbrook. Early on, Westbrook was so good, so aggressive, so relentless that he didn’t allow his team to come out lethargic. He put non-stop pressure on the Pacers defense with unstoppable post-ups and drives. The Pacers had no counter. With each drive, each bucket, each trip to the foul line, Westbrook pumped more and more life into his team. Even the misses were filled with so much energy and purpose that they made everybody else step up their game.
  • “I thought he was great,” said Nick Collison of Westbrook. “A lot of times if he can start the game like that and get us some offense it bodes well for us because it sets the pace and we’re attacking the rim and not settling for jump shots.”
  • Westbrook said he knew his team needed to come out mentally prepared to play the right way. That recognition on his part is what led to his aggressiveness. “I thought it was important for us not to come in the game and try to feel it out and try to see how they were playing and how we were playing,” Westbrook said. “And my job as a point guard is to stay in attack mode and that’s what I did.”
  • The funny thing about this game is that if all you did was look at that box score you easily could see Westbrook scored 24 points on 24 shots and think he had a bad night.
  • Allow me to say it. Westbrook could have scored 40 points on 40 shots and it would have been perfectly fine. That’s just how much the Thunder needed Westbrook’s energy tonight. Efficiency is great. But sometimes it’s overrated. I’m sure Westbrook would be the first to agree with that.
  • And if the Thunder had lost this game, of course there would have been those that complained Westbrook took three more shots than Kevin Durant.
  • Here was Durant’s take since it’s kind of relevant. “That’s his game is always attacking, and tonight he was clicking on all cylinders in that first quarter. He was able to get through the defense and get to the rim and make his pull-ups. He missed a few layups, which are great, great shots for him, but he just kept putting pressure on them. That’s what we needed from him. That freed me. That freed Serge. That freed Perk. Kevin Martin. Thabo. Everybody. So the way he starts the game really dictates how we play for the rest of the game.”
  • Durant sent a scare throughout the whole state of Oklahoma (at least) when he went down just before halftime. He got kneed in the left calf by Serge Ibaka and rolled around in pain following the second-quarter buzzer. After a few moments, Durant rose to his feet and walked off on his own. He came out to warm up for the second half and looked perfectly fine. Even made the first bucket of the third quarter, a runner 33 seconds in.
  • Durant on the injury: “It’s just one of them unfortunate situations. I tried to go for the rebound and Serge was jumping at the same time. And as he was jumping his knee hit the back of my leg. So I’ll be all right. I just got to ice it and I’ll be cool.”
  • Durant looked like a dead fish early on. Almost like the turnaround was too much. He was 1-for-4 for two points in the opening period and was again sloppy with the ball and seemingly careless in his actions. Yet he finished with a game-high 34 points, a performance that simply makes you shake your head in disbelief. Do you realize how good this guy is? This was, statistically, the league’s best defense he just shredded, methodically picking it apart when he needed to most, shaking off a sorry start and stepping up like it never happened. Kid Clutch was in the building.
  • Durant scored 15 of his 34 in the fourth quarter. I wish I did one thing in life as easy as he made those 15 look. I swear I do. Most significant was how he scored or assisted on all of the Thunder’s points in the 9-0 run that OKC used to start the period and effectively put away the Pacers. He banged in the first six, and then assisted K-Mart on the 3 that capped the run.
  • Durant on his jolt: “I know when coach takes me out early in the third in the fourth quarter he needs me to come out there and be super aggressive, kind of like forcing the issue. That’s what I tried to do.”
  • I wanted to give Ibaka some love in this space for his beautiful backdoor pass to KD. It came with 3:55 left to play in the second quarter. I can’t possibly be the only one who was utterly shocked by it. But Ibaka threw it and threw it with confidence. Durant did the rest. And you know what? It was the pass that got KD going. Prior to that bucket, which resulted in a three-point play, Durant sat on just two points. He had that many turnovers. But when Ibaka bounced that backdoor beauty to Durant, it ignited the three-time scoring champ and spelled trouble for the Pacers.
  • Durant on Ibaka’s pass: “Serge is a good passer and he seen a great backdoor pass to me. That got me going right there. That one got me going. I was 1-for-4 and after that one I just felt good about myself.”
  • Brooks on Ibaka’s pass: “That’s something that as is career goes he’s going to be able to make those catches and make those plays. He’s worked on his shooting and he’s worked on guarding the post and that’s something that can also help our team.”
  • The way Ibaka was catching and shooting all night characterized how confident he was. The word confident is assuming the best. That syndrome David Thorpe referenced very well could have been in play. I’m not sure, to be honest. But with Serge taking and making ‘em like he did tonight, who cares?
  • The Thunder out-rebounded the league’s best rebounding team by 22 boards!!!
  • Brooks: “This team obviously put a little fear in us that they can get offensive rebounds. And we did a good job. Our bigs did a good job. Hash, Nick, Perk and Serge really did a good job of matching their physical play and not letting them get easy shots or easy offensive rebounds.”
  • Eight Thunder players had at least four rebounds.
  • Thanks to that rebounding effort, the Thunder held the Pacers to seven second-chance points. OKC had 21.
  • Hasheeem Thabeet played 18 minutes and was quietly tremendous. Even when he was beat, he delivered quality fouls that prevented easy hoops. Most impressively, he helped limit Roy Hibbert to 0-for-4 shooting in the fourth quarter.
  • Collison on Thabeet: “I think all of our guys did great but especially Hash. I thought he was important. He’s been sitting for a few games, and for him to come in; he didn’t put up great numbers but he really did his job. And to be able to count on all of our guys like that is big for us. We need everybody.”
  • Collison had an interesting night. He had a bloody pinky finger that dropped blood all over the court throughout the first half. Play had to be suspended with 9:32 remaining in the second quarter as ball boys tried to clean the court of all the blotches. When it wouldn’t stop bleeding, Collison tried the old suck the blood trick, which my Uncle C.J. taught me back when I was about 8. It was just as weird seeing it today from Collison as it was back then from Uncle C.J.
  • Collison on the injury: “I just sliced it near the nail and it won’t stop bleeding. It’s kind of a strange thing. I think my blood’s thin. That’s what the doctor told me, so it won’t stop bleeding.”
  • Collison said he won’t need stitches.
  • Approaching Collison in the locker room after the game was kind of funny. He sat with his feet in a mop bucket filled with ice with nothing but a towel on, which is an awkward time for a man to approach another man in and of itself. But then Collison had a bloody pinkie, a shiner above his right eye and bruised ribs. It was like some sort of trifecta of glue guy injuries. “It’s all minor stuff so it’s good,” Collison said. “No cartilage, no knees, nothing big so I’m good.”
  • I can’t begin to tell you how much the Thunder, players and Brooks, have been asked about the race for first place in the past few days. I’m guilty of it myself. But from here out, I almost feel like it should be a ban on it. Sort of like a pitcher who has a no-no going.
  • Obviously, this win pulled the Thunder even with the Spurs for first place. And with the tiebreaker over San Antonio, OKC actually is first thanks to having a better conference record. Seventy-six down. Six to go.
  • I wrote in my notebook that 18 of Indy’s first 21 points came in the paint. Pacers only got 19 down low the rest of the night. So much for that sign of trouble.
  • Overheard from a neighboring sports reporter when Gerald Green checked in and covered K-Mart with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter: “Well, here’s a matchup of two defensive stalwarts.”
  • The Thunder won in the alternates!!!!!!
  • I’m working on a quick piece about Reggie Jackson. In doing so before the game, Brooks said something that broke my heart. “Being a point guard is not just taking it to the basket and scoring around the basket,” Brooks said. There was more that followed, but that bit alone crushed me. Made me feel like Brooks doesn’t value Jackson’s ability to break down his man, get to the bucket and finish once there. Look for the piece Tuesday.
  • OKC held the Pacers to 2-for-18 shooting in the fourth quarter. That’s an amazing feat, one that I wanted to mention much higher and elaborate on. Instead, let’s just say I saved the best for last.
  • Up next. New York on Sunday.

-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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