Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s 106-92 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
- Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd sat this one out. Let’s get that out of the way now, because nearly everything that comes next must be digested with that detail in mind.
- The Thunder’s defense was great at times and terrible at times. In the end, the effort was there and it was effective enough to hold a high-powered team (take note of the first nugget) to 92 points and 38 percent shooting. Regardless of the breakdowns, and there were plenty, the Thunder can be pleased with how it performed defensively.
- As I wrote for Monday’s paper, Kendrick Perkins was the key. He wasn’t ready to say he’s back, and neither am I. But he clearly is a different player than the one we saw last year. He still communicates extremely well on the floor, but now he’s able to get in proper position, too. He’s nimble again after shedding 30 pounds and coming back in great shape and it showed in his activity level. I’ve said that a healthy Perk perhaps is the biggest key to the Thunder making a run at the title, and seeing this first glimpse tonight of what he brings when fully capable of doing his thing only confirms that.
- I’m a little concerned about Perk’s offense. Not in the traditional sense of it being a question mark. But more so in the sense that Perk might now try to do too much. You can tell he’s regained his confidence with the ball in his hands. But already we’ve seen Perk try moves that he probably doesn’t have any business doing. Taking Shawn Marion off the dribble, for example. It’s something to keep an eye on.
- The turnovers were brutal at the beginning and carried on throughout. OKC had eight turnovers in the first 10 1/2 minutes as Thunder players were clearly following coach Scott Brooks‘ message to share the ball better. But they were trying too hard and passing to the wrong colored jerseys. In time, it’ll get resolved. But it’s a good sign that they were trying to have better ball movement.
- If the Thunder truly wants to learn how to pass the ball better the coaching staff should pop in a tape of the Mavs. It’s unbelievable how well Dallas shares the rock. There was a possession in the first half where the backups were swinging it like it was second nature. They had to have made at least seven passes on that possession. And even though it ended in a Jason Terry missed 3, it put a tremendous amount of pressure on the Thunder’s defense.
- It was the halfcourt offense that was the problem for the Thunder. When OKC was able to get in transition, it was a thing of beauty. It’s amazing how good this team is on the break. Just a joy to watch. The Thunder scored 18 fast break points, converting all five of its chances. Look for that to be a theme this season. When the Thunder plays like that, OKC will be tough to beat.
- Another thing that stood out in the offensive department was the 3-point shooting. OKC went 10-for-21 from deep and saw five players make a trey. For a time, the 3-point shooting kept the Thunder from getting blown out of Dallas because of those turnovers. Daequan Cook was 4-for-6 tonight from deep and was feeling great about it afterward. After making eye contact with him in the locker room, I said ‘What’s up?’ He responded, “Just putting on a shooting clinic.” That he did. I swear he hit one from what seemed like 30 feet.
- Brooks played 15 guys tonight. The only two that didn’t play were Byron Mullens and Anthony Goods. I’d suspect Mullens will get some burn Tuesday night.
- Rookie guard Reggie Jackson played six minutes and finished with three points, two assists and a rebound. He didn’t do anything to stand out but he looked confident and comfortable in what he was doing.
- James Harden was as aggressive as he was in Friday’s scrimmage, which is a great sign. As I said before, you can only hope he keeps that up. He took seven shots, got to the stripe six times and didn’t hesitate to let it fly. He just played with more of a bounce in his step and a clear confidence that I’ve never seen before. Very promising so far.
- But here’s what I liked most about Harden’s game tonight. He took a charge! I can’t tell you how many times he flinched and all but ran away from contact last season. It drove me crazy seeing that. But tonight, he stood in there against Mavs center Ian Mahinmi. That took guts and turned out to be very impressive.
- Not a good debut from Serge Ibaka. He picked up three fouls in 4 minutes, 20 seconds and never really had an impact after that. And Dirk didn’t even dress this time. Makes you wonder how much Ibaka will be in foul trouble this year now that he’s the full-time starter.
- Nick Collison took three charges tonight. Are you surprised? Of course not. What might surprise you though is that he said he hadn’t drawn one all camp.
- Perk was in regular season form tonight in more ways than one. After drilling a jump hook over Lamar Odom, Perk stared down a ref and repeatedly screamed “That’s an And one!” until the ref acknowledged him.
- The Thunder has new warm-ups this year. They’ve added more orange to make them more bright and colorful. I think you’ll like them.
- Cole Aldrich had two really nice offensive moves in the low post. And he had seven boards to boot. Nice showing by the second-year center.
- Lazar Hayward played 16 minutes and showed some nice poise. He put the guns back in the holster after taking target practice in Friday’s scrimmage. He took just three shots. I was impressed most with the pace with which he played offensively and the tenacity he showed defensively. After the game, Hayward was escorted somewhere with the team’s medical staff. Not sure what happened but I’ll keep an eye out.
- Slowly, Russell Westbrook is showing his jump shot really has improved. He worked on pull-ups prior to the game and was taking and making them with a controlled form that was free of drifting. He even canned a 3 tonight. Now if he can work on the overpenetrating that got him into one too many jams tonight.
- Kevin Durant made it to the line 14 times tonight. So much for the new Rip move rule limiting his trips to the stripe.
- It was only a preseason game, but I’m wondering how the Mavs will bounce back. They’re still an extremely talented team that plays incredibly well together. But a part of me thinks they might be too cocky after winning the championship. They’re old and they’ve had turnover. Now, they could be a satisfied bunch. That’s not a good mix. Can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.
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