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Preseason: Thunder 87, Mavs 83

by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 20, 2011
It was a block party for Cole Aldrich and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night against Dallas.
It was a block party for Cole Aldrich and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night against Dallas.

Nuggets from my notebook from Tuesday’s 87-83 win over Dallas.

  • By far the most interesting thing on the night took place 90 minutes before the game even started. It came in Thunder coach Scott Brooks‘ pre-game session with the media. In responding to a question I asked about sixth men, Brooks came as close as he’s ever come to conceding that their could be a change to his starting lineup this season. His direct quote: “Last year we had a great one. James was really good. He came in and really improved from year one to year two, and even in his second year, each month he got better. I don’t know who’s going to fill that role this year, or it might be the same guy.” Notice anything about that last sentence?
  • I didn’t notice this in Dallas, but it appears the Thunder has a new pre-game handshake route. Just before tip-off, the entire bench stood in a single-file line in front of the scorer’s table and welcomed each starter with a handshake. It looked like something out of baseball’s book, with the bullpen coming in and meeting the on-field players and the rest of the bench near the mound immediately following the game. I sort of liked it and I sort of thought it was weird.
  • Kendrick Perkins again looked great. His offense really stood out tonight. In the first quarter alone, Perk showed off a two-dribble drive past Brendan Haywood for a reverse layup, a dunk off a pick-and-roll with Russell Westbrook and a nice backdown on backup Mavs center Ian Mahinmi that led to a foul and a trip to the free throw line.
  • It figures that after his first bucket that came off that nice drive, Perk would pick up a tech. It was his first of 2010-11 and came after he shoved Haywood. By no means was it a big deal. But it was good to see some things haven’t changed with Big Perk.
  • The defense tonight was dominant. Dare I say championship level? OK, there I go again with the hyperbole. I know, it’s preseason. Still, tonight’s effort was exactly what you want to see out of the Thunder. Players dove on the floor for loose balls, played the passing lanes (12 steals) protected the paint (10 blocks) and closed possessions with rebounds (35 defensive boards).  Best of all, the D led to O, as OKC scored 21 points in transition. Yup, that’s Thunder basketball.
  • Referee Kevin Fehr was in preseason form tonight. He had himself a night blowing the whistle on questionable calls. First, he slapped Thabo Sefolosha with two of his three early fouls, two of which didn’t appear as if Thabo even touched his guy. Then, Fehr called a ball out of bounds on Kevin Durant when it might have been off Shawn Marion. And finally, Fehr slapped Russell Westbrook for a backcourt violation. The last two calls very well could have been legit.
  • Durant did not have a good game tonight. And it wasn’t just in his final stat line, which read 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and one turnover. Those are Reggie Jackson numbers. But Durant was getting lit up by Marion to start the game, then Lamar Odom came in and immediately drilled one on Durant. To put it plainly, KD’s defensive performance tonight was reminiscent of three seasons ago.
  • KD also couldn’t find his rhythm offensively. He looked frustrated throughout the first quarter but told me after the game that he wasn’t and just had his scowl on. But one thing that stood out tonight is when KD checked out of the game for the first time, Westbrook wrapped his arm around Durant’s waist and began pointing out some things. It was an amazing sign of Westbrook’s growth and leadership. I asked Durant after the game what Westbrook said and KD said he didn’t remember. But Durant said Russ always does that. It’s just nobody wants to write about that.
  • Cole Aldrich got the minutes ahead of Nazr Mohammed and ended up stealing the show tonight. Already, Aldrich looks tons better than he did last year. Tonight, he blocked four shots, tied Perk with a team-high eight boards, tied Westbrook with a game-high three steals and added six points (including a surprisingly sweet reverse layup) to his stat line. If I had to describe Cole’s performance tonight in a word, it’d be active.
  • Jackson’s first shot tonight, a 3-pointer, bricked so badly it hit the bottom of the backboard on the opposite side f the rim. But it was impressive to see the rook bounce back and calmly swish his next jumper.
  • Jackson actually played well tonight during his meaningful minutes. He was again under control and never forced the issue. His defensive pressure was good (albeit largely against training camp guys) and his decision-making didn’t really look like a rookie’s. Jackson was a big part of the 17-4 run to end the first half that helped break open this game.
  • James Harden was the engine in that 17-4 run. He scored or assisted on 11 of the Thunder’s points in that stretch and again anchored that second unit.
  • Let me tell you who’s not about messing up his shooting percentages. Daequan Cook. At the end of the first and second periods, Cook could have tried to launch a prayer from the other end of the court. He instead just dribbled out the clock.
  • The Thunder held the Mavs to 6-for-21 shooting in the second period and 6-for-18 in the third. In those middle two quarters, OKC outscored Dallas 56-29. That was the ball game.
  • Worth noting that Jason Kidd did not start the second half or play at all after halftime.
  • Dirk Nowitzki scored six points on 2-for-10 shooting. Serge Ibaka might have had the play of the night when he suffocated Dirk into a shot-clock violation midway through the third quarter. It was the kind of position defense we didn’t see out of Ibaka last year.
  • Perk had a reverse dunk tonight. Just thought you should know.
  • Everyone’s been saying KD’s post game has improved. Tonight, he showed it. He hit Marion with an absolutely gorgeous drop step from the right block, finishing the play with a sweet finger roll. If you DVR’d the game fast forward to the 10:45 mark of the third quarter and just keep hitting rewind on that move.
  • Nick Collison and Lamar Odom got into a mini-altercation tonight. Odd mix to be mixing it up, I thought. But Odom started it by recklessly closing out on Collison and slapping down on Collison’s neck with both arms. Words were exchanged. Collison picked up a tech. Skirmish over.
  • All in all, it was a great preseason showing by the Thunder. But we all know by now not to read too much into it. As Mohammed said, “It’s a barometer for exhibition games. We’re a good exhibition team right now. The real show starts 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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