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Thunder 120, Bobcats 98

by Darnell Mayberry Published: October 16, 2012

Nuggets from my notebook from Tuesday's win over Charlotte.

  • A lot of real strong performances tonight. Before I say anything else, I'm obligated to say two things: it's the preseason, and it's the Bobcats. Still, let's not take anything away from how well the Thunder performed in this one, individually and collectively.
  • Serge Ibaka set the tone with his energy, hitting the glass hard, patrolling the paint and getting putback buckets and and-ones that sparked the entire team. He's growing before our eyes on the offensive end, which is what I wrote for Wednesday's paper. He had 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
  • Defensively, there are still plenty of things Ibaka needs to prove. Pick-and-roll defense, man defense in the post and a commitment to staying out of foul trouble. But he's learning, and his history of hard work suggests he'll get it down.
  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks on Ibaka: "He’s improved in his ability to communicate with the guys, his ability to pick things up on the fly and his ability to play with his instincts. You see that every night."
  • Hopefully tonight more Thunder heads got to see why I'm driving the DeAndre Ligginsbandwagon. The guy is all heart, fearless of anyone and anything. Those two qualifiers I mentioned in my opening nugget? Throw them completely out when analyzing Liggins. Tonight, at various times his defense harassed Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions, Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Liggins started at shooting guard in place of Thabo Sefolosha, and the final box score showed five points, six rebounds, one steal and one turnover on 2-for-2 shooting in 26 minutes. What it didn't show was his 17 hustle plays and 12 floor burns.
  • Brooks on Liggins: "I think one play, he had four deflections. He's going to dive on loose balls, he's going to get every 50-50 ball, he's going to fight through screens, he's everything that you want from your players."
  • Someone asked me to nugget my projected 15-man roster. Here goes. The 12 returning guys, plus Perry Jones, Hasheem Thabeet and...
  • Daniel Orton.
  • As much as I think Liggins is a perfect fit for the Thunder, especially given Sefolosha's recent track record with injuries, you just don't give up a chance to add an athletic big man who still has tons of potential. I've explained this before. Orton is 1) a big man with tons of potential left in him, 2) cheap and 3) insurance. I'd be shocked if the Thunder let him get away.
  • Orton had a very nice debut tonight, too. He had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot in 19 minutes. You could see the IQ for which Brooks has lauded Orton. He just knows how to play the game, especially offensively. He knows how to be in the right spot, knows how to read and react to the defense and knows how to find the open man. On one possession, he caught a pass in the lane from Eric Maynor, watched the defense collapse onto him and made a sweet extra pass to PJIII for an uncontested dunk. Perk is the only other center on the roster that can do that.
  • Here's much more on Orton.
  • Brooks said about 43 times in his postgame press conference tonight that deciding on the 15th man is going to be a tough decision. He said this crop of camp invitees is the most talented he's ever had. What's interesting is the Thunder has a mix of everything and can take its pick of what it wants to add. Orton is an athletic big man. Liggins is a wing defender and hustle player. Andy Rautins is a shooter. Walker Russell Jr. is a traditional point guard. Hollis Thompson is a shooter and has the potential to be a defender. "We definitely have a lot of good choices," Brooks said. "We have guys that can do things that the other guys can't...It's whoever plays the best. Sam and I and the staff, we're going to make the decision in a couple of weeks."
  • When Rautins gets rolling, look out. It's taken him a while to get comfortable, but he found his rhythm tonight was on fire, scoring a team-high 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting. He made four of his seven 3-point attempts in 24 minutes.
  • Since his one shot attempt at Utah, you could see how bad the entire bench (starters) wanted Rautins to bury a 3-point bomb. They explode off the bench and floor as soon as he releases it. It's a product of the chemistry that this team has built in camp. "I think we've all grown to kind of like each other over these last two weeks," said Kevin Durant.
  • Speaking of 3-point attempts, old friend Byron Mullens jacked up 10 3-pointers tonight. Ten! But, hey, he made four of them.
  • Maynor is back. He doesn't feel like he's back, but you'll take it, right? "I'm just trying to get back," Maynor said. "I'm a little rusty right now. But tonight I felt real good."
  • The Maynor-to-Jones connection was off the charts tonight and it's one I wouldn't mind seeing all season. Of course, that would mean PJIII would be in the rotation. And you know what? If he's playing alongside Maynor, it would be a problem for the rookie, at least not offensively. Maynor would set up Jones for tons and tons of easy baskets. Defensively, Jones has his work cut out for him and will have to earn his minutes.
  • You got a glimpse of PJIII's versatility tonight. He scored 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting. He had five assists, four rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot in 30 minutes. As has been the case, he can step out and hit the mid-range jumper on one possession and take it to the rack on the next -- posterizing Tyrus Thomas tonight.
  • Unlike at Utah, Jones didn't take any 3s.
  • Unlike at Utah, Jones made a foul shot. But just one of three. He's going to have to work on his foul shooting.
  • Nick Collisonposterized Mullens tonight.
  • We saw the bad Cole Aldrich tonight. Nothing else really needs to be said.
  • Who do you feel worse for, Brendan Haywood, Ben Gordon or Ramon Sessions? Haywood went from a championship Mavericks squad to the Bobcats, Gordon went from Detroit (bad) to Charlotte (historically bad) and Sessions went from Hollywood to Hollyhood. That's a pretty tough trio.
  • I sat in a points of emphasis meeting with NBA officials prior to the game tonight and learned a few things. The most interesting is how the referees call "respect for the game" technical fouls. There are three main factors. The player must be overly demonstrative, disrespectful or the action must be prolonged. While still seemingly subjective, that should provide at least a blueprint for what the refs are looking for and perhaps why some reactions aren't called while others are.
  • KD on the league curtailing flopping: "This game is not for floppers. It's used to fool the refs, so they're cutting down on it. Fans don't like it, players don't like it when other players do it. So hopefully it kind of cuts down on the flopping plays."
  • With so many players in camp this year, the Thunder didn't have enough lockers for every player. Thompson and Russell Jr. had to share a locker. And both their names were on the name plate atop the locker, Thompson's on top and Russell's on bottom.
  • Thabeet has Royal Ivey's old locker, which is in between Jones and Kendrick Perkins. Liggins has Derek Fisher's old locker, and Orton has Nazr Mohammed's old cubicle.
  • James Harden getting better from his groin injury. Brooks said he did some shooting the last two days and is "coming along." Brooks also said Harden's groin is nowhere near Perk's groin injury.
  • Why the Thunder isn't broadcasting more preseason games.
  • Up next.  Phoenix on Friday in Tulsa.

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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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