Thunder 117, Nets 111
Nuggets from my notebook from Tuesday’s win at Brooklyn.
- You can tell the Thunder gets up for games in New York. They can say whatever they want about marquee games being “just another game.” But its baloney. Bull crap. OKC came to Brooklyn, felt the buzz in the building and wanted to put on a show. And that’s exactly what the Thunder did tonight.
- The most fascinating part about this one was OKC’s offense. Just look at the box score: 117 points, 60.6 percent shooting (a season high), 50 percent shooting from 3, 88.2 percent shooting from the foul line. The Thunder is probably the only team in the league that can post such ridiculous numbers.
- According to basketball-reference.com, it was just the 26th time since the 1985-86 season that a team has shot at least 60 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range and 88 percent from the foul line. The last team to do it was San Antonio on April 20 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
- Perhaps just as impressive is no Thunder player shot less than 50 percent. Nine players played. Eight took at least one shot. Hasheem Thabeet was the only one who didn’t. Additionally, four of the five Thunder players that launched a 3-pointer connected on at least 50 percent from downtown.
- The 117 points extended the Thunder’s streak of 100-point games to 10. It also bumped the team’s league-leading scoring average to 105.7 points.
- That’s now a season-high six-game winning streak. The Thunder has won 14 of 16. Clearly the Thunder is playing its best ball of the season.
- I couldn’t help but write about Thabo Sefolosha’s game-clinching play for Wednesday’s paper. It wasn’t just critical, but it also came from an unlikely source on an unlikely sequence. It was Sefolosha’s offensive rebound, the Thunder’s second and final one of the night. When Russell Westbrook missed a 3-pointer from the left wing, Sefolosha darted in, scooped up the rock and converted a layup to push the Thunder’s lead to six with 36.6 seconds left to play. Dagger.
- Sefolosha: “I saw him shoot and basically the ball bounced on the rim and came toward me. So I just had to step in and get the rebound.”
- Scott Brooks on Sefolosha’s rebound: “That was a heady play. Normally, we want our corner men to get back in transition defense. But he saw a loose ball and he reacted.”
- It’s easy for Thabo to get lost in this game. But he knocked down shots. He defended Deron Williams (or at least tried his best). And he had the game-clinching play. He was a huge part of this win. “Thabo does that every night,” Brooks said. “He’s a warrior. He just plays hard every possession. And we wouldn’t be in this position without his effort every possession.”
- Sefolosha said he had no idea the Thunder had only one offensive rebound before his scoop and score. I asked him why that was. “They went small on us,” he said, “and I think we were so focused on not giving them anything easy that everybody retreated at the same time. And we didn’t really have any balls that bounced our way beside that last one. We just didn’t want to risk it, I guess.”
- Westbrook on that play: “It was key. I should have made the shot, for one. But Thabo’s been great all year just hustling and he did a good job of getting the rebound.”
- Brooklyn out-rebounded OKC 16-2 on the offensive end. I don’t think I have to tell you that the Thunder’s two offensive rebounds are a season low. The previous low was four.
- OKC’s first offensive board came with 5:42 left in the third quarter, which is amazing in and of itself.
- Brooks on the offensive explosion: “We made shots. Some nights you’re going to make shots. You don’t anticipate shooting 60 percent. There are too many good defensive teams in this league and they are a good defensive team. We both are. But we both had trouble guarding each other.”
- I thought the way the Thunder started the game characterized what worked all night. There was unselfishness and ball movement that led to open shots, specifically for Sefolosha, who hit back-to-back 3s in the first three minutes. “The ball was moving extremely well,” Sefolosha said. “We were finding open guys and everybody was able to play and give something offensively.”
- Avery Johnson with two statements before the game: “Playing one half tonight is not going to be good enough.” And, “We’re not going to be good playing at OKC’s pace.” Pretty prophetic. The Thunder had 20 fast break points to the Nets’ nine. And at halftime, the Thunder led 61-48 after OKC shot 65.7 percent to Brooklyn’s 40.
- If I happen to call the Nets by the name New Jersey at any point in this post forgive me.
- The Thunder’s 65.7 percent shooting in the first half was the team’s best since March 25 against Miami.
- How fun was the Westbrook-Williams show in the first quarter? Williams was hitting impossible 3s. Westbrook was slithering into the paint and finishing at the rim. Neither could stop the other, and it made for a great show. It was everything we could have expected from two of the top point guards in the game.
- Of course Williams finds his shooting touch against the Thunder. Of course he does. He came in shooting 38 percent but made 10 of 20 shots tonight, going 5-for-9 from downtown and 8-for-10 at the stripe to finish with a game-high 33 points.
- Serge Ibaka scored 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting and added six rebounds and three blocks. There’s growing questions about whether he has a shot to make the All-Star team if he keeps this up. I say no. Just way too much competition in the West (Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan, Blake Griffin, David Lee, Kevin Love, Al Jefferson, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins). But as someone on my chat today pointed out, to be an All-Star you must first be in the All-Star conversation. We saw that happen twice in OKC, first with Chris Paul, and then with Kevin Durant. I definitely could see Ibaka taking that same trajectory. Build the buzz this year, and then bust through next year.
- There were a ton of Thunder fans inside Barclays Center tonight. A ton! It’s got to be pretty embarrassing for Nets players and officials to have half the building rooting for the visiting team.
- My impression of Barclays? Look for a special edition of nuggets tomorrow on that very topic. For now, I’ll say it’s state of the art, yet strangely simplistic.
- Anybody notice the lesson the Thunder learned? I did almost immediately upon entering the locker room before the game. OKC players matched the navy blue alternates with navy blue and white kicks. Makes the unis look much better, right?
- Except Westbrook. He wore the new Air Jordan XX8′s, becoming the first player to do so in a game this year after they were launched Monday.
- Don’t look now but KD is taking care of his early-season turnover problem. Over the past 10 games, he’s averaged 2.4 turnovers. Over the past seven games, he’s down to just two per game. “I’m just trying to keep the ball,” Durant said. “Not turning it over. I’ve got a long ways to go. I’ve just got to get it a little more tighter as far as crossovers and getting it stolen from smaller guards. But I’m moving forward.”
- No sign of Jay-Z (or Beyonce) tonight. Trey Songz did sit courtside tonight. I assume most everyone knows who Jay-Z is by now. I’ll learn a lot about my readers based on who does and does not know Trey Songz.
- I, on the other hand, can’t claim I know who Mirza Teletovic is.
- Eric Maynor got a little bit of his swagger back tonight. He had a little more explosiveness, created well off the dribble and knocked down a couple of shots, including a huge 3 two minutes into the fourth to help slow a Nets run. It was by far Maynor’s best game since Nov. 9, when he scored 13 points with three assists in a home win against Detroit. That puts Maynor’s struggles into its proper prospective. He hasn’t played well when it’s mattered in nearly a month. But tonight, he said, helped his confidence. “It feels good to get out there and be able to impact the game,” Maynor said.
- Maynor on that 3 that pushed the Thunder’s lead back to 10. “They went and doubled KD and I was open. I’ve been struggling shooting the ball, but for me to hit that, I felt good about it when I shot it so I’m going to keep shooting the same shot. It felt good, though.”
- Interestingly, Maynor said he’s trying to pick up the pace with his play. Sounded strange when he said it considering where he is in returning from injury and how he’s played over much of the past month. But that’s what he said. “I’m trying to play a little faster,” Maynor said. “I’ve never been that way, but I’m trying to get a little bit more pace to it when I’m in transition. Scotty’s been telling me about that so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
- Loved when Maynor did push it on a break against C.J. Watson. The crossover Maynor used to get to the rim I think surprised even him.
- Note to the Nets’ game operations staff: I get it. I’m in Brooklyn. You don’t have to mention it every 4.4 seconds, either by greeting everyone at the start of the game with “Hello, Brooklyn,” or playing a song from one of the many rappers to come out of Brooklyn or by spurring a chant of BROOK-LYN! BROOK-LYN. We get it. We’re happy you’ve got a major league franchise back. Now tone it down. Thanks and good luck the rest of the year.
- Durant’s crossover and spin move on Joe Johnson midway through the second…absolutely filthy.
- Durant’s attempted abuse on Andray Blatche…unbelievable. I couldn’t believe how high Durant got on that near poster. At first I thought he used Blatche’s body to elevate. But upon further review, he looked like he mostly jumped on his own. We would have been watching that dunk for a long time had it gone down. I loved how a fourth of the fans in the arena jumped out of their seats as Durant went up.
- Durant when asked why he didn’t jump HIGHER: “I didn’t have no more left in the tank, man.”
- More from KD on the attempt: “I wanted to finish it so bad. I know Dray from him playing in D.C., and that’s where I’m from. So I would talk a little trash to him after that one. But I’m glad I got to the free throw line and got two shots. And I also fell down and I’m glad I didn’t get hurt on that play as well. I think that ignited my team just a tiny bit and I wish I could have made that. But hopefully I get the next one.”
- Durant on where it would have ranked: “That probably would have been my best dunk ever. I don’t think it would have been the best that you’ve seen in the NBA. But that would have probably been my personal best.”
- The 16-6 run the Thunder closed the second quarter on was huge. It’s an afterthought in this one, but without it the Thunder probably doesn’t get out of here. Over the final six minutes in the second period, the Thunder held the Nets to 3-for-12 and forced two turnovers. Meanwhile, OKC made six of nine shots and assisted on five of those makes.
- Kendrick Perkins was excellent at times in the pick-and-roll tonight. On several occasions he came up and helped Westbrook against Williams and really shut off Williams’ driving lanes. Williams repeatedly had to settle for improbable 3-point heaves.
- Perk’s defense on D-Will with just under three minutes left in the fourth is exactly what I’m talking about. It was as good as it gets for a big man. He helped on the ball screen, stuck with D-Will when he dribbled to the corner, stayed on him when Westbrook retreated, stayed between Williams and the rim and blocked his shot after forcing him to shoot a tough baseline jumper.
- Brooks on Perk’s block: “I thought Perk’s block was another big play. That’s not easy. You’re guarding one of the best point guards in the league out top and you keep him from the basket and you block his jump shot. You can’t ask for a better play from a big.”
- Who came in the league first, Jerry Stackhouse or Grant Long?
- Nick Collison also was excellent tonight. Another unsung hero in a sense who rebounded, drew a pivotal charge at the end of the third to stop a Nets rally and knocked down a few shots.
- Kevin Martin had a quiet night with just seven points on 2-for-4 shooting. But he had the second best plus-minus on the team at plus-11.
- Breaking news: Durant tried to take a charge with 2 1/2 minutes left. It didn’t quite work out for him, but I thought it was a charge and not a blocking foul.
- The Thunder’s got to run something else other than KD extending his arm at the elbow against a point guard. OKC ran that same “set” about five straight times in the fourth, and it was a big reason why the offense stalled.
- Durant when asked if the Nets surprised him with their play considering they were missing Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans: “Well they still had three All-Stars out there. We ain’t gon feel sorry for them. They’re a really good team.”
- A five-game home stand is up next. Thunder could be 20-4 if it takes care of business. Who on earth possibly could see that coming after the trade? I doubt many people did after the trade. But I know my man John Rohde hit the nail on the head before it.
- Up next. Lakers on Friday.
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