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Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday's win over Utah

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: March 31, 2014 at 12:45 am •  Published: March 30, 2014

More 2 p.m. starts please…

  • Another open and shut victory, which was to be expected. No real drama. No threat whatsoever by Utah. The Jazz never led.
  • The only real suspense was whether Kevin Durant would net at least 25 points. He scored 11 in the first quarter, and the Thunder built a 25-point lead in the second. It appeared for a moment that he might not make it. But he returned late in the second and put up seven more to go into the half with 18. But with the Thunder ahead by 19, it still wasn’t a guarantee. But Durant was fouled on a 3-point try late in the third and ultimately got there. He finished with 31 points on another incredibly efficient 9-for-13 shooting. That’s now 38 straight games of at least 25 points for Durant, putting him two shy of tying Michael Jordan mark of 40.
  • KD made it hard on himself, though. Despite knowing he needed only seven more points in the third, he attempted just two shots in the first eight minutes of the period. Instead, he started deferring, passing up highly makeable looks to set up teammates. He dished five of his nine assists in the third period.
  • With just three home games remaining, they’re unfortunately still working on the MVP chant for Durant in OKC. The one time the crowd got it going throughout the arena tonight, it was out of sync. Not much time left to get it together, people.
  • Actually, here’s an idea. Know those one-letter signs that members of the game-night crew hold up in Loud City? The ones the have “O,” “K” and “C” on them? Make some with the letters “M,” “V” and “P.” Maybe then The Peake can perfect it.
  • Best thing about the blowout: more rest for the big guns. Durant and Russell Westbrook got to take off the fourth for the second straight game.
  • Serge Ibaka had to come back with about seven minutes left after the Jazz cut it to 15.
  • This game was over after the first period. Utah got off to an awful start, largely because it couldn’t buy a bucket. The Jazz trailed 11-0, starting 0-for-7, then 21-4, missing 15 of 17 their first shots.
  • By the end of the opening period, the Jazz trailed 26-9. Utah’s point total in the period tied the Thunder’s opponent low for any period this year. Utah shot 4 of 21 in the first quarter. That’s 19 percent.
  • But great balance by the Jazz in the first period. Four guys scored two points.
  • Scott Brooks: “The defense really set the tone in the first quarter. They shot a low percentage. We were really getting into the basketball. We contested all their shots. Nine points in an NBA quarter is hard to do, and it doesn’t happen often. But I thought it set the tempo right there.”
  • The last time the Thunder held an opponent to nine points in a period was at Houston in that historic second-half stinker by the Rockets.
  • Westbrook went at Jazz rookie Trey Burke early and often. That’s quietly kind of become Westbrook’s thing, taking it to rookies. Challenging them and testing them. This was Westbrook’s first time playing the Jazz this season, so he hadn’t faced Burke. But the way Westbrook went at Burke was reminiscent of how he went at Ricky Rubio when the Wolves guard came in with a lot of hype. Burke didn’t back down, and Westbrook was out of control a lot early despite his best efforts. But Russ settled in and finished with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists.
  • Westbrook had two incredible finishes at the rim. The first was on a backcut feed from KD. He hung in the air and finished it with his left. It was sneaky difficult. The second was a lob that he caught with his back to the rim before laying it in over his head. Just ridiculous.
  • Nick Collison balled. Came in with a bunch of energy and got off to a great start scoring and rebounding. He scored eight points with seven rebounds and a blocked shot in 24 minutes. If you haven’t seen the Sunday profile I did on Collison, you can read it here.
  • The Thunder lately has done a much better job of valuing the basketball. Did so again today. Finished with just 13 turnovers. That’s now four games in the last five that OKC has finished with 14 or fewer turnovers. Great number for the Thunder. Even more impressive over that stretch has been the first quarter. OKC is averaging just 2.8 turnovers in the first period in the last five games.
  • The 3-point shooting has been good, too, of late. With 11 made 3s today, the Thunder has now hit nine or more 3s in 11 straight.
  • Sometime this week, maybe as early as Wednesday, the Thunder is likely to wrap up its fourth straight Northwest Division title. I wrote about how rare that is for Monday’s paper. When it becomes official, OKC will be tied with Miami and San Antonio for the longest current streak of division championships. Thunder heads shouldn’t take this streak for granted. It’s the mark of a consistently good team. “It’s a big deal,” said Collison. “Sometimes that gets overshadowed, but I think we need to be proud of that. It’s a difficult accomplishment. We’ve played well here now for a while. But we don’t ever want to take that for granted. It’s a big deal. We want to push and get that done because it’s homecourt in the first round, which we need, and it’s a good accomplishment. So it’s a big deal for us.”
  • Up next: San Antonio on Thursday.
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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