In place of Darnell Mayberry’s traditional postgame nuggets…
The Thunder beat Boston 101-83 on Friday night without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Here are five observations:
1. Not overly surprising – When the news of Kevin Durant’s absence came down, Vegas understandably shifted its line substantially. The Thunder went from double-digit favorites to 3-point favorites, a big jump. But within that remained a somewhat impressive fact. Missing two of the top 10 (top five?) players in the world, the Thunder still had enough pieces to convince the oddsmakers — the most unbias sports consumers in the country — that this team should be favored to win an NBA road game. The Celtics stink. They have most of the season. But they still have 15 wins. And they still have enough talent to pose a threat on most nights. So it was impressive that OKC was favored. And it was even more impressive that the Thunder, sans KD/Westbrook, went out and took care of business, beating the Celtics with ease: 101-83, Boston’s biggest home loss since March 2010.
2. Jeremy Lamb impresses - Jeremy Lamb got a season-high 30 minutes on Friday night. And if the game remained close, Scott Brooks should have given him 40. He was that good. Celtics coach Brad Stevens summed it up quite nicely postgame: “Jeremy Lamb is a really, really good basketball player.” And the best part for OKC: He’s only 21. Lamb finished the night with 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Whenever he was on the court, he looked like the best, most complete player.
3. Old Man Fisher - You know who has been kinda sorta mildly randomly somewhat decent lately?–> Derek Fisher. No, seriously. In the last three games, Fisher has scored 26 points, hitting some timely threes (6-of-9 from deep) and some ‘Why does he continue to put his foot on the line?’ long twos. Plus, for brief defensive spurts, he provides a needed change of pace, using his bulky frame to push around opposing perimeter players. Sometimes it leads to those annoying foul binges, but other times it seems to genuinely frustrate opponents. He’s only tolerable in small bursts. But he still plays an effective role. During this recent six-game Thunder win streak, Fisher’s combined plus/minus is +20. Can’t argue with that.
4. Contributions from everywhere - The Thunder needed a team-wide effort on Friday night to pick up the All-Star slack. And they got it. Five players scored in double-figures and three more had at least six points. And most importantly, many of the fringe guys were efficient with their limited looks. Thabo went a perfect 6-of-6 shooting for 13 points. Perry Jones, who started for KD, had 10 on 4-of-6. Serge Ibaka (21 points, 7 rebounds) and Reggie Jackson (14 points, 8 assists) played well in feature roles. And, honestly, nobody had a bad game. OKC shot 54 percent overall. The Celtics shot 43 percent. Solid offense, good defense, impressive win.
5. KD update - I was about as surprised as anyone when Scott Brooks said pregame that Durant wouldn’t play. He didn’t participate in shootaround, but that seemed to be a purely precautionary thing. He got done talking to the media, called for a ball and fired up a few threes. He was flinging the 30-footers with the same shoulder that had been bothering him. And he was hitting them. It obviously hurt enough to force him out of Friday’s game, but (at least to me) doesn’t seem like a long-term issue. He was in warm-ups, and not a sling, during the game, animatedly cheering on his teammates throughout the night. Brooks’ postgame comment about Durant’s potential status against Philadelphia on Saturday seemed a bit ominous: “Until he’s ready to play, he’s not going to play, regardless of how he feels and what he wants to do. It’s a medical decision.” But I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave it a go.
Travel guide: BOSTON - Cool city. You can feel the history as you walk around it. I checked out the North side, which had Paul Revere’s house and some really interesting architecture and then I headed over to Cambridge to walk around the Harvard campus. Cool area, but it’s a bit intimidating when you know you’re probably the least intelligent person in a particular area. Garden atmosphere: Solid. Stands were nearly full, even for a bad team, and though it wasn’t loud throughout the game, it’s hard to blame them. It was a kind of lazy game.
-This was the Thunder’s 438th regular season game since relocating to Oklahoma City. It was the first where neither Russell Westbrook nor Kevin Durant appeared.
-What Durant/Westbrook took with them from the lineup: 53.2 points, 12.1 assists, 13.7 rebounds.
-Kendrick Perkins had six points and nine rebounds, giving him 18 points and 15 rebounds in two games against Boston this year. Something about that Celtic green makes him want to earn his green.
-There were plenty of these sad-looking fellas on Friday. Got to be tough to wait an entire season to see your favorite player, probably drop far too much cash and plan an entire day around a game, and then find out just before tip that he’s not gonna play. Maybe next year, pal:
-How large is KD’s current stranglehold on the scoring crown? Carmelo scored 62 in MSG on Friday night (a historical performance). It raised his scoring average to 27.0 points per game this year, placing him in second place. But it still leaves him way behind Kevin Durant’s 31.0 league-leading average. Carmelo would need to score 191 points in his next game to match Durant’s average. Good luck.
-Western Conference standings update:
Up next: Philadelphia on Saturday