In place of Darnell Mayberry’s traditional postgame nuggets…
The Thunder beat Philadelphia 103-91 on Saturday night. Here are five observations:
1. Another Durant gem - Want an idea of how unguardable Kevin Durant has been lately? Just take a look at the postgame quotes from Sixers coach Brett Brown. Durant went off for 32 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, his fifth career triple-double. And an perplexed Brown had no answers postgame.
Brown: “I thought we did a pretty good job on him. We try, we get small guys chasing him around, denying him and fronting him, and we get everybody scared because he’s Kevin Durant, because he’s so long and scores in such a variety of ways. He is the NBA’s hardest player. He’s always been an incredibly difficult guard. I gameplanned back in my Spur days. How do you guard him? Is it Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bowen, whoever. I thought our guys, I thought James (Anderson) was great and you look down and he’s got a triple double.”
*Durant is now averaging 36.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists in 13 January games.
*In his last five games, Durant has scored 198 points on 70-of-107 shooting (65 percent).
2. Deadly Serge - Before the game’s first media timeout, Serge Ibaka had 10 points and three blocks. He had erased two Michael-Carter Williams shots at the rim. He had hit all five of his shots. And he had set the tone. “They were looking over their shoulder the rest of the game,” Kendrick Perkins said of Ibaka’s blocks — four in the first quarter, five in the game. But Ibaka’s biggest contribution was his increasingly deadly mid-range jumper. Philly threw double-teams at Durant most of the night and Ibaka served as his lethal outlet, continually burning the Sixers over the top. Overall, during his 25-point, 11-rebound night, Ibaka went 12-of-16 from the field. But more impressively, he was 7-of-8 from 16-24 feet. Six of his 12 field goals were assisted by Durant. Check out his shot chart below:
3. Reggie the roller coaster - Ever since his insertion into the starting lineup, Reggie Jackson has been wildly inconsistent. Either really good or really bad: 1-of-8 for two points against the Bucks, 11-of-19 for 23 against the Rockets, 27 points and eight assists on Tony Parker, five points on 1-of-9 shooting against Michael Carter-Williams. He wasn’t good on Saturday night, with more combined turnovers and fouls (4 and 2) than points (5). But he may be great on Monday. We have no idea. But, I guess, such is the plight of a 23-year-old still adjusting to life as a starting NBA point guard. Still, it has to be frustrating Thunder fans.
4. Steady bench flow – The bench had a combined plus/minus of +47 on Saturday night. Nick Collison was great in his 26 minutes: 12 points, 5/6 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist, 1 block, plus/minus of +11. Perry Jones was good in a brief spurt: 7 minutes, 6 points, 0 missed shots. Everyone else was at least decent (Fisher and Lamb combined to shoot 3-of-14, but contributed in other ways). And after a rough patch immediately following Westbrook’s injury and subsequent lineup shake-up, the second-unit seems to be returning to form.
5. Pro-Thunder crowd - I’d say the top five cheers of the night went like this: 1. Kevin Durant announced in introductions, 2. Kevin Durant slam in transition, 3. Kevin Durant eurostep, 4. Kevin Durant stepback three, 5. Spencer Hawes dunk. So hey, at least it wasn’t a clean sweep for the road team. But that should give you a good idea of what kind of crowd filled in the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night. There were more Durant jerseys than Sixers ones. I’ve been to 12 road games this year and this, followed closely by Atlanta, was the most pro-Thunder of them all.
TRAVEL GUIDE: Philadelphia - Great trip to Philadelphia, too bad it was only for one day. I checked out the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, rode the Subway and had a famous Philly cheesesteak at Jim’s. The visit was shrouded a bit by the weather (snowy, temperature in the teens), but at the same time, it kind of added to the experience. For a dude from California, it felt like an East Coast blizzard.
-Put this stat at the top of the Thunder notebook: Kevin Durant has made 139 free throws this month. The rest of his teammates have made a combined 130. Speaks to his rare knack of getting to the line (best in the NBA), but also to his teammates lack of ability to draw fouls. Scott Brooks said he was worried about the discrepency.
-Quick story: As Kevin Durant went out to test his right shoulder about 90 minutes before tip, the arena was mostly empty. But up in the suite level, there was an entire box filled with about 20 people, many of them teenagers and most of them wearing Durant jerseys. They started hollering down toward the court, trying to get Durant to acknowledge them. After about his third shot, KD looked up toward them and gave a friendly wave. Easy, but still cool gesture by Durant. The suite erupted when he waved and was buzzing for about 10 more minutes. Made their day.
-Another quick story: Scott Brooks’ first two NBA seasons were spent in Philadelphia, back in 1988-1990. And because of that, there was a cool moment pregame. As Brooks walked onto the court, a couple ushers walked up to him, and he immediately recognized them. “How many years?” Brooks asked them. The woman said “38″, the man said “41″. Then, Brooks proceeded to stand and chat with them for a bit, reminiscing on old times.
-Throughout the game, Russell Westbrook and Hasheem Thabeet had some friendly trash-talk going with some fans near the Thunder bench. Westbrook basically stared them down after any decent (or better than decent) Thunder play, while the group of fans chirped back. And it led to these incredible GIFs (h/t @JDonSports), the first one coming after a gorgeous Kevin Durant eurostep.
Up next: Atlanta in OKC on Monday and then Thunder-Heat in Miami on Wednesday. With the way KD is playing right now, and if LeBron takes it upon himself to try to slow Durant down, that could be a special matchup.