With Darnell Mayberry back in Oklahoma City for this road trip, his traditional postgame nuggets are on a brief hiatus. It’s a sad time for you Thunder Heads, I know, but I’ll try to do my best to fill in.
Here’s five postgame observations (Darnell has trademarked the word nuggets) and some other brief musings from the Thunder’s win in New Orleans on Friday night:
1. The stars were stars - KD had a 29-8-4-2-3 line on 11/17 shooting, Russell Westbrook controlled the game from the tip and Serge Ibaka put up a 17-point, 13-rebound performance that’s becoming more common by the game. Collectively, this may have been the best these three have played at the same time this season. And because of it, the Pelicans, without their lone star, had no chance. Durant and Westbrook both scored 25 in a game for only the third time and Ibaka compiled his ninth double-double, a mark he didn’t hit until February (in the 45th game) last year. Also, check out this stat:
2. Perk’s road woes – In the three games on this road trip, Kendrick Perkins played 48 minutes, the equivalent of one full game. Over that time, he combined for three points, five rebounds and a plus/minus of negative-35. I know points, or any kind of offensive production, isn’t what Perkins is to be judged on. But that plus/minus disparity is a pretty good indicator. Offensively and defensively, where Perkins makes his living, the Thunder just weren’t any good when he was on the court. Against Sacramento and New Orleans, they spotted big leads. Against Portland, they up gave a huge one. Common denominator: Perk was on the court.
3. Thabo breaking out of it? - Thabo actually had one of his better performances of late, shooting 4-of-5 for nine points and putting a nice stamp on the game during his 27 minutes. But despite that, it can’t mask the fact that he may be having the worst 20-game start to his career. Last season, he shot 48 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. This season, he’s at 40 percent from the field (a career-low) and 30 percent from deep (where he’s been hesitant to shoot). The hope: he will revert back to the mean. The worry: In a contract year, with Jackson, Lamb and others breathing down his throat for playing time, the 29-year-old Sefolosha will continue to struggle.
4. Ryan Gomes over Perry Jones - In a 14-point blowout where the game was never in doubt, it’s tough to criticize a coach for anything. And I don’t know if I’d classify this as criticism. Just surprise. Midway through the first half, with Jeremy Lamb in foul trouble and minutes in his rotation to be had, Scott Brooks went with Ryan Gomes over Perry Jones. Then, in garbage time, he once again played Gomes over Jones. All season, Brooks has found ways to squeak in time for Jones when available (and PJIII has responded with impressive showings in brief spurts). So it was strange to see, in a spot where Jones would fit great, Brooks going with Gomes, who has clearly been the 14th option in a 14-man rotation. Brooks’ response when I asked him about it postgame: “Just wanted to see Ryan”.
5. Exploring New Orleans - With an off-day between games, I got a nice chance to explore New Orleans. And it was enjoyable. The weather was nice, the food was great, the vibe was unique and Bourban Street was…interesting. Plus, the Superdome looked sweet from the outside and the basketball arena was nicer-than-expected on the inside. But the in-game atmosphere was ‘meh’. Sparse crown, especially for a Friday night with KD in town, and, because of the score, there was never much to get excited about.
-Reggie Jackson continued his breakout month: 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a +20 in 29 minutes. New Orleans coach Monty Williams: “Reggie Jackson is playing out of his mind”
-Brooks on Serge: “That’s one of the things we challenged Serge with, just do it consistently every night. Now we expect it. He’s a guy who you expect double-doubles from.”
-Russell Westbrook wandered over to the scorer’s table at one point during a timeout, saw a stat sheet and mumbled, ‘too many damn turnovers, man’ to himself. Less than a minute later, he committed a turnover.
-Two favorite fan interactions
*Dude who called Kevin Durant a ‘sissy’ on multiple occasions also told Derek Fisher to retire after his four-point play. Could have picked a better time to throw that one out.
*Guy who politely pointed out to Jeremy Lamb in the fourth quarter that, ‘Hey Lamb, you have more fouls than points’. Lamb looked at him, smiled and shrugged.
-Least favorite fan interaction
*Lady sitting in the seat directly behind me who, any time Kevin Durant was in the vicinity of the scorer’s table, would continuously yell (and I mean YELL): “KEVIN!!!! HEY KEVIN!!!!”. He never acknowledged her and, because of it, my ears are still ringing.
-Only four minutes for Steven Adams tonight. Brooks understandably made it a point to go small against an up-and-down Pelicans team, but the rookie probably could have used some of Perkins 15 minutes.
-Andre Roberson had 21 points, 16 rebounds and four steals for Tulsa tonight. The Thunder continue to produce D-League Hall of Famers.
-A pair of disappointments from this trip: I missed DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento and Anthony Davis in New Orleans. I’m sure the Thunder aren’t nearly as bummed as me.
-The 17-2 Pacers on Sunday in OKC: Paul George v Kevin Durant.