In place of Darnell Mayberry’s traditional postgame nuggets…
In impressive fashion, the Thunder won 111-105 in San Antonio on Thursday night. Here are five observations and some other thoughts:
1. Impressive stretch – A week ago, on our Thunder podcast, me, Darnell and Berry Tramel were chatting about the daunting upcoming schedule for OKC. Five games in seven days, with four coming against Western Conference playoff teams. And the Thunder entering the stretch playing its worst basketball of the year. We all came to a general consensus: 2-3 was likely, 3-2 was about the best they could hope for. Seven days and five wins later, don’t we look like fools? The comeback in Houston was wild. The shootout against Golden State was fun. The dismantling of Sacramento was methodical. The win over Portland was thrilling. The upset of San Antonio was more impressive than them all. Combined together: What a week for the Thunder. And now — without one of the top 10 players in the world — only a pair of Eastern Conference cupcakes (Boston/Philly: Combined record 29-57) stand in the way of a 7-game win streak.
2. KD’s scorching streak - Kevin Durant poured in another 36 points on Wednesday night, doing so on an efficient 12-of-22 shooting. And guess what? It actually caused his January scoring average to drop to 37.0 per game. He’s the story of the NBA and everybody’s MVP favorite. There’s really not much more to be said. If you need more confirmation, just scour the web for some of his ridiculous scoring stats. They’re everywhere.
3. Reggie stars - Sign that Reggie Jackson played a good game: 27 points, 8 assists, both tying career-highs. Sign that Reggie Jackson played a great game: ZERO turnovers to go along with those numbers. As has been an issue lately, he struggled on defense (part of the reason Tony Parker dropped 37 points), but overall Jackson’s impact was positive and his timing was clutch. He had 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the fourth quarter, continually slicing through an overmatched Spurs defense, who can’t seem to figure him out. In three games against San Antonio, Jackson has 71 points on 30-of-45 shooting. It’s by far his best splits against anyone. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Jackson has a decided offensive advantage against Parker’s defense and a free lane to the basket anytime Popovich is forced to throw Patty ‘revolving door’ Mills in the game. Both are smaller than Reggie and neither has a prayer of staying in front of him. Could be an interesting thing to watch if these two matchup in late May.
*Popovich on Reggie: “He’s a confident young man. He’s taking no prisoners, he’s not deferring to anyone, he’s not doing it gingerly, he’s being aggressive and he’s playing to win. That’s impressive. And then secondly, he’s made pretty darn good decisions. A young guy can come out, try too hard, try to do too much on his own, not find open people, but his decision making has been really good.”
4. Reserves doing their job – Kevin Durant took an extended rest at the start of the second quarter, sitting for nearly six minutes. He left with a six-point lead, he came back with a three-point lead. Solid job by the bench. Durant then took a shorter rest to start the fourth, sitting for only about three minutes. He left with a one-point lead, he reentered with a three-point lead. Great job by the bench. During this red-hot stretch, you can almost guarantee Durant is going to have a positive plus/minus during his minutes. So when he is out, if you can keep the game to a near standstill, you have a great chance of winning. OKC did that on Wednesday night.
5. Durant’s turnovers - The Thunder has committed only 22 turnovers the past two games, a great number. But of those 22, Durant has committed 15 of them, an awful number. Some of that is to be expected, with him handling the ball so much. But the quantity is still far too much. On Wednesday, he had eight in the first half and a career-high 11 in the game, making some precarious decisions in the middle two quarters. But hey, at least they serve as a reminder that he is human. KD on the turnovers: “It was really just being dumb on my part. Getting in the air, I should shoot the ball, but I was trying to look for my teammates. It was a bad game for me as far as handling the ball.”
CITY: San Antonio - My second game in San Antonio and I enjoyed it just as much as the first. Great, engaged crowd and a generally friendly atmosphere. Good place to see a game, especially when the competitors are two of the best and most consistent teams in the league. The arena is a little ways from downtown, which I don’t prefer. But whatever. Fun night. But I’m still a little shellshocked from some of the staredowns this dude was giving me:
-Before the game, I did an interview with Shaq and the NBA TV crew about the Thunder and KD’s recent hot streak. Click here for the replay of it.
-Click here for my game story, which focuses on this recent and impressive five-game win streak.
-Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson combined for 14 assists.
-Derek Fisher (#NBABallot) had eight points on 3/4 shooting.
-Kendrick Perkins drilled a fadeaway jumper over Tim Duncan in the first quarter and then (the world ended) a confident Perk felt it necessary to attempt another one. It resulted in an airball. But whatever. If you ever need a reason to blackmail Tim Duncan, this will always live online:
-Thabo was fouled on a 3-point attempt in the third quarter and missed all three free throws. He’s a career 75 percent foul shooter. (KD was 10/11 form the line, rest of the team was 1/5).
-Weird moment late in the fourth quarter, with a wild scramble leading to a heated tussle between Patty Mills and Derek Fisher’s biceps. Everything was straightened out, with techs being handed to Mills and Fisher, but from the ashes of that scrum, this strange, strange video was born:
-Up next: At Boston on Friday