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 Memphis on Wednesday night:
1. Successful Trip- More than a quarter of the way into the season, the Thunder still doesn’t have what you’d call a signature road win. The teams they’ve beat have a combined record of 57-95. None of them currently have a winning record. Atlanta, at 11-11, and Detroit, at 10-13, are the only two who’d be playoff-eligible if the season started today. Plus, they got the Pelicans without Anthony Davis, the Kings without DeMarcus Cousins and the Grizzlies without Marc Gasol and Tony Allen. But whatever. You can only play the schedule you’re dealt. And right now the Thunder is rolling right through it, pounding teams with balanced offense and great defense. Tests are coming, with trips to Denver and San Antonio next week. But for now, you have to be impressed with this 17-4 start and that dominant road back-to-back.
2. Depth – Remember before the season when this Thunder bench seemed a legit worry? Yeah, not so much anymore. The second-unit is beginning to look like one of the best in the NBA, consistently erasing deficits or extending leads. They have a positive plus/minus nearly every night and have enough options that you always find yourself in postgame pondering: ‘Man, why didn’t ________ get more minutes tonight?’ And although the James Harden star power may not be there, Reggie Jackson continues to vault himself into Sixth Man talk. He’s scored double-digits in seven consecutive games and 12 of the past 14, including an easy 17 on Wednesday night. Jackson’s the reliable scorer/playmaker, Jeremy Lamb’s the efficient sharpshooter, Steven Adams is the energetic and improving big man, Nick Collison’s the veteran presence and Perry Jones/Andre Roberson are the young guns vying for more playing time. Solid group. And I didn’t even mentioned Derek Fisher, basketball wizard.
3. Jeremy Lamb’s hot shooting - Speaking of the second-unit, here’s a quick look at what Jeremy Lamb did on this brief two-game road trip: 12-of-18 shooting for 27 points in 49 minutes. For the season, he’s now averaging 9.4 points on 47 percent shooting and 40 percent from three, numbers that the Thunder will take in a heartbeat. And with each passing game, you can see the confidence growing and the trigger getting quicker. Here’s his impressive shot chart:
-Takeaway: He’s a great mid-range and deep shooter, but Russell Westbrook should tell him: “No more threes from the left corner for you, bro”
4. Andre Roberson’s test run - No matter what he does, Andre Roberson is not long for the rotation. Thabo Sefolosha’s return will push him back to the end of the bench and likely some more time in Tulsa. But from what we’ve seen, there’s plenty to be excited about in the future. He’s an absolute bulldog on defense, as advertised, with the athletic ability and desire to hound his man from baseline to baseline. At worst, he’s going to be a change-of-pace defensive specialist somewhere in the NBA. But if he even develops a semi-consistent 3-point shot from the corner — he hit the first of his career from deep tonight — Roberson has the chance to carve out a solid role in this league. Because he already does so many of the coveted little things well.
5. Walking in Memphis - On the second night of a back-to-back, I didn’t get to see as much of Memphis as I’d like. But I did enjoy the brief time I was able to walk around downtown, which included a stroll down Beale Street (Bourban Street Light) and a meal at Central Barbecue. Berry Tramel recommended the spot — which is right near the hotel MLK was assassinated — and the food didn’t disappoint (I randomly ran into Scott Brooks there, who also vouched for the place). As for the gameday atmosphere, it was a nice arena and decent crowd. Not full, but not a ton of empty seats. And the fans were into the game. But my favorite part of the FedEx Forum has to be this retro pic of Pau Gasol up near the media room:
Click here for my gamer on Russell Westbrook, who finished with 27 points, nine assists and six rebounds in a season-low 27 minutes.
-Thabo Sefolosha remains day-to-day with a right knee sprain. He did a light workout pregame on the court.
-Steven Adams sprained his right ankle on a rebound attempt early in the fourth quarter (click here for video). But postgame, he looked a lot better than you’d expect. No crutches, no walking boot and nothing more than a minor limp. I asked how he felt and he said, “I feel good, bro” and told me that he’d sprained his ankle too many times to count, which typically means the ankle will heal faster. When asked about a potential timetable, he said he had no idea. But I doubt it’ll be a major concern moving forward. Might miss a few games.
-Serge Ibaka (12 points, 7 rebounds) was a +29 in 32 minutes. And this was the first time I mentioned his name.
-Kobe in OKC on Friday, trying to break the Thunder’s perfect 10-0 mark at home. Should be fun.