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 loss in Portland on Wednesday night:
1. LaMarcus Aldridge is a stud - That’s the biggest takeaway from this game. He owned the night. The best player in an arena filled with world-class talent. From a Thunder perspective, some will blame Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins for Aldridge’s 38-point, 13-rebound performance. But this just seemed to be a bit of bad luck, catching a top-tier talent on one of those nights. It’s the same feeling opposing teams get around 25 times a year against OKC, when Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook go OFF. In all, Aldridge went 17-of-28 from the field, including a ridiculous 10-of-14 on jumpers between 16-24 feet. Said Durant: “He was shooting turnarounds from almost the three-point line on top of our bigs … It looked like it was great defense on our part, but better offense.” Said Scott Brooks: “An All-Star having an All-Star night”.
2. The starters continue to struggle together - Combined, OKC’s starting lineup had a plus/minus of negative-35 on Wednesday, a second straight night in which it struggled. But really, it’s been a year-long thing when this group is together. Overall, in 11 games played, the five-man group of Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins has a per night plus/minus of -3.5 points. Out of 106 five-man lineups the Thunder has used this season, that’s the seventh-worst. Not a great sign.
3. Jeremy Lamb’s steady shooting - Entering the season, there was an understandable concern regarding Jeremy Lamb’s efficiency. In brief stretches last year, he shot 35 percent. And in the preseason, that number dipped even lower. So smart money suggested that Lamb was destined to be a high-volume scorer in the making, needing plenty of shots to pile up substantial points. But 17 games in, it hasn’t been that way. Lamb is shooting a respectable 46 percent overall and 40 percent from three. And lately, he’s been even more impressive, making 54 percent of his shots (37-of-68) over the past eight games.
4. Weird stat - The Thunder only had 11 assists on its 39 made field goals, which seems like a crazy low number. Both Portland point guards — Damian Lillard and Mo Williams — combined for 12 assists, which doubled OKC’s entire starting lineup. But overall, I don’t think that’s too alarming. The offense was fine for a large portion of the night. And you can’t complain about 104 points.
5. Game atmosphere - Early on, the arena wasn’t nearly as full or loud as I expected. But down the stretch, the crowd had filled out nicely and provided the home team with a vocal boost. It was my first time in Portland and, overall, I thought it was a cool city. The area around the Rose Garden (I’ll never call it the Moda Center) was unique and the fans were friendly. Except for the guy who got into it with KD. But even that provided a good laugh.
-Perry Jones got some brief burn in the first half, playing five minutes and contributing with an athletic rebound-putback. But from here on out, it seems, the playing time will likely remain sparse for PJIII. So Thunder fans, make sure to get to home games early for your best chance to see Perry Jones. Because the athletic 6-foot-11 forward puts on a show in pregame warm-ups. He turns the lay-up line into his own personal dunk contest. He had a nasty windmill on Wednesday.
-Reggie Jackson went 2-of-2 from three and has now made six of his last 13 from deep. Encouraging for a career 23 percent 3-point shooter who started the season 5-of-26.
-Kevin Durant, pregame, when asked if LaMarcus Aldridge was underrated: “Us as players, I don’t think he’s flown under the radar. We know what he brings to the table. Of course from the outside, the media, the casual fans that just watch the Clippers, Lakers, Miamis, New York teams, the bigger market teams, it’s just kind of hard to see what a guy like LaMarcus is doing. He’s definitely not under the radar in our eyes. He’s having a phenomenal season so far.” Then Aldridge went out and backed up that praise.
-Play of the game: Serge Ibaka’s block leads to Kevin Durant’s powerful and-1 slam. Check the video below (via the Thunder’s official YouTube page), which has an awesome slow-mo view of the play about 20 seconds in:
-How about this catch and finish from Steven Adams (h/t Daily Thunder on the video)? I’m pretty sure Kendrick Perkins and Hasheem Thabeet would need a jetpack and some serious wide receiver stick-em on their hands for any chance at coming down with this pass:
-Up next: OKC travels to New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Friday. No Anthony Davis.