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Nuggets from my notebook from Friday's loss at Houston

by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 5, 2014
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OK. Bring on the playoffs…

  • Kevin Durant did it. He tied Michael Jordan’s modern record for consecutive games of at least 25 points. With another 28 points tonight, Durant now has 40 straight games of 25 or more.
  • “We lost the game,” Durant deadpanned afterward. “That’s all I’m worried about. So I don’t care. We lost.”
  • But the Thunder did clinch its fourth straight Northwest Division championship thanks to Portland losing at home to Phoenix.
  • Durant’s last two games to get to 40 straight of 25 or more: 28 points on 11 of 26 shots and 28 points on 7 of 19 shooting. Off nights? Over-thinking? Pressing? You could argue he suffered from a little of all three. Just don’t tell Durant that. “I just miss,” he said. “I would love to shoot 60 percent every game. But it’s not going to happen. I’m always going to stay aggressive. I’m never going to let that stop me from playing my game. I’ll go back to the drawing board and keep working. That’s what I always do. It’s a matter of time before they start falling.”
  • Or maybe it’s just option d) good defense. That’s something we saw plenty of from Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia on Durant. But, once again, don’t tell Durant that. “They wasn’t playing one on one. It was one on three. They’re funneling me to two or three guys. And before I get the ball, they got two guys one me. So those dudes can’t check me one on one. They know that. I ain’t afraid to say it, either. They know that. I was playing with double teams, triple teams, but I still got to find a way to do it. They’re physical just like everybody else, and I’ve been playing against physical players my whole life. So it’s nothing different.”
  • I don’t think Durant was pressing. I definitely don’t think that. He didn’t force shots and didn’t take any that he cannot or does not generally make. But I do think he was over-thinking. I think that’s safe to say, even if KD won’t. Durant looked like a different player in that fourth quarter. He almost looked unsure of himself. Three times he left shots short. Twice he turned it over. Once he missed a free throw, his only miss of the night from the line. A few other shots seemed hurried or calculated, or both, and each appeared off line from the start. Highly unlike KD.
  • Durant sat on just nine points on 2-for-7 shooting in the first half. He had four turnovers at the break.
  • Through three quarters, Durant was 4-for-10 for 17 points. Eight more seemed like a sure thing. But they were anything but. He got two free throws with 9:36 remaining. Then nailed a jumper. Four more to go. Nine minutes to get them. No worries, right? Wrong. The next eight minutes had more drama than Basketball Wives. Durant turned it over. Then missed a jumper. Then turned it over again. Two more missed jumpers. Two minutes remained and Durant still needed four points. He got to the line on a blocking call against Garcia. Swish…Miss. Only ninety more seconds. How did we get here? The three-time scoring champ was struggling to do what he does best. An aggressive drive seemed it would do it but the ball rolled around and around and around the rim. And out. But the ball went out of bounds off the Rockets. Thunder ball. And on the ensuing baseline out of bounds play, Durant caught an inbounds pass from Caron Butler at the right corner 3, rocked back and fired. Boom! Twenty-five points. The hardest 25 Durant might have ever scored.
  • The Toyota Center erupted at Durant’s shot, some of the sellout crowd agonizing at what appeared to be the Rockets coming close to being snatched up by the Slim Reaper, some of the fans cheering for the Thunder and some of them, no doubt, aware of what Durant had just done.
  • Durant’s thoughts at that moment? Brace yourselves. “I thought we made it a one-possession game,” he said. “We had a chance to win. That’s all I was worried about.”
  • It’s admirable how Durant, no matter the award or achievement, had tried his best to not take the focus away from the team. That’s exactly what he did with his 30-point streak in January, and it’s exactly what he’s doing now. “I’m getting tired of (talk of the streak),” Durant said. “But I guess that comes with it. A lot of people have been talking about it the last few weeks. But I don’t want that to take away from what the rest of these guys in the locker room do. So I don’t really care about it too much, but I can’t control that.”
  • Serge Ibaka had himself a game. He scored 27 points with nine rebounds, four assists and six blocked shots. He tied his career highs in points and assists.
  • Ibaka flat out dominated the paint with his shot-blocking. The way he was swatting shots and altering attempts changed the game. Go back and watch the final 90 seconds of the second quarter. Ibaka had a monster block on James Harden’s driving layup attempt and came back on the next possession and changed two more Rockets shots. First, he forced Parsons into floating a layup higher than normal. It ultimately overshot the rim. Then, when Omer Asik corralled the rebound, Ibaka’s mere presence spooked Asik into hesitating on what would have been an uncontested dunk. Ibaka looked like he was gassed and about to just let Asik score. But Asik instead pump faked before trying to dunk it. He then got hung on the attempt and Butler closed out the possession with a rebound.
  • Scott Brooks on Ibaka: “Serge was good. Serge has really stepped up this year and made some improvements not only as a player but just his understanding of the game…I thought he had a really impactful game on both ends of the floor.”
  • Ibaka had six blocked shots. The Rockets had two. Dwight Howard didn’t play. But still.
  • As expected, no Russell Westbrook or Kendrick Perkins tonight. They had the night off to rest. Expect them back against Phoenix.
  • And as expected, Houston didn’t have Patrick Beverley or Howard due to injuries.
  • Harden destroyed the Thunder. He erupted for 39 points with nine rebounds and seven assists. He shot 20 free throws!! That’s how many the Thunder had.
  • Brooks on the game: “We didn’t do a good job throughout the night of defending without fouling. They got 37 free throws. We fouled, I think, three shooters in the fourth quarter. That’s not what we need to do.”
  • Those were some really bad fouls (not foul calls, fouls).
  • Seems the Thunder either shuts down Harden or watches him go off. Since scoring a career-high 46 points against the Thunder last season, Harden had been held to 17.3 points per game on just 37 percent shooting in his last three games against his former team. He raised those numbers tonight, and he showed anyone who might have forgotten the importance of Thabo Sefolosha to this team. Nobody had an answer for Harden. Not Andre Roberson. Not Jeremy Lamb. And not Derek Fisher. Fish probably did the best job on him. But that’s not saying much when a guy puts up 39.
  • Speaking of Sefolosha, he’s on his way back. We could see him rejoin the lineup on this current road tip.
  • Roberson had a chance, for the second straight night, to give the Thunder its first lead on a corner 3. It wasn’t to be.
  • The Thunder took 31 3s tonight. Is it me or does that seem like way too many for this team?
  • The Thunder needs to go 6-1 to finish with a better winning percentage for a sixth straight season. Think OKC can do it?
  • Up next: at Phoenix on Sunday.
by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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