Thunder Rumblings

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Nuggets from my notebook from Friday's win over the Warriors

by Darnell Mayberry Published: November 30, 2013

Wow. That’s all I got. Just wow…

  • There’s a stat floating around. It says Russell Westbrook for his career was 1-for-20 on game-tying or go-ahead field goal tries in the final five seconds of regulation or overtime prior to tonight. Of course, that means his only make in those situations must have been two weeks ago at Golden State. But you want to know what that stat tells me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
  • We know better than to draw conclusions from those figures. Or at least by now we all should. We’ve seen too much to buy into that miniscule success rate. We know the truth. Westbrook is cold-blooded. Period. He has a history of huge shots. Maybe they don’t come in the final five seconds, but get him the ball with the game in doubt and he’ll give you a bucket.
  • Westbrook couldn’t really explain his ability to provide big baskets. But in trying, it was no surprise that he pointed to, what else, hustle. “Kevin’s obviously our first option, and whenever those shots are not falling I try to find myself and be assertive,” Westbrook said. “Either get an offensive rebound or try to make the next big shot.”
  • Such a wild sequence in the final 10 seconds. So many great efforts. So many great plays. Kevin Durant, who struggled in the overtime session, made the right play by giving it up to Serge Ibaka. Ibaka confidently took a jumper but missed one he makes six times out of 10. Westbrook flew into the paint instead of watching the ball, getting his fingertips on the ball just enough to alter its path. Thabo Sefolosha hustled to save the ball from going out of bounds, and then he made an incredible over-the-head save. Westbrook, still not giving up on the play, hauled in the save, took one dribble, turned and fired. Ball game.
  • “We were so close. All it took was a rebound, and that’s something that we do very well,” said Warriors forward David Lee. “The amount of “I-can’t-believe-that-happeneds on the last play, there were about four of them there. I can’t believe we lost the ball out of our hands. I can’t believe they saved it without going out of bounds. I can’t believe he hit a shot fading away in the corner. Tough break.”
  • Warriors coach Mark Jackson on Westbrook: “Russell wanted the ball more than anyone else on the floor. He had great will. Made a big play.”
  • Westbrook said he was going for the win all the way, just like he did two weeks ago at Golden State. He intentionally dribbled out to the 3-point line, he said. “I’m not going for the tie,” Westbrook said. “There’s no need to tie the game. I did the same thing in Golden State, but unfortunately it didn’t work out for us. But I’m thankful that it went in this time and (with) less time on the clock.”
  • Scott Brooks: “Did we really think that this game was not going to end this way?”
  • Reggie Jackson: “It makes you ready for the playoffs. If we could just go ahead and call it a wrap on the season and go ahead and meet them in the playoffs, that will be even more fun.”
  • Jackson on what a playoff series with the Warriors would look like: “Probably look like this. I want to see it. Like I said, let’s just move past it. Let’s just go ahead and erase the 82 and go ahead and play them. It’ll be fun.”
  • Sefolosha on his save: “I saw the ball bounce right in front of me, going out of bounds. I just jumped for it and tried to keep it in play.”
  • Westbrook doesn’t make that shot and we’re all killing Durant and Brooks right now. Guaranteed. Durant was as ineffective as he’s been in a long time down the stretch, last year’s Memphis series notwithstanding. He was 1-for-4 with a turnover in overtime and simply did not have it tonight when his team needed it most. He missed nine of his final 10 shots, yet the Thunder kept going to him again and again and again.
  • Before the game-winning sequence in the final 10 seconds, six of the Thunder’s final eight possessions in overtime ended with either a Durant shot attempt, a Durant turnover or Durant free throws. They weren’t necessarily bad trips, and most were good looks. But when it was clear that he didn’t have it, he was the Thunder just kept going to him, once again becoming predictable and easier to defend.
  • Durant’s final shot of regulation was questionable to say the least. With the game tied and the Thunder having a chance at the last shot, he settled for the Dirk one-legged fadeaway, not exactly the shot you want to see him taking in that moment. And it never got close to going in. Again, Westbrook saved a lot of people from getting skewered.
  • Westbrook also helped the Thunder preserve its unbeaten mark at home. OKC is now 8-0 inside The Peake, the last five coming on this current six-game home stand. I’m already wondering how long this home winning streak can last. It’d be pretty cool to see it get into the teens and maybe even 20s.
  • Why not give Westbrook more opportunities late in the game? The guy clearly has the stones to take big shots, the skills to make them and the makeup to live with the results. I asked Brooks after the game how close he is to drawing up a few more late-game plays for Westbrook. “That’s a good question,” Brooks said. “Russell has the ability to make shots. I look at it as Kevin and Russell have the ability to attract two guys on the ball. And we have that opportunity. I thought KD did a good job tonight. Who knows? It could be next game with Russell. There’s no question Russell has the ability to make shots. But he also has the ability to make the right play. That’s why we’re a good team. We got smart plays that play hard and make the right plays for each other.”
  • This was another game in which Westbrook just willed his team through some turbulence. The Thunder came out in the third and got outscored 8-1 and watched the Warriors turn a three-point halftime deficit into a four-point advantage that grew to be as large as nine inside the final four minutes of the period. But right about that time, Brooks sat Durant and left Westbrook out there with the second unit. And Westbrook responded by supplying a series of hustle plays, steals and attacks on the basket that led to trips to the free throw line. A game that could have gotten out of hand and turned into a blow out suddenly was saved by Westbrook’s efforts. The Thunder cut the deficit to a very manageable six going into the fourth and created enough momentum to quickly claw back.
  • Brooks: “I thought those three or four minutes late in the third quarter put us in a position to win the game. His sheer determination cut that lead to (six) going into that fourth quarter.”
  • Durant then got the Thunder over the hump. He captained a quick 7-0 run by scoring five of the Thunder’s first seven points to start the fourth quarter. He assisted Nick Collison on the other two.
  • Jackson said something after the game that raised at least one set of eyebrows (mine) and pretty much gave me reason to believe the Thunder could blow out Minnesota on Sunday. “It probably should be fun, with everything that’s happened. The K-Mart incident,” Jackson said, smiling. “So it’ll be fun to play them here.”
  • That bit of Jackson’s response came at the tail end of a question about what adjustments the Thunder needs to make against the Wolves after they fell to them in Minnesota. “Fell to would not be the word,” Jackson said. “They were like big brother. They just beat us up. Did whatever they wanted to do.”
  • I had a brief debate with a few coworkers after the game tonight about which of the Warriors games was more entertaining. I say the first one. It had more highlights, more great plays, more story lines (the Warriors’ run and the Thunder’s subsequent comeback) and, sorry Thunder heads, one more big shot. This one had a wild sequence at the end of the game. But much of the first 36 minutes was far from must see TV.
  • Ibaka is playing some ball. He had 18 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots tonight, his third straight double-double and team-leading seventh of the season.
  • Ibaka helped limit Lee to 2-for-12 shooting. Can’t say I saw that coming.
  • Kendrick Perkins did not play the second half after dislocating his left ring finger, the same one he dislocated in the preseason. He walked off the court appearing to be in a great deal of pain as he went immediately to the locker room. It was a shame his night ended the way it did. He was having one of the best games of his season, rebounding, protecting the paint, poking balls away and scoring a bit.
  • Steven Adams started the second half in place of Perk. Just before the half began, Brooks pulled Adams aside and diagrammed something on his dry erase board. Adams played the first 6:15 of the third and had some success around the rim at both ends. But he still looked lost and, perhaps as a result, didn’t play the rest of the game.
  • A good example of how Perk and the coaching staff wants Adams to communicate more was seen midway through the third. As the Thunder transitioned back on defense, Ibaka looked directly at Adams and motioned with his hand for Adams to talk. Andrew Bogut then set a high ball screen for Steph Curry, but because Adams was fighting through traffic to get out he couldn’t really inform Westbrook that the pick was coming. Westbrook crashed into Bogut and during a stoppage shortly thereafter got on Adams’ case about calling out the screen. The poor rookie couldn’t even explain that he was getting screened himself. And Westbrook didn’t look like he cared. He just wanted communication.
  • The Thunder started the game off with incredible defensive intensity, on the perimeter and in the paint. Westbrook and Sefolosha set the tone from the outside and Perk and Ibaka provided the resistance on the inside.
  • Westbrook got his first bucket on a fast break dunk that came as a result of a steal. It got him going early after Wednesday’s 2-for-16 night. Following that first big basket, Westbrook made his next four shots, all pull-up jumpers. Not surprisingly, his first miss came on a driving layup, an area in which he’s struggled most as he continues to regain his rhythm and timing. I counted four missed layups for Westbrook tonight. They were in traffic. But my point is that’s where he’s struggling to convert right now and one of the biggest reasons his percentage isn’t so hot.
  • I thought Brooks missed a golden opportunity to get Perry Jones III some burn at the start of the second quarter. Brooks started Derek Fisher, Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Collison and Adams. The Warriors had some dude named Nemanja Nedovic with Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Jermaine O’Neal. Lamb had to cover the much bigger Green. Brooks could have put in PJ3 for Fish and got the youngin some quality minutes. About a minute and a half in, however, Mark Jackson made an unexpected sub to match up with the Thunder, putting Curry in for Green.
  • Thompson was 1-for-10 in the first half. He finished 5-for-19. That means Thompson and Lee went a combined 7-for-31. They had 26 points between them, matching Harrison Barnes’ total.
  • Barnes was getting busy tonight. In addition to his defense on Durant, he was taking it to the Thunder’s smaller guards in the post.
  • Golden State had zero fast break points at halftime and finished with just five.
  • Brooks showed a ton of faith in Lamb tonight, playing him all 17 minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime. Lamb knocked down just one 3 in that span, but he played pretty good defense for the most part and looked comfortable and confident running with tonight’s crunch time crew. His best sequence came just under the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter. He nailed that 3 off a feed from Westbrook at one end then blocked O’Neal’s short shot at the other, leading to a run out that ended with a Durant dunk.
  • Lamb: “My teammates trust me, my coach trusts me. I have no choice but to get more comfortable and get more confident.”
  • Through three quarters, Bogut had more points (13) than Durant (10).
  • With about three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Lamb corralled a rebound, got it to Westbrook and joined the break. As he ran behind Westbrook, Lamb shouted “trailer,” the universal call for “hit me, I’ll be open.” Westbrook had no time for that. If you’re not in front of him, you might as well be on the bench. He’s not slowing it down. Westbrook just kept right on going, pushing full speed ahead without a real plan. He eventually fired it across the court to Thabo and poor Lamb, meanwhile, was all alone on the right wing with his arms up in the air, almost mimicking KD’s infamous hissy fit whenever he’s open and not getting it, before finally just dropping his arms, slumping his shoulders and shaking his head.
  • The Thunder’s magical free throw defense was on display again tonight. Golden State was 20 of 29 at the stripe. The Warriors were 5-for-11 in the fourth quarter.
  • Brooks played the Hack-a-Bogut game for one possession with 2:49 remaining in the fourth. Bogut, a 43 percent foul shooter this season and 56.9 percent free throw shooter for his career, split the pair, pushing Golden State’s lead from three to four. But I wasn’t really feeling the call. There was plenty of time left and the Thunder could have played straight up and gotten a stop. Instead of the possibility of a one-possession game, it became a two possession game thanks to Bogut’s free throw. The Thunder ended up getting fouled quickly at the other end, and KD made a pair, cutting it back to two. Ibaka then brutally blocked a layup attempt by Lee on the Warriors next possession, proving that a stop could have been produced in the first place, and Durant then fed Ibaka for a dunk on the Thunder’s next trip to tie the game. The Warriors did just finish scoring on six of eight possessions, including one of two free throws, when Brooks made the call. But much of that was the result of Barnes big-boying Jackson on the block, a matchup the Thunder easily could have adjusted to and a fire that ultimately could have been put out. But intentionally putting Bogut on the foul line was preferred method for that possession. No big deal. Just interesting that Brooks chose to do it.
  • Up next: Minnesota 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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