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Nuggets from my notebook from Monday's loss at New Orleans

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 15, 2014 at 12:45 am •  Published: April 15, 2014
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“Pelican, pelican, flyyyyyy pelican…”

  • Worst loss in franchise history. Without a doubt.
  • New Orleans was without its top four scorers and six of its top seven due to injuries. The Pelicans had nothing left to play for but pride. And the Thunder showed little despite needing a win to clinch second place in the West.
  • Tyreke Evans exploded for 41 points, a career-high.
  • A Pelicans roster comprised of cast-offs, fringe players and D-League signees controlled the game virtually from start to finish.
  • The Thunder appeared to have an apathetic attitude toward this game.
  • The Thunder settled for one jump shot after another, most of them 3s, 32 of them to be exact.
  • Three Thunder starters did next to nothing.
  • Alexis Ajinca had more points than said starters. Alexis. Ajinca.
  • Kevin Durant didn’t play like he was fatigued. He played like he didn’t care.
  • Reggie Jackson was horrible.
  • Nick Collison lost his cool and got kicked out of the game.
  • The Thunder was outscored 44-32 in the paint.
  • The Thunder was outscored 56-43 in the second half.
  • Yeah, this was the worst loss in franchise history.
  • The Thunder has an amazing ability to belittle performances like these. It’s a strength and a weakness. It’s something that helps this team be resilient. But it’s beginning to look like something that also allows these embarrassments to keep happening. Thirty minutes after the game, it seemed like this was no big deal.
  • Durant: “We got to shake it off. We got to have a short memory with it because we got a game here in a few days and then the playoffs start. We got to take it and learn from it and just keep getting better and improve and we should be fine. It’s things that we definitely could correct. But it’s a learning experience, and it’s almost good to have one of these experiences going into the playoffs and knowing that you can get better.”
  • Scott Brooks: “We didn’t play well. Give them credit. They came out and they played hard. They have guys banged up. Their coaching staff’s done a good job all year. They’ve had injuries all year but they still fight. Last game, they had a chance to win in Houston. Tonight they won. They played better than us…We got to move on to the next game.”
  • Fill in the blank. This team without Russell Westbrook… 
  • Westbrook sat this one out to rest his right knee on the second night of a back-to-back. It’s the last time we’ll see him miss a game to rest or be on any kind of restriction. He’s good to go for the playoffs.
  • Jackson started in place of Westbrook, which I didn’t think he would after seeing how banged up he was after the Indiana game. And after seeing the way he played, the Thunder probably should have sat him. We’ve never seen Jackson struggle this much. He scored four points on 1-for-7 shooting and had two rebounds, three assists and four fouls.
  • The Thunder outscored the Pelicans in only one quarter, a 25-22 second period. That about sums up this game.
  • OKC wasn’t focused from the start. You could tell. From my seat, it looked like Thunder players were going half speed in the first quarter. Zero fast break points?? The Thunder overlooked this team, regardless of what was said after the game. It was clear to anybody watching.
  • I’ll give Durant credit for this. He answered each and every question asked of him after the game. He didn’t get angry. He didn’t get offended. He just sat at his stall and carried himself like an All-Pro. (Sidenote: I always hate when players lash out at the media. Not because I’m a member of the media. But because whatever anger and passion a player wants to show in the locker room should have been displayed on the court. But I digress.) And for the second straight day, Durant looked himself in the mirror, analyzed his performance the way he saw it and supplied his feelings on his off night. “I have to bring a better attitude,” Durant said. “I was so focused on trying to play perfect because of the game I had last game. I just wanted to be way better and help my team. And when I think like that every play frustrates me; if I get a turnover, if I miss an assignment on defense I get frustrated because I wanted to play perfect for my team and help win this game. So I got to have more fun out there and not play on edge but play with an edge. So it’s definitely a learning experience. I’m still learning in this league and different ways to approach it. So I’m grateful for the opportunity to struggle and learn from my struggles. I’m excited for another day, and hopefully I can learn from this one and move forward.” See what I mean? All-Pro.
  • After playing 42 minutes Sunday, Durant played 43 minutes tonight. And with the Thunder likely needing a win Wednesday, he’ll probably be needed for as long as the Pistons keep pace. That means no rest for KD going into the playoffs. “Rest would have been cool, but, hey, I just got to gut it out,” Durant said. “One less game I don’t think would help me over a longer second season. So sitting out one game after playing 80 of them I don’t think it would have mattered that much. It would have been cool. But we got to get this game, and I’m going to come out and play as hard as I can and try to help the team.”
  • If you read between the lines, it sounds there like the Thunder was planning on sitting Durant on Wednesday. But who knows? if the Clippers somehow lose at home to Denver on Tuesday that still could happen.
  • Best part of this game came when I was eating in the media dining room before the game. A Chevrolet commercial starring Pelicans coach Monty Williams came on. A couple of seconds later, Pelicans GM Dell Demps appeared. After a few more seconds, Pelicans and Saints owner Tom Benson made a cameo. It was the wildest thing. Imagine Brooks, Sam Presti and Clay Bennett pitching cars for a local dealer in OKC. You can’t can you?
  • I also learned tonight that Benson drives himself and his wife through the narrow back hallways of the arena on a golf cart. I’m told he has trouble walking, which is understandable why he would need a ride. But a golf cart? In an NBA arena? It was the weirdest thing. Also, why is he driving himself? He’s filthy rich. Just a strange sighting.
  • No punches were thrown in the Collison-Austin Rivers dust-up, and, no, neither player probably should have been kicked out.
  • I don’t know why Steven Adams didn’t play more tonight. After playing great against Indiana, Perk didn’t have it tonight. Adams, though, played 1 minute, 45 seconds.
  • Andre Roberson needed more burn, too. Brooks went to him with 33 seconds left in the third after it had become clear that the defense once again didn’t show up. He was looking for a spark. And he got it. Roberson had a blocked shot and a dunk sequence, a putback dunk off a KD miss, a steal and a fast break layup. And yet, for some reason, despite all of that energy, Roberson was taken out of the game with 6:26 remaining. Derek Fisher, of course, replaced him. And with Fish again called upon to be the stopper, this time against Evans, the Pelicans closed the game on an 18-10 run.
  • Meanwhile, Thabo Sefolosha was buried on the bench. Bad decision? Oversight? How about a minute restriction? I failed in my responsibility to ask Brooks the meaning of Sefolosha sitting the entire fourth quarter. But in his five games back from a calf injury, Sefolosha has yet to play more than 24 minutes. He played 24 minutes tonight.
  • The Thunder couldn’t keep Tyreke off the foul line. He took 16 free throws tonight. With two minutes left in the third, he had as many free throw attempts (12) as the Thunder.
  • Durant didn’t take his first free throws until 2.1 seconds remained in the third.
  • With one minute left in the third, 24 of the Thunder’s 54 shots were 3-pointers…against the Pelicans.
  • Maybe the Thunder might want to integrate a double team package in its defensive playbook. Could have used something else against Evans in the second half. OKC doesn’t subscribe to doubling. If you see the Thunder doing it, it’s an extreme case of conceding it can’t stop you. LeBron James got that treatment in the Finals last year, and he’s the worst player to do it against because, as we saw in those Finals, he then beat the Thunder by making everybody else better. But a guy like Tyreke Evans? C’mon, man. Take the ball out of his hands. Force Darius Miller and Luke Babbitt to prove they can beat you.
  • Butler getting real technical with the defense on Evans: “We tried to take away his real estate a lot. With the pick and rolls, they did a lot of stuff like disguising the picks and who they were sending up and whether it was Babbitt or (Anthony) Morrow), or clearing out a side and sending up a guy with the 1-4. With Tyreke playing the 1 with the ball at the top, they were having a “Horn” set and disguising it so it was tough. And the big kid was doing a great job of just diving and getting that help out of there, and Tyreke was just isolated a lot.”
  • Butler on the amount of 3-pointers the Thunder is taking: “I’m comfortable with our style of play. Threes is a part of our game, stretching the floor because you have Russ out there, you have KD, and they draw so much attention. And you got to spot up and stretch the floor and be prepared to make shots.”
  • One guy who has made shots of late is Caron. He looks ready for the postseason.
  • Horrible loss. But the playoffs are coming.
  • Up next: Detroit on Wednesday. Game 82.

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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