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Darnell Mayberry's notebook nuggets: Durant saw the Hawks' plan coming

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: January 28, 2014 at 1:35 am •  Published: January 28, 2014

The Hawks said it best

  • I say Kevin Durant planned this. I say he planned the whole thing. I say he had his Thunder teammates toy with the Hawks for 3 1/2 quarters on Monday night only to captain a rousing comeback just to give himself some sort challenge while he’s ripping the league to shreds. No? OK, maybe not. But would any of us be surprised if he did? Durant’s been phenomenal enough to pull it off.
  • The Slim Reaper (I still don’t love it, but it’ll do) just keeps on finding ways to outdo himself. One night it’s a 54-point explosion. Another night it’s a 46-point outburst. One night it’s a triple-double. The next it’s another 41 points. It’s gotten to the point that the passing of each performance leaves you wondering what on earth KD will do next.
  • “There are very few people in the world who have the ability to do what he’s doing,” said Nick Collison. “He’s playing great, the best I’ve ever seen him play.”
  • Durant poured in his fifth 40-plus-point game this month. He extended his streak of at least 30 points to 11 games.
  • “There’s nothing more to say,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He’s a special player. He is going to be an MVP candidate until he decides to retire.”
  • Durant’s game-winner tonight was the 15th time in his career that he’s hit the go-ahead basket in the final minute. Since the start of the 2007-08 season, only Kobe Bryant, with 17, has made more shots in that situation.
  • Durant’s game-winner was just filthy. And you have to give credit to both Brooks and Durant. As Reggie Jackson was dribbling out the clock far above the top of the 3-point line, the crowd started getting antsy as time ticked away. But the Thunder knew exactly what it was doing. The team knew the Hawks were going to send a hard double at Durant the moment he touched the ball. And so the Thunder stalled, waiting until the last possible moment for Durant to go retrieve the rock. Sure enough, when he did the Hawks sent Mike Scott as a secondary defender to assist DeMarre Carroll. Durant anticipated it, saw it and then darted the other way, driving right and getting just outside the painted area, where a third defender, Kyle Korver, also came over to contest. Didn’t matter. Durant pulled up over three guys, rocked back and splashed in a 12-footer with 1.5 seconds left. The Slim Reaper (OK, maybe it’s growing on me) struck again.
  • Brooks on that last shot: “Coincidentally, we talked about that this morning in our shootaround. When we get the last shot of a game, teams are going to try to take the ball out of KD’s hands. And then we have to be prepared. But I thought we were ready for that to happen. KD did a great job of beating that and putting his shoulder down and going right with his pull-up. So it was a great shot.”
  • Durant said that clutch shot was the culmination of seeing three similar defensive schemes in the past four games. The Spurs. The Sixers. The Hawks. “This is the third team we played that’s been under that San Antonio umbrella,” Durant explained. “They did the same thing, whether it’s the first (quarter), end of the first or end of the second. They brought that double. And they were bold enough to do it in the fourth quarter.”
  • Durant on his mindset when it came: “I was going to pass it. But then I seen I was in my spot and I just had to pull up.”
  • I thought Durant was going to pass it. With the way the defense collapsed, it looked like Durant might have no choice but to. But he’s Kevin Durant.
  • If I’m the Hawks, or any other team going forward, I put two guys on Durant before he even catches the ball. I make someone else beat me. Do it too early and the Thunder gets a layup. Do it at just the right time, though, and the Thunder might then be scrambling to find the open man, a man who, at the very least, is much less of a threat than KD in that situation.
  • For as poorly as the Thunder played for 3 1/2 quarters, I never really had doubt that OKC would win. Reason is we’ve seen this picture before. The Thunder never, ever gives up. Sounds corny, but it’s true. In fact, the Thunder improved to 6-0 at home when trailing after three quarters.
  • Durant scored the Thunder’s final seven points. His pull-up on Carroll with 25.5 seconds left gave OKC its first lead since 2-0. The Hawks led for all but one minute, 24 seconds tonight!
  • For as clutch as Durant was offensively late, his blocked shot against Paul Millsap with 1:43 left to play was every bit as pivotal. It came when Millsap had Jackson isolated on the left block, a matchup that likely wasn’t going to end well for OKC. But when Durant doubled down, swatted Millsap’s turnaround jumper attempt and then batted away the ball as Millsap tried to pass it, forcing a shot clock, Durant preserved a 107-107 tie.
  • But…still…Durant’s game-winner came over THREE defenders!
  • Reggie Miller has some thoughts on KD.
  • Bold move by Brooks to stay small throughout the fourth quarter. The Hawks were killing the Thunder on the glass all night, even with the big lineup in. And with a predominate fourth-quarter lineup consisting of Jackson, Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha, KD and Serge Ibaka, the Thunder was giving up tons of size on the inside when switching routinely left Jackson on Millsap and Fisher on Scott. But with the Thunder’s defense getting whipped anyway, Brooks decided to try something different. It worked. The little guys scrapped and clawed, and the help defense was on time each trip. “We gave up two 30-point quarters,” Brooks explained. “So I figured, if you’re going to continue to give up 30-point quarters, we’re going to try to change it up and try to get a stop.”
  • Loved, loved, loved Thabo’s energy defensively from the third quarter on. You could sense how bad he wanted to win this game.
  • After allowing Philly to grab 19 offensive rebounds Saturday, the Thunder gave up 15 offensive boards to the Hawks tonight.
  • Atlanta turned its work on the glass into 31 second-chance points. That’s an opponent high for the Thunder this season.
  • Atlanta made eight of its first 11 3-pointers and finished 12 of 25 from that range. Six Hawks players made a 3 tonight.
  • Amazingly, the Thunder finished 13 of 25 from 3, and six Thunder players also made at least one 3. Can’t say that’s a stat I would have guessed judging by the flow of the game.
  • Really scrappy Hawks team that played without its two best players in Al Horford (torn pectoral muscle) and Jeff Teague (sprained ankle). I didn’t think this game would be close at all. Boy, was I wrong.
  • Thunder heads should be glad Shelvin Mack was running the show. I don’t want to say he cost the Hawks the game. But he cost the Hawks the game. He did a horrible job of managing the game in making good decisions in the fourth quarter. He missed wild attempts at the rim, foolishly insisted on trying Ibaka — unsuccessfully, it should go without saying — and turned the ball over. His insistence on trying Ibaka only sparked the Thunder’s defensive rally and put the brakes on what had been an unstoppable Hawks attack. Mack scored two points on 1-for-5 shooting with three assists and one turnover in 11 minutes, 15 seconds in the fourth quarter. I felt sort of bad for Hawks fans having to watch him, and not Teague, run their team. Because this was a win Atlanta should have had.
  • Kendrick Perkins scored the Thunder’s first five points.
  • I had a meltdown during the game. And I don’t apologize for it. I’m fed up. I can’t take it anymore.
  • Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was in the house…and he got mostly booed when showed on the big screen.
  • I don’t think there’s a coach in the league who coaches with more intensity than Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. Homeboy is up the whole game, screaming at all times and just looking unhappy in general. Can’t argue with his results, though.
  • I noticed something about Jackson’s game tonight. It looks awful at times because nobody is moving. I blame that on the lack of structure that I’m well on the record of saying this team needs. He’s probing, probing, probing, trying to find a lane or a shot or a cutter, only there’s no cutter or lane or clean look. Because if the Thunder isn’t setting a ball screen, the other four players are largely just standing around. It’s making it really tough on Jackson. Russell Westbrook is skilled enough, determined enough and, really, has enough rope to play through it. He’s going to make something happen regardless. But for the first time tonight, I could see Jackson trying desperately to make a play only to have to bring it out and reluctantly pass it off for what would inevitably be another ball screen for someone else or, worse, an isolation late in the shot clock. Jackson isn’t perfect by any means, and he’s got a long way to go as a decision-maker. But if you pay attention to what he’s doing, the decision-making that sometimes leaves you shaking your head is much more complex than Jackson simply over-dribbling and not feeding KD.
  • Up next: at Miami on Wednesday.
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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