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Nuggets from my notebook from Monday's win over Memphis

by Darnell Mayberry Published: February 3, 2014

Eleven out of 12 ain’t bad…

  • With guard Mike Conley out with a sprained ankle, the Thunder didn’t figure to have too much trouble against the Grizzlies tonight. Play solid defense, be sound on offense and stay focused throughout and a win seemed inevitable. Sure enough, that’s what happened.
  • Kevin Durant happened, too. He put up 31 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, regained his customary efficiency (11 of 21) after an off night at Washington and inspired his team with energy and hustle plays throughout the game.
  • Seven of Durant’s assists went to Serge Ibaka. They consisted of, in order, an Ibaka slip for a mid-range jumper; an Ibaka dunk off a Durant dump off; an Ibaka dunk off a dump off, a short Ibaka runner off a drive and dish, a baseline jumper out of a pick and pop, a free-throw-line spot up jumper and a mid-range jumper. In other words, Ibaka scored 21 points by spraying in shots from all over the court courtesy of Durant’s playmaking.
  • Durant explains: “Teams are starting to blitz the pick and roll to try and get it out of my hands, and Serge is doing a good job of rolling and catching that thing and knocking it down.”
  • Durant’s chase-down block on Courtney Lee wasn’t bad, either.
  • After turning it over 10 times in the first quarter Saturday at Washington, the Thunder turned it over just three times in the first quarter tonight. OKC had 10 turnovers through three quarters before coughing it up six times in the final period. Much better ball security in this one. Helped the Thunder build a 17-point first half lead.
  • Rare that both teams go 10 deep like we saw to start the second quarter tonight. But that’s what we saw for three minutes, 53 seconds. And the Thunder’s reserves held their own, too, ending up a minus-1 in that span. But just moments before Durant, Ibaka and Reggie Jackson checked back in, the Thunder’s five-man second group was a plus-1. So the minus-1, while not even bad, isn’t really indicative of how well the second unit maintained order.
  • One of Durant’s dishes that I liked most tonight was one that didn’t even end in an assist. When the Grizzlies’ defense loaded up on him, shifting their formation toward him on the right block with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third, Durant smartly surveyed the court, remaining patient while leaving the defense in suspense, and found the right man, swinging a cross-court pass to Ibaka, who missed a 16-foot baseline jumper. It was as impressive as any of Durant’s eight assists, if not more.
  • The 20-4 run to close the second quarter provided a 17-point lead and a nice 15-point cushion for the Thunder at halftime. It was the best stretch of the game by OKC, which held Memphis without a field goal for the final 6:26 of the period.
  • Durant scored or assisted on 15 of the Thunder’s 20 points.
  • Brooks: “That was the first time and probably the only time tonight that we played our basketball; stops and run. Stops and run. Get a good shot on offense.”
  • Even though Durant generated 14 of Ibaka’s 21 points, Ibaka did plenty on his own tonight, most notably his game-high 12 rebounds, three of which came on the offensive end and helped the Thunder outscore the Grizzlies 17-10 in second-chance points.
  • Ibaka Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Steven Adams were phenomenal on Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. They tag-teamed to hold both to 13 points, which is below their respective scoring averages, and made their looks tough all night. They combined to go 11 of 26 from the floor.
  • Brooks on his big men: “I thought they did a great job. Those are two All-Star type players…But I thought they both did a good job of making all their shots tough, and I thought Nick and Steven came in and did a good job. Steven only had three points, five rebounds, Perk only had one point, eight rebounds. But they both impacted the game. The 48 minutes that they played was a big part of how we won the game tonight.”
  • Another from Brooks on the defense: “I thought we did a good job of playing tough, defensive basketball throughout the game. One of the strengths of our team obviously is our versatility. I think tonight showed sometimes we have to play different styles of basketball to get a win…On the road, we went small. Tonight, I thought we did a good job of winning big.”
  • OKC did a terrific job responding to Memphis rallies in the second half. Did it in the third quarter when Memphis trimmed the margin to five. Did it again when the Grizzlies cut the deficit to three in the fourth, answering the final time with a 7-0 run that pushed the lead back to 10.
  • Got to give Sefolosha a ton of credit for slowing down Lee, the man who erupted for a team-high 24 points the last time these two teams met. This time, Lee scored 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting. Hours earlier, Sefolosha’s name was mentioned in trade rumors. But this performance is why I continue to believe the Thunder won’t move him before the deadline, unless, of course, a sweetheart deal comes along. He fits too well, means so much and takes a ton of pressure off Durant and Russell Westbrook defensively. He has the potential to single-handedly save the Thunder’s lunch with his perimeter defense in a postseason game or two. I just can’t see the Thunder letting that go.
  • Memphis coach Dave Joerger is with me and others. The music is much too loud inside The Peake. Twice tonight, Joerger complained to the game operations staff seated at the scorer’s table. Twice, he implored them to turn it down. Unfortunately, twice, they just shot back blank looks. Is Loud City starting to gain a reputation for being loud for other reasons?
  • Fitting end to this game. Perk forcefully blocked a 3-point try by Lee, corralled the ball at the buzzer, walked it over to the scorer’s table and pounded it on the padding, scowling the whole way.
  • Up next: Minnesota 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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