One of those nights I can’t believe I get paid to do this…
- Kevin Durant had a very simple, very sensible explanation for his second-half eruption. Single coverage. “If somebody plays me straight up, I feel like I have the advantage. When they double team, it’s kind of hard to score the basketball. That’s when I’ve got to trust my teammates. And the last two games, we just didn’t make shots. But tonight, they played me straight up and I was able to get to where I wanted to get to and make some shots.”
- The irony there is Rick Adelman spent much of his pregame interview talking about taking the ball out of Durant’s hands and making everybody else beat you is the way to stop the Thunder. So much for that.
- Durant had a cryptic message after the game. It came when I asked a question about when he knew he was going to have a hot second half. Here is the transcript of our exchange.
Q: When did you know that you were going to have a big second half like that? When did you really start feeling it?
A: Well, I read a lot and I hear what a lot of people say. So…Q: What does that mean?
A: You interpret how you want to.
Q: Anybody say anything in particular lately?
A: I just hear a lot of stuff. I just wanted to come through for my team in the fourth quarter.
- Now, two things. 1) Durant was chirping at and with the guys on the end of the Wolves bench for much of the night. It could have been directed at them. 2) It could be a shot at local media types (myself included) who might have said and written things after Durant’s last two fourth quarters. I have no idea.
- Durant’s second half tonight was incredible no matter what. But for it to come on the heels of two sub par finishes in the previous two makes it that much better. Again, he scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting in a combined 20 minutes in the previous two fourth quarters. Tonight, he went off for 23 points on 7-for-11 shooting in the fourth.
- Durant’s 23 fourth-quarter points are a franchise record in the Oklahoma City era for individual points in a period. He held the previous record with 22, set against Miami on Feb. 14, 2013.
- Durant’s 48 points tonight is the NBA’s best scoring performance of the year. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love had both scored 45.
- Reggie Jackson on Durant: “That’s the Kevin I know. That’s the Kevin I’ve seen back in college and I’ve watched. One of the most dangerous scorers. When he gets it in his mind he’s going to score, there’s not anybody in this league that can stop him.”
- Derek Fisher on Durant: “He’s capable of doing those type of things every night really if he chose to or if we wanted to put him in that position. But we don’t feel like long term that’s the best way for us to be successful. And I think Kevin is the guy that feels that way the strongest.”
- More Fish on Durant: “Most nights he comes out he’s trying to make plays not just for himself but make plays for other people. Sometimes be a decoy. Sometimes bring two guys to him to kick it to other guys. For a guy that could score 40 every night, he just doesn’t play the game that way. And that’s how we believe we can win a championship, by having a balanced team but special players like him on nights when he has to be as great as he was tonight he’s capable of doing it.”
- Durant scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting in the first half.
- Durant scored 32 points on 11 of 16 shooting in the second half.
- Durant: “The first half, I had to be more aggressive. I wish I could have made a few. I was hanging my head. My teammates kept me encouraged, and Russell was good on the bench as a coach for me and helped me out. In the fourth quarter, I was able to hit a few shots but my teammates set me up with screens and passes and it’s on me to finish.”
- Remember when Durant said after the Houston game that he doesn’t have a switch he can turn on? Well he went to something tonight. Call it whatever you want. It worked. Durant: “I feel like my switch is always on. I may not be making shots, but my intensity level and my aggressiveness is always on. Tonight, it happened to go in for me a little bit. I just stuck with it. I was hanging my head a little bit in the first half and my teammates got on me about it. So I just wanted to keep my head high no matter what and stay aggressive and I was able to hit a few.”
- Scott Brooks on if he’s ever been as hot as Durant was tonight: “Yeah, at Lathrop Elementary School.”
- For as great as he was in the second half, Durant called Jeremy Lamb the game’s MVP. “Jeremy Lamb, I think he’s the MVP of the game because he shook off a tough first half just like I did, but he did all the other things; rebounding, he got a huge tip-in, had a huge rebound and made two free throws after he almost cracked his head open on the ground. So you got to give him the game ball because he stuck with it and was aggressive on defense and rebounding. He was great tonight. He ignited our whole team.”
- Lamb was indeed huge in the final two minutes. Not saying he was MVP. But he was some kind of VP. Without him, I’m not sure the Thunder wins this game. First he flew in for an enormous rebound over Kevin Love. Then he darted in and tipped in a Durant miss at the other end. It gave the Thunder a two-point lead. Then, after Love tied it up and the Thunder missed two shots to go back up, Lamb skied for another defensive rebound. This time, he hit the deck hard and got the benefit of the doubt on a foul call (which was Corey Brewer’s sixth by the way with 30.6 seconds left). He sustained a gash above his left eye on the play but remained in the game. He hit two free throws at the other end to push the Thunder’s lead back to two.
- Yes, that was a bogus foul call on Brewer. Stuff happens.
- Wonder who Adelman would have had on Durant on his final field goal if Brewer was available. Not saying Brewer would have done any better than Dante Cunningham. I don’t know. Maybe he would have. But that’s a potentially pivotal loss for the Wolves at that point.
- With that said, Kevin Love makes three free throws and it’s possible none of it matters. Check that. Four free throws. Love straight up choked at the line down the stretch. After his gorgeous spin move on Serge Ibaka, Love missed the free throw on the three-point play attempt and wasted a chance to put Minnesota up one with 27 seconds left. Then, after Kendrick Perkins fouled him on a 3-point attempt, Love missed the first two and didn’t draw iron when intentionally missing the third, a violation that gave OKC the ball back with 2.2 seconds remaining.
- Love’s finish only added fuel to my growing opinion of him being nothing more than a really good player putting up monster numbers on a mediocre team. Still wonder why he doesn’t get called out for it since, you know, he’s the best power forward in the game.
- Love’s rejection on Durant’s dunk attempt at the rim though.
- Steven Adams sustained a sprained right ankle late in the third quarter tonight. He did not return. I didn’t see the play that left him hobbling to the locker room at the end of the quarter. But he looked to be in a good deal of discomfort, limping heavily. I’d be surprised if he plays Sunday. (Not saying he won’t. Just saying I’d be surprised.)
- A shame Adams got injured. He was terrific tonight. He came in hitting the glass hard, getting offensive rebounds and second-chance scoring opportunities. He had four boards in two minutes. After 14 minutes, he had 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots.
- Durant aside, the second team was better than the first team tonight.
- I asked Brooks if he could take one thing from this game into Sunday’s game aside from Durant’s scorching second half what would it be. “Fish and Nick’s will to win,” he said.
- Fish on their contributions: “Every time we step out there it’s a group effort. And no matter what the situation is, the guys that are in the game or coming into the game, you just have to find a way to help your team. And I thought we had a number of guys that did that on both ends of the floor.”
- Nick Collison had a reverse layup tonight. Rivaled anything Durant did for play of the game.
- I was surprised at how much Jackson struggled on Ricky Rubio. It started from the opening tip. Rubio just blew by Jackson on several occasions and scored at the rim. Someone on Twitter asked me why Jackson didn’t just lay off of Rubio seeing as how Rubio can’t shoot. That was an option. But potentially nothing more than the lesser of two evils. Lay off of him and you then give him the space to survey the entire floor and slice you up as a passer. Tough cover, that kid.
- Rubio ripped the ball out of Ibaka’s hands twice tonight. Just straight up out-muscled him. Couldn’t believe it.
- The Thunder overcame 22 turnovers tonight.
- But the Wolves scored just 21 points on 22 Thunder turnovers. OKC scored 24 points on 15 Wolves turnovers.
- New Year’s resolution for Perry Jones III: consistency.
- Fish said the team remembered that whooping the Wolves put on them in early November. “We had the reminder of that first game just sitting back there in our memory bank. I do think our intentions were right coming out tonight. We had the right mindset, but we just couldn’t collectively find the energy that we needed to really take control of this game at any point. It’s just exciting for our team to have won the game in the fashion that we did. A lot of guys made a lot of contributions that have absolutely nothing to do with points and shots and those things. That’s what we have to be about. In order to win, guys have to have that will to win and be able to make plays that don’t always show up in the stat sheet.”
- Up next: Boston on Sunday.