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Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday's loss to Dallas

by Darnell Mayberry Published: March 16, 2014

You know the Thunder laid an egg when the halftime act, the “Power Team” of all acts, is the best part of the night…

  • The Thunder didn’t bring it. Plain and simple. That much was evident in the first quarter. The game lacked energy, passion and excitement. Both teams seemed to sort of be going through the motions. The end result for the Thunder was another home blowout, the third since the break.
  • The Thunder actually started off playing solid defense. But that soon tailed off, and it seemed to do so as soon as it became clear that the shots weren’t falling. That’s not something you see very often out of the Thunder. But tonight, it definitely appeared like the offense affected the team’s defense.
  • Russell Westbrook sitting on the bench in warmups didn’t help. The team gave him the night off for rest. He’ll be back in the lineup Monday. Without him, this was one of those games that the Thunder sorely needed his fire.
  • Why did the Thunder choose to sit Westbrook tonight and not Monday at Chicago? I have no idea. My guess, I repeat, guess, is that the team thought it could get by at home against a below-average defensive team. Maybe the Thunder thought it would need him much more on the road against one of the best defensive teams in the league.
  • Scott Brooks certainly didn’t provide any further insight. Asked directly before the game if he wants to share the reasons, Brooks said “no.”
  • “We’ve got a bunch of back-to-backs coming up, and we’re starting the process of sitting him out,” Brooks said.
  • Pressed for additional information, specifically whether Westbrook will sit out one game of every back-to-back, Brooks still didn’t budge. “We’re just going to stick to these two and we’ll let you know at the appropriate time. But right now, we’re just going to focus on these two.”
  • After the devastating loss, Brooks was asked whether the team will rethink the plan to hold out Westbrook from here out. “No. The temptation doesn’t even go through our mind. We have a plan, and we’re going to stick with it. He’ll be back tomorrow.”
  • My question is whether any of this, the minute restriction, the rest, is necessary considering the way Westbrook is playing. “It’s something that we’ve had in place starting on the process coming back the last time,” Brooks said. “So it’s something that we’re always evaluating. But we’ve had this since a while back and we’re going to stay with it.”
  • Brooks: “Russell in, Russell out wasn’t the factor tonight. Tonight’s factor was they outplayed us. Give them credit first of all. They played a good basketball game. They moved the ball. They made a bunch of shots. And we didn’t play with the force that we usually play with.”
  • The story of the game as I saw it was the same thing that’s been the story of the Thunder post-All-Star: its inability to guard the 3-point line. It’s only part of the team’s ineffective defense but it’s rapidly become one of the biggest concerns within that struggling defense. I wrote about the problem for Monday’s paper. Dallas made 13 of 24 3-pointers tonight. Five different Mavs made at least one 3. Jose Calderon and Vince Carter each had four.
  • The Mavs entered the night ranked fourth in 3-point field goal percentage at 38 percent. So you knew defending them beyond the arc would be a challenge. Sure enough, it was.
  • This was the fourth time in the past 10 games that the Thunder allowed 13 3s.
  • Over the past 10 games, OKC is giving up 11.5 3-pointers and 44.6 percent from that distance. Staggering numbers.
  • Tonight, the Mavs put in 3s with spectacular ball movement, against slow contests, in transition and by casually walking into them. But what hurt most was the ball movement. The Thunder was scrambling all night. Dallas was driving and kicking, and just when the Thunder closed out to a shooter the Mavs popped it around the perimeter to another open shooter. And bang!
  • “Open 3s are usually a result of breakdowns,” said Nick Collison. “Overall, we have to be a lot better, at the point of the ball, covering our man, sometimes it’s screening action. All that, we’ve got to get better and more consistent.”
  • Making the 3-point defense worse is the Thunder is trying to match opponents’ sharpshooting. Bad idea. OKC is averaging 28 3-pointers over its past 10, a figure that would rank the Thunder first in the league by more than two attempts per game. This, remember, is an average 3-point shooting team.
  • “Normally, 24 to 25 is a better range for us,” Brooks said of his team’s desired 3-point attempts.
  • With Westbrook out, the Thunder’s starting five was Reggie Jackson, Andre Roberson, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams. Pretty funky five.
  • Jeremy Lamb got some early minutes, checking in with 3:11 left in the first quarter. He played the remainder of that period and the first 1 minute, 21 seconds of the second before checking out. He didn’t play again until garbage time.
  • Perry Jones III had a stretch in the second quarter where he went from checking Dirk Nowitzki to Monta Ellis. “Utility defender” indeed.
  • Collison was a man possessed tonight. He was intense. At one point, he crashed into a cameraman under the basket and instead of checking to make sure he was OK, he actually pushed off his leg to help himself up. He was that focused on getting back onto the court. The rest of the night he was barking out calls and busting his tail all over the court. He really did everything he could to help the Thunder play well tonight.
  • Durant and Ibaka got little help offensively, which made Westbrook’s absence and the bad defense both look even worse. Durant and Ibaka combined to score 49 points on 16-for-39 shooting. The rest of the team scored 37 points on 13-for-40 shooting. Jackson was the only other player in double digits with 13.
  • Another game, another inexplicable case of Brooks being hard on Jackson. Brooks was barking at Jackson to pass the ball all night (and there were a lot of instances in which Brooks was right). But even after Jackson buried a 3-pointer one time, Brooks just shook his head because Jackson decided to call his own number and use a high ball screen to pull up from deep. On another possession midway through the third, Jackson missed a 3 and then he fouled Dirk on a jump shot. Predictably, Brooks immediately summoned Derek Fisher off the bench. I’d have to go back and watch how Jackson played in the six minutes prior to see if there was something else. But that scene has played out time and time again this season.
  • With some of the lineups the Thunder had out there, my question to Brooks would be who exactly did he want Jackson passing to? I mean, the Thunder started the fourth with Jackson, Fisher, Caron Butler, PJ3 and Collison. Jackson is supposed to run that unit.
  • When Jackson came back after getting benched midway through the third, with 3:26 remaining in the period, he was steaming. Seriously. His eyes were watery and red. And he looked furious. Brooks strolled over to him and gave him some kind of pep talk or instruction just before he checked back in. It seemed like a moment in which Jackson was either going to play great or terrible. Surprisingly, he stayed within himself, playing under control and finding teammates while also attacking with patience and poise.
  • It’s funny watching Jackson this season. He’s going through the same growing pains as the whipping boy that we witnessed James Harden go through for 2 1/2 seasons. It wasn’t until about halfway through Harden’s third year that everybody seemed to understand how impactful he was. Then and only then did they let him do his thing. Only with Jackson, I seriously wonder if that day will ever come.
  • I thought it was interesting that Brooks, on the first night of a back-to-back, brought back Durant and Ibaka with 8:07 left to play and the Thunder down 24 tonight but decided to leave them on the bench at Washington when OKC was down 13 with 4:35 left.
  • Brandan Wright’s alley-oop from Devin Harris should be the top play of the night. That pass was sky high, but Wright still went up and got it and flushed it. Judging by the reaction in the arena, I’m not sure the crowd understood what went down on that dunk. Maybe the fans did and just didn’t like that it was only pouring more salt in the wound. Either way, that thing was awesome.
  • Vince on that lob pass: “I had a great view of it, and I was like ‘That’s too damn high.’ You know. I’m a positive guy. But as soon as I saw it I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s too damn high.’ It was so high that the momentum of him jumping that high, he had no choice but to dunk the ball. So it was great to see because it looked like he dunked it with his shoulder because he was so high.”
  • That was one of the cooler moments of late on the job, talking to perhaps the all-time greatest dunker about one of the all-time greatest dunks The Peake has ever seen an hour after seeing it.
  • Up next: at Chicago on Monday.
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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