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Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday's loss to the Raptors

by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 22, 2013

Raise your hand if you saw this coming…

  • On our podcast a few weeks back, we sat around and talked about when the Thunder’s home winning streak might get snapped. A few additional wins caused us to circle back to the question and include it in a recent roundtable discussion. On the podcast, me, Berry Tramel and Anthony Slater, all sort of agreed with the idea that the first loss would come against a team the Thunder had no business losing to. But then in the roundtable, Berry predicted the Nets on Jan. 2, Slater predicted the Rockets on Dec. 29, and me and Jenni picked the Warriors on Jan. 17. Me and Slater should have had more faith in the original idea, because the Thunder had no business losing to these Raptors.
  • You could chalk this up as a schedule loss if you want. The Thunder was playing for the third time in four nights and after a great win at San Antonio, a place where it previously hadn’t won in six tries. But that seems like much more of a pass than what took place here. “You can use that excuse,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I think every team can use that excuse. It’s so many times that you play back-to-backs. But we don’t use that as an excuse.”
  • The primary reason the schedule loss logic doesn’t apply here is because the Thunder held an 11-point lead with three minutes and change to play in the third quarter. OKC entered the final period ahead by nine. While the first 36 minutes might have been far from the prettiest ball the Thunder has played this season, the game was in hand in the late stages.
  • With that said, teams on the second night of a back-to-back generally fall apart in the final frame. And by the time the fourth quarter started, maybe the Thunder legs did feel a little heavy.
  • In that decisive frame, the Thunder’s defense broke down and its offense disappeared. OKC shot 5 of 25 from the floor, including 2 of 12 from 3-point range, and allowed 50 percent shooting. The Thunder forced just one turnover in the final quarter.
  • Brooks: “It doesn’t happen to us often where we can get up on a team by 11 and lose the lead, especially on our home floor. So we’ll get better from it and move on to the next game.”
  • More than anything else, this game proved Reggie Jackson’s importance. If I remember anything from this night when I look back at a box score, I’ll remember it as the night we knew once and for all that the Thunder really needs Jackson to be its super sub. Tonight, he was far from it while crafting the worst performance of his young career. He missed 10 of his 11 shots, all five of his 3s and had five assists against three turnovers in 21 minutes. Save one five-minute stretch in the second, he was brutal. And on a night that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined to miss 20 of 33 shots while turning it over 11 times, it’s Jackson who has got to pick up the slack. Tonight, he didn’t and it’s largely why we’re talking about an unexpected and bad loss rather than the continuation of a league-best home winning streak.
  • Jackson on his night: “I was very frustrated with myself after the game. I sat there for a second on the walk back into the locker room. I’m going to be tough on myself, but I couldn’t be mad. I got the same layup looks that I’ve been getting throughout the season. It’s 82 games. They’re not all going to go down.  I guess it’s one of those nights.”
  • Can’t be mad at Jackson. Entering tonight, he was averaging 14.9 points on 50.7 percent shooting in December.
  • I am starting to wonder if Jackson is getting too confident. The degree of difficulty of some of the shots he’s taking are insane. But after his first two seasons, I’d much rather see him confidently take those shots than revert to the passive player who was unsure of himself a short while ago. Got to hope he doesn’t get carried away, though.
  • Serge Ibaka scored nine points on nine shots. None of his buckets came in the final period. He’s another guy who has to step up when Westbrook and Durant are off. When both he and Jackson didn’t, the Thunder was doomed.
  • The bench did its best to save the Thunder tonight. Thought the second team deserved to play more in this one.
  • Two incredible plays in the first quarter: Westbrook’s steal and behind-the-back save at the seven-minute mark, and Jeremy Lamb‘s huge stuff against Terrence Ross at the two-minute mark.
  • Foul trouble robbed us of an intriguing showdown between Steven Adams and Tyler Hansbrough. Adams picked up three fouls in 27 seconds, all against Hansbrough, and had to sit. In Adams’ two minutes on the court in the first quarter, there was a lot of grabbing and pushing going on with Hansbrough. Seemed like only a matter of time before another technical would be called because of an incident involving Adams.
  • Before the game, Brooks talked about having a deep team and guys who are ready to play NBA minutes. “This year, we probably have more than we’ve ever had that are not playing NBA minutes that probably deserve to play,” he said. Brooks said all of this year’s players, ‘including Hash and Andre” deserve to get some minutes. Perry Jones III then made the most playing time as a result of Adams’ foul trouble and proved again that he can make positive contributions. He scored eight points with three rebounds and a blocked shot in 12 minutes and got some surprising crunch time burn, checking in with 4:34 remaining and the game tied at 93.
  • Brooks on inserting PJ3 in crunch time: “Just his length. He’s 6-10. Athletic. Long-armed. He’s like the guy that I think about on our team that can be our utility defender. They’re athletic across the board: DeRozan, Salmons, Ross. So they had a lot of athletic wings, and I felt that his length could affect some of their shots. I thought he did a good job.”
  • Westbrook, perhaps for the first time, acknowledged the woman who sits behind the scorer’s table and screams “C’MON RUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSELLL” each time he gets to the free throw line. We didn’t get a chance to ask him about it after the game. But it was a pretty cool moment.
  • Down four and needing a 3 with 14.5 seconds left, Brooks inserted Derek Fisher over Lamb. I thought that was interesting.
  • The Thunder had 19 fast break points and loss. That’s surprising.
  • Up next: at New York 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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