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Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday's win over Sacramento

by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 19, 2014

Just like that, things are looking up…

  • Thursday’s win at Houston was historic. Friday’s victory over Golden State was scintillating. But Sunday’s win over Sacramento? Significant. Don’t sleep on it. It was perhaps even better than both of the two previous outings. For real. This was a game that was more to the Thunder’s liking. It’s how OKC prefers to play. The offense hummed, and the defense remained effective. And it was that way for four quarters. On this night, the Thunder didn’t need a never-before-seen second half, or a 54-point outburst from Kevin Durant. Instead, OKC handled its business and ran away from the Kings by using balance and consistency.
  • If you take Durant at his word, and I do on this, he also would much rather this type of game. He’d take 30 points on 15 shots, with nine assists and great team defense over 54 points, six assists and a track meet any day.
  • That’s the mark of a great team. One of them, at least. Not just winning, but winning a certain way.
  • KD again started off blazing. He made seven of his first eight shots. and had 17 on 7-for-9 by halftime. In the second half, he took control of the offense and ran the team to near perfection. He dished five assists in the third quarter, transforming from a lethal scorer to a lethal playmaker just like that. Suddenly, everybody was a threat to score.
  • Non-coincidentally, this is the first time this season the Thunder saw six players score in double figures.
  • Scott Brooks on Durant: “Some nights he’s going to have a high scoring game. I just like the way he thinks. He thinks about the team. He had nine assists tonight. He took 15 shots and made 10 of them. Everybody else got involved and had an opportunity to score. He does command so much attention, but he’s not looking to score every time. And that’s what I love that he brings to our team night in and night out.”
  • Blossoming before our eyes: the Durant-Serge Ibaka two-man game. It’s becoming impressive. Ibaka is reading Durant and reacting well, getting to the right spot, and KD is setting him up beautifully with all kinds of feeds. Four of Durant’s assists tonight went to Ibaka, and that tandem is now showing signs of being a quality temporary substitute for the Russell Westbrook-Ibaka two-man game.
  • Related: Ibaka scored 20 points tonight, marking the first time in his career that he’s scored at least 20 in three straight games.
  • Brooks on Ibaka: “He’s a developing offensive player. I think he’s improved over the years, not only making shots, but also knowing how to play and knowing where to be so he can have a cleaner look at the basket. Like I tell him, his impact has to be a defensive impact and that helps the scoring; rebound, block shots, protect the paint, pick-and-roll coverage, and then he makes shots. He’s doing a much better job playing a two-man game with our point guards and KD, which helps.”
  • Less than five minutes into the game Kendrick Perkins and DeMarcus Cousins were already challenging each other. That they were never slapped with double technicals, I think, qualifies as the shocker of the night.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever heard KD get a louder ovation than he did for intros tonight. Crowd definitely showed their appreciation for Friday’s 54-point explosion.
  • Reggie Jackson scored 16 points on 4-for-16 shooting, which only scratches the surface of how much he struggled tonight. Another stat that tells much more of it: Isaiah Thomas’ career-high 38 points on 11 of 18 shooting. Thomas scored eight quick points to start the game, making two 3s and getting past Jackson for a driving layup. And that was in the first six minutes. But it was enough for Brooks to give Jackson the early hook. He sent in Derek Fisher for Jackson as if that was going to solve the problem. (It didn’t.)
  • About Jackson’s early hook. Yes, his defense wasn’t where it should have been. But go back and watch Thomas’ first three buckets. The driving layup is totally on Jackson. But Thomas hit a catch-and-shoot 3 when Reggie was playing help defense and the ball was skipped cross court, and he nailed another one in transition, after Jackson fell following a no-call on a layup attempt and didn’t get back in time. Two of those seem sort of excusable. At least they are when others do it regularly.
  • I just don’t get why Brooks isn’t letting Jackson play through mistakes. This seems to be the time to let him build his confidence, not risk ruining it by yanking him after a couple of mistakes. Someone said to me Brooks’ sub of Jackson was about trying to get Jackson in with the second unit, to do just that, build his confidence. Meh. Maybe. Jackson did start the second quarter (he had better), but Durant returned three minutes, 20 seconds into the second, too, which nullified Jackson running the show. Also, Jackson didn’t check out until 1:42 was left in the third quarter. So who knows? It’s something to watch, though. If that’s what Brooks is doing, I think it’s a fantastic strategy.
  • With all that being said, Jackson has got to be better on defense.
  • At one point during the first half, Durant got off the bench, walked toward the scorer’s table and shouted to Jackson on the court “Take the challenge!”
  • Brooks then put Thabo Sefolosha on Thomas to start the second half.
  • It’s nothing short of phenomenal what Isaiah Thomas is able to do. He walked past me and Royce Young of Daily Thunder before the game started, and I swear if the three of us walked in a gym some of you might pick me or Royce before Thomas. The dude is our height. It’s incredible.
  • Outside of Thomas going off, the Kings’ 30 first-quarter points are all you can really complain about defensively. Again, great defensive game by the Thunder. The Kings are a high-powered offensive team.
  • Durant made Rudy Gay look horrible tonight.
  • Gay’s night: 6 points, 3-for-7 shooting, two rebounds, four assists, three turnovers, two technical fouls and an ejection.
  • Cousins’ night: 16 points, 6-for-17 shooting, 14 rebounds, three blocked shots and seven turnovers.
  • Fisher provided some great defense late in the second quarter. Used his quick hands to get deflections and steals on back-to-back possessions, both leading to fast-break buckets, and he took a charge on Derrick Williams.
  • Kings went to the Hack-A-Perk strategy in the fourth quarter, and it would have worked if they would have been able to score. Trailing 102-89, the Kings sent Perk to the line three straight times. He started 1-for-4 before finishing 3-for-6. Problem was, the Kings turned it over on a travel on the first trip and got two missed layups from Cousins on the next two.
  • Up next: Portland on Tuesday.
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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