Thunder Rumblings

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Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday's win over the Timberwolves

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: December 2, 2013 at 12:55 am •  Published: December 1, 2013

Doubt many Thunder heads predicted 6-0 on this home stand. I know I didn’t…

  • Tonight’s fourth quarter was something else. The Thunder claims it clamped down. The Wolves claimed they ran out of gas. The truth is both probably happened. Minnesota played the night before in Dallas so there likely is some validity to the Wolves being fatigued. But there is no doubt how much OKC turned up the heat defensively.
  • The Thunder held the Wolves to 26.1 percent shooting in the final frame. Minnesota missed six of its seven 3s in the quarter and ultimately was outscored 35-20.
  • “We got into them. We touched them up, and we didn’t let them run,” said Kevin Durant. “We wanted to run and were bumping them and were more physical. We want to do that.”
  • As our man Anthony Slater noted, in the Thunder’s nine home games it has entered the fourth trailing five times. But in those five games, OKC went on to outscore its opponent by a combined 50 points in those comebacks. Not ideal, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
  • Scott Brooks on that trend: “You’re always concerned. You always want to play tough, aggressive, defensive basketball for 48 minutes. But we didn’t do it tonight. But we came back in the second half and made some adjustments and took care of the things that we thought were important.”
  • Let me be the first to say it. Derek Fisher was the unsung hero tonight. His defense on Kevin Martin was phenomenal to start the fourth quarter. He slowed K-Mart down and, in doing so, disrupted Minnesota’s entire offense. Martin missed his first two shots in the fourth with Fisher covering him, and he scored just two points on 0-for-4 shooting in the final period. Through three quarters, Martin had scored 22 points on 6-for-12 shooting.
  • Martin on Fisher: “He just knows how to play. He’s been around for a long time. He knows how to get under a scorer’s skin. He can do that from time to time.”
  • Fisher on his impact: “I thought it was important for us to be able to be physical with him and make a difference but not put him and their team on the free throw line…You can feel when you’re making a difference, and I felt like I was making it as difficult as possible for him to score.”
  • Brooks on Fisher’s defense on Martin: “I told him, ‘No (double teams). No switches. You’re guarding him. I don’t care where he goes, you’re guarding him.’”
  • Durant registered his fourth career triple-double tonight with a game-high 32 points, a team-high 10 rebounds and a game-high 12 assists. Asked about it after the game, Durant said “I wish I could have made a few more shots.” Dude was 14 of 21.
  • Just two free throws for Durant. That’s a season low.
  • Durant’s 10th assist came on a gorgeous backdoor feed to Russell Westbrook, who finished the play with a nice layup.
  • Westbrook found his 3-point stroke tonight, making four of seven from downtown.
  • I was surprised to see Thabo Sefolosha struggle as much as he did to defend K-Mart. Made me wonder what their matchup looked like in practices last year.
  • The Peake gave K-Mart a light applause when introduced for his first game back. I thought a few, not many, might boo because of his recent comments about nobody in Minnesota trying to lead the league in scoring. But I didn’t hear any boos.
  • Of note: Martin raced over and embraced KD after the game. Nowhere to be found was Westbrook.
  • Sefolosha had a sweet coast-to-coast drive a minute and a half in. He beat Ricky Rubio at halfcourt with a filthy behind-the-back dribble and finished the play by flushing it with Kevin Love in the vicinity.
  • Kendrick Perkins picked up two quick fouls, forcing him to sit with 8:12 left in the first quarter. Steven Adams was summoned off the bench to replace him. And it didn’t go so well for the rook. He had to cover Nikola Pekovic and, perhaps for the first time this season, Adams couldn’t push his opponent around. It’s like Pek didn’t even feel him. And when Adams did try to bang, Pek, on two occasions, just bumped, spun and scored.
  • Adams did set some mean picks on Corey Brewer to free up KD.
  • When Perk returned to the game, he played great defense on Pekovic. He bodied him up and, unlike Adams, was able to prevent him from bulldozing his way to the rim. Most every look Pekovic had against Perk late in the second quarter and into the second half was difficult. It was one of Perk’s best performances this season.
  • Perk and Pek were slapped with double technical fouls early in the third quarter after Pek to exception to Perk making a little excessive contact with Rubio underneath the basket following a drive. Pek came over and pushed Perk and said a few probably not so nice things. Perk just walked away. The funny thing about the scene was before the game I had just asked Perk of Pek is as strong as he looks. Perk didn’t hesitate to say that he is. Then we started talking about tough guys, who is and who is not. (Sorry. I have to leave that conversation out. It was a casual discussion. Maybe I can circle back with him soon for something on the record.) But the way Perk chose to turn let the situation die made me think Pek definitely is on the “Do not disturb” list.
  • Love started the game 3-for-3 from 3-point range. I’d have to go back and review them to analyze them better myself. But the easy way out is to say Serge Ibaka simply can’t guard him. And at that point Love supplied more evidence that Ibaka has no business guarding 3-point shooters. Brooks, however, broke down each of the 3-pointers. “I think the three 3s were a mistake,” Brooks said. “One time, we got sucked in at the free throw line. One time, it was a baseline out of bounds and a corner 3 on the left side. And the other time, we were helping off on Rubio too much and he got another 3 from the left wing. That’s just too many. That’s too many mistakes, and I thought Serge really locked in after that and he made it tough on him.”
  • Love went 0-for-3 from 3 after his 3-for-3 start from that range. A couple went in and out, though.
  • Another slow start for the Thunder. Minnesota scored 32 points in the first quarter, and this one had a similar feel to the game up in Minnesota from a month ago. Not quite as bad, though. The Wolves did, however, shoot 60 percent in the first quarter.
  • Jeremy Lamb was the first off the bench for the Thunder tonight. Not sure why Brooks hasn’t given the keys to Reggie Jackson yet for that role. I get that Jackson has to be the backup to Westbrook and Brooks doesn’t and shouldn’t want to reduce Westbrook’s minutes. But play ‘em together. Put Reggie in for Thabo. Otherwise, Reggie is just wasting away on the bench.
  • Jackson finally came in with 2:20 left in the first period. Much too late in my mind. The Thunder trailed by nine at that juncture. Jackson checked in for Westbrook.
  • What made Jackson’s late entrance more disturbing was his early exit. He sat with 7:40 remaining in the second. That means he played just 6 minutes, 40 seconds in the first half. That’s borderline unacceptable these days.
  • In Brooks’ defense, the second string was bad in the first half. Real bad. On the Thunder’s first six possessions of the second quarter, the lineup of Jackson, Lamb, Fisher, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka went 1-for-3 with three turnovers. That’s about when Brooks summoned KD, Russ and Thabo off the bench. They were replacing Lamb, Collison and Jackson. But with Jackson at the free throw line, Westbrook couldn’t come in until the next stoppage. And here’s what really got my grape…
  • Sensing the second unit’s horrendous start to the quarter, and perhaps seeing Westbrook at the scorer’s table, Jackson went bananas. He scored seven straight points, all on driving layups. He helped cut a Wolves lead that had grown to 10 down to five. But Brooks put Westbrook in for him anyway. What happened to the feel of the game we hear so much about. Brooks should have let Reggie keep rocking right there. Minnesota didn’t have anybody to stop him. Brewer was a lost cause trying to keep up. Instead, Brooks left Fish in with Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant and Ibaka. He gave Fish another 3 1/2 minutes before replacing him with Perk.
  • To recap, Brooks took out Jackson for Fish in the first half when he should have left Jackson in, and he took out Fish in the fourth quarter and left Jackson in when he should have continued to ride Fish’s rugged defense on K-Mart.
  • In ended up working just fine in the fourth, though, because Minnesota’s offense had already come unraveled and because Jackson balled out. Jackson had 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, playing all but the final 47 seconds of the period and looking as assertive as he’s been alongside Durant and Westbrook. Jackson made eight of 11 shots for the game and added five rebounds and four assists against just two turnovers. It looks like he’s been pegged for that 24-minute range, with most of it coming in the second half.
  • Durant on Jackson: “He’s picking and choosing his spots. He’s being aggressive in pick and rolls. We always tell him, ‘Just always play downhill.’ We don’t want him dribbling into crowds. But we want him to be aggressive going to the rim, and that’s what he does best. Tonight was another example. He’s been playing well. We just need him to stay that way and he’s going to help us out.”
  • Jackson with arguably the best quote in Thunder history: “Basketball is an art. So I’ve got to just go out there and express myself.”
  • As bad as the B team was in the second quarter, the unit was a +1 when Fish checked out.
  • Rubio picked up two early fouls, forcing him to the bench with 6:08 left in the first quarter. But that meant J.J. Barea, Thunder killer, was coming in. And Barea wasted no time getting busy. He had six points, two assists and a steal in 10 first-half minutes. But he had just three points on 1-for-4 shooting in the second half.
  • Not feeling Collison 3-pointers this season. Not at all. I like his form. I’ve seen him make a bunch in practice. But there’s got to be a more efficient alternative. Collison took another corner 3 tonight and has now taking three in the last two games.
  • Turnovers were a major problem for the Thunder in the first half. OKC had 10, leading to 15 Wolves points. Minnesota, meanwhile, had just six, leading to only four Thunder points. That got ironed out in the second half, when OKC had just five and watched them lead to only five Wolves points.
  • The Thunder shot 58.1 percent at halftime (to Minnesota’s 47.9 percent) and still trailed by three. The reason: turnovers, free throws and 3-pointers. Minnesota scored 23 more points off 3-pointers, foul shots and turnovers.
  • Oh, Durant added four blocked shots and four steals to his 32/10/12 tonight.
  • Durant’s defense early on was suspect. He was slow to get back on several possessions, letting early offensive struggles affect his defensive disposition, while also letting Brewer get free for breakouts.
  • The only knock I had on Durant was his clear decision to avoid chucking a halfcourt shot at the third quarter buzzer. That was selfish. Durant generally doesn’t let shots fly in those situations, and he ought to cut it out. Tonight, the Thunder trailed by five going to the fourth and it could have been two.
  • But then Durant made up for it by scoring six points with four rebounds, six assists and a blocked shot in the fourth quarter.
  • If my math is correct, the Thunder held the Wolves to empty trips on 12 of their first 16 fourth-quarter possessions.
  • Found out after the game that one of Fisher’s championship rings from his Lakers days is a pinky raaang. (You got to say it that way). I couldn’t believe it. The dude literally has a pinky raaang championship ring. He told me that after he won the first chip with the Lakers and got one for his traditional ring finger, he had to make a decision on how to handle the next piece of bling. He opted for the pinky raaaang. Then he joked about having to make more difficult life decisions “after the next one and the next one and the next one.”
  • There were some questions coming into this season about how the Thunder would “handle” Westbrook with Mo Cheeks now in Detroit. Tonight, I witnessed two great examples of how the current coaching staff clearly has his ear. First, Rex Kalamian walked Westbrook all the way to the scorer’s table following one timeout and talked with him about I don’t know what. But at the end of the conversation, Westbrook reached back, patted Kalamian on the leg and said “my bad.” Spoke volumes. Then, after the game, new assistant coach Robert Pack sat next to Westbrook at his locker, the two wrapped up in a spirited discussion for about 20 minutes. But Pack did most of the talking, and it appeared Westbrook was listening intently. Again, I have no idea what the discussion was about. But it was clear that Pack had Westbrook’s attention and perhaps his full respect.
  • Up next: at Sacramento 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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