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Thunder Rumblings  


Nuggets from my notebook from the Thunder's win over Dallas

by Darnell Mayberry Published: November 7, 2013

Now that’s Thunder basketball…

  • Russell Westbrook is back. If there was any remaining doubt following his season debut Sunday, Westbrook removed all lingering reservations tonight. He played another 33 minutes, posted another 20-plus-point night and proved through another night of explosive and relentless attacks on the rim that his knee is fully healed.
  • After the game, Westbrook was asked if there was anything about his knee that is making him hesitate in games. His answer: “Nah, nah, nah. If it was going to give me hesitation, I wouldn’t be playing.”
  • Since he’s out there, Westbrook is bringing the same unbridled energy and passion he exhibited before. That’s what we witnessed tonight, and it was the most impressive aspect of Westbrook’s night. Almost single-handedly, Westbrook willed the Thunder to its best start of the season, a 33-31 lead after the opening quarter. He scored eight of the Thunder’s first 12 points then had a hand in 13 of the first 22.
  • Following his third straight bucket to start the game, a 15-foot pull-up jumper, Westbrook walked from halfcourt over to the far sideline, pumped his arms repeatedly and shouted to the crowd, bringing the fans to their feet just before the game’s first timeout. “Mostly it’s for my teammates,” Westbrook said of his animated reactions. “To make sure we keep our energy up, keep us upbeat, keep us going. It helps other guys out when they see me hyped. They just follow along and we’re all hype together.”
  • Thanks in large part to Westbrook’s blistering end-to-end speed, the Thunder’s transition game was reignited tonight. OKC finished with 27 fast break points, converting all 12 of its opportunities. In the previous two games, the Thunder had just 16 fast break points. The Thunder had 13 by halftime tonight.
  • “We just try to play off our defense,” said Kevin Durant. “And I think tonight we did a good job of getting into the passing lanes and rebounding and kicking it up and getting to the cup.”
  • Durant was dominant in his own right. He had a game-high 10 assists to go with a game-high 23 points, a double-double made more impressive by the double teams he faced from the opening tip. With KD finally showing the phenomenal playmaking ability he displayed in the preseason, everybody on the Thunder was a threat to score and, as a result, the Thunder racked up a season-high 28 assists and shot a season-best 54.4 percent from the field.
  • It’s worth nothing here that Dallas came in allowing 106.3 points per game, the fifth most in the league. So while this was an impressive offensive performance by the Thunder, it’s not like the Mavs don’t have issues defensively.
  • If you looked at a halftime box score without watching the game, you could have easily been fooled. Durant’s stat line: 15 points, 4-for-9 shooting, five assists, zero turnovers in 18 minutes. Westbrook’s stat line: 13 points, 6-for-10 shooting, three assists, two turnovers in 16 minutes. KD had the better line. Westbrook had by far the better half.
  • Welcome to the party, Serge Ibaka. He played his tail off tonight. Posted 17 points with a game-high 13 rebounds. His three blocked shots were one more than the entire Mavs team had. He made eight of 10 shots and nailed his only 3-point attempt. Most impressive was the smothering defense he supplied on Dirk Nowitzki. Much like we saw Ibaka begin to do last season, he crowded Dirk and cut off his air space. When he did, Dirk found little room to find his rhythm. The majority of his shots were too well contested.
  • Scott Brooks on Ibaka: “He was active. Not only was he blocking, he was altering shots. And that’s what we expect Serge to do. He has to rebound, block shots, contest and alter shots, and he did that at a very high level tonight.”
  • Brooks stuck with Ibaka for the first 13 minutes, 54 seconds of the game. And I loved that decision. It’s as if Brooks chose to let Ibaka figure things out and find his rhythm. It worked to perfection.
  • I’ve always loved how Rick Carlisle has subbed Dirk. Tonight was no different. Carlisle sat Dirk with 6:03 remaining in the opening period. Dirk was scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting. The Mavs were ahead by one when Dirk took a seat. Carlisle then brought Dirk back with 2:17 remaining in the first. Dallas was up two. Dirk finished the period and went on to play the first 9:03 of the second quarter. So the Mavs didn’t lose anything with him on the bench for nearly a four minute stretch of the first quarter, and Carlisle got Dirk a nice, long rest going into the second half. He’s starting to, but I’d like to see Brooks sub strategically like that more often.
  • Nick Collison was the first off the bench tonight for the Thunder. He came in for Kendrick Perkins.
  • Reggie Jackson was inserted about 50 seconds later. Jackson then missed the entire second half with a left hip contusion. He finished with two points and five assists in 12 minutes.
  • Durant’s crossover on Vince Carter. I never saw George Gervin play, but the finger roll at the end of that play is how I envision Gervin made it look.
  • A Dallas writer walks up to me after the game and asks “Jeremy Lamb always play like that?” My response: “No, but he’s turning it on.” I then proceed to tell him that between Lamb and Steven Adams, he saw two of the pieces the Thunder acquired in the James Harden deal. The point being, the book hasn’t been written on that trade.
  • Lamb looked comfortable again for the second straight game. He had his catch-and-shoot game going tonight, knocking down 3s off kick-outs from Durant and Ibaka, and he rebounded well and made plays for others. On the Thunder’s first possession of the fourth quarter, Lamb worked with Collison on a nice little two-man game and set up Collison for a nice layup. You can see Lamb’s confidence growing.
  • Lamb’s first 3 tonight tried to roll out, right off the front of the rim. But somehow, it dropped. Lamb let out a confident roar when he saw it fall. On the next Thunder possession, Brooks basically begged Lamb to fire up a quick 3 from the wing in transition. Lamb didn’t and ultimately turned it over on a drive. On the next trip, the Thunder ran a play that ended with a reasonably good look for Lamb in the left corner. He hit the side of the backboard. Those last two plays could have rocked his confidence. But he bounced back wonderfully.
  • Adams: six points, nine rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot…in 20 minutes. In many ways, he was the story of the game afterward. His continued growth just keeps on impressing. Tonight, he played six minutes more than Perk and deserved every last second.
  • Brooks on the minutes at center: “It’s going to be game-to-game. I look at the production at the combination of the both of them. And then (Hasheem Thabeet) is going to get opportunities also. That’s the good thing about having a deep team is you have to realize that somebody’s gonna sit, and you have to make sure that they’re ready when their name is called. Last game, I don’t think Steven played as much as he played tonight.”
  • I wish Brooks would just come out and say Adams is forcing me into some tough decisions.
  • Perk and Thabo Sefolosha both did not look happy on multiple occasions tonight when they were taken out of the game. Brooks definitely has some tough decisions this season. One of those guys is playing for a contract. The other is playing for pride. Take away minutes and suddenly there’s a problem.
  • Adams took an elbow from Carter tonight, leading to Carter’s ejection after the Flagrant 2 penalty was called with 4:01 left in the third quarter. Carter appeared to be retaliating for Adams swinging his elbow and catching him on the cheek while protecting an offensive rebound. Adams just walked it off, gaining a ton of respect from teammates and observers.
  • Adams on taking the elbow: “I definitely felt it. It’s an elbow to the head. I don’t know, just reacting to it is…It was unfortunate that it happened, really. But it’s just part of the game, I guess.”
  • Dirk on Adams’ willingness to mix it up: “They’ve got the white Kendrick Perkins now.”
  • Westbrook on Adams: “Very impressed. Steven’s a big physical guy that can help us out a lot. He did a great job tonight of just rebounding the basketball, being physical and creating problems.”
  • Westbrook on Adams taking the elbow: “That stuff, he just laughs about when he gets hit and he just walks around. The first thing he came up to me and said was ‘What happened?’ Like, he don’t know what happened. That’s just how he plays, and I think that’s a big thing for us; for him and for our bigs to be physical and just continue to play.”
  • Collison on Adams: “I really like his demeanor. He just plays. He shows up every day and does his work. He plays hard. He tries to do the right thing. He doesn’t have a problem with physicality. Contact doesn’t bother him. I just really like his approach for such a young player. And his ability, he’s able to do a lot of things and he’s going to get better.”
  • Durant on Adams: “He does all the little things for us. He’s getting better every time he steps on that floor, and tonight was no different; rebounding, setting the tone physically, setting great screens. He was able to get me open a few times. He was great tonight.”
  • Go back and watch the bone-crushing screen Adams set on Mavs forward Jae Crowder that freed up KD for a jumper with 1:43 left in the third quarter. Crowder didn’t know what hit him.
  • Adams’ best sequence came midway through the second quarter. He blocked a Shawn Marion shot at the rim after he cut baseline at one end then caught and finished a feed from Durant at the other. And when Dallas went back on offense, Adams came up with a steal on a Jose Calderon pass before getting the ball to Jackson, who fired it ahead to Westbrook for an easy dunk.
  • Perry Jones III is starting to look more and more comfortable. He played a solid 10 minutes tonight. This was the first time I’ve seen him play without that deer-in-the-headlights look.
  • Brooks played a 10-man rotation before Jackson’s injury. Derek Fisher was the surprising odd man out before getting Jackson’s minutes in the second half. Depending on the game, Brooks probably will go with between nine and 11 players for now. Fisher and Jones definitely appear to be 10th and 11th in the rotation. Thabeet, who still hasn’t made his season debut, might be 12th.
  • When Jackson and Westbrook did play together briefly, Westbrook took Monta Ellis on defense while Jackson took Calderon.
  • But because the Thunder did so much switching tonight, as it normally does, nobody really had anybody for an entire possession.
  • OKC had 17 assists and just six turnovers at the half.
  • The Thunder finished with 24 turnovers, largely a result of getting sloppy with the ball in the third quarter, when five turnovers came within the first five minutes. It sort of snowballed the rest of the second half and ended up being an eyesore to what was an otherwise impressive offensive performance.
  • Brooks on the turnovers: “We got careless, and we weren’t making simple plays. We were trying to make plays that weren’t quite there. Those are all areas that we can correct.”
  • The 54.4 percent shooting was a much-needed season high.
  • Early in the fourth quarter, the Thunder had 11 fouls and five of them belonged to Collison. And I swear Collison didn’t like any of the calls.
  • I feel like Ryan Gomes’ attire is about to become a must-see on the bench all year. Couldn’t get a pic tonight, but tonight he went with a blue blazer and pink shirt combo. Very Craig Sager-ish.
  • Up next: at Detroit on Friday.
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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