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Thunder Rumblings  


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

by Darnell Mayberry Published: November 3, 2013

Well, a win’s a win…

  • In his season debut, Russell Westbrook scored 21 points with four rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes. There were signs of rust, but everyone expected that, including Westbrook. More significant was Westbrook’s surgically repaired knee looked just fine. He exploded at the rim on several occasions, split pick and rolls and showed off the same high wire act we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the past five seasons.
  • “I just missed some easy ones, but that will come,” Westbrook said. “But I’m able to do what I want.”
  • Westbrook said his conditioning “could be better” but again said that’s expected. “I ain’t expected to come back and be Bionic Man. I’m just trying to work my way back through it.”
  • Westbrook went on to say his comfortable from a rhythm and timing standpoint.
  • Asked before the game what he was expecting, Westbrook said “Uh, I expect to win.” You can read all of his pregame comments here.
  • Scott Brooks on Westbrook: “I’ve been saying it forever. There’s two things he does at a high level. He wins. That’s one. He’s a winner. The guy plays the game like it’s supposed to be played. It’s not always going to be perfect, but he plays with everything he has every single night, and, to me, that’s inspiring. And the second thing is leadership. And it’s taken him some time to get that, but it’s taken every young player in this league (time) to become the leader that they become…It took him some time. But now, he’s our leader.”
  • Kevin Durant deflected the credit after the game, but he volunteered to move his customary place in the starting lineup introductions so that Westbrook could be last. It was a great gesture and one that the crowd ate up, giving Westbrook a thunderous ovation when he name was announced.
  • KD on Westbrook: “It was just good for him to be back. I know how much he loves the game, and for him to come out and do something he loves after being out for so long, it was just great to see him.”
  • Nick Collison on Westbrook: “It’s huge to have him back. He’s a big part of our team. We’ve missed him, for sure. It’s been obvious with our play. We struggled without him. It’s not just going to be ‘Add him and everything is great.’ We still have a lot of work to do. But he’s one of the best players in the league. He’s huge for us, and he’s done a lot since he’s been here. So it’s a big deal for us to get him back.”
  • Collison’s comments actually came before the game. When the ball was thrown up, you actually saw how Westbrook’s presence alone isn’t a cure-all. This team needs a lot of work. A lot of work.
  • The shooting struggles stand out most. OKC missed 16 of 18 3-pointers and is now 15 of 68 from that range through three games. Durant made the only two 3-pointers.
  • “Obviously, we’ve got to shoot the ball much better,” Brooks said. “We can’t continue to shoot bad from the 3-point line. I don’t want to talk about it much, but it’s hard to hide.”
  • What made the Thunder’s inaccuracy worse tonight was Phoenix’s pinpoint accuracy. The Suns made 14 of 37 3-pointers and were actually 10-for 24 through three quarters, when they held a 70-67 lead and threatened to hand the Thunder one of its worse home losses ever.
  • The Thunder’s continued trust in Serge Ibaka’s ability to defend 3-point shooters concerns me. Big time. It’s something that killed the Thunder in the Finals, and it could continue to do so this season if OKC sticks with it. Tonight, Channing Frye took advantage of Ibaka’s perimeter defense, scoring 10 first-quarter points and making two of four 3s. Even when Ibaka sat, the Thunder played Collison and Steven Adams together for a bit, sticking to a big lineup. I didn’t understand that.
  • Sure enough, when the Thunder went small late, it broke open the game.
  • And sure enough, the small, crunch-time lineup included Derek Fisher.
  • But Fish was fantastic in this one, and he earned every second of those final 12 minutes he played. He had five points, a rebound, an assist and two steals in the final frame, his efforts helping the Thunder turn the tide early and close it out late.
  • Brooks: “You guys should just ask the other 13 players what do they think about Derek Fisher. They guy is a winner. He plays inspiring ball. He had two plays that nobody will ever talk about, but they were a big part of the win tonight.”
  • Reggie Jackson scored eight points with two rebounds, three assists, all on a bad back, in 13 first-half minutes. He scored on an array of floaters and driving layups and kick-started his candidacy for sixth man of the year as far as I’m concerned.
  • I thought Jeremy Lamb gave great effort on defense, particularly against much bigger and stronger opponents like P.J. Tucker and one of those Morris twins.
  • Lamb hit two floaters tonight, and it’s a shot that he’s clearly comfortable taking. I asked him about it after the game and he said it’s a shot he’s taken “forever.” Expect to see that all season.
  • Lamb took just two 3s tonight. Does it bother anybody else that the one guy who should be shooting 3s isn’t shooting ‘em. He’s taken just eight in three games, with four of those coming in garbage time at Minnesota. By comparison, Ibaka has already hoisted five, including one tonight.
  • Lamb was the first off the bench, not Jackson. He came in when Kendrick Perkins picked up his second foul with 6:06 remaining in the opening period.
  • Jackson and Westbrook got minutes together for the first time this season about eight minutes into the game. And they were together for much of the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter. “They both become dynamic players on the offensive end,” Brooks said. “One of the other guards are usually going to be a 2-guard. You have to pick who you’re going to guard with. And guarding a point in this league if you’re not a point is hard. For some reason, that next step over is difficult. And they’re both great pick-and-roll players. And I trust Russell’s ability to guard any of the 1 2 or 3s in this league, with the exception of a few. Defensively, I don’t think it gives us problems because they’re both great…defensive rebounders for their positions.”
  • Good news: Ibaka has pulled down 29 rebounds through three games.
  • Bad news: Ibaka is 11-for-40 from the field through three games.
  • Up next: Dallas 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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