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Nuggets from my notebook from Thursday's loss at Phoenix

by Darnell Mayberry Published: March 7, 2014

Where to begin…

  • Defense, of course. That’s what’s ailing the Thunder right now.
  • OKC watched the Suns score an opponent season-high 128 points tonight and shoot 52.5 percent. Phoenix made 15 of 27 3-pointers and got to the free throw line 39 times.
  • The Suns scored 40 points in the third quarter. They overcame a 16-point deficit with 3:47 left in the third period and took a three-point lead into the final frame.
  • “We’ve got to get back to getting stops,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We’ve got to get back to having some toughness on the defensive end.”
  • Since the All-Star break, the Thunder is now yielding 109.2 points per game, 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 41.8 percent shooting from 3-point range. That’s Sixers territory. The last two categories are worse than Sixers territory.
  • The Thunder is 3-4 since the break. And the three wins came against Memphis, Charlotte and Philadelphia. That doesn’t look good at the moment.
  • Opponents have hit at least 10 3s on the Thunder in five of the past seven games — six of the past eight if you include the final game before the break.
  • Gerald Green stepped up as the random opponent to spray in 3s tonight. Yes, he’s played well all season. But he hasn’t played this well in his life. He had a career-high 41 points tonight, making eight of 13 3s. Six of those came in the third quarter. Three of those came in that improbable 21-2 Suns run in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the third.
  • The Thunder sat on 96 points with 3:47 left in the third and failed to score 100 points.
  • The Suns sat on 80 points with 3:47 left in the third and came out of the period with 101 points.
  • The Thunder lost a game in which it went 19-for-19 from the free throw line.
  • The Thunder lost a game in which it committed only nine turnovers.
  • The Thunder lost a game in which it scored 41 points in the opening quarter.
  • Those Morris twins were a problem. Nobody from the Thunder had an answer for them. I didn’t think they were that good. I gained a ton of respect for them after tonight.
  • Russell Westbrook was sensational. Again. And it’s unfortunate the Thunder laid an egg in the final 15 minutes, because his efforts don’t even seem to matter at this point. Heck of a performance by him and another encouraging night, his fourth straight.
  • Steven Adams and Perry Jones III combined for one rebound and five fouls in 22 minutes.
  • If PJ3 didn’t pick up his third foul 23 seconds into the second quarter, Jeremy Lamb might not have seen the floor in the first half. He finished with 13 minutes, the second straight game that his playing time took a hit. It’s also the second clue for who could be on the short end with playing time.
  • Caron Butler came out balling, though. He made his first two 3s, then nailed another, hitting one from the top of the arc, one from the left corner and one from the left wing. Good sign. Said he’s not a one-spot shooter. He finished 4-for-8 from 3-point range and played 29 minutes.
  • Here’s a question I have about PJ3 in the starting lineup. If he’s viewed as the “utility defender,” why is he being put on non-offensive players? He guarded Michael Kidd-Gilchrist while Kevin Durant was on Gerald Henderson in the Charlotte game. Tonight he came out on P.J. Tucker while Durant was on Gerald Green. I don’t get it. Now, the Thunder did a boatload of switching tonight. So everybody ended up kind of being on everybody. And PJ3′s length comes in handy for something like that. But if he’s not giving you offense and he’s out there covering non-factors defensively, why start him? Ideally, I’d like to see Lamb get a shot with the first string because of the effect his shooting can have on Durant and Westbrook. But if the Thunder is hellbent on a defensive-minded player, then I’d probably even prefer Andre Roberson in that unit so long as he’s actually assigned to an offensive player.
  • Loved the lineup that came out with 4:23 left in the second: Westbrook, Lamb, Butler, Durant and Serge Ibaka. I want to see more of that.
  • Brooks expressed disappointment after the game about how the team is defending stretch 4s and small lineups. “These small teams that have shooting 4s, they spread you out and they drive and kick,” he said. “We got beat off the dribble too many times. It allowed our defense to get sucked in (leaving) open 3-point shooters. But those are correctable issues that we know we can correct them going into next game.”
  • Brooks seemed to suggest Westbrook’s minute restriction won’t be lifted just yet. Westbrook played 30 tonight, about what he played in the Cleveland and Memphis games before getting much more of a break in the Charlotte and Philly games. So that seems to be the cutoff, not 25 or 26 as Westbrook originally said. “I think his minutes are right there where we want them,” Brooks said. “Going into the next game, right around the same.”
  • Westbrook said he was limping because his foot was stepped on. He didn’t injure his knee or anything like that. Breathe.
  • Up next: at the Lakers on Sunday.
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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