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Nuggets from my notebook from Thursday's loss to the Nets

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: January 3, 2014 at 1:50 am •  Published: January 3, 2014
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Hit me…

  • This is what happens when Kevin Durant is neutralized. When the Thunder can’t rely on No. 35 to produce points, the offense stalls, chaos ensues and a loss to the Nets on your home floor happens.
  • With the Thunder’s offense needing him in the worst way, Durant scored just four points in the final period. He had two turnovers and one very fortunate assist. Brooklyn loaded up and locked him down. His catches were tough. His lanes to the basket were non-existent. Everywhere he looked, he saw at least six sets of eyes. Shaun Livingston was hounding him on the perimeter. Kevin Garnett was ignoring Serge Ibaka and sitting in Durant’s lap. And at least one additional defender was waiting with a foot in the paint. This is how teams are again game-planning and playing Durant with Russell Westbrook watching from the bench.
  • “They did a good job of putting two guys on KD, and we have to be more disciplined to get to our spots,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “And we’ve done a great job with that all year. We’ve done a good job all year with that. It’s not like we’ve seen two guys on KD for the first time tonight. We’ve done a much better job of getting to our spots quickly and making quick decisions off that first pass. Tonight, it wasn’t the case. But it’s something we’ve done a good job with.”
  • Durant was at a loss for words after the game.
  • When the media walked into the locker room, Durant, typically already in the shower area at that time, still sat at this locker in full uniform. He was staring at a stat sheet. Thunder team policy mandates players be fully dressed before addressing the media. But Durant, for the second straight game, the second straight heart-breaker, did away with that rule. He instructed a team official to allow the media over before he had showered and dressed. And his answers to each probing question was short and frustration-filled.
  • Asked what him and his teammates must do when teams load up on him like the Nets did tonight, Durant claimed he didn’t know. It seemed much more like he didn’t care to say. “I don’t know, man. I’ve got to figure it out. I’ve got to watch film and see how.”
  • In the last two games, Durant has now scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting in 20 fourth-quarter minutes. The Thunder has been outscored 56-32 in those periods.
  • Joe Johnson on the Nets’ game plan for Durant: “We wanted the other guys to make plays and keep the ball out of Kevin Durant’s hands as much as possible. So those other guys were shooting, and they just weren’t making shots.”
  • Second time in as many games the Thunder blew a 16-point lead on its home floor. OKC held a 16-point lead with 40 seconds left in the third period tonight. That advantage stood at 10 with just under seven minutes to play.
  • In the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, the Thunder went 5-for-6 from the field with two turnovers. In the final seven minutes of the period, the Thunder went 2-for-8 with six turnovers.
  • After receiving questionable fourth-quarter minutes Tuesday, guard Reggie Jackson played all but one minute, 21 seconds of the fourth quarter this game. He was solid in that time, scoring seven points on 3-for-6 shooting with two assists. But, like KD, he did little to nothing when it mattered most.
  • With the exception of his early fourth-quarter minutes, Jackson struggled through a tough night. He looked down before the game. Normally the second happiest guy in the locker room after Hasheem Thabeet, Jackson was visibly bothered by something. Still polite. Still cordial. But troubled, it seemed. Just not himself. And as I watched him struggle throughout much of his 29 minutes, I couldn’t help but wonder if whatever might have been troubling him had trickled onto the court. He missed his first six shots and didn’t get his second field goal until 10:21 was left in the game. He’d finish with nine points on 4-for-13 shooting with five assists and four turnovers. He topped it off with his first career technical foul, it coming with 9:24 left in the third quarter after Jackson argued an offensive foul call that went against him on an illegal screen.
  • Deadline prevented me from posing the question to Brooks after Tuesday’s game. So I asked tonight about Jackson’s unusual minutes Tuesday. I asked Brooks if he’s trying something new with Jackson’s minutes. He started by saying everybody needs to be ready for any and everything. But then he unexpectedly transitioned into providing an explanation for Jackson’s strange minutes Tuesday. “A lot depends on fatigue,” Brooks said. “A lot of times people don’t look at fatigue. It’s a defender. And there’s some games you are more fatigued than others. Some guys you have to guard differently. It takes more energy out. I thought (Damian) Lillard had a little hot stretch there. He hit three 3s and he was open for a couple of other ones. But I thought ‘Reggie got real tired so I’m going to take him out earlier.’
  • I can walk with Brooks on Jackson’s defense. It wasn’t great against Lillard. The fatigue factor, while interesting, might hold less weight. I don’t know if Jackson was tired. Brooks would know much better than me. But two things: Jackson is 23, and he played 14 first-half minutes. How tired could he have been?
  • I say the fatigue factor is interesting because Jackson is going from a sub to a starter. How is that different for a player from a conditioning standpoint? “It’s different when you play more minutes,” Brooks said. “It’s definitely something that every player has to get used to when you go from ‘X’ amount of minutes to an increase in minutes, not only in that game, but in that month or that season, it’s an adjustment.”
  • While discussing Jackson’s minutes, Brooks said a familiar line about all players wanting to play and nobody being happy about not playing. “They all want to play 48 minutes. They all do,” Brooks said. “I mean, Hash, he’s not happy.” It took everything in me to avoid interjecting. I wanted to say, ‘Scotty, have you seen Hash? He’s the happiest guy on the planet!!”
  • For as good as Jackson is becoming breaking down his man and getting inside the paint, it’s clear that when Westbrook isn’t available, the Thunder really is a jump-shooting team. Charles Barkley can scream it at the top of his lungs from now until “post All-Star break.”
  • I wrote about sloppiness costing the Thunder tonight. Because that’s really what did OKC in. Turnovers galore in this one, 14 in the second half, which led to 20 Nets points.
  • Brooks called them mental mistakes. But correctable mistakes. “We were just making bad plays,” he said. “Uncharacteristic plays.”
  • Jeremy Lamb turned in two of the worst. The first came at the end of the first quarter. With the ball in his hands and the Thunder having a chance at the final shot down one with the shot clock off, the second-year shooting guard instead used a Nick Collison screen on the right wing and settled for a 3-pointer with eights seconds showing. He missed. At the other end, Nets guard Alan Anderson didn’t. He drilled a 21-footer to push Brooklyn’s lead to three.
  • Twenty-four minutes later, Lamb was inbounding the ball after a made Nets basket with 0.9 seconds left in the third quarter. The Thunder held a 77-63 lead. But Lamb tried sailing a pass to a streaking Perry Jones III. The ball was intercepted, and Deron Williams had just enough time to fling a desperation 3-pointer that rattled around the rim before dropping through the net. It trimmed OKC’s 16-point lead late in the third to 11 and gave Brooklyn momentum going into the final period.
  • Brooks: “One of the things I will tell Jeremy is, one, he didn’t try to do that. He’s never been in that situation before in an NBA game. So it’s something that we will discuss, and we’ve done it already and we will discuss it tomorrow so it doesn’t happen again. And it won’t. He’s a cerebral player. He had a bad moment. That’s the bottom line. He had a bad moment. But it’s not intentional. Like many of our turnovers tonight. They were mental mistakes that we can get better at. These are not areas that we can’t get better at and improve. And he’s been improving. He’s been on an upswing all season long. Those two bad plays aren’t going to be an indicator of who he is. He just made two bad plays.”
  • The Thunder nearly gave up two 4-point plays tonight. More mental mistakes.
  • Judging by my Twitter feed, many felt Lamb should have played the fourth over PJ3. I didn’t see it that way. Jones was having the better game. By far. And Brooks rode the guy who was getting it done, something I and many, many others have wanted to see him do for years. Tonight, he did that and people are killing him. One guy even said Kendrick Perkins needed to be in the game over PJ3. That’s when I knew folks were just reaching.
  • Lamb could have replaced Perry. There was an opportunity. And it wouldn’t have been a bad decision by any means. When Livingston checked back in with 6:54 to play, Lamb could have come in for PJ3. Lamb could have covered Livingston (I think), Durant could have covered Paul Pierce and Thabo Sefolosha could have covered Joe Johnson. Would that have made that much of a difference? I don’t know. Again, PJ3 was playing great for much of the game tonight. Yes, Pierce hit a few late (they were tough, mind you). But not playing Lamb didn’t cost the Thunder this game. Bottom line.
  • Brooks on playing PJ3 30 minutes tonight: “I liked his activity. They went small. They were playing Paul Pierce at the 4. Normally, we wouldn’t see that lineup in an NBA game. But they had to mix and match with all their injuries, and they felt that was the best chance to get the win. And it paid off for them.”
  • I thought from the very beginning that the Thunder was playing to the level of its competition tonight. It showed in the first period, when the Thunder came out playing shaky defense and got sloppy with the ball.
  • I probably got way too much enjoyment from the Steven Adams-Mason Plumlee matchup in the first quarter.
  • When I was on my “trade-down” kick leading up to the draft (remember, I thought the Thunder should have tried to move back and get Atlanta’s back-to-back picks), I was all for OKC plucking Plumlee and Shane Larkin. I still like those two. But I didn’t know Steven Adams.
  • Plumlee was one of a few guys on the Nets I said to the person seated next to me I thought would be good fits on the Thunder. Alan Anderson was another. So was Reggie Evans. That’s about when I realized the Nets were 10-21.
  • OKC allowed the Nets to shoot 55.6 percent in the opening period and score 29 points — seven fewer than they mustered two nights earlier at San Antonio.
  • Westbrook sat on the bench for this one, crutch free.
  • Not sure what exactly Ibaka’s celebration was with 6:39 left in the second quarter. It looked kind of sexual. Slater even said ‘Don’t get fined, Serge.”
  • Again, PJ3 was terrific throughout much of his time. He showed more consistency with his corner 3 and had a really nice driving score past (my boy) Plumlee. He chipped in a few nice passes and some hustle plays and showed again that he’s deserving of minutes, as well as capable when he gets them.
  • OKC actually held Brooklyn without a field goal for 4 minutes, 45 seconds in the second quarter. The Thunder used that Nets drought to go on a 12-0 run.
  • Livingston looked real nimble out there tonight. Made some really quick moves to get to the rim and looked explosive once there. Loved seeing that from him. You don’t have a heart if you’re not rooting for him to have success in life. Not just basketball.
  • With that said, I still nearly jumped out of my seat at Sefolosha’s swat on Livingston at the rim.
  • Remember when Jackson didn’t get it to Durant last game? Well, it happened again tonight. And this time Durant let Jackson know about it, shouting “Give me the (expletive) ball!” when Jackson didn’t deliver it after KD had come off a screen. It happened with two minutes left in the first half. As the shot clock began racing down, Jackson appeared to be in no-man’s land, dribbling out on the perimeter and possibly about to have to chuck a prayer. But he calmly found pal PJ3 in the right corner, and he nailed one of his three 3-pointers. Crisis averted.
  • I found my third favorite halftime entertainment tonight. Everybody who reads this space knows the Olate Dogs are No. 1 and it’s not even close. Steve Max, the “Simon Sez” guy is No. 2. Tonight, the Oklahoma High School Coaches Association held the finals for its free throw shooting competition. And it was more entertaining than the first quarter. The winner was Caleb Nichols, a student-athlete at Newcastle High and a foul shooter who has ice water in his veins. His competition was Tanner Thorpe, a student-athlete at Prague. Their challenge was to make the most free throws on 20 attempts. Nichols went first. He made nine. Thorpe then made eight on his first attempt. Nichols followed by burying nine more on his next try, missing at about the eighth attempt and leaving the door open for Thorpe to tie if he made all 10. Which is exactly what you want. Wouldn’t have been fun if Nichols ended it there by nailing all 10. And so Thorpe had a chance. He made his first. Then his second, his third, his fourth…He got to seven, eight and the crowd got into it more with each make. He hit his first nine. Then, just before his potential game-tying 10th attempt, the emcee had to go an shout something like ‘He needs this for the tie!!!” And, of course, Thorpe missed. But it was riveting stuff. And very cool for high schoolers to get to do. Shout out to both of those young men for making it this far and rising to the occasion in front of what was probably the largest crowd either of them have performed for.
  • Durant: “We’ll be straight. We lost two in a row. Two tough games. We’ll be better.”
  • Up next: at Minnesota on Saturday.
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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