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Nuggets from my notebook from Thursday's win at Houston

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: January 17, 2014 at 3:20 am •  Published: January 17, 2014

This team, man…

  • Nobody knew it, but everyone inside Toyota Center, from fans to players, media members to arena employees, was saying the same thing, and at the same time. “I’ve never seen anything like that.” Turns out, everyone was right. We hadn’t. That’s because history was made Thursday night in Houston, as the Rockets generated the largest disparity of points scored between a first and second half in NBA history. Houston scored 73 points in the first half and was held to 19 in the second. As Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, “I know most of you didn’t go to UC-Irvine, but that’s 54 points different.”
  • The funny thing about history is it happens quick. Real quick. You knew the Rockets were struggling. Knew the Thunder’s defense was dialed in. But it never really felt like the scoreboard was so stuck. At least not until the final minutes, when you realized, ‘Hey, these guys have scored only 16 points this half.” The intensity of the game, the magnitude of every possession, masked the most meaningful thing that was happening.
  • “We was so lost in the game we didn’t realize it until we got in the locker room,” said Kevin Durant of the historic turnaround. “But we just tried to take it a possession at a time. It was special to see everybody play for each other.”
  • The Rockets were 7-for-36 from the field in the second half.
  • They had five more turnovers than made field goals in the final 24 minutes.
  • Houston forward Chandler Parsons: “It was just one of those nights.”
  • The most surprising thing was the 3-point shooting. Houston went 12-for-20 from 3 in the first half and 0-for-14 from 3 in the second. OKC went 0-for-8 from 3 in the first half and 6-for-17 from 3 in the second.
  • The craziest part about the Rockets’ 12 made 3s? Nine of them came in the second quarter. A close second? The Thunder has made 12 3-pointers only three times this season.
  • “They were on fire from 3,” said Durant, “but it is really hard to sustain that in this league.”
  • “We got more stagnant,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “We came out and missed some shots. We had some good looks early in the third quarter. We missed some layups, had some layups blocked at the rim. It seemed like our offense just at that point couldn’t make anything. We couldn’t make a basket.”
  • Brooks said at halftime he showed the team every Rockets made 3-pointer on film. That was the turning point in tonight’s game. “There was mistakes, there was some effort (missing) and then there was some tough shots,” Brooks said. “And we knew if we were going to stay in this game we were going to have to clean up the 3-point line.”
  • The Rockets’ 19 second-half points marked only the third time in NBA history that a team has scored that few points in the first half.
  • The NBA record for fewest points in the second half (and any half) is 16. And get this. Oklahoma City witnessed that, too. It was set on March 1, 2006 by none other than the then-New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. It happened in a road loss to the Clippers. (Crazy to think I covered both of these games.)
  • The Thunder didn’t make its first 3 until KD drilled one with 6:49 left in the third. OKC was 0-for-14 from 3-point range before that.
  • Soon, luck (or something) just rained down on the Thunder. OKC was 1-for-18 from 3 so what does Derek Fisher do? Toss up an offensive rebound 3 with 22 seconds showing on the shot clock. Swish! It sparks an 11-3 run to end the third quarter.
  • Then Serge Ibaka throws up a catch-and-shoot 3 from the right wing. Bang! Fourteen-point Rockets lead down to one.
  • Then KD flicks his wrist to fire off a 3 from the top of the key just before the third-quarter buzzer. Splash! Tie game at the end of three.
  • When Reggie Jackson later banked in a 3 to beat the shot clock with 4:13 remaining, it gave the Thunder an eight-point lead. You knew then OKC wasn’t losing this game.
  • Jackson was 0-for-6 from 3 before burying that 3.
  • Fish was 0-for-4 from the field before taking and making his YOLO 3.
  • It’s amazing how quickly the Thunder’s shot-making fortunes changed. Rewind to the five-minute mark of the third quarter to see a sequence that illustrated just how bad things were for the Thunder for much of the night. Durant missed a 3. Ibaka boarded it. Jackson missed another quick offensive rebound 3-point try. Then, Thabo Sefolosha stole a pass from Dwight Howard. And he missed after inexplicably pulling up from 15 feet. That, call it a 15-second sequence, told the story of both the Thunder’s questionable shot selection on the night and lid that seemed to be on the basket even when the looks were good.
  • Another sequence was telling. It came about 2 1/2 minutes later. Durant drove the right baseline, was met by four defenders and kicked out to Jackson. Instead of hoisting another 3, Jackson wisely pump faked, dribbled in and bounced a pass to Jeremy Lamb in the left corner. Jackson made the right play, the smart play. And Lamb nailed the 3. Only it was wiped out because Ibaka thought Jackson was going to shoot it and got called for a 3-second violation. Tough break.
  • But that last sequence was one that Brooks thought helped turn the tide. “We saw the ball go through the net,” Brooks said. “And when you see that, sometimes it just takes one shot. Serge made a tough 2, and Jeremy hit a corner 3 but it didn’t count because, I think, it was three seconds. But we saw that go in. And it kind of gave us some hope that the basket is normal size here. And we started making shots in the second half.”
  • With the Thunder finishing 6-for-25 from 3, OKC is now shooting just 31.3 percent from that distance in the past 11 games.
  • Loved how the Thunder started this game. It was one of the best opening periods of the season, certainly the best with this current starting five. Ball movement led to great balance and quality looks. And even though the defense wasn’t up to par, the offense, for a chance, clicked and kept the Thunder in it.
  • OKC started the game on a 13-4 run, and Durant didn’t have so much as a point or a shot attempt at that point.
  • By the time KD scored his first bucket, out of a post up on Parsons, it gave the Thunder a 17-10 lead. Not sure you can expect that every night. But if you can get anything close to that type of productivity from everyone else, things will run much more smoothly.
  • Ibaka’s start was really impressive. I was blocked on his first make, but it looked like the Thunder ran Ibaka off a pindown which freed him for a curl jumper off a feed from Kendrick Perkins. (If so, wow.) Then Ibaka rolled out of a high ball screen for KD and nailed a 15-footer. Then he ran the floor and finished a feed from Jackson. The game wasn’t three minutes old and Ibaka had six points, all from hustling and putting himself in the right place. He could do that every night.
  • Best yet, the Thunder started 5-for-5 and KD wasn’t one of the five. (OKC was then 11-for-14 in the opening period.)
  • Ibaka started 5-for-5, too, and finished with a monster 21-point, 15-rebound, five-block night.
  • The starting lineup, which has struggled big time, was sensational tonight. Got to give it up to them for setting the tone and seeing it through. My calculations had the first five at a plus-14 tonight. (Don’t quote me on that. I could be off.) After the Rockets went off in the second quarter, I actually had someone on Twitter ask me why Brooks waited so long to put the starters back in. Can’t say I’ve heard that before, not with this current starting five.
  • Heck of a game by Jackson. Just a heck of a game. He did it all. He scored. He set up teammates. He took care of the ball. He made good decisions (with the exception of a few too many 3-pointers). And, most importantly…He. Played. Defense. Boy, did he play some defense. If the Rockets made a pass, Jackson probably picked it off. If a Rockets guard tried to drive, Jackson probably cut him off. He finished with six steals, a career high, and used several of those to help him get easy run-out opportunities. Just a fantastic bounce-back game from Jackson.
  • Lamb’s shooting on the road is official a thing. It’s been 20 games. He’s much better at home. He went 2-for-9 from the field tonight and 1-for-6 from downtown. It’s like watching Kevin Martin reincarnated.
  • Sort of liked that Brooks put the ball in Lamb’s hands and let him run point when the B Team started the second quarter.
  • Steven Adams had a tough assignment covering Donatas Motiejunas. It forced Steve-O to guard the pick and roll and the 3-point line. It’s not all on Adams by any means, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “D-Mo” had his best night of the season, scoring 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, making 3-for-4 from deep.
  • Adams also picked up three fouls in seven first-half minutes.
  • Young Steve-O got some more really good experience tonight, though, covering Howard for a good chunk of the game. He probably played him about as well as can be expected.
  • Perk again played Howard extremely well. But it was a mixed bag tonight. It looked at the beginning like Howard was hellbent on atoning for his dismal performance in the first meeting with the Thunder. And for a moment, it looked like he might. He had six points in the first quarter, largely from muscling his way around the paint. But foul trouble kicked in, forced Howard to sit and took him out of his rhythm. Still, you have to credit Perk (and Adams tonight) for holding Howard to 20 points on 9-for-26 shooting with 17 rebounds in two games this against the Thunder.
  • Howard has produced better numbers than 20 & 17 in five games this season. Hopefully that puts what the Thunder has done against him in its proper perspective.
  • Brooks on Perk: “Perk plays good defense. He’s one of our anchors defensively. He’s a great screen-setter on offense. I know he doesn’t score a lot of points that a lot of people want him to score. But that’s not what he does. His role is to lock up and don’t allow us to have to double team. As you know, we never double team. He plays the guy mano-a-mano, and the guys can stay home on all their shooters. But he did a good job. He did a good job on Howard. But he has to come back and do the same thing on (Andrew) Bogut.”
  • With his minutes, all of them coming in the first half, Perry Jones III was most effective as a presence on the glass. He pulled down three rebounds, one offensive, in five minutes, and he seemed to keep other possessions alive by getting his paws on the rock.
  • Fish’s shot selection is getting out of control.
  • Horrible third foul call on Aaron Brooks. He was nowhere near KD.
  • And of course McHale went on and on about it. If there’s a complaint to make, count on McHale making it.
  • Really didn’t understand Fish coming in for Lamb with 3:10 left. But let’s ignore for a moment all the reasons why that was questionable. Fish then covers Parsons. Meanwhile, Thabo is once again buried on the bench. Uh, isn’t that why Thabo is on this team? But once again, zero fourth-quarter minutes for Sefolosha.
  • In the second quarter, Durant led the Rockets 14-9 in free throw attempts.
  • Final tally: Rockets 21, Durant 20. (Durant made four more foul shots than the Rockets!!)
  • Durant’s turnovers were a thing tonight. He had seven of them. They started early and stayed late. Mostly, they were sloppy passes and loose dribbling. His head was in the right place, it seemed. Just poor execution.
  • Thunder got really lucky the Rockets didn’t burn them more on points off turnovers. Houston had just 12 off 16 Thunder giveaways.
  • When you can’t help but bellow “GOOD PAAAASS,” you know someone made a special pass. That’s what Nick Collison did for Steve-O with 10:25 remaining.
  • Fill in the blank. If Reggie Jackson didn’t make that windmill dunk at the end…
  • KD is starting to cuss out everyone he dunks on. It’s sort of awesome. Not that he’s cussing people out. But that they can’t do anything but take it as they inbound the ball. Howard and Terrence Jones got an ear full tonight.
  • Up next: Golden State 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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