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Nuggets from my notebook from Tuesday's win over Philly

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: March 5, 2014 at 2:15 am •  Published: March 5, 2014
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The Sixers ought to be ashamed of themselves for tanking so blatantly…

  • Kevin Durant scored a game-high 42 points, the Thunder held the Sixers to an opponent season-low 34 percent and yet the story of the game was Russell Westbrook. He was that good. He registered his second triple-double of the year, the eighth of his career, with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists. He had eight assists before he scored a point. By halftime, he had 11 helpers, setting a Thunder-era record for assists in a half.
  • Westbrook chuckled when asked if he came into the game with a “pass-first” mentality. He then repeated the phrase, “pass-first.” My guess is he linked the question to the stigma that’s followed him throughout his career. “I just play off my instincts, man,” Westbrook said. “I never come in looking to shoot first, pass first, rebound first. I just play off instincts. (If) some guys help, I hit them. If they don’t, I keep going.”
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the fewest minutes a player needed to record a triple-double since 1955 was 17. Jim Tucker of the then-Syracuse Nationals did it. Westbrook got his in 20 minutes, making him second. “It’s crazy, man,” Westbrook said of the feat. “I’m just trying to get my groove back. I’m blessed to be able to do that in such a short amount of time.”
  • Durant on Westbrook’s night: “I would like to take all the credit for that one. I told him to try to get 20 assists, and that’s what he did. He made everybody better tonight. He was moving the basketball and was aggressive to the rim. I think that’s why everybody got open, because of his aggressiveness. He just set the tone for us.”
  • Westbrook on what more he wants to prove to himself as he continues to recover from a third knee surgery: “Just being smarter, that’s about it, man. I’m just trying to learn the game. I sat out enough to be able to learn and see different things. And every game is different. So my job as a point guard is to learn the game and try to find a way to keep us winning.”
  • Westbrook had a 2 1/2-minute stretch where he dished seven straight assists. He accounted for 15 Thunder points in that time and helped turn a six-point lead into a 13-point advantage. Asked if he was OK with having eight assists and zero points following that stretch, Westbrook said yes. “I don’t know how many we was up, but we was winning, man.” he said. “I can score if I need to. But there really was no need for me to do that…guys were making shots. They did a great job of scoring. So there was really no need for me to do anything.”
  • Games like this make it laughable when people still think Westbrook is a ballhog or won’t defer to Durant.
  • Led by Westbrook, the Thunder had 10 assists on its first 10 field goals. OKC had 12 assists on 14 first-quarter field goals.
  • You knew coming in that the Sixers defense was bad. But seeing the Thunder slice through their defense and score 12 of their first 16 points in the paint was still an unbelievable sight. It’s almost like the Sixers aren’t trying to win or something.
  • Caron Butler made his debut tonight and got a standing ovation when he checked in with 5:26 remaining in the first quarter. I seemed to ruffle some feathers when I said on Twitter that I’d be surprised if half the people at the game tonight knew Butler two weeks ago. Believe me when I say that isn’t intended to be a diss. I really would be surprised. If you knew him, great. But let’s not act like the fans that fill The Peake are the most hardcore NBA fans around. But the standing ovation was a testament to the unwavering support Thunder fans have for their team. Know him or don’t know him, love his addition or hate it, fans were making a statement with that standing ovation. They were saying “You’re one of us now. Welcome. And we’re happy to have you.” That’s what makes this place special.
  • As for his performance, Butler was meh. Not bad. Not great. He scored two points on 1-for-4 shooting with five rebounds, one steal, one assist, one blocked shot, one turnover and four fouls in 26 minutes. I liked that he didn’t force anything. He didn’t press the issue to try to make a good impression on his new fans. Coaches and teammates say he’ll be better in time.
  • Westbrook on Butler: “He knows the game very well. He makes the open pass. Once he gets accustomed to the offense and things like that he’s going to fit in right away.”
  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks on Butler: “The thing I liked is he went out there and he played basketball the correct way. If he had a shot, he took it. If he had a pass, he passed it. We have to continue to add that mentality to our team…I thought he did a good job. You also have to look back. He hasn’t played in an NBA game since February 20. So that’s two weeks. I’m sure he was practicing and staying in shape, but it’s not the same as playing NBA minutes. I like what I saw. Obviously, he is going to get more comfortable with what we do as the season goes.”
  • Butler on the standing ovation: “That was unbelievable. I didn’t expect that. I was just excited to be back out there playing. I haven’t played in like the last two weeks. I was just excited to be in that environment. It felt like being at UConn again.”
  • Butler must have really loved his time at UConn. He mentioned Storrs in his introductory press conference Monday and was excitedly chatting across the locker room with Jeremy Lamb about alumni events after the game.
  • Of course, it’s possible Butler was just trying to butter up Lamb. Because guess who suffered the most tonight with Butler in the mix? That’s right, his UConn buddy, Jeremy Lamb. He played just seven minutes before checking back in with 8:02 remaining. OKC was ahead by 30 by that point. So it looks like we have our first clue of whose minutes Butler might take.
  • I think Sixers coach Brett Brown just tried to call another timeout.
  • Seriously, the Sixers have four guys starting who are fringe NBA players. Outside of Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young, the Sixers’ starters are a glorified D-League unit. I mean, they aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they’re tanking.
  • I feel horrible for Young. He didn’t do anything to deserve being put in this position.
  • Old friends Eric Maynor and Byron Mullens, meanwhile, gotta be asking themselves how they ended up here.
  • James Anderson stepped in as the random guy who nailed six 3s on the Thunder. Shout out to the guys who predicted to me before the game that he would. You know who you are. Anderson made four of his 3s in the first quarter and finished with a team-high 20 points.
  • The only thing worth watching in the second half outside of whether Westbrook would get his triple-double was the battle he got into with Carter-Williams. I don’t know how it started, or necessarily when. But it ended up being really compelling. I first noticed the two jawing with about seven minutes left in the third. Westbrook had just turned it over, and as the Sixers were inbounding the ball the two started yapping at each other. It wasn’t friendly banter. Then, after Anderson (who else?) hit another 3, cutting a 22-point lead to 15 and forcing Brooks to call timeout, Carter-Williams just stared at Westbrook as the two teams went to the bench. I couldn’t decide whether it was ballsy or boneheaded of the rookie. But I loved how he didn’t back down. Things got chippy 10 seconds after the timeout, when Westbrook took exception to a lot of contact on a drive to the cup and threw a little chicken wing in Carter-Williams’ direction. That only fired up Wolverine even more. That sequence started a near-two-minute stretch in which Russ scored four points with three rebounds, two assists and a steal. In a matter of seconds, a 15-point lead swelled to 23, with Westbrook captaining the 8-0 run. Carter-Williams’ contribution to his team during that stretch: one turnover. So I guess the answer to the question is it was more boneheaded than ballsy.
  • Westbrook and Carter-Williams hugged it out after the game, which let you know that third-quarter stretch was just two competitors going at each other. Westbrook on Carter-Williams: “He’s a good player. He’s going to be good for their team and down the road.”
  • I asked Westbrook for his take on Carter-Williams talking trash, specifically whether Westbrook respects that or thinks its foolish for a rookie to do to a three-time All-Star. “Me personally, I like it,” Westbrook said. “It’s good because that’s how I play anyway. I compete and that’s what I like to do. He wants to compete as well. But, fortunately, my team won and his team lost. But he competed and that was fun for me. I haven’t done that in a while.”
  • If there was one beef about this game from the Thunder’s perspective it was the sloppiness. Especially the second quarter, when the Thunder got real careless with passing. OKC finished with 22 turnovers, leading to 25 Sixers points.
  • Durant started the game 7-for-7 and then missed a heat check 3. He finished 14 of 20 from the field but missed six of his 18 free throws. Strange night for him at the stripe.
  • Westbrook took the ballsiest two-for-one 3-pointer ever at the end of the second quarter. He pulled up from 29 feet with no one under the rim to rebound for the Thunder but splashed it in.
  • Derek Fisher nailed another unsustainable 3 tonight, this one in transition, with 14 seconds on the shot clock and no one under the rim to rebound.
  • The final box score says Fish was 2-for-4 from 3-point range. But he should have been 2-for-3. The ref ruled his first 3 a 3 when it was really a 2. His foot was over the line. The NBA ought to have a way to right those wrongs.
  • I took way too much pleasure in learning that Butler isn’t afraid to let halfcourt shots fly at the end of quarters.
  • Even the refs were smiling at Hasheem Thabeet’s textbook ball fake and 17-foot jumper with 7:40 left to play.
  • This was the largest margin of victory for the Thunder this season. OKC’s 37-point lead also matched its largest of the year.
  • And Brett Brown wants another timeout.
  • Up next: at Phoenix on Thursday.
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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