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Nuggets from notebook from Tuesday's win over the Blazers

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: January 22, 2014 at 2:05 pm •  Published: January 22, 2014

“M-V-P!! M-V-P!! M-V-P!!”…

  • Once again, if The Peake refuses to chant it consistently for Kevin Durant, allow me: “M-V-P!! M-V-P!! M-V-P!!”
  • To hell with talk of the MVP discussion being premature. Durant is running away with it. He’s been that great. Sure, somebody can catch him and there’s a lot of season left to be played. But if No. 35 keeps up this scorching stretch the voting won’t even be close.
  • Durant pumped in another 46 points tonight. It was his fifth 40-plus point game this season and his fourth in the last 10. With tonight’s effort, he bumped his league-leading scoring average to 30.9 points.
  • Most impressive in this hot streak is Durant hasn’t lost an ounce of his efficiency. He poured in 46 tonight on 17 of 25 shots. He made six of seven 3s and duplicated that clip from the foul line.
  • “MVP performance,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts. “To score 46 points on 25 shots, six of seven from 3s…it was an incredible performance. He made shots when they mattered. He took his time and didn’t force it. He took what was there, and he made some great shots.”
  • Here’s what else is special. Durant is getting dangerously close to once again compiling the elusive 50-40-90 shooting percentage while dumping in nearly 31 points a night. He’s now shooting 50.2 percent from the field, 41 percent from 3-point range and 88 percent from the stripe. If he can boost his foul shooting by two percent and maintain those marks in these final 40, Durant will become the first player in NBA history to average at least 30 points while shooting 50-40-90.
  • “His numbers over this past stretch, I think that does all the talking,” said Reggie Jackson. “That’s a bad boy. He’s been the baddest man on the planet.”
  • Blazers guard Mo Williams on Durant: “The way he was playing, he probably could have scored on Jesus.”
  • Durant: “I”m just having fun out there.”
  • God help us when he gets serious.
  • Durant, of course, credited his teammates for his hot streak. “Screens being set for me,” he said when asked what’s enabled his rhythm. “Passes on time, on target. Perkins giving his body up for me. Serge is giving his body up. Nick and Steven, the bigs are doing a great job of getting me open. And, like I always say, it’s on me to finish. So I got to put in the work before and after practice (and) shootarounds in order for me to make those shots. My teammates do a great job of setting me up. It’s far more than just me. It’s a small part, actually. What I do is more so plays coach calls and the screens being set and the passes being passed. I think the end result is just on me trusting in the work and believing in myself to knock those shots down.”
  • Durant scored 14 of his points in the fourth quarter. He had 11 of the Thunder’s final 15. All 11 of those came in the final 3 1/2 minutes. And it appeared as though a technical foul sparked his finish. After being whistled for a questionable charge call at one end, frustration spilled over for Durant when LaMarcus Aldridge got the whistle at the other. Durant walked over to the scorer’s table, slammed his hand on the table and cried “bulls***.” The far official came in and hit Durant with the tech.
  • Durant: “It was really a stupid reaction by me. I could have hurt my team really badly. But luckily (Damian) Lillard missed the free throw, and that gave us a little bit of momentum, I guess. I was just more frustrated with myself. I can’t hurt my team like that. This time it went in our direction. But next time I’ve got to be smarter.”
  • Whatevs. If that tech is what fired up Durant, by all means, KD, keep ‘em coming. Because after that foul call sent Durant over the top, KD went off. He made a driving layup then buried a pull-up 3 in transition, tying the game at 95-all. After back-to-back jump shots by Jackson and Kendrick Perkins, Durant drilled another pull-up 3 in transition. Then he hit another 3. Game. Blouses.
  • Scott Brooks: “There’s no question we are seeing an amazing player develop in front of our eyes. That’s one of the big reasons why I started wearing my glasses during the game, so I can see that. I didn’t miss the 54-point night, and I didn’t miss tonight.”
  • For as great as he was, this one wasn’t all about Durant. The defense came up huge in the second half. No sequence was bigger or better than the one that came with 1:56 left to play. Four chances the Blazers had to score and either tie or take a one-point lead. And four times they were stuffed. Serge Ibaka came from the weak side to help Perk on an Aldridge drive. Block party. Wesley Matthews corralled the rebound and went back up. Ibaka rejected that, too. Then, after Lillard worked his way to the rim following a baseline-out-of-bounds play, Perk stepped up and sent his layup attempt back out of bounds. Finally, Aldridge ended the sequence by missing a fadeaway baseline jumper.
  • Right after that sequence, Perk put in a hold-your-breath 14-foot baseline jumper off a fed from Jackson. It put the Thunder ahead by four.
  • Durant on Perk’s shot: “A lot of people I heard were screaming, ‘No!’ when he shot it.”
  • Perk on the shot: :” I was going to shoot it regardless. I said, “If you pass it to me, it’s going up.’”
  • Brooks: “How did you guys like that play I drew up for Perk?”
  • Jackson: “He was the open man. It was a play that was working for us. We got a lob for Serge in the first half with it. I got a floater. And then I noticed his man was cheating. I trust in Perk and the work he puts in each and every day. It’s a nice little baseline shot for him. As long as he doesn’t second think it, he’s pretty consistent at making it.”
  • Look, I love me some Reggie Jackson, but it look like my man had no idea who he was passing it to on that play. I thought he got caught in the air and was forced to unload. Crazy thing is that if Perk doesn’t nail that shot, Jackson is getting killed, perhaps by his teammates and coaches, and certainly by the fans, for making that pass.
  • Also huge tonight was Perk’s fourth-quarter defense on Aldridge. He scored six points and went 1-for-7 in the fourth quarter. Aldridge missed his final seven attempts, all of them coming against Perk.
  • Perk played excellent defense. But you can’t ignore that the Blazers were playing the second night of a back-to-back and the fourth game in five nights. From the moment Portland started on an 11-2 run, you knew the Blazers would have a tough time sustaining their hot shooting in the fourth quarter. Durant saw it the same way. “Of course, after them playing last night, they get a little tired,” he said when asked about the Thunder’s fourth-quarter defense. “And we forced them out almost to the 3-point line and made them shoot some tough ones.”
  • Aldridge is so good.
  • Thabo Sefolosha started the second half on Lillard and shut him down. Lillard had just four points on 1-for-5 shooting in the second half.
  • Richard Sherman, I mean, Thabo Sefolosha: ” Felt pretty good switching and guarding him. It worked for us…It’s not a struggle. Honestly, I feel like I’m the best (perimeter) defender in the league.”
  • Sefolosha also made his only 3 tonight. Makes him 4-for-5 in his last three games.
  • Sefolosha again had to switch because Jackson couldn’t keep up with his man. Lillard started the game hitting a step-back on Jackson and then a catch-and-shoot long corner 2. When Jackson slid over to Mo Williams, he then beat Jackson backdoor for a reverse layup. Wes Matthews did the same in the third quarter. Rough night defensively for Jackson.
  • One of the things that I love about Brooks is how he never throws a player under the bus, something he easily could do right now when it comes to Jackson’s shaky defense. But when I asked Brooks about it before the game, specifically whether it’s more of a concern than his shot selection, he simply said Jackson could be better without calling him out. “That position is so hard,” Brooks said. “Just think of all the point guards he’s had to face the last four games. And now he has Damian, and then he has Tony Parker tomorrow night, and then he has Rondo the next night, and then he has (Carter-) Williams, the rookie from Philly. It’s a tough position. It’s a position that you need five guys to be on point defensively. I think it’s an area that he has to continue to improve and get better. He has. You look back from year one, you didn’t see a lot of it. It was mainly on the practice floor to year two when he started playing Christmas Day in Miami. And then the third year, this year, you see more improvement. But he still has to keep improving and pushing himself to get better defensively.”
  • I also asked Brooks how he feels about Jackson’s shot selection. “A couple of things that he does very well is he gets to the paint,” Brooks started. “I don’t think he’s making it at the level that he was early in the year, but a lot of that has to do with scouting. He’s more so on the top of the team’s scouting board now. But that does come and go. We feel that if he can continue to get there he’s going to make those layups. His 3-point shooting is good. When his feet are set, he can make that shot. The ones that we’re trying to take away, or the ones that he hasn’t taken a lot of, are the ones off the dribble. The spacing off a pass, he makes that shot.”
  • Jackson then missed six of his first seven to start the game. But five of those were within 10 feet. He got fairly good looks. But much like the Thunder as a team early (well, everybody but Durant), he just couldn’t get them to drop.
  • Remember, too, that this is only Jackson’s 17th career game as a starter. There are going to be growing pains. All the frustration with him at the moment, as well as all the talk of how his erratic play is somehow helping drive the price down for the Thunder, is hogwash. Jackson is going to get better. Much better. And these experiences are going to be a leading reason why. If you don’t believe me, think back to what you probably were saying during Russell Westbrook’s 17th career start. Now look at him. That’s not to say Reggie is Russell. But it does show that these things take time. You’ve got to be patient.
  • I swear Jeremy Lamb’s arms have elastic in them and get longer when he reaches for rebounds. It’s kind of creepy.
  • Very clean game tonight. Few fouls (26 combined), few free throws (32 combined), few turnovers (season-low seven for the Thunder and a combined 17).
  • Up next: at San Antonio on Wednesday. Our man Anthony Slater has you covered in this space for the next three.

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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