A few thoughts on the Thunder’s 109-81 preseason win over Denver on Tuesday night.
- Kevin Durant is starting to make it look easy. Easier? Too easy?? The way he’s controlling the game and downright dominating with such confidence is incredible. He’s been hailed the second best player in the world for a while now. But something about the way he’s carrying himself now leaves no doubt. Perhaps it’s Russell Westbrook’s absence. How KD is now taking patchwork lineups and carrying them while his team thumps opponents. Maybe he’s just that much better at the start of Year 6. Either way, this is shaping up to be a fun, fun season. Forget what you heard.
- Durant posted 36 points in 23 minutes. He made 13 of 20 shots, half of his eight 3-pointers and six of seven free throws. For good measure, he added six boards, four assists, a steal, a blocked shot and turned it over only once.
- If you’re scoring at home, that’s now a 12-assist game (really 11) and a 36-pointer for KD this preseason. Think he knows these games don’t count?
- “You just got to get him the ball and get out the way sometimes,” said Reggie Jackson, grinning from ear to ear after the game. “Sometimes that’s just the job for the night.”
- Durant totally downplayed his performance. He threw out some line about what he liked most was how the ball moved.
- KD did have this to say about his leadership: “I also don’t want to talk too much. I just want to let them play and go through it and learn from mistakes just like people let me do it. I want to be a leader and help them out, but I also want them to just go out there and play their games and play off instincts. I don’t want them to be robots out there.”
- Durant was 4-for-8 on 3s. His teammates were 1-for-9. For the preseason, Durant is 8-for-17 from deep. His teammates are 5-for-41 from that range. Panic time? “It’s definitely something that we talk about,” Scott Brooks said. “As a group we want to be a good 3-point shooting team. We feel like we have good 3-point shooters. But we’re not pushing the panic button after three exhibition games. But the 3-point ball is powerful. It’s a great shot in today’s game. You have to be able to knock it in.”
- Jeremy Lamb wasn’t the culprit tonight. He took just one 3. But he did miss it. He appeared to be much more selective with his shots but denied it after the game. His lone 3-point try didn’t come until late in his 20 minutes of action. “I just took what the defense gave me, tried to get in the lane a little bit,” Lamb said. “Get to my floater. Try to get to the rim. When the 3 presented itself I shot it. So I wasn’t shying away from the 3 or nothing like that. I was just taking what the defense gave me.”
- The worst thing Lamb can do at this point, in my humble opinion, is start hesitating, second-guessing and overthinking. Keep letting it fly, I say. Don’t take a bunch of bad shots. But don’t pass up open looks either. If he gets to that point he might as well not be on the court. He’s got to remember he’s out there for a reason.
- Lamb finished 3-for-12 and after the game was asked what was the biggest takeaway tonight. He immediately asked “Um, what did I shoot?” Tells me his slow start shooting the ball is getting to him. He can’t let it.
- Lamb’s defense has been pretty good. That’s the irony of his slow start offensively. He’s supposed to be a great offensive player and a below average defender. But he’s been impressive on D. He’s playing the passing lanes, closing out well, getting steals, blocking shots and staying engaged on the ball. He hasn’t been perfect and is far from a finished product, but he’s clearly making an impact on that end.
- Lamb on his defense: “People try to say I can’t play D and all that. I don’t really listen to all that. I work hard on defense. I work hard to get steals. I work hard to make it tough on my man. So I got to prove them wrong, I guess.”
- Hasheem Thabeet got the start in place of Kendrick Perkins (dislocated finger) and looked good. Hash, as his teammates call him, had just four points, four boards and one block in 20 minutes. But his activity level was noticeable, and three of his rebounds came on the offensive end. He caught a lob from KD with one hand and, in one motion, flushed it for two of his points. And his length made things tough on JaVale McGee.
- Steven Adams got the backup center minutes. He again showed a knack for grabbing offensive rebounds. He had a pretty smooth looking jump hook for two of his five points. His free throw shooting looks bad. Aside from that, nothing of note from him tonight.
- I know a lot of people want to see Adams get minutes. I think he’s got a long way to go. I’d be shocked if he beats out Thabeet at any point this season for backup minutes.
- Serge Ibaka had nine boards and five assists. Five assists!!
- Ibaka also revealed a nice new and nifty head fake from inside. He used it on several occasions tonight, showing good patience and nice timing to get the defense off balance before going up for a cleaner look.
- Andre Roberson is an animal on the glass. He had seven boards in his first 10 minutes and finished with nine in 17 minutes.
- Durant on Roberson: “No disrespect. I never heard of Andre before we drafted him. Once we drafted him, I went to YouTube and checked him out; athletic as they come and his rebounding is like, you know, I told one of the coaches if he was up there at 25, 30 minutes a game he could average 11, 12 rebounds a game. He has a knack for that rebounding. It’s great for us. It’s going to help us out. He keeps a lot of basketballs alive, and defensively he’s probably the best defensive rookie I’ve seen in a while. He makes it tough for me in practice. He’s definitely making me better as a player.”
- Up next: The Pelicans on Thursday in Tulsa.
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