Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s 101-98 win over the Jazz.
- Derek Fisher said it best. “It was not pretty, but this is something that we can build on. “You just have to figure out a way to win sometimes, and that’s what we did tonight.”
- It was just the first of 82 games. Always remember that when judging this sloppy, head-scratcher of a season opener. Just the first of 82 games.
- Add to that Utah was on its home court, playing its season opener in front of an amped crowd. Jazz players, meanwhile, had spent all day (if not all month) answering questions from local reporters about being a projected bottom feeder. Mix all that up and the result was what we saw tonight.
- Still, you had to think the Thunder would get off to a better start than this. I mean, 1-0 is a dang good start and, at the end of the night, is all that truly matters. But who among us can claim the Thunder looked and played like it had an entire preseason to prepare for life without Russell Westbrook? That was the most disturbing thing. Sure, a win is a win. But this looked more like a Game 6 that never came against the Grizzlies rather than a Game 1 that was supposed to signal a fresh start.
- Kevin Durant: “We don’t want to downplay the win, but we got to be a lot better.”
- The Thunder started the game off sluggish, allowing Utah to score 29 first-quarter points and get buckets at will from inside and from beyond the arc. Derrick Favors was giving Serge Ibaka fits in that first period. Utah’s ball movement was too much for the Thunder’s defense, freeing up 3-point shooters all around the arc.
- Scott Brooks on the first-quarter defensive breakdowns: “They had four or five dunks just from bad executed defensive plays. But it’s something that, as the game went on, I thought our defense was much better.”
- The bench was an unexpected bright spot in this one, especially in the first half. Brooks went surprisingly deep into his bench, playing 10 guys in the first quarter and sticking with a five-man unit when it paid off.
- Fisher was joined in that second group by Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, Nick Collison and Steven Adams. That’s three first- or second-year players and two cagey veteran role players. Seemed like a recipe for disaster. But those five turned a 24-21 deficit late in the opening quarter into a 34-31 lead early in the second.
- Know who was firing up everyone in the huddle when Utah jumped to an 18-12 lead? Westbrook. He was serious with it, too. Clapping his hands. Saying ‘Let’s go.” All kinds of positive energy.
- I sort of like the potential of tonight’s second unit. Not that it’s going to see the light of day when Westbrook returns. But Fisher and Collison are steady enough to preserve order, and Lamb, PJ3 and Adams are all athletic enough to make something good happen while being the go-to guys. Hoping we get to see it more over the next few weeks. It could help the young guys build some confidence.
- Durant when asked if he’ll have to score 40-plus regularly to keep this team afloat while Westbrook is out: “I don’t know. We just got to take it a game at a time and see how teams play us.”
- Durant took 24 free throws tonight, making 22.
- Utah took 34 free throws. At haltime, Durant had 12 free throw attempts to the Jazz’s nine.
- KD definitely got a ton of superstar calls tonight.
- Through three quarters, Durant didn’t have a single rebound and had only one assist. He finished with six boards and one assist. “I have to be way better than I was tonight,” Durant said. “And I got to do a better job of setting the tone for our team.”
- Durant sat at his locker after the game answering reporters’ questions with a bloody lip. A local reporter asked Durant if he thought the Jazz was trying to be extra physical with him. “Yeah, I love it,” Durant said.
- Just nine assists for the Thunder. Brooks and Thunder players said they thought the ball moved just fine. Shots just didn’t go in. We’ll see how that carries over Friday.
- Up next. At Minnesota on Friday.
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