Rookie forward Perry Jones III made the most of some unexpected playing time Friday against Orlando, scoring eight points with a career-high five rebounds in the Thunder's 117-104 win.
Jones filled in for an injured Hasheem Thabeet (sore back) and made four of five shots in 11 minutes, 14 seconds. It was the most field goals he's made in a game.
“I felt comfortable thanks to the vets talking to me and getting me ready,” Jones said after the game. “They knew Hash wasn't playing before I did. So they've definitely been preparing me since shootaround (Friday).”
Jones has played in just 33 games this season, with no more than 19 minutes in any contest. His career high is nine points but he holds averages of 2.2 points, 1.5 rebounds in 7.1 minutes.
Each opportunity, though, has helped boost Jones' confidence.
“All the time,” Jones said. “All I got to do is just go out there and be aggressive, defend and rebound. That's what coach is looking for, my activity.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he “is very pleased” with Jones but added there aren't any minutes available in the rotation.
“He works to get better every day,” Brooks said. “He has a very bright future with us.”
MATCHING UP WITH THE MAVS
Dallas ranks seventh in 3-point field goal percentage at 37.1 percent and can get hot in a hurry from behind the arc.
The Mavs have been held to 21-for-60 shooting (35 percent) from 3-point range against the Thunder, but Dallas connected on 11 of 24 attempts in the first meeting.
That's why closing out on shooters Sunday will be critical.
“The biggest key is going to be stopping the pick and roll and getting back to cover out on their 3-point shooters,” said Kendrick Perkins. “They do a great job of spacing with a (shooting power forward) in Dirk (Nowitzki) and then you've got Vince Carter who's playing well. So we just got to make sure we just do all the little things.”
REBOUNDING RESULTING IN WINNING
The Thunder is 33-7 when out-rebounding opponents this season.
Including last year, Oklahoma City is 64-12 when out-rebounding opponents.
That's a stat Brooks pointed out to the team Saturday, hoping to illustrate to his players how important rebounding is.
“So we're just trying to get better at that,” Perkins said.
The Thunder ranks eighth in the league in total rebounding at 43.3 per game. One of the keys to success has been a team effort. Six players are averaging at least four rebounds, and four players are averaging at least five boards.
“Our guards rebound,” Perkins said. “We've got a lot of athletic guards, and (Kevin Durant) is 6-10 on the wing. Thabo (Sefolosha does) a good job of coming in, him and (Russell Westbrook). So we all do a great job collectively but we're still trying to get better.”
FOCUS AND CONSISTENCY
Much of Brooks' message after Friday's win over Orlando centered on playing with consistency and focus for 48 minutes.
The Thunder nearly blew a 27-point lead when the Magic rallied in the second half and got within four points late.
The players seem to be hearing their coach loud and clear.
“We just got to keep improving, keep listening,” Perkins said. “It's about our mindset; make sure we come in the game with the right focus. Sometimes you've got to smell the blood so when you have a team down 27 that's the time to push it up to 40.
“I think we've been doing a pretty good job of it of late. We had a little slippage (Friday) night but we're going to watch film and clean it up.”