Thunder coach Scott Brooks and his players more frequently are being asked about their soaring number of technical fouls. OKC has 74 on the season (including defensive 3-second calls, delay of game, et al), which is second only to the Los Angeles Clippers with 78.
Most questions concern mercurial point guard Russell Westbrook, who has nine technicals, but also Kevin Durant, who has a team-high 12 this season, which ranks second in the league behind Kobe Bryant's 14. Durant entered this season with 12 career technicals in his previous five seasons. Center Kendrick Perkins, who led the NBA in last year's shortened season with 13 techs, has 11 this season.
“We're an emotional group,” Brooks explained. “That's how we practice. We get after each other because they care. And if you have guys that care, there's going to be times where it goes over, with not just Russell, but all of our guys. KD has to learn to control his emotions. ... I like emotion. I like it. … (Westbrook is) a winner and he plays hard. Does it get the best of him? With emotional players, it does. With Kevin? Same thing. … (Westbrook) is a heckuva player and if he doesn't play the way he plays, we're not as good a team.”
Brooks has addressed his players on the issue of too many technical fouls, but sometimes there's a problem with recall.
“He (Brooks) talks to us about it, but during the heat of the moment, it's kind of different,” Durant said with a smile. “I've got 12 of them. I'm not happy about it, but I don't regret them. I'm just going to go out there and play with that fire I've always been playing with and hopefully I just shy away from getting the techs. Whatever happens, happens. Just live with it. Every single moment of me playing in this league, I'm going to cherish it. Try not to take it for granted, I guess.”
Brooks said he doesn't want to change his players' passion, and Durant agrees.
“That's the beauty of Russell,” Durant said. “He brings it and everybody sees it. People might not like it, but he's not in it for other people to like it. That's what I really admire about him. He doesn't really care what people say on the outside, as long as (teammates) in this locker room respect him and he comes to work for us every single day. We can't ask for any more.”
BIG WIN, BUT FLAWED
Thunder players agreed Sunday's 108-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers game at Staples Center was their biggest road win of the season. OKC was not flawless, as it squandered a 19-point lead late.
“We did so many good things there are a lot of positives to take out of it, but at the same time we have to look at how we lost the lead, even though we know how it happened,” starting guard Thabo Sefolosha said. “We tried to keep our composure. We could have done a better job at that. We really let them get into our head at some points in the game.”
The Lakers' high-water mark this season was 6-5 on Nov. 20. … They are 10-19 on the road and 17-20 against Western Conference teams. … When these teams last met on Jan. 27, the Lakers had arguably their best performance of the season in a 105-96 victory at Staples Center. They shot 55.4 percent from the floor, which actually was better than what they shot at the free-throw line (55.2 percent). … Center Dwight Howard has a bad back, a bad shoulder and frequently a bad attitude, but he's still a bad man, leading the NBA in rebounding (12.0), plus fourth in field-goal percentage (.579) and fifth in blocks (2.31).
*Durant on the passion of Thunder players: “We just let everybody on this team be themselves. We don't try to tell guys, ‘Look, you can't talk here. You're not supposed to do that.' We don't do that. We don't put (limits) on anybody. We want the guys to be themselves. They wouldn't be here if they weren't good guys, first off. They wouldn't be here if they weren't great teammates. They do a great job of putting the team together. They're not just good basketball players, they're great people. I think everybody in this locker room is the same.”
*Kobe Bryant told ESPN.com he saw Serge Ibaka’s below-the-belt hit Sunday on the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin. Bryant said he thought some retaliation was in order.
“I probably would have smacked (Ibaka) in the mouth,” Bryant said. “I would have dealt with the pain after.”
Ibaka was not ejected from the game, and the NBA has not said if he will be suspended.