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Thunder 106, Blazers 90

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm •  Published: April 13, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win at Portland.

  • Northwest Division champs. Again. For the third straight time. Sounds pretty good, eh?
  • The Thunder clinched the division before the final buzzer thanks to Denver losing in overtime at Dallas. But it’s always better to get a win rather than secure a division crown by coming through the back way.
  • “You have to take pride in it, there’s no question. One of your goals every year is to win your division, and we’ve done it three straight years,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I give our guys all the credit. They’ve worked hard.”
  • Russell Westbrook on winning the division: “It’s great, man. That’s not a given. It’s a lot of guys that came back better and put in a lot of work to put ourselves in a position to win it again so it’s great.”
  • Westbrook was fantastic. He carried the Thunder to this win, scoring a game-high 33 points in 31 minutes. He dropped 17 in the third quarter, carving up the Blazers defense on drives, jumpers and even an alley-oop.
  • Westbrook on his third quarter: “They were in a zone, and I just tried to stay in attack mode. Try to stay attacking. Attack the zone and try to find a way we can get easy baskets.”
  • Kevin Durant on Westbrook: “He was efficient. He took great shots. He was aggressive attacking, trying to put some pressure on Lillard and their point guards. He just made them work, and all night we were trying to feed him. He had the hot hand.”
  • That’s two straight terrific third quarters by the Thunder. After outscoring the Warriors 36-23 on Thursday night, the Thunder absolutely shut down the Blazers in the third in this one, outscoring them 26-7 in the period and holding them to 3-for-22 shooting.
  • “We drinking some of that ‘Space Jam’ juice in here at halftime,” Durant said.
  • Durant then turned serious and said the team was disappointed with the way it ended the second quarter. As well they should have been. The Thunder allowed the Blazers to battle back from an 11-point deficit, wrestle away momentum and build a bit of confidence going into the second half. Portland outscored OKC 20-6 in a six-minute span and took a four-point lead. It was borderline embarrassing.
  • And then Thabo Sefolosha drilled a buzzer-beating 3, his second in as many nights before the half.
  • After that, and some sips of ‘Space Jam’ juice, the Thunder came out of the locker room on fire. OKC ecploded for a quick 9-0 run, sparked by another 3-ball from Thabo and capped by six straight from Westbrook. And from there, the rout was on.
  • Brooks on the third quarter: “It was outstanding. Anytime you can hold an NBA team under 10 points, you’re doing something right. And it has to be with energy and just toughness, and I thought we had that in that third quarter.”
  • Presumed Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard is liable to have nightmares all summer about the Thunder. He might have destroyed every other team, but he got absolutely shut down by the Thunder. In the four-game series with the Thunder, the rook averaged 14.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and shot 35 percent in 38.5 minutes.
  • Lillard is going to be a great one. He’s not the first to struggle against a championship caliber team. The Thunder is not going to want to deal with this dude down the line.
  • Brooks on defending Lillard: “We locked in on him. We know that he’s a primary scorer on their team and he’s really good…We’ve done a good job of stopping the ball. We don’t want a lot of penetration, and we did a good job of keeping him out of the paint.”
  • Worth noting here that the Blazers were without Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews. Two pretty important pieces.
  • The Thunder is now one win away of securing its first 60-win season.
  • Back to that second quarter. I said on Twitter that you can only hope the Thunder won’t have to trot out a playoff lineup of Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher, Ronnie Brewer, KD and Nick Collison. And right after I posted that, the unit went on a 11-4 run and threatened to run away with. Then, the starters came back in and gave up that big run. It was unbelievable.
  • Lots of playing time for unusual suspects tonight because Kendrick Perkins (hamstring) and Kevin Martin (back) didn’t go. Neither of their injuries are believed to be serious.
  • Hasheem Thabeet started in place of Perk and was pretty good in 18 minutes. He had two points, six boards and four blocks. And it seemed like he had more in the tank. For instance, he played only five first-half minutes despite providing some quality play.
  • Brooks on Hash: “I like what he does. He’s active. He plays with so much enthusiasm, and you cannot put a price tag on enthusiasm. He loves what he does and it shows. It shows with his energy. It shows with the relationship he has with the guys on the floor. He just plays the pure game of basketball. Love for the game. And I admire that. I appreciate what he brings to our team.”
  • Thabeet on his performance: “I’m getting better. It’s my first start of the season. I just got to come in and work hard for my teammates.”
  • Thabeet and Serge Ibaka on the frontline. Together. In an meaningful game.
  • One night after Durant made a “menacing gesture” that cost him 25 large, Thabeet tonight did something much more menacing than Durant. It could result in an even heftier fine, seeing as how it was directed at a fan. Thabeet, with a straight face after the game, acted as if nothing ever happened. “I just fell,” Thabeet said. “I just fell. I wasn’t talking to the crowd.” Thabeet might have won the post game spat on a technicality. He didn’t technically say anything. He motioned. Stay tuned to see how much the league directs him to motion to take out of his pocket.
  • Durant couldn’t have handled his penalty any better. He took it on the chin. And he did it with class, honesty and sincerity. The guy is all you can ask for out of a franchise player.
  • Thunder general manager Sam Presti offered a statement on the matter: “We respect the league’s decision. Kevin accepts responsibility for his actions. His lapse in judgment is in no way reflective of his character. We will continue to appreciate and support him.”
  • The Thunder needed this win. Big time. San Antonio beat the Kings tonight and had the Thunder lost, OKC would have (again) relinquished the driver’s seat in the race for first place.
  • Will Barton tried his best to be that random dude.
  • You saw tonight why if Brooks ever decides to give Brewer meaningful minutes on a consistent basis he should never shoot unless it’s a dunk. He had two shots tonight. The first hit something toward the bottom of the rim/backboard. The second hit nothing, except for maybe the outside of the bottom of the net.
  • But if the Thunder can get Brewer  to supply some suffocating defense without worrying about shooting, the team could have a real weapon. Brewer just has a knack for the little things, similar to someone else we constantly hear about. He rebounds (seven tonight), has great hands in the passing lanes (two steals tonight) and is a very, very good passer. The guy’s got skills.
  • Somebody want to explain to me why Fish is shooting so much all of a sudden? Can you bring back the intangibles please? He’s taking 22 shots in the last four games — 15 in the last two — and he’s made just six of them. Something’s gotta give, Scotty. Something’s gotta give.
  • Ibaka could be playing the best ball of the season. Of his career.
  • Remember all those Sonics supporters that used to flood the Rose Garden when the Thunder played up here? Well, all that Sonics green that strategically sat behind the Thunder’s bench has turned into Thunder blue. I guess it’s only cool to bad mouth the Thunder when the team is bad. Now that OKC is good everyone, even Seattle, wants to hop on board.
  • With that said, I did see a shirt, with the Sonics old logo in green and yellow, with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the backdrop, that read “I had a team.” I honestly can’t put into words how I feel about that.
  • Reggie can get to the rim whenever he wants. And nine times out of 10 he’s going to do something good once he gets there. Not sure how anybody can see how he slithered through the defense and got to the rack tonight and not yearn for more.
  • Nolan Smith really thought he was going to do something on that fast break, didn’t he? Silly rabbit. Reggie had other ideas.
  • With just 16 points tonight, I’m afraid this was the unofficial end to Durant’s (half-hearted) pursuit of a fourth consecutive scoring title.
  • Quote of the night courtesy of Brooks before the game: “DeAndre isn’t walking through that door.” Brooks was talking about playing shorthanded in Portland for the second time this season. Liggins, of course, provided 11 points with nine rebounds and two assists while playing 40 minutes in place of an injured Sefolosha in the Thunder’s 87-83 win here on Jan. 13.
  • Up next. Sacramento on Monday.

-DM-

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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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