MEMPHIS — “Unbelievable. It’s a great feeling. Everybody came into the locker room and was all smiles.” — Kevin Durant on how it feels to snap a 14-game losing streak.
Win No. 2.
Wasn’t quite sure when we’d see it, especially after the Thunder dug itself a 14-point first half deficit, showing little to no desire to defend anyone in a white uniform. Memphis shot 63.6 percent in the first half, missing only 12 shot attempts.
But the Thunder deserves a lot of credit tonight for overcoming a great night from O.J. Mayo (30 points) and clamping down in the second half to walk away with its first road win of the year.
A few notes……
* The Thunder new-look lineup got off to a good start, with Russell Westbrook appearing as controlled as ever after being named the starter. He often tried to do too much when coming off the bench. But tonight’s game clearly was a step forward for him. He played with more patience and discipline, looking to get his teammates involved more than he has at any point this season. It resulted in just two turnovers. He scored 12 points with five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
* Chris Wilcox gets his first start of the season only to pick three fouls in his first six minutes. He was limited to 15 minutes on the night and finished with six points and three rebounds, ending his streak of double digit scoring performances at four games.
* Earl Watson played 30 minutes despite being replaced as the starter by Westbrook. The Grizzlies went small most of the night, allowing Watson to play the extended minutes. He responded by chipping in nine points with a game-high seven assists and five rebounds. It’s too early to tell how Watson’s play might be different in a reserve’s role, but he got off to a good start.
* Nick Collison played a season-low seven minutes tonight, but Brooks assured me that had everything to do with Memphis’ small ball lineup and nothing to do with Collison’s performance. Collison, Brooks said, is definitely still in the team’s rotation.
* Jeff Green’s 3-point stroke is looking better each game. He made 2 of 4 tonight, both of his makes coming inside the final six minutes and sparking the Thunder’s fourth-quarter rally.
“Scotty always tells me I’ve got to get at least 50 up before I leave the gym,” Green said. “He’s been preaching to me if I’m going to shoot them I’ve got to make them. So if the defense backs off me I’m going to shoot the ball. I’ve been practicing a lot and it’s been going in so I hope it continues to go that way.”
* The Thunder continues to take much better care of the ball under Scott Brooks than it did under P.J. Carlesimo, giving it up only 11 times tonight. Under Carlesimo, the Thunder averaged 17 turnovers a game. Under Brooks, the team is down to 11.8 turnovers per game in five games.
* OKC shot a season-high 38 free throws tonight, making 32 of them. Durant’s 16 tied a career high. Memphis got to the line only 24 times.
* One area of concern has to be opponent field-goal percentage. The Thunder entered the game allowing opponents to shoot an average of 47.1 percent from the field, fourth worst in the league. OKC gave up 57.7 percent tonight. The 14-attempt difference in free throws and 18 Memphis turnovers (which led to 17 points) helped the Thunder walk away with a win tonight. But the Thunder won’t win many games allowing teams to shoot 58 percent.