Thunder Rumblings

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Thunder 113, Pacers 89

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm •  Published: March 2, 2011

Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s win over Indiana.

  • Nazr Mohammad’s impact was immediate. His presence on Roy Hibbert made a huge difference. On the Pacers’ first possession, Mohammed’s post D forced Hibbert to pass out. It led to a turnover and a three-on-one break. Seconds later, he secured a rebound in traffic. Then Mohammed stripped Hibbert and watched that turnover lead to two free throws by Thabo Sefolosha. Mohammed also altered a shot in the paint early on. That was all in the first six minutes. And when Mohammed went to the bench for the first time midway through the opening quarter, he got a standing ovation from the Thunder’s bench. Job well done.
  • Tonight’s game provided a nice look at what Thunder coach Scott Brooks‘ rotation will look like while Kendrick Perkins continues to heal from a knee injury. Nick Collison was the first big off the bench, but the timing of his entrance appeared to have more to do with foul trouble. James Harden then came in for Sefolosha at his usual four-minute mark. Daequan Cook replaced Kevin Durant with 3:42 left in the first quarter, answering any and all concerns about how Brooks is going to handle KD’s backup minutes. With 2:19 left, Eric Maynor came in for Russell Westbrook and Cole Aldrich replaced Serge Ibaka.
  • Brooks said after the game that the first five we saw tonight will be what he sticks with going forward. It’s not set in stone, Brooks said, but what we saw is what we’ll get.
  • Durant stepped on Tyler Hansbrough’s foot and had to be taken to the locker room with 2:42 left in the third quarter. He’s been dealing with ankle problems for a while now. Durant going down with a sprained left ankle in the third quarter was the only thing that put a damper on this one. KD said after the game that he just tweaked the ankle, which is at least the third time he’s done that this season. Durant left the arena in a protective boot for precautionary reasons but was in good spirits in the locker room. He even joked about the extent of the injury, answering the first question from a reporter by saying he’d be done for the year.
  • I think Durant will play at Atlanta on Friday. That’s just me. I have no inside info. But think about the options Brooks has in case Durant can’t go. Who’s gonna get the start? Did you just cringe a wee bit?
  • That 15th spot might have just become much more important to fill. We’ll see. I’m getting way ahead of myself. I doubt KD will miss much, if any, time.
  • The Thunder won this game by letting its defense lead to offense. OKC had 10 points off five Indiana turnovers in the first quarter and had scored 20 points off 12 Pacers giveaways by halftime. That’s when the Thunder is at its best.
  • OKC was terrific in transition. Indiana’s turnovers gave the Thunder plenty of opportunities to work on its fast break game, which is expected to become extremely critical when Perkins joins the lineup and stops start to be more frequent.
  • At one point tonight, the Thunder was outscoring the Pacers 24-5 in fast-break points.
  • Harden scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half, getting them on a series of hard drives to the basket and backdoor cuts for uncontested layups and dunks. His aggressiveness of late has been amazing. His 3-point shot, however, hasn’t done much for me. He’s so much better when he’s creating off the dribble, setting up his man off screens and attacking for either layups and free throw opportunities.
  • Aldrich set a great pick for Harden on one of his early drives. In fact, if you noticed tonight Aldrich was much more patient on his screens. He deliberately stood in his screening position for an additional second or two after his teammate used it just so he wouldn’t get whistled for a moving pick. Heady move by the rook. It shows growth. What it doesn’t do is make him a factor whatsoever in the pick-and-roll.
  • Jeff Foster gets the idiot of the night award. While standing near the tunnel, Foster fired a ball back to the ref standing on the opposite side of the court during a stoppage. His passed sailed high. Way high. And it hit a poor young lady seated courtside in the noggin. Way to go, Jeff.
  • Nate Robinson got a huge ovation when he made his debut with 1:57 left in the second quarter. Fifty seconds later, Robinson threw up an air-ball on a transition 3. But not just any air-ball. This one sailed about four feet right of the rim with Robinson launching from the left wing. The crowd’s reaction was priceless. It felt like everybody shrunk in their seats, a little embarrassed they ever expected the shot to swish through the net.
  • Speaking of expectations, when Robinson scored his first basket in a Thunder uniform on a layup following a backdoor cut, a fan seated behind me screamed, ‘dunk it, Nate.” Nevermind the fact that by the time Robinson caught it and gathered himself he was standing directly under the rim and a dunk would have been a vertical from a 5-foot-9 guy. Guess that’s what fans want when you win three dunk contests.
  • Ibaka and Sefolosha were great on the defensive end tonight. Ibaka had six blocks and a team-high 12 boards, owning the paint alongside Mohammed. And Sefolosha helped to limit Danny Granger to nine points on 3-for-11 shooting. Without those two players, I’m not sure the Thunder wins this game. That’s how good they were.
  • I looked up and saw Lance Stephenson in the game. I couldn’t believe it. Last time I saw him play, he was tearing up the Orlando Summer League. Since then, I had forgotten he was on the Pacers.
  • Give Pacers coach Frank Vogel credit. The guy’s team was down 30 in the fourth quarter and he was still coaching his boys up.
  • How many times is Zumba or Jazzercise going to be the halftime act? I think I’d rather the Cox Thunder Drummers. Longtime followers of this blog know that’s saying a lot coming from me. Nothing against the ladies (and splash of gentlemen). But after what feels like the 15th time of watching them shake their groove things, I think I’ve had enough.
  • Thunder snaps a season-long three-game losing streak to move to 37-22. Up next is a road game at Atlanta, where I’m hoping the game gets underway with an ultimate stare-down between Westbrook and Josh Smith.

-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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