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Thunder 114, Suns 96

by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 31, 2012

Nuggets from my notebook from Monday’s win over Phoenix.

  • Russell Westbrook sent a scare through the entire state in the final two minutes of the second quarter. Luis Scola inadvertently elbowed Westbrook in the face, causing blood to pour from just above his right eye and forcing Westbrook to be immediately taken to the locker room. Westbrook received an undisclosed number of stitches but returned to the game midway through the third quarter.
  • And the legend of Wolverine grows.
  • Not only did Westbrook return to the game, but he returned and played his butt off. When he had to leave, Westbrook had scored seven points on 2-for-7 shooting. When he returned, he played the rest of the game — with a small bandage over his right eye that had blood still oozing from it — and finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
  • Westbrook said he wasn’t concerned with the eye when he returned. “It’s part of the game,” he said. “Stuff like that happens. You just got to be prepared for it and be ready to play at all times.”
  • Westbrook said he needed eight stitches. He said it’s the second time he’s had to have stitches.
  • Westbrook admitted the elbow shot was painful and said the pain lingered even after he returned.
  • Kevin Durant on Westbrook’s injury: “When he fell on the ground I thought it was one of those ones he thought he got fouled and was upset. I was screaming at him telling him to get up and get back. But when I looked and seen that he was bleeding, you know, you see blood and you kind of get a little…you don’t know what to do when you see it. I’m just glad he came back (to the locker room) and got stitched up and was able to play again.”
  • More from KD on Russ: “He came out there with a lot of anger and it showed on both ends of the floor. And he pushed us over the top.”
  • Reggie Jackson was awfully impressive in Westbrook’s absence. While he was leading the team, the Thunder scored 12 straight on the Suns. Jackson finished with six points, four rebounds, six assists, one steal and just one turnover in 15 minutes.
  • Durant on Jackson: “He was just composed. He came out and made the right plays. He played great defense. I think one of the turning points of the game is when he got that steal on Dragic and threw it to Thabo for the dunk. That got our crowd into the game, and then right after that Russell came out. So it was just a great spurt for us. he gave us some great minutes so I’m excited for him.”
  • Westbrook on what was said at halftime to ignite the team: “Well, actually, I was in the back getting stitches so I’m not sure what was said at halftime. But. I’m pretty sure something good was said at halftime. I’m not sure, though.”
  • Durant scored a game-high 30 points. They were hard earned, but more on that in a minute. As for the start of the second half, Durant said “We just upped our energy level. We were moving the basketball so well. Everybody was touching it. We got good shots.”
  • It’s always fun when Westbrook and Goran Dragic meet. If you’re wondering why it’s because both are ultra competitive and neither can guard the other. That leads their competitive juices to pump even more.
  • Would you be surprised if I told you Dragic came into this game averaging just 9.1 points and 4.5 assists for his career against the Thunder? Seems like he’s closer to 40 points and 25 assists the way he generally lights up OKC, huh?
  • Dragic was hot early, scoring eight in the first quarter. But he finished with just 16 points and had only 11 when the game was still competitive.
  • P.J. Tucker did a phenomenal job guarding Durant, probably the best anyone has done all season. Coming into the year, I never thought Tucker would be the one to earn that distinction. But that’s what happen. Tucker was so good that when Durant checked back in for the second quarter with 7:52 remaining in the period, Suns coach Alvin Gentry immediately brought Tucker back as a counter.
  • Tucker brought the “KD is not nice” out of Durant tonight. After hitting one of the toughest shots I’ve ever seen him make, Durant immediately turned toward Tucker, looked down at him and began barking something. Tucker just laughed as the two went back down court.
  • Durant on the matchup with Tucker: “That’s my guy. I mean, we’ve got that Texas connection. We’ve been knowing each other for a while. It was nothing other than trash talk. Nothing serious.”
  • That’s two times in the past three games Brooks didn’t start Durant for the second quarter. Not sure what’s up with that.
  • It seemed like  Scola and Marcin Gortat made about 12 baseline rainbows tonight.
  • Nick Collison really made an impact tonight. For a stretch in the fourth quarter, he had two straight buckets, grabbed an offensive rebound that led to a Thabo Sefolosha 3-pointer and drew a charge. And right after all that Scott Brooks took him out of the game.
  • Typical Collison humor after the game. I asked him if I could call him the unsung hero for his performance. He responded nonchalantly, saying I could call him whatever I wanted. Then, just before I exited the locker room, he called my name. “Isn’t it your job to make me sung?” Touche, Nick. Touche.
  • I would throw in a Brooks quote about Collison’s impact tonight, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. Just know that the word “screen” is said multiple times.
  • Just five turnovers for the Thunder tonight. That’s a season-low and something I never thought I’d see out of this team. But it was big seeing as how Phoenix can really make you pay in transition.
  • I tweeted this before the game. Michael Beasley was watching KD warm up and I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through Beasley’s head as he watched. There was a time when Beasley was the better player of the two. Today, Beasley got a DNP-Coach’s Decision. Funny how things work out.
  • Up next. Brooklyn on Wednesday.

-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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