Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s 97-89 win over Orlando.
- This one had ups and downs throughout. It felt like the Thunder was absolutely dominant at times and at others OKC looked like downright sloppy.
- The Thunder watched Orlando make eight of its first nine, then miss 14 of its next 15. The Thunder also closed the third on 17-9 run but then watched Orlando claw back and make it interesting late with a 24-10 spurt. All that says is there’s still a ways to go with the consistency. Nothing we didn’t already know.
- Says a lot about the Thunder when you think its playing sloppy and you look up and it is ahead 14.
- Scott Brooks played a bonafide 10-man rotation tonight. It happened when Daequan Cook checked in with about a minute left in the first quarter. I think what we saw tonight with the rotation is what we can expect for the first 15-20 games.
- Of course, that means no Reggie Jackson and Cole Aldrich for now. That’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a luxury. If they’re as talented as some think, this team is in a great spot.
- The writing was on the wall all throughout camp, but Brooks made it official tonight when he started his season-ending first five. Not much more to be said about that. Kind of just have to live with it for now. But James Harden was terrific off the bench. At one point, Harden had nine points, four rebounds and two assists and hadn’t even made a shot from the field.
- The bench in general was amazing tonight. The second unit combined to score 39 points with 18 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, two steals and only three turnovers. They turned a 21-18 deficit into a 27-22 lead by the end of the first quarter. They doubled an 11-point third-quarter lead to give the Thunder its largest advantage of the night. Said Brooks: “It’s important for us to continue to build that everybody-has-a-role type of mentality, and they have.”
- Only three starters had impressive debuts. They were Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins. Durant scored a game-high 30 and dished six assists, Perk’s defense was at times dominant and Sefolosha showed some much-needed offense, canning two 3s.
- Our man Berry Tramel pointed out to me that Dwight Howard had three field goals in the first 4 1/2 minutes and had just one the rest of the way. That one came with Perk on the bench. Otherwise, Perk had roughly 26 minutes where he held Howard scoreless.
- KD had a nightmare night at the foul line going 6-for-11. Doubt you see that for another four seasons. Said Durant: “I felt like Shaq out there tonight.”
- Not sure what happened to Russell Westbrook tonight. He started off like he was headed for a triple-double. Then things went south. He turned it over seven times, struggled with his shot selection and decision-making and had a lousy day defensively against Jameer Nelson. But expect Westbrook to have a big night Monday at Minnesota. In 12 career games against the Wolves, Westbrook is averaging 15.9, 10.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds. Last year, Westbrook averaged 20 points, 9.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds in the four-game series against the Wolves.
- Serge Ibaka didn’t play tonight like he is deserving of the starting power forward spot. That’s as plainly as I can put it. He fumbled rebounds and passes. He looked lost defensively. He was a no-show offensively. He obviously didn’t have the best matchup in Ryan Anderson. But that’s no excuse for how horrendous he looked on both ends.
- Ibaka barked back at the bench after one defensive trip. I’ve never seen him do anything like that before. Ryan Anderson had just buried another shot and he appeared to have taken exception to something coming from his coaches or teammates. It pretty much summed up his night. That and the time he ignored his responsibility to inbound the ball, prompting Perk to ask the staff “What the %%%% is wrong with Serge?”
- Perk got his first tech of the year. Somebody start the tracker. He got mixed up with Howard and pushed him then got in his face. After the game, Perk was asked if he would calm down on the techs this year. “I usually calm down after eight,” Perkins said. “I’m just playing, so it’s not like I go out there with the intention of getting a technical.”
- Nazr Mohammed got a tech too after pushing Howard and exchange words. Uncharacteristic of Mohammed. Makes you think, though. After Collison got into his spat with Lamar Odom in Tuesday’s preseason finale, is this team developing fangs?
- Eric Maynor is starting to look deadly from downtown. Words I never thought I’d type. But pay attention to what he’s doing from deep.
- Not much else I took away from this one other than I doubt Orlando is that good. Might be time for the Magic to blow it up. That ship could sink fast. Still, good win for the Thunder.