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Thunder notebook: Crunch time could have been Thabo's time

Coach Scott Brooks chose James Harden for late in-bounds pass — and it ended up costing OKC.
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: March 17, 2012
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Starting guard Thabo Sefolosha has long been considered the Thunder's best in-bound passer. Though Sefolosha is back from injury, it was James Harden who in-bounded the ball with 59.9 seconds remaining Friday night and OKC trailing 109-105 to the San Antonio Spurs.

Harden's lazy in-bound pass to Russell Westbrook was stolen by Danny Green at midcourt and converted into a layup that essentially sealed the victory for the Spurs, who went on to win 114-105 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“I thought of that,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of using Sefolosha to in-bound the ball. “I believe Thabo is one of the best at throwing that ball in-bounds. That's a tough thing to do, and it showed tonight. That was not a good pass by James.”

Recovering from a sore right foot, Sefolsoha played 14½ minutes Friday and had five points and two rebounds.

“I don't want to play him a lot of minutes right now,” Brooks said. “He's still coming back. We're still trying to integrate him slowly – 14 minutes, I'm trying to keep it right around there. Nothing's set, but that's just what I want to do with Thabo.”

LEONARD VS. DURANT

San Antonio rookie forward Kawhi Leonard drew the unenviable task of defending Kevin Durant.

When Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked about the degree of difficulty in such an assignment, Popovich said: “I don't care who guards Kevin Durant from what team. It's a big challenge. It doesn't matter who guards him. From what team, what country, it doesn't matter. It's a big challenge. Kevin is Kevin.”

Leonard defended Durant commendably. The two-time scoring champion had 25 points, but shot 8 for 19 from the field, shot 2 for 8 from 3-point range and committed five turnovers.

Leonard finished with 15 points, five rebounds and three steals.

Despite his youth, Leonard has shown maturity in handling tough assignments.

“He doesn't get down on himself because somebody scored on him. … If he's concerned about it, he tries to do it better, rather than feel badly about it or miss three plays because he's still crying about it,” Popovich said. “He's real unique about it in that regard for a young kid. … Every night is a challenge. This will be perhaps his biggest of the year.”

NO HOME COOK-IN'

Thunder reserve guard Daequan Cook said his right shoulder felt fine as he iced it down after scoring 11 points in 16 minutes in Thursday night's 103-90 victory at Denver.

However, Cook was scratched from the lineup against San Antonio due to shoulder soreness and is listed as day-to-day.

Harden's right shoulder was wrapped in heat at the beginning of each half. He took the wrap off as he walked to the scorer's table to check in.

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