Words were exchanged afterward between Atlanta's Josh Smith and anyone on the OKC sideline who was willing to listen following the Thunder's 103-94 victory inside Oklahoma City Arena on Friday night.
Smith was upset Serge Ibaka dunked with 6.9 seconds left and the game already decided. Ibaka should have simply dribbled the ball back out and allowed time to expire. Thunder coach Scott Brooks wasn't pleased either, shaking his head and frowning. Hawks guard Mike Bibby also shouted at the Thunder bench, waving his hand in disgust.
Brooks actually was more upset with point guard Russell Westbrook, who passed to a wide-open Ibaka underneath rather than holding the ball.
â€œWhen you got the game won, you run the clock out,â€ Brooks said. â€œRussell knows how I feel about situations like that. It was a mistake.â€
Kevin Durant tried to smooth things over and spoke with Smith at midcourt.
Smith also was upset about being fouled hard by Ibaka with 6:59 left in the third quarter. It appeared Ibaka's left elbow raked the top of Smith's head, which required some patchwork by team doctors, but no stitches.
The foul was incidental, not deliberate. Smith, however, thought he was hit by Ibaka's teeth.
â€œHe bit me, man,â€ Smith said. â€œI thought I needed some (stitches) â€¦ I was just in pain.â€
Ibaka, the youngest player on the Thunder roster at age 21, is in his second season and learned the game in the Republic of Congo. Although it is not outlandish to think Ibaka might not fully understand the unwritten code of the NBA, Smith wasn't buying it.
Asked if he was upset by Ibaka's dunk, or the foul, or both, Smith said, â€œYou know what it was. That's showing disrespect (dunking the ball). Everybody in the whole league knows you don't do nothing like that. I talked to Durant about it. He said he would talk to him (Ibaka) about it, and he knew that wasn't right.
â€œEverybody knows that's not proper etiquette, you know what I mean? When you're at a dinner table, you don't dig in first when you visit somebody's home. You relax and see what's going on. You check everything out before you ever get you a plate. It's just proper etiquette. You don't do that.
â€œWe won't forget that (dunk). We won't forget something like that.â€
The Thunder plays at Atlanta on March 4.
TNT CREW DEBATES THUNDER
The â€œInside the NBAâ€ crew at TNT debated Thursday night as to where the Thunder stacks up in the Western Conference.
Charles Barkley and Chris Webber said the Thunder was not one of the four best teams, while Kenny Smith noted the Thunder was only a half-game away from being the No. 3 seed in the West.
Brooks said Friday morning he did not see the exchange on TNT.
â€œWe worry about things that we can control,â€ Brooks said. â€œThat's always been our focus. People say we're not a good rebounding team. We work on it. We want to get better, there's no doubt. I think we do a good job, not a great job. We want to get better in all areas. We definitely need to get better defensively. We're not bad, we're just not as good as we're going to be. We've got time in the season to keep getting better at it."
Durant was watching and responded via Twitter: "Charles n the crew dont give us any credit ... kenny smith is the only one..but its all good!!! we will keep workin to prove him them wrong"
For the entire TNT transcript, plus the blog "Durant gets a big head," visit Thunder Rumblings at blog.newsok.com/thunderrumblings
NICK IN CHARGE
Perhaps Nick Collison's ability to take charges has become infectious. Center Nenad Krstic took one Wednesday night against New Jersey.
â€œNick gives up his body for his team every night,â€ Brooks said. â€œHe makes it look like it's not a big deal. He just gets up, but they hurt â€” 220-pound athletes are coming full-speed at you. He just gets up.â€
Collison took another charge on Friday night and now has 22 charges in 25 games.
Brooks said one of his favorite plays of the season came Nov. 14 against San Antonio. It was Collison's first game of the season because of a leg injury and he drew a charge during his first shift of play.
â€œNick is charge-taking machine,â€ Brooks said. â€œHe loves that. Be glad that he's on your team because he sets great screens and takes charges. Guys have big respect for Nick. Nick is always about the team. They like Nick, they like what he's about.â€
To welcome newborns in 2011, Rumble the Thunder mascot is scheduled to visit some of new arrivals and present families with a Thunder newborn kit today.
Each kit includes newborn hand warmers, bootees, a hat, bib, blanket, certificate and a Thunder frame. The Thunder also will provide a newborn kit to every baby delivered at Integris Baptist Medical Center for the entire year.
In 2010, the center delivered 2,539 babies and averaged 48-50 babies per week. The Thunder will provide an estimated 2,600 kits this year.
In what has become a pregame ritual roughly an hour before tipoff, Thunder assistant coach Mark Bryant takes three back-to-the-basket, over-the-head shots from the corner, behind the 3-point line just in front of the Thunder bench. If Bryant makes it before the third attempt, he walks away. If he misses all three attempts, he tries again the next game.
â€œSince I've been playing, I've always done that,â€ said Bryant, a Seton Hall product who played 15 seasons (1988-2003) in the NBA. â€œBefore I would run in before the game, I would grab a ball and try to fling it up real quick.â€
Bryant is surprisingly accurate with the shot. It's not unusual to see him bury a bucket while fans near the bench â€œoohâ€ and â€œahhâ€ at what they just witnessed. Now, Bryant can't stop.
â€œIt's just that superstitious-type thing going on. I just have to do it,â€ Bryant said. â€œI don't like when I make it, though, because I don't think we have a good outcome when I make it. Sometimes I don't even like doing it because I don't want to make it, but I've been doing it forever.â€
Prior to facing Atlanta, the Thunder was 10-4 against Eastern Conference teams this season and 12-6 at home. â€¦ Durant and Westbrook remain the highest-scoring tandem in the league (50.4). That was exactly Wilt Chamberlain's scoring average in 1961-62. â€¦ The Thunder is 8-1 in game in which Thabo Sefolosha scores in double figures.