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Thunder notebook nuggets: Durant vs. Dellavedova, Lamb's return and a mystery box

by Darnell Mayberry Published: March 20, 2014

Make that four 50-win seasons in the last five for the Thunder…

  • No Kyrie Irving. No Luol Deng. No C.J. Miles. No chance for Cleveland, right? Apparently not. The Cavs showed once again how much of a scrappy bunch they can be, coming out with passion and pride early before taking the Thunder to the limit late. In the end, OKC needed to withstand a furious fourth-quarter rally to overcome these Cavs. But for a while, not even that was a certainty. Not when the Cavs were causing havoc and using a 21-2 run to cut a 24-point deficit to five with 1:12 remaining.
  • I don’t think even the NCAA Tournament would have been enough to cover up this loss had the Thunder not gotten its act together late.
  • Kevin Durant admitted that while sitting on the bench staring up at his team’s 95-71 lead with 6 1/2 minutes left to play, he thought his night was over. “I thought it was,” he said. “But anything can happen in this league. Guys have pride. Cleveland plays extremely hard so those guys made it a game late. We just had to close it out.”
  • Without Deng and Miles, the Cavs started Alonzo Gee on Durant. Less than two minutes in, that mismatch grew even worse when Gee was whistled for his second foul. Cleveland had few other options to throw and Durant and went with rookie Matthew Dellavedova, who yielded six inches and roughly 25 pounds. It’s about what I imagine Nick Gallo looking like trying to cover KD.
  • But you know what? Dellavedova doesn’t just have a cool last name. He has heart. He played KD hard, or at least with everything he had. That alone was impressive.
  • Durant was asked if Dellavedova got under his skin. “Nah, he didn’t get under my skin. I mean, he plays hard. You can respect a player like that, but I didn’t pay him any attention.”
  • One of my new favorite things is a road reporter asking Durant about his night’s defender. It happens just about everywhere, as reporters fish for comments that make their home team’s defender look better. The problem for them is Durant’s mentality. You never quite know what you’re going to hear out of Durant when he’s posed the question. The only certainty is that Durant is going to take exception. His answer about Dellavedova is as respectful as he’s been in that situation.
  • Durant was wildly cheered during intros. Funny, I don’t remember this many Durant/Thunder fans up here when LeBron James was a Cav.
  • Durant started 1-for-6. He then made seven of his next eight. When he got it going, the Thunder never looked back. And I loved how Durant picked it up. He stopped hoisting shots and made a hustle play. He rebounded a Nick Collison miss and converted a layup. By the time he beat Dellavedova backdoor for a dunk off a feed from Collison early in the second, there was no stopping him. Just like that, Durant used one hustle play and one heady play to snap out of an early funk and start sizzling.
  • “My shot was a little flat, and I missed some easy ones,” Durant said of his start. “But I just try to play as hard as I can on defense and make winning basketball plays. If my shot is going to fall, it’s going to fall. If it’s not, just keep playing.”
  • Brooks on Durant’s turnaround: “They did a good job of really bodying him up early in the game, and they were sending a (second) guy over. He’s seen every defense thrown at him, so it took him a few minutes to adjust to that.”
  • Durant finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds and six assists…and one technical foul. It was his 14th tech of the year, putting him two away from an automatic one-game suspension.
  • Durant on the tech: “I’m going to try to get that tech rescinded. I was just reacting to the play that I made and he tech’d me up. So hopefully we get that thing rescinded. But I just got to be more cautious.”
  • Brooks on KD’s tech: “He has to make sure we take care of that. That’s part of the game. Emotions are part of the game. But I think he’s well-aware of it. We have to make sure that he just stays within the game and not let the things that he can’t control affect him. But he’s done a good job all year. It’s a couple lately that he has to make sure that he holds himself back.”
  • The Thunder missed 12 of its first 17 shots. After one quarter, OKC was 8-for-23 from the floor. Durant had four of those field goals. The Thunder had just two assists in the period.
  • A 35-point second quarter by the Thunder began to blow the game open. Durant scored 11 on 5-for-5 shooting. The Thunder had 10 assists on its 14 made field goals. And Jeremy Lamb played.
  • Lamb started the second quarter and played the entire 12 minutes. He scored eight of his 10 points in that period, making three of five shots. For someone who has been squeezed out of the rotation with the arrival of Caron Butler, Lamb didn’t look the least bit rusty. But when Lamb hit a jumper and got and and-one with 9:53 left in the period, the entire bench jumped up and cheered. It sort of seemed like they sympathized with him and knew he needed a play like that.
  • Brooks on Lamb: “I like what he did. We talk about this as a group: stay ready. He hasn’t played as many minutes as he had early in the season. But it’s not about he’s going to be put on the shelf and he’s not going to play. He has to stay ready. I talked to him about five or six days ago. He’s going to get an opportunity, and it’s going to be a 10 or 12 minutes stretch, and I’m really glad he came in aggressive on both ends of the floor. He was guarding a tough guy. (Dion) Waiters is a scoring player, and I thought he did a good job of taking the challenge and making his shots tough.”
  • Lamb’s 26 minutes tonight were the most minutes he has played since Feb. 11 at Portland. It also marked Lamb’s first double-digit scoring game since Feb. 13 at the Los Angeles Lakers, snapping a 12-game streak of Lamb scoring fewer than 10 points.
  • The Cavs are great at cutting and hitting each other with backdoor passes. But that’s two straight games that I’ve given the other team credit for that. Could it be that the Thunder is just not very good at guarding that action?
  • With two minutes left in the second quarter, a woman played a giveaway game that involved a hand of Blackjack. She lost the game and was about to be sent back to her seat with a T-shirt. But instead of just taking the shirt, the Cavs gave her the option to take a mystery prize. Whatever was concealed in an upright box the size and shape of a door. She chose the mystery box. The crowd was on the edge of its seat as she approached the door to the box. When she opened it, her boyfriend popped out, dropped to one knee and proposed. The crowd went wild (“as if Holyfield had just won the fight”). It was a cool, cool scene and, for once, an acceptable proposal at a sporting event.
  • Serge Ibaka owned the paint tonight with his rebounding and shot-blocking. He finished with 16 points, 11 boards and three blocks. His swat on Waiters with 32.8 seconds left was huge. It preserved a seven-point lead and killed the Cavs’ comeback.
  • Great floor game by Reggie Jackson tonight. He played within himself, finished at the rim, looked comfortable taking outside shots, set up his teammates for buckets and rebounded well. That turnover in the backcourt, the pass Waiters picked off, was horrible, however.
  • Caron got ‘em up tonight.
  • The Thunder took 31 3s, four shy of tying its season high. This is beyond becoming a thing. And perhaps not a good one. But right now, you can’t argue with the results. OKC made 10 3s tonight, marking the sixth time in seven games that the Thunder made at least 10 3s.
  • Russell Westbrook will rejoin the lineup Friday at Toronto. When he does, he will have played just one game in the past seven days. That’s a big reason why the Thunder is resting him.
  • Up next: at Toronto on Friday.

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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