Thabo Sefolosha missed his second straight game Wednesday with a sore right foot. Guard Daequan Cook started in his place, marking his first start as a member of the Thunder. Cook's last start came on Feb. 27, 2010, with Miami.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks opted to go with Cook over James Harden, who started for Sefolosha Monday night against the L.A. Clippers but was less effective alongside All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Brooks said he didn't make up his mind on the move until a few hours before tip-off and explained that keeping continuity with the second unit played a big part in his decision.
“James feels very comfortable at that role,” Brooks said. “I'm not saying that's always going to be the case. But he has a good rhythm with that second unit and they have a good rhythm with him. I think it's best for us right now to try to keep that unit intact as much as we can.”
Brooks credited Cook for being versatile enough to handle the starting role, calling Cook “one of the best 3-point shooters in the league,” as well as an “underrated defender” who is “one of our better perimeter rebounders.”
“He gets in there and mixes it up, which is good,” Brooks said. “That's not usually the combination with a great 3-point shooter.”
HOW SEVERE IS SEFOLOLSHA'S INJURY?
Sefolosha remains day-to-day on the official injury report, and Brooks has yet to say whether Sefolosha's foot injury is severe. But Brooks did say Wednesday that he is concerned that the ailment could linger.
“That definitely is a concern. But we'll see how he feels (Thursday),” Brooks said. “Thabo is a very competitive, tough-minded young man that loves to play. When he misses a game you know it's hard on him, because he doesn't like to miss practices or games. But that's the way it is. We just have to focus on who we have. We still have enough to win in this league. But we definitely miss Thabo. We love what he does.”
KENDRICK PERKINS ON TECHNICAL FOULS: “I'LL CHILL OUT”
Kendrick Perkins went on record early in the season as saying he typically starts to keep his emotions in check better after picking up his eighth technical foul. The Thunder's center got to eight Monday against the Clippers, and he said before playing Dallas on Wednesday that he now will calm down.
“I'll pull back and chill out,” Perkins said. “I do have to chill out.”
Perkins said sometimes it's not as easy as it might seem to simmer down.
“The crazy thing is usually a lot of my techs will be at the ref,” Perkins said. “But these last few of them, about five of them, have just been in the heat of battle as far as elbows and banging inside and stuff like that. I mean, you can watch them but I just still got to go out there and play my game.”
Brooks has been named the Western Conference Coach of the Month for games played in December and January, the league announced Wednesday.
Over that span, Brooks led the Thunder to a 16-4 record, good for the league's best winning percentage and tying the record for the third-best start in franchise history. The Thunder also won seven straight games between Jan. 6 and Jan. 16, including back-to-back-to-back wins over Houston and San Antonio.
Oklahoma City's 100.4 points per game also ranked third in the league going into Wednesday's games.
DURANT DOESN'T APPRECIATE GRIFFIN'S DUNK
Two days later, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin's monster dunk against the Thunder still was very much a topic of discussion.
But Kevin Durant again dismissed it.
“I have no appreciation for it at all,” Durant said. “It was a layup, I think. He threw the ball in and got fouled and made a free throw. So it's three points at the end of the day, no matter how it went in the basket. I really wasn't impressed. He finished it. So what? We moved on. But that's not why we loss the game.”
Durant then grew slightly annoyed as he continued defending Perkins and the rest of his team.
“Anytime you guys ask me about my teammate getting dunked on or crossed up or a shot that's made on him, it's a bad play for me. I don't like it,” Durant said.
Durant then said he wasn't surprised at how much attention the dunk had received.
“I wasn't surprised, because Blake is a poster child,” Durant said. “He dunks the ball a lot and he makes spectacular plays. If it wasn't against us, maybe I would have said it was a good play. But it was against us so it was a bad play. I have nothing against Blake. Don't get that wrong. But it was against us, so I got to stick up for my teammate.”
When asked if he was surprised his dunk against Mavs center Brendan Haywood in last year's Western Conference Finals didn't receive more attention, Durant said no.
“I knew that one wasn't going to get attention because we never get attention like that,” Durant said. “We're not an L.A. team or a Chicago team or a Miami team. So all our plays get thrown under the radar.”
Durant on the Thunder-Mavs matchup: “They're always tough. Playing these guys, they got so many offensive weapons. It's tough to guard them. It's always going to be a battle between us, no matter how good we are or how bad we are as organizations. We might be having losing streaks, but it's always going to be a good game between us.”
The Thunder will return to Chesapeake Energy Arena for one night to face Memphis on Friday before embarking on a five-game road trip. Tip-off against the Grizzlies is scheduled for 7 p.m.