Jeremy Lamb received his most meaningful regular-season minutes for the Thunder Monday night at Detroit when he checked into the game at the start of the second quarter.
It was a rough ride for the rookie.
Lamb, the 12th overall pick out of Connecticut, played three minutes and went scoreless with two fouls and a turnover. On the defensive end, Lamb was burned by Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey, who scored four points, including an and-one opportunity, with one assist against Lamb.
Lamb previously had appeared in three games but had never checked in with more than six minutes remaining, or with the Thunder leading by less than 12. Against the Pistons, the Thunder held a two-point lead when Lamb entered along with Eric Maynor, Kevin Martin, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet.
“I had no idea,” Lamb said when asked if he knew he would play in the first half. “I was real surprised, and that's one thing that can't happen. I've always got to be ready. And (Monday night), I didn't do that. So I've always got to be ready and whenever my name is called just go and play as hard as I can.”
Despite his hardships Monday night, Lamb said he was glad to have the early opportunity under his belt and is hoping to do better the next chance he gets.
“It was different. But it was a good time for me just trying to get the feel of it,” Lamb said. “It wasn't long. But it was a good time for me. It was a good start. You've got to start somewhere so it's encouraging.”
Lamb said his goal the next time out simply is to be more aggressive.
“I didn't get around screens like I should have,” he said. “Little things like that. I just don't want to be a step slow.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks, however, said he had no problem with Lamb's performance and stood up for the rookie when explaining why he gave him the surprise minutes.
“He's been working hard, and I wanted to give him a look, an opportunity to see what he can do,” Brooks said. “The group did not play well, and it's unfortunate that when your group doesn't play well you get taken out. And you don't feel good about it. But I'm not judging him from three minutes of basketball. I judge him on what he does before games, after games and during practice. And he's going to get opportunities throughout this year.”
Though the Thunder's defensive performances have been erratic early this season, the team's fourth-quarter effort has been close to constant.
Monday night's shutdown defense in the final quarter of the Thunder's 92-90 win over the Pistons was the latest in a string of solid showings. Oklahoma City held Detroit to 17 points, the fourth time this season the Thunder has held an opponent to 20 or fewer points in the fourth period. The Thunder also limited the Pistons to 7-for-27 shooting with three turnovers.
In its eight games, the Thunder is allowing 22.4 fourth-quarter points on just 35.1 percent shooting while turning opponents over in the final 12 minutes 4.1 times per game.
FOUL SHOOTING FUELING OKC
Yet again, the Thunder ranks at the top of the league in free-throw shooting percentage.
After an 88.1-percent shooting night at the foul line Monday, the Thunder bumped its league-leading average this season to 84.7 percent.
Through Monday's games, the Thunder ranked second in the league in attempts at 27.8 per game. The Los Angeles Lakers, thanks in large part to Dwight Howard, led the league with a 31.6 average.
Serge Ibaka appears to be finding his rhythm in the shot-blocking department.
After registering more than two blocked shots only once in the first four games, Ibaka has recorded at least three in all of the past four contests.
In the past two games, Ibaka has tallied 13 blocked shots to bump his average to 3.63. Oklahoma City had a season-high 12 blocked shots Monday against the Pistons, and led by Ibaka's resurgence, the Thunder led the league in blocked shots with 8.38 per game through Monday.
Brooks on guard Thabo Sefolosha's performance against the Pistons: “I thought Thabo's game won the game. The way he played. He didn't score until he hit those two (late) free throws, which were big and put us up one. But his defense, his toughness, his game-winning plays, his eight rebounds. … Thabo, I thought, won that game just with his sheer determination.”