All the things the Thunder did bad against the Raptors Sunday, they did much better against the Jazz tonight. With two days off to think about it and work on some of the issues, Oklahoma City played a pretty good 48 minutes, pulling away from the Jazz 106-94.
It’s something the Thunder’s kind of perfected this season — the bounce back. OKC has done extremely well responding from losses. It’s a veteran thing that a young team does well.
“One of the strengths of our team is we take a loss and try and learn from it,” Scott Brooks said after the game about bouncing back. “We take a win and just try and improve on it.”
Well, file this one in the improve on it category.
For stretches, the Thunder looked dominant. During others, Utah was able to make some jumpers, get Al Jefferson good looks in the post and keep it close. But like they tend to do, OKC pulled away from the Jazz with the second unit to start the fourth then once the starters checked back in, the deal was pretty much sealed. Kevin Durant knocked down a couple 3s, Serge Ibaka nailed a few jumpers and had a big putback and the team didn’t miss any free throws.
Between Russell Westbrook and KD, the two combined for 60 points (Westbrook 31, KD 29). The impressive part of that was they didn’t it on just 29 shots and 62 percent shooting. Those two took care of the brunt of the OKC offense while Ibaka added 15, James Harden 11 and Nazr Mohammed 10.
The first half for Durant was pretty unusual. He had 12 points at the break, but was just 1-3 from the field. Think about that. Only one make and only three attempts. And it looked like he was starting to get a bit irked about it. Mid-third, KD was ahead of the pack for an easy basket but Thabo didn’t locate him and instead threw the ball ahead to Westbrook. Russ dropped a jumper but coming back down the floor, Durant didn’t look psyched about being overlooked.
The next possession, the ball went into the post to Ibaka with about 12 on the shot clock and Durant was already almost to halfcourt walking to the other end. His body language wasn’t great there for a minute, but it didn’t last long. The next time down, KD hit a tough, contested straighaway jumper, then followed up that one by scoring two more baskets. By the end of the third he had gotten going, eventually finishing with 29 on 7-12 shooting. It’s a skill Durant has that a lot of other players don’t. He can resist the urge to force, but instead relax into the flow of a game. Then seizing the opportunity — this one being when Andrei Kirilenko left the game because of injury and Gordon Hayward was forced to cover Durant — KD turned it on, taking over.
- Jefferson really ate up Kendrick Perkins in the post. Perk did a decent job, but Jefferson finished with 32 points on 14-18 shooting. When Jefferson has that little jumper going, he’s maybe the toughest post cover in the league. Perk finished with just four points and three rebounds and while this wasn’t his best game, Scott Brooks reminded people post-game that this is just Perk’s fifth run with the team.
- Ibaka was once again, fantastic. He didn’t have a block against the Raptors Sunday, but came flying out of the gate blocking two shots in about three minutes. He finished with four rejections to go with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes. Underrated in Perk’s performance is just how he frees Ibaka up to not only block shots, but rebound.
- Westbrook only had five assists (two after three quarters), but picked his spots well. OKC finished with just 15 as a team as it wasn’t really a ball movement night. The offense was still good though, shooting 54.5 percent from the field while also going 30-36 from the line. Efficiency, kids.
- Ty Corbin pretty much never stopped yelling instructions to his team the entire 48 minutes. And he has a really quiet, raspy voice. I wonder if they got as annoyed at it as I was by the end of the game.
- OKC ran the backdoor play with Collison and Harden twice early in the second quarter. The first time Collison’s man cheated Harden’s way and so Collison just took the ball in and scored an easy layup. The next time, Utah read it perfectly and drew a charge on Harden cutting backdoor along the baseline. Early fourth the Thunder went back to it, this time with Harden coming up for the hand-off and getting to the lane where he was fouled. It really is the second unit’s go-to set.
- Perk picked up another technical tonight after a small scuffle with Paul Millsap. Millsap put his elbow into Perk’s chest and held it there as they had words. Perk slapped it away and got hit with the technical. It’s obvious how much under people’s skin he gets. He just frustrates and annoys. I can’t wait to watch him go against Blake Griffin. Blake will totally lose his crap before the end of the first quarter.
- Brooks on Perk: “He’s exactly what I was hoping he would be. He plays with a lot of anger … He does not like other teams.”
- Nate Robinson was back on the Thunder bench tonight (he will be back in uniform soon) and he looked pretty hilarious in his suit. Fittingly, his tie was way too short.
- Some really pretty plays from this one. Westbrook had a great crossover and up-and-under, KD had a gorgeous spin move and finished lefty and Ibaka had a soaring putback that actually had Durant doing the Air Congo down the floor.
- You may have been wondering why the Thunder switched goals tonight. The reason is that the visiting team has the option to choose pregame, and the Jazz always play offense on their bench’s end the second half. The only other team that does that is Memphis.
- The Thunder and OU Outreach recognized the 45th Infantry tonight which will be deploying to Afghanistan soon. My best friend is in that division so best wishes to all of those outstanding heroes. Come home safe.
- Mohammed was quietly excellent. He was overlooked as a key piece at the trade deadline but not only does OKC have a terrific starting center, it also has a quality backup.
- Quick Change performed tonight and I watched them as close as possible to try and figure it out. It’s impossible. Like the name says, it happens quick.
- I don’t know if anyone sweats more in the world than Perk. If there is ever a water shortage in this state, just put Perk on a treadmill for 15 minutes.
- The Thunder had a new pregame video and let me tell you, it was fantastic. It was blueprint themed, showing each player with the date that guy joined the organization. The only thing that it was missing was the last picture should’ve shown Sam Presti with June 7, 2007. Because that’s really when this thing started.
Despite the loss to the Raptors, it’s been a good March for the Thunder. OKC is 10-2 this month and is playing pretty well pushing toward April and the playoffs. Bad losses happen when you play 82 games but the best way to get over them is to bounce back and forget all about it. And the Thunder have gotten pretty good at that part.
Next up: Minnesota at home Friday.