For a second there, this game was close. Then everyone blinked and the Thunder was up 15 with two minutes left.
That’s what outstanding defense does for you. The longer you play it, the longer you give your offense a chance to catch up and eventually break out. It’s not that the Thunder ever was bad offensively in this one, it’s just they couldn’t get things rolling for more than three or four minutes at a time. The only way Charlotte was beating Oklahoma City was if it could keep the Thunder from scoring. But eventually after a bunch of bending it all broke as OKC went on a 9-0 run after Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins checked back in the game.
You could almost see the looks of confusion and frustration on the Bobcat players as they searched for a way through the Thunder’s defense. Try here… no. Over here? No. How about on the block. Oh crap, there’s No. 5 and HERE COMES NO. 9 FLYING AT ME!! Breaking through the Thunder right now isn’t an easy task, especially for a team like the Bobcats who don’t have a reliable go to scorer on the roster.
It was definitely an outstanding defensive effort — especially in the fourth quarter (just 17 points for Charlotte) — but again, the Bobcats aren’t a good offensive team by any means. They’ve been much better under Paul Silas, but this isn’t a powerhouse. Still, a month ago OKC probably wins this game 108-95 or something. For the billionth time, things are different now.
Nobody did anything that outrageous for OKC. It was more of a simple stat night with some good all-around work. Durant had 25 on 9-18. James Harden piled up 21 off the bench on 13 shots. Russell Westbrook finished with 18 and seven assists and Ibaka stuffed the sheet again with 12 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. That’s the type of balanced box score I like. Well, I take that back. I like it when KD drops 40, but you know what I mean.
Like I said, not the best offensive effort and even Scott Brooks noticed it saying he thought the team was a bit out of sync and even said they played a step slower than usual. Brooks prefers a good amount of up-tempo action and the Thunder didn’t get out in transition much. The halfcourt execution was decent, but nothing special. Again, the team is focused on winning defensively and that was definitely the primary reason for the victory tonight. With Westbrook and Durant, the offense will take care of itself most times.
- With the game at home, I got the chance to really see how Perk communicated and controlled the defense. What he mainly does is hold everyone accountable. I’d be terrified if I missed an assignment and he yelled at me. After Westbrook let Augustin get by him and kind of gave up on it, Perk came over and barked something fierce at Russ. He doesn’t take crap like that. Scott Brooks on Perk’s accountability: “It’s always a good thing to have players police one another … It can’t always be me.”
- Is it weird that I don’t feel entirely comfortable yet calling Kendrick Perkins “Perk”? I feel like we need more time together first.
- Perkins is one of the first guys OKC has ever had that piles up rebounds without you noticing. I only remember him having one or two at the half and I looked at the box and he had five. Then I looked at the end of the game and he had nine and I could only recall one he grabbed in the second half. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s nice to have a good rebounding center.
- Ibaka had a crazy first quarter blocking three shots and almost a fourth. He just got a piece of that D.J. Augustin shot, but it still went in.
- KD is so ridiculous in the post. Especially on the baseline where he spins off his right shoulder. With his length and how high he can shoot it, it’s honestly impossible to defend. He doesn’t do it enough, but I think that’s something we’ll see more and more of as he gets older.
- Halftime Watch: Let’s Make a Thunder Deal. With a six-game homestand, I guess they’re spreading out the good stuff.
- In the second quarter, Tyrus Thomas got bumped after a steal and fell down. On the way back down the floor he asked official Derrick Collison, “Is that not a foul?” Collins perked up like he didn’t like the tone of Thomas’s question and Thomas immediately said, “I’m just asking! I’m just asking!” Let me answer that for you Tyrus: I don’t think Collins thought it was, otherwise he would’ve, you know, called it.
- I think reputation is hurting Perk (see, I’m trying) with his screens. Scott Foster nailed him on a pick you see 50 times a night without a whistle. Perkins got hit with two illegal screens tonight. The first was a good call. The second was awful.
- We’re seeing four quarter defense, consistently. This is a good thing.
- KD went down on the baseline in the third quarter and looked to be hurt badly. All he did was bump his head on a photographer but he looked really hurt for about three seconds. I wanted to run out on the court and see if he was OK like I was his mom or something. He ended up banging his shoulder on that play too and Scott Brooks said after the game he was fine and called it just a shoulder bruise.
- Russell Westbrook with another in-game beauty of a dunk. Not as good as the windmill, but good.
- Fifteen straight games Harden has scored in double-figures.
- I love how Ibaka and Perk check back in together. They really are the Bash Brothers. I don’t know who’s Fulton and who’s Dean Portman though. Someone said to me Perk is Portman because he’s much more mouthy. I can see that, though Serge is pretty talkative too. I really get the feeling though Perk is turning into Ibaka’s Kevin Garnett. Teaching him how to play with an edge. The communicate a lot with each other throughout the game and Perk made it a point to give Ibaka a nice tap on the head after good plays.
- Remember Tom Werme? He’s the Bobcats sideline guy now. Just thought you’d like to know.
- I talked to D.J. White after the game to get his thoughts about the new Thunder. He said, “Where they look different for one is they don’t have the stretch shooters no more. You don’t have a Jeff Green or Nenad Krstic. So the offense is a little different, but that’s just my opinion. They’re more forceful up front and I guess that’s what the organization was looking for. They still look good. Defensively I think they’re a little better with Perkins.”
- Also, I asked D.J. if it was weird coming back. “Oh yeah it was weird at first. Especially coming in and sitting on the opposing bench.” And then on him playing more and playing pretty well: “It does feel good. I didn’t a chance to play as much here in OKC. But that’s part of the business. A lot of people have moved on to different teams and played well and I’ve been playing well so far. But one thing I’ll always remember is that I was on the first team here so that’ll always be special to me and I hope to the people here. But like I said you move on. I always keep in contact with those guys, but it’s just part of it.”
- Brian Davis Line of the Night (via @HoopsAddictOKC): “It looked like one of my cats snatching that ball.”
Next up: Home against the Raptors Sunday.