The Thunder played like a team in its fifth game in six nights. Lucky for them, they were playing an overmatched Hornets squad that was without its best player and was playing guys named Squeaky Johnson and Gustavo Ayon in their second unit.
Oklahoma City started the game in a 19-9 hole and looked flat and lethargic but woke up enough to work its way to a 95-85 win. There wasn’t a whole lot that was pretty or interesting about it quite honestly. It was just the Thunder handling business against a team that they should. Kevin Durant was outstanding, notching his third straight double-double with 29 points (11-17 shooting) and 10 rebounds. Russell Westbrook continued his good stretch of games with 22 points and seven assists to just two turnovers.
Scott Brooks, as he likes to do, went small in the fourth with Durant on Emeka Okafor who was pretty much killing Serge Ibaka. Durant did great work, blocking Okafor twice (KD had four total) while not allowing him to score. Basically the Hornets were entirely limited to either chucking a jumper late in the shot clock or hoping to clean up a miss inside with Okafor or Carl Landry. The Thunder didn’t rebound the ball well at all giving up 14 offensive board while being a minus-six on the glass overall. But that was the trade-off, I suppose with going with just one big at a time.
I was all set up to gripe about the Thunder’s defense after the first 16 minutes, but OKC picked things up big time in the second half. The Hornets scored just 37 points the last 24 minutes and finished shooting 1-16 from 3. Everything New Orleans got was on a Chris Kaman or Okafor mid-range jumper which the Thunder seemed willing to concede. Overall, it was a quality defensive performance, but then again, the Hornets don’t exactly have scoring options.
Five wins in six nights is a big deal. As Nick Collison said after the game, it’s something none of the team has done before. Oklahoma City put five Ws on the board in less than a week. That’s an impressive stretch of games. It takes a lot of focus and energy to be able to get up for that much basketball. But that’s the way this season is and is going to be. Sweeping back-to-backs are difficult, but the Thunder just did it after sweeping a back-to-back-to-back. Again, not exactly an overwhelming handling of the Hornets, but considering the circumstances, it’s an extremely nice win.
- Serge Ibaka has just been falling asleep defensively this season. I think he’s so keyed in about blocking shots that he’s over-rotating or watching the ball too much. He had two blocks and played a better second half, but Ibaka has just had some lapses it seems. He’s a very good player but seems to lose focus a bit.
- Every single player was a plus tonight in plus-minus.
- Collison was outstanding once again, but get this: He didn’t have a rebound. Can you believe that?
- You can tell KD is enjoying his passing. He had three assists, but really seemed to be trying a little too hard to find guys in traffic in the first half. Twice he tried to thread the needle to Perk but had no place to put the ball which resulted in a turnover.
- Westbrook is back to his All-Star level. He’s quietly played tremendous basketball over the past couple days.
- Thabo missed a 3 tonight. He sucks again. (Just kidding.)
- Reggie Jackson did a nice job in his 13 minutes. I like how he’s willing to take an open shot if it’s afforded to him. That’s exactly what Eric Maynor would do, so it’s good that Jackson takes that same approach instead of playing passively.
- Daequan Cook sometimes seems a bit too eager to shoot. Like he’s not open at all but since he got the ball he’s firing it up. I honestly don’t mind too much because Cook is capable of making anything, but you do want to see shots come naturally.
- Perk didn’t even come close to scuffling with anyone tonight. Upset of the night?
- The Hornets really are not a very good team. How did they whip the Nuggets last night?
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “DaJuan Summers just felt an odd sensation which was the wind of Durant’s long jumpshot passing over his head on the way to the basket.”
Next up: Home versus the Knicks Saturday.