If the Thunder were supposed to be tired, they sure didn’t show it. Well, didn’t show it for a half. Because the last 24 minutes, whether it was fatigue or a case of falling asleep at the wheel, the Thunder did not have a good final two quarters.
After looking crisp, clean and fresh for two quarters and blasting out to a 60-38 halftime lead, the Thunder slowly puked away the lead, eventually allowing the Hornets to cut it to six with a minute left. It wasn’t a game that was truly in doubt, but it certainly wasn’t fun to watch a pretty bad Hornets team outscore OKC 55-41 in the third and fourth.
But considering the circumstances — those being this coming a night after the crazy Nuggets win, plus the Thunder were without James Harden and Nick Collison — it’s a nice enough win. Acceptable, I would say. Naturally, it would’ve been preferred that the Thunder continue on with what was established in the first half and cruised to an easy blowout, but if you tell me before the game OKC wins and it’s not all that difficult, I don’t think I would’ve cared how it happened.
The issue with the Thunder in this game clearly was depth. OKC’s bench only provided 18 total points. That’s about Harden’s average. Those moments late in the third and early in the fourth is where the Thunder kind of started dozing off and it was mainly because the bench had trouble getting stops and scoring points. Pretty surprising that a group of Reggie Jackson, Royal Ivey, Daequan Cook, Nazr Mohammed and Cole Aldrich struggled, right?
But behind 31 apiece from Westbrook and Durant, the Thunder didn’t have to get much from everywhere else. Kendrick Perkins was tremendous on the glass and in the paint tying his season-high in rebounds (13) and setting a new season-high in blocks (six). Plus, probably the Hornets’ most dangerous player, Chris Kaman, went just 4-17 from the floor. Perk pushed Kaman out of the lane, contested his jumper well in the pick-and-pop game and played him physical on the block. KD said after the game that Perk was a little upset with the way he played against Denver, so I guess he had a point to prove.
In all honesty, I think we all kind of appreciated the boringness of this win. Something exciting might’ve just been too much.
That’s three down, with another back-to-back to go Wednesday and Thursday heading to the All-Star break. And 10 straight home. Not terrible.
- Russell Westbrook took one more shot than KD tonight. Obviously that was a big problem in the Thunder’s win.
- New Orleans’ starting five tonight: Gustavo Ayon, Trevor Ariza, Chris Kaman, Marco Belinelli and Greivis Vasquez. Not exactly a lineup that scares you.
- Two sore spots found their way back into the Thunder box score. OKC gave up 16 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 19 times. As good as Perk was, he had six turnovers. Four of them were from him trying to make a great pass.
- Serge Ibaka followed up last night’s masterpiece with another solid effort: nine points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. And six of those rebounds were on the offensive end.
- The shame of the Thunder bench playing so poorly was that when that odd unit came in during the first half, they outscored New Orleans 11-4 to end the first quarter. Just couldn’t find that again.
- It was a different rotation with Harden and Collison, who are normally the first two off OKC’s bench, so Scott Brooks went with Royal Ivey and Nazr Mohammed for Durant and Perk with four minutes left in the first quarter. Durant played some with the second unit and Westbrook a little. Really illustrates how important Harden is to have with that second group. Like I’ve said before, he really owns that unit.
- Late in the game, Westbrook had an awful turnover trying to force the ball to KD so he could shoot free throws. So the next time, he just hung on to it and knocked down two free throws himself.
- I don’t know if it was coincidental, but as the shot clock wound down on the Thunder in the first half, Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” was played which says, “Come here rude boy boy can you get it up.” Clever.
- Where it’s at for Daequan Cook: He made his first two 3s, but both were called off because of a defensive three seconds whistle right before he shot it and then another he stepped out as he shot it. He missed his first 3 that counted, but did hit his second attempt. Unfortunately, that was the only one he made. He went 1-9 from deep which makes him just 4 of his last 34 from 3.
- Something that impresses me about Cook though: He never shows an expression after a make, or a miss. You’d think after he missed that ninth attempt, which was a great look, he would’ve let out a long fffffffffffffff—————————–k or at least clapped his hands together. Instead, he just keeps it totally even keel.
- Perk picked up his 10th technical of the season for arguing with an official.
- Perk also made his first basket in a week early in the first quarter.
- KD crammed a ridiculous soaring dunk in the second quarter but you know what stood out to me? How Chris Kaman completely abandoned ship on it. Didn’t try and take a charge. Didn’t challenge it whatsoever. To me, that’s just pathetic. Perk might’ve been clowned on and shown on a loop, but at least he was there. Kaman ran and hid.
- You know who was probably secretly a little excited about sitting tonight’s game out? James Harden, because it means he got to dress up.
- Cole Aldrich saw 18 minutes and again, it was some good, some bad and some meh. His line doesn’t do much for you — four points, three rebounds, two blocks — but he was certainly active on the glass and challenged pretty much everything in the paint.
- Aldrich on where he’s at: “I feel real comfortable. I know what my job is and I just try my hardest to do a good job out there. Rebound, set screens, make an easy bucket here or there. Just to do the little things and bring a lot of energy to our team.”
- A night after giving up 72 points in the paint, OKC allowed the Hornets to get just 34 between the blocks tonight.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: Didn’t get a submission so I’m going to recall an old favorite of mine: “I just had an accident, but it was the good kind of accident!”
Next up: Home against Boston Wednesday.