There’s just something about being home. And playing a team on its third game in three nights. But ignore that part for a second.
I’m not sure if it’s a swagger, an energy, a focus or all of the above, but the Thunder are just strong on their home floor. Oklahoma City jumped out to a 15-4 lead minutes in and while the Jazz had a few different runs here and there, it was a five-point second quarter swing that basically shut the door on the Jazz. Enes Kanter blew an open two-handed dunk and about four seconds later, James Harden drilled a 3 to put OKC up 12. Pretty much game over, right then and there.
There’s not much to say other than the Thunder worked the Jazz in just about every way. So let’s focus on the fact that Kendrick Perkins was second on the Thunder with six assists (Reggie Jackson had eight). That ties a career-high for Perk and not only did he pick up six helpers, but he threw two alley-oops — including this one to Russell Westbrook that gave Russ his 5,000th point — and a slick behind-the-back pass to Serge Ibaka for an and-1.
It’s a legit question though. Is it a problem when your starting center finishes with four more assists than your starting point guard?
“It’s easy to pick apart certain areas of our game and I do it all the time,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with people looking at ways we can get better. I do the same thing. Passing is an important part of the game. There are some nights you don’t get the assist. Some nights you get to the free throw line.
Said Perk: “I’m just known to make the extra so if there’s a guy that’s open, that’s what we’ve got to do. I work on them passes at practice so when it’s my time to make the extra pass and that’s what it is, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Thunder entered the game 27th in the league in assists per game averaging 17.9 a game. And yet, they’re in the top five in both offensive efficiency and points per game. Are assists a little bit overrated?
“It’s the statskeeper’s decision,” Brooks said. “It’s not like a shot isn’t a shot. An assist, you can say, ‘Oh that was a secondary move.’ Do I like it to be much higher than 18 a game? Absolutely. I think we should be in the 20s. And that’s something we talk about and need to keep building on.”
Tonight’s maybe not the best example as OKC had 24 assists on their 42 made baskets. The ball moved well and even without Westbrook assisting much, the ball didn’t stick. A lot of the assists came in transition and guys knocked down shots when they were open. To me, it’s not a big worry when you can score 100 points or more with 12 assists or 24. Just shows offensive diversity.
How ever the Thunder are getting them, they’re scoring with relative ease. It helps when you have three guys like Harden (22), Durant (21) and Westbrook (16). Three guys that can score on their own, no matter who is guarding them. Ball movement makes the Thunder better, but it’s not necessarily exclusive to good OKC offense. Because sometimes, those three guys can just handle it all on their own.
What was most impressive about this game though was the interior defense. Utah shot just 35.6 percent from the floor and didn’t score more than 25 in a quarter. The Jazz are a team that rely on points in the paint, which was bad news for them because the Thunder defend the paint as well as any team in the league. Perk was terrific on Al Jefferon, Ibaka the same on Millsap. Those two combined for for just 25 points on 11-28 shooting. The way you beat the Thunder is on the perimeter. Get those big guys moving and helping and rotating and find a cutting or a kickout to a shooter. You’re going to have trouble scoring consistently on the block against Perk and Serge Ibaka.
One thing to keep in mind: The Jazz were playing their third game in a back-to-back-to-back. They looked it too. The Thunder were three days rested, the Jazz were dragging butt. But that makes the Thunder 10-1 at home with a pretty large scoring margin. They were ready for this one. Which they should’ve been because it’s been a while since they played in Loud City. Good news is, they’ve got a good run of them at The Peake before the All-Star break.
- Ibaka, outstanding. Sixteen points, 10 rebounds, six blocks. The guy is dominating the offensive glass. He pulled in four more offensive rebounds tonight and tipped about five more.
- The NBA is going to have a to make a picking a defenseless defender rule for Perk. He absolutely laid out Devin Harris with a brutal screen that free up Westbrook for a jumper.
- Daequan Cook is never not going to shoot the 3 on thew skip play. Doesn’t matter if he has all five defenders covering him, he’s chucking that thing.
- Overheard from Raja Bell talking to Earl Watson: “We consistently do dumb sh–. Consistently. Do. Dumb. Sh–.” One play later, Bell turned the ball over that led to a fast break oop for Westbrook.
- Westbrook was given maybe the weakest technical foul I’ve ever seen. After fouling Devin Harris, Westbrook seriously just clapped his hands together. Didn’t say anything. Didn’t gesture anything, other than the clap. Evidently Jason Phillips saw that as enough to hit him with the big whistle.
- By scoring his 5,000th point, Westbrook joined Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson with 5,000 points, 1,900 assists and 1,300 rebounds as the fastest to those numbers.
- So it was garbage time, but Cole Aldrich, seriously impressive. This guy needs minutes. Even if they’re just to quell our excitement. He had four rebounds in five minutes and was seriously everywhere on the offensive boards. He’s so insanely active on the glass. Plus, he showed off a nice lefty hook shot. Free Cole.
- The Jazz had 19 offensive rebounds, but did you really notice? I did not.
- Ryan Reid made his first official appearance for the Thunder and scored his first NBA points.
- And Lazar Hayward and Royal Ivey scored. Which means every Thunder player had a point tonight.
- Even when the bench came in to close it, they extended the lead. That doesn’t happen all the time. Every single player was a plus in this one.
- Reggie Jackson played a fine game. The eight assists obviously stick out, but he looked far more comfortable than he has recently.
- Just 15 turnovers for OKC. Kinda sucks you have to say “just” when it comes to 15 turnovers, but that’s the way it is for OKC right now.
- Former Thunder great Matt Harpring was in the house tonight broadcasting the game for the Jazz. I feel like OKC should’ve given him a video tribute just for the fact he was a big reason the Thunder were able to acquire Eric Maynor.
- I guess Perk skipped dinner before the game because about 75 minutes before tipoff, an equipment manager came running in with a plate of food that Perk scarfed down.
- We had a proposal on the big screen and the girl said yes. Seemed to be pondering it for a second though before finally nodding. Best part: She was wearing a Thunder U shirt.
- Eric Maynor was in the Thunder locker room sitting in front of his locker before the game, joking with Perk and Royal Ivey. His knee still looked swollen to me, but he was walking around with barely any limp. And was in great spirits. He riffed on Reggie Jackson a little bit telling him that he looked nervous and making fun of him for having his game shoes on 60 minutes before tip-off.
- A solid source told me after the game that Maynor’s rehab has been going great and that he might be fully healed in half the expected recovery time. He’s walking without any crutches or a brace and did some pregame workouts. His original timetable was to be ready for training camp next season.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night via ThunderBDSays: “I tell ya what! He hit him so hard he hurt Harris’ parents!”
Next up: At the Rockets Wednesday.