Entering tonight’s game, there were two things on the mind: Elbows and scoring titles. But ever so quietly, a pretty darn entertaining game broke out.
If you came to Chesapeake Arena expecting to see Derek Fisher and Daequan Cook lead Oklahoma City to a fun, exciting win, well, this was the night for you. After a Fisher runner put OKC up four, Cook then hit a transition dagger 3 with 44 seconds left that sent The Peake into a frenzy as if this game were taking place a week from now.
Without much of anything to play for, it was obvious there wasn’t a ton of motivation driving the Thunder early on. The Kings scored 40 points in the first quarter on 81.8 percent shooting as the Thunder were just sort of there. Kevin Durant got his points early on, easing some of the stress of the scoring title, and with the game evolving in its chippyness, Scott Brooks made the wise decision of sitting down OKC’s starters in favor of letting the second, and some third, try and see this thing out. To which they did, impressively enough.
There isn’t much to take away from this type of game, but what I think we learned, if anything, is that Daequan Cook needs his minutes back. It’s been a topic of conversation around here for the past couple weeks, but Cook has seemingly been squeezed from Brooks’ favored smallball unit, rather giving those minutes to Fisher. But Cook proved a point tonight, three at a time.
“The thing I loved about his game tonight is that he missed his first couple shots and didn’t get down on himself,” Brooks said. “He came back and stayed aggressive. DC is a terrific shooter, but he has to continue to believe in that shot and keep shooting it.”
Said Cook: “It was just hard coming back from the injury and getting back into a good rhythm. And just coming out tonight and playing hard and playing my game and getting my same shots I normally take and knocking them down helped me get my rhythm and confidence back.”
Whether that means that Cook has made an impression in terms of future time on the floor, that’s yet to be determined. But it’s obvious that Cook has value to OKC’s bench and can make shots. While Fisher has quietly played better as of late, it’s hard to imagine him going 4-of-7 from 3 curling off screens like that. Cook can play an important role on this team, if he can just get the minutes.
Outside of that, KD got his points (32) and bumped his scoring lead to almost a full point on Kobe. And did it in just three quarters. He had to do most of his work from the free throw line (15-16), but in the end did what he was born to do — score. He has one more crack at padding his lead tomorrow against the Nuggets.
“Hopefully it’s a fun one, that’s what the fans want to see I guess,” Durant said of the scoring race. “But for me as a player, all I’m worried about is getting better. Hopefully I make some shots and be efficient. But we’ll see what happens.”
Indeed we will. Not that my vote matters, but I say go get it.
- Scott Brooks on the seven-game suspension for Metta World Peace: “That’s a league issue. We’re just focused on James comes back healthy and our team finishes out the season strong. The league, that’s their issue and I have really nothing else to say about it.”
- KD on the suspension: “The league did it, you gotta live with it. We can move past it now. We’re just worried about getting James back in the locker room.”
- Westbrook continues to struggle shooting the ball, going just 4-13 for 13 points. Most of his issues are coming from him not finishing at the rim. He’s getting there as usual, but is a little off balance or out of control at the point of finishing. I’m honestly not too worried about it.
- Cole Aldrich checked in with 3:31 left in the third and played the rest of the game. At times, he was impressive. Other times, you had to wonder what he was doing. He picked up five fouls in a quarter defending DeMarcus Cousins and while his length and activity were great, he seemed a bit frantic on the floor. I just think something is there for him though. It seems like he has some ability.
- Westbrook had one of the smartest plays I’ve seen him make this season late in the third quarter. Jason Thompson was isolated on Westbrook on the right wing. Collison stood baseline to Westbrook’s right, but Russ waived him off. Westbrook stayed patient with his dribble, let Travis Outlaw come to him for help, and smoothly dished off to Collison for an easy layup. Just a slick, smart play.
- KD had missed a handful of consecutive shots in the third quarter, and after a Collison rebound found Durant in the paint, KD made a little eight foot jumper and put both arms out as if to say, “Finally.”
- Fisher played a pretty nice game. He drove to the bucket, ran the offense smoothly and only took one 3. Like I said, he’s quietly put together a string of solid performances.
- The Kings fouled three times on 3-point shots. After Cook drew a second 3-point foul, Francisco Garcia looked right at ref Kevin Scott and said, very clearly, “That’s a BAD call.” Then spent all three of Cook’s free throws staring at Scott. It was a little awkward.
- Cole Aldrich free throws might be my favorite thing.
- OKC’s second quarter lineup: Fisher, Cook, Ivey, Collison and Mohammed. Who’s the best offensive player in that group? Fisher? Cook? Seeing as how the game finished, I guess Cook, but yeesh.
- Late second quarter, after Perk made a baby hook over Hayes, Perk backpeddled down the floor talking right in Hayes’ face. Hayes was of course talking right back. Perk called for the ball the next time in the post and took a fairly terrible fading jumper that only hit the backboard. Which naturally sent Hayes to chirping. Yes, I believe this was the dumbest one-on-one NBA showdown in league history.
- Cousins and Perk began a little battle of their own in the third quarter which eventually resulted in ref Mike Callahan warning both benches. Next possession, Perk pushed off on Cousins, to which Cousins flopped drawing a call from Callahan. The next Kings possession, Cousins lowered his shoulder to bull Perk, to which Perk flopped a tad, but got no call from Callahan. Then the next Thunder possession, Perk leaked out for an easy dunk but mishandled a full court pass out of bounds. Cousins looked at Perk and smugly laughed at him. With both players sitting on 12 technicals, it seemed inevitable a double-tech was coming that would lead to each missing their last game.
- Westbrook chose not to drop off a pass to KD trailing him during a 2-on-0 down the floor in the second quarter. Kind of strange, as that’s kind of become Westbrook’s thing. Hope KD doesn’t come up two points short on the scoring title.
- D.J. Boom tried to get the crowd to chant “dee-fense” to start the second quarter. Again, the Kings had scored 40 points on 81.8 percent shooting.
- Nick Collison committed two very un-Collison-like fouls in the first half, giving the Kings two simple and-1′s. But he did have the mid-range game working again. Like I said in this week’s power rankings, I think that’s a shot OKC should utilize just a bit more.
Next up: Regular season finale at home against Denver on Wednesday.